Ancient tragedy and the origins of modern science by Michael Davis

By Michael Davis

Via a detailed interpreting of Sophocles’ Ajax, Descartes’ Discourse on approach, and Plato's Meno, Davis argues that historic tragedy and smooth technological know-how are substitute responses to the human eager for autonomy or striving to be a god.Tragic heroes think that via politics they could exert extra keep an eye on over the realm than the area will let. To them the full global is politics, or polis. Scientists search to manage by means of gaining knowledge of nature, which, in essence, ability to rework the full of the area right into a Polis. hence the problems and motivations in sleek technological know-how have been already found in historic tragedy.

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The highest science would have to combine the neutrality of mathematics with purposiveness. A science designed to bring harmony to the whole of the cosmos would have to deal with all bodies, near and far. Astronomy is the diagnostic or theoretical part of this science. It reveals to us that there are remote things which have important effects on us. Through astronomy we are able to learn Page 12 of forthcoming floods, droughts, and so forth, but it is only diagnostic. It enables us to predict disasters of all kinds, but to prevent them we would have to possess a science, comparable to practical medicine and practical music, that is capable of manipulating the heavens.

The action of the Ajax is utterly unintelligible without this first scene. Without divine intervention we would never have been sure of Ajax' motives, and without his motives his actions might have appeared simply pathetic, the deeds of a once great man now hopelessly mad. Odysseus, in a similar position, must resort to reading signs to determine whether Ajax is an enemy. Had he looked inside the tent Odysseus would have learned little more. This is confirmed by the account of Tecmessa, the wife of Ajax.

Virtually every page of this book has been improved by his criticisms. Sarah Lawrence College generously provided two grants for the preparation of the manuscript. Chapter 2 originally appeared in somewhat different form as ''Politics and Madness" in Greek Tragedy and Political Theory. I thank the University of California Press for permission to include it in this volume. Page 1 1 Introduction Many the uncanny things, but nothing comes more uncanny than man. Sophocles, Antigone 332 If a good book is like an animal, 1 its parts fitting together with the same necessity as the parts of a living body, an introduction would seem to be at best superfluous and, at worst, like an autopsy performed in order to prove that the patient is alive.

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