Ancient tragedy and the origins of modern science by Michael Davis

By Michael Davis

Via an in depth interpreting of Sophocles’ Ajax, Descartes’ Discourse on technique, and Plato's Meno, Davis argues that historic tragedy and sleek 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 area than the area will permit. To them the complete international is politics, or polis. Scientists search to manage through gaining knowledge of nature, which, in essence, skill to remodel the full of the realm right into a Polis. hence the problems and motivations in smooth technology have been already found in historic tragedy.

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In the extreme case such anger will be directed at the gods. If what thwarts us is perceived as lacking a will, then our anger will be directed at nature, and perhaps at our own natures. It is too simple, and at the same time revealing, to say that the first possibility is the concern of tragedy and its alternative that of modern science. It is too simple because the gods necessarily become an issue for science, as nature necessarily becomes an issue for tragedy. The Discourse on Method Page 5 is at heart antithetical to Christianity, and yet it is a book that takes on the form of Christian apologetics, not in spite of its hostility to Christianity, but because Descartes recognizes that the Christian teaching of the fall of man provides the proper form for the understanding of the problem of human autonomy.

This inability to recognize the comic character of his own art has something to do with his failure to grasp the tragedy of his attempt in praising his art to push it beyond he limits of what is possible. Eryximachus fails, but he does point the way. His speech points to the fundamental problem for a science which sets as its goal the mastery and Page 13 possession of nature: to achieve a perspective from which any such mastery is possible while not undermining the perspective from which it is desirable.

The one means dependence, the other autonomy. The attempt to be the complete cause of one's fate is the subject of ancient tragedy. Only by committing the most criminal of acts, parricide and incest, can Oedipus collapse the difference between his two families and become whole. His past, the given, becomes confused with that of which he is the cause. The problem of Oedipus is in this way the same as the problem for which the eternal return of the same was meant as a solution. It is also what motivates us to attempt the mastery and possession of nature.

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