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A Journal for Ancient Philosophy and Science

Ed. by Wildberg, Christian / Morison, Benjamin

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Volume 47, Issue 3


Plutarch and the Wonder of Nature. Preliminaries to Plutarch’s Science of Physical Problems

Michiel Meeusen
Published Online: 2014-07-08 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/apeiron-2012-0040


This study aims to substantiate the general ancient ‘scientific’ interest of the natural phenomena and popular beliefs Plutarch discusses in his physical problems. Plutarch does not intend to verify these mirabilia in an empirical fashion. He is not so much looking for the ὅτι but more for the διὰ τί in nature. It remains to be seen whether he investigates and ‘believes’ these natural phenomena only for reasons of intellectual exercise, then. They at least receive Plutarch’s benefit of the doubt, which ties in closely with his ‘sceptical’ stance in natural scientific affairs, mediating between unreasoned belief and disbelief of natural mirabilia. The idea that wonder remains immanent in nature is an essential aspect of Plutarch’s general world view and (natural) philosophy. This view is based on a philosophical conviction that nature has a divine teleology. In connection with Platonic ontology and epistemology Plutarch generally accepts, moreover, that no firm knowledge can be attained from natural phenomena, because they are immanently obscure and uncertain, and cannot grant any evident cognition.

Keywords : Plutarch; Physical Problems; Quaestiones naturales; Quaestiones convivales; Ancient natural science

About the article

Published Online: 2014-07-08

Published in Print: 2014-07-01

Citation Information: Apeiron, Volume 47, Issue 3, Pages 310–341, ISSN (Online) 2156-7093, ISSN (Print) 0003-6390, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/apeiron-2012-0040.

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