Is God in the Clouds?: A Note on Xenophanes
Philosophical Inquiry, Forthcoming
13 Pages Posted: 9 Dec 2016
Date Written: December 6, 2016
A discussion of the cloud-astrophysical theory of the Presocratic philosopher Xenophanes of Colophon. I argue that the theory, systematically articulated for the first time by A.P.D. Mourelatos in a series of essays over the last decade, suggests how clusters of Xenophanes’s surviving texts, which have up to now been given isolated scholarly treatments, may be understood as forming a more comprehensive theory of how divine agency is manifested in observable events of the natural world. The cloud-astrophysical theory claims that all meteorological change and heavenly objects (the sun, moon, stars, comets, shooting stars, rainbows, St. Elmo’s fire, etc.) are caused and constituted by the fiery compression and inflammation of water vapor, the underlying mechanism of which is a kind of movement or agitation of cloudlets. From this theory, I argue that Xenophanes further conjectured that the kind of agitation he famously attributed to god (who “completely without toil, shakes all things with the thought of his mind”) either is identical to or supervenes on the agitation of the cloud-astrophysics, thus radically revising the account of divine agency in traditional Greek religion.
Keywords: Greek Philosophy, Presocratics, Astrophysics, Natural Philosophy, Metaphysics, Ancient Philosophy, History of Science, Philosophy of Science, Ancient Greek Religion, God
JEL Classification: K10, K30
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation