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Prof. Carl Huffman to Lecture at Catholic University of America

September 20, 2007

carl-huffman.jpgSeptember 20, 2007, Greencastle, Ind. - Carl A. Huffman, professor of classical studies at DePauw University, will present a lecture to the Catholic University of America's School of Philosophy. Dr. Huffman will discuss "Reason and Myth in Early Pythagorean Cosmology" on Friday, September 28, at Washington, D.C.-based institution.

"Scholarship on the emergence of rationality in early Greek thought has generally focused on the transition from cosmogonic myths, such as Hesiod’s Theogony, to more scientific Presocratic cosmologies such as those of the Milesians," notes an abstract of Huffman's presentation. "In my paper I examine a similar transition within the Pythagorean tradition, the transition from the cosmology of Pythagoras himself to the cosmology of Philolaus."

The professor continues, "Modern scholarship has shown that the common view of Pythagoras as a master mathematician engaged in rational natural philosophy is mistaken and that Pythagoras is instead justly famous as an expert on the fate of the soul and religious ritual, who founded a distinctive way of life. Brief sayings known as acusmata that set out the rules for this way of lifeEmison Museum Front.jpg do, however, also embody a cosmology. I will argue that recent attempts to interpret this cosmology of the acusmata as a step towards a scientific account of the world are mistaken and that Pythagoras instead promulgated a mythic and moral cosmology as a foundation for his teachings on the fate of the soul."

Huffman concludes, "Philolaus’ cosmology, which makes the earth a planet for the first time, shows some points of continuity with Pythagoras’ system but is, nonetheless, a fundamentally different sort of enterprise. It provides a model of the cosmos which invites and responds to challenges from the phenomena, whereas Pythagoras’ cosmology, while a powerful picture of humanity’s place in the world, neither invites nor responds to such challenges."

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