Ancient tragedy and the origins of modern science by Michael Davis

By Michael Davis

Via a detailed examining of Sophocles’ Ajax, Descartes’ Discourse on process, and Plato's Meno, Davis argues that old tragedy and sleek technology are substitute responses to the human eager for autonomy or striving to be a god.Tragic heroes suppose that via politics they could exert extra regulate over the area than the area will permit. To them the total global is politics, or polis. Scientists search to regulate by way of getting to know nature, which, in essence, capability to rework the total of the area right into a Polis. therefore the problems and motivations in sleek technological know-how have been already found in historic tragedy.

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Odysseus can hear but not see Athena, recognizing her from her voice. Later Ajax will be seen by Odysseus, but will not see him, and it is clear that were Odysseus to speak Ajax would have heard him. Athena tells him to "Stand silent in order that you may stay where you are" (87). She puts him in the position of a god with regard to Ajax. When Tecmessa gives her account of the madness of Ajax she includes her version of his conversation with Athena (3014). To her it looks as though Ajax is talking with an invisible shadow (skia), and she takes that as confirmation of his madness.

Both the Discourse on Method and the Ajax are concerned with the problem of autonomy, the former in connection with the new science and the latter in connection with tragedy. But what has Plato's Meno to do with this pair? There are a number of hints. Socrates, for example, alludes to Meno's preference for "tragic" answers after Meno has expressed his satisfaction with a particularly "scientific" definition of color (76e). Meno, who is admittedly very beautiful (76bc, 80c), is also demonstrably vicious (compare 75b with 76ab); Plato uses Meno's very being to suggest a split between the beautiful and the good.

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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