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Broadie, Sarah. Rational Theology
1999, in Long, A. A. (ed.) The Cambridge Companion to Early Greek Philosophy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 205–224.
Added by: Lea Cantor

Ancient Greek philosophy arose in a culture whose world had always teemed with divinities. “Everything is full of gods, ”said Thales (Aristotle De an. 1.5, 411a8), and the earliest “theories of everything” were mythological panoramas such as Hesiod's Theogony, in which the genealogy of the gods is also a story about the evolution of the universe. Hence when certain Greeks began to think about the physical world in a philosophical way, they were concerning themselves with matters which it was still quite natural to term “divine,” even in the context of their new scientific approach. Because of this, it is not entirely obvious where one should draw the line between the theology of the early Greek philosophers and their other achievements. But clarity is not served by classifying as “theological” every statement or view of theirs that features concepts of divinity. To theologize is not simply to theorize using such concepts in a non-incidental way. Rather, it is, for instance, to reflect upon the divine nature, or to rest an argument or explanation on the idea of divinity as such, or to discuss the question of the existence of gods, and to speculate on the grounds or causes of theistic belief.

Comment: This is an excellent introductory discussion to early Greek philosophy and theology, which broaches deep metaphilosophical and methodological questions about what makes the Presocratics philosophers. The chapter dispells widespread assumptions about the divide between theology and natural philosophy in the earliest stages of philosophical development in ancient Greece, and has broader implications for making sense of the character of ancient Greek philosophy. It is easily integrated in introductory courses on the Presocratics, early Greek religion and theology, and ancient philosophy more broadly. It might also be included in historically-oriented courses on the philosophy of religion.

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