Professor Voula Tsouna (University of California), “Issues in Epicurean philosophy of mind and science: The method of multiple explanations in Epicureanism”
I intend to examine an original and important feature of Epicurean science, namely the method of multiple explanations. The Epicureans claim that, in certain contexts, several alternative explanatory hypotheses may be advanced which may prove to be equally consistent with the phenomena within the orbit of our direct experience. The Epicureans contend that, in such cases, we should accept all of these hypotheses not merely as possible but also as true. At first glance, the method of multiple explanations seems intriguing or implausible. Moreover, some interpreters declare it to be anti-scientific: allegedly, the Epicureans are ready to accept different competing explanations, simply because they consider it ethically or pragmatically useful to do so. Other interpreters, however, argue that the method of multiple explanations has a physical and metaphysical basis involving possible worlds. My aim is to revisit and reassess the method of multiple explanations in the light of new evidence, notably from Epicurus’ multi-volume work On Nature, and also taking into consideration recent scholarly studies on Epicurus, Lucretius, and Diogenes of Oinoanda.
The abstract of the talk and a handout of translated texts is available for download.
This Philosophy Seminar was co-organised by the BSA and the Research Centre for Greek Philosophy (Academy of Athens), and recorded 1 April 2021.