Archaeology and the Origins of Philosophy

By Robert Hahn

Subjects: Archaeology, History Of Philosophy, Philosophy
Series: SUNY series in Ancient Greek Philosophy
Paperback : 9781438431642, 336 pages, July 2011
Hardcover : 9781438431659, 336 pages, March 2010

Table of contents

List of Illustrations
Part I. Archaeology and Anaximander's Cosmic Picture: An Historical Narraitve
1. Anaximander, Architectural Historian of the Cosmos
A. Why Did Anaximander Write a Prose Book Rationalizing theCosmos?
B. A Survey of the Key Techniques that Anaximander Observed at the Architect’s Building Sites
C. An Imaginative Visit to an Ancient Greek Building Site
D. Architectural Planning
2. Anaximander’s Cosmic Picture: The Size and Shape of the Earth
A. The Doxographical Reports
B. The Scholarly Debates
C. The Archaeological Evidence
C.1. The Column and its Symbolic Function in Archaic Greece
C.2. Archaeological Evidence for Archaic Column Construction
3. Anaximander’s Cosmic Picture: The Homoios Earth, ‘9’, and the Cosmic Wheels
A. The Doxographical Reports
B. The Scholarly Debates over the Text and its Interpretation
B.1. The Earth is Homoios in the Center
B.2. The Cosmic Numbers
C. The Archaeological Evidence
C.1. Architectural Plan Techniques for Laying Out the Ground-Plan
C.2. The Archaeologist’s Idea of Technological Style
4. Anaximander’s Cosmic Picture: The “Bellows” and Cosmic Breathing
A. The Doxographical Reports
B. The Scholarly Debates over the Text and its Interpretation
C. The Archaeological Evidence
C.1. Smelting
C.2. Melting and Forging
C.3. Two Forms of Bellows
5. Anaximander’s Cosmic Picture: The Heavenly“Circle-Wheels” and the Axis Mundi
A. The Doxographical Reports
B. The Scholarly Debates over the Text and its Interpretations
C. The Archaeological Evidence
C.1. The Archaeological Evidence
C.2. The Archaic Greek Wheel and Axle
C.2.A. Fixed Axle: Chariots of the Mainland
C.2.B. Fixed Axle: Chariots of East Greece
C.2.C. Fixed Axle: Carts and Wagons
C.2.D. Rotating Axle: Carts and Wagons
C.3. Anaximander and the Chariot Wheel, Revisited: Cosmic Wheel and Axle, Cosmic Tree, and Axis Mundi
6. Anaximander’s Cosmic Picture: Reconstructing the Seasonal Sundial for the Archaeologist’s Investigations
A. The Doxographical Reports
B. The Scholarly Debates over the Text and its Interpretation
C. Reconstructing the Sundial for the Archaeologist’s Explorations
D. Objecting Arguments and Summary
Part II. Archaeology and the Metaphysical Foundations of an Historical Narrative About the Origins of Philosophy

7. The Problems: Archaeology and the Origins of Philosophy
A. The Problem of Philosophical Rationality and Cultural Context
B. The Problem of Archaeology and Greek Philosophy
8. What Is the Archaeologist’s Theoretical Frame When Inferring Ideas from Artifacts? A Short Historical Overview of Theoretical Archaeology
A. How Is Archaeology Relevant to a Philosopher’s Mentality?
B. A Synoptic Overview of Archaeological Theory
C. Postprocessual or Interpretative Archaeology
D. Some Conclusions About Archaeological Interpretation
9. The Interpretative Meaning of an Object: Grounding Historical Narratives in Lived Experience
A. The Imaginative Meaning of an Artifact
B. Hermeneutic and Pragmatic Interpretations
B.1. Digging for Meaning: Hermeneutic Play, Interpretation and Archaeology: What is a thing?
B.2. Pragmatic Interpretations: From Material Context to Imagining Thought
C. Philosophical Strategies for Making Sense of the “Real”
C.1. Quine and Davidson: The Indeterminacy of Translation and Radical Interpretation
C.2. Putnam’s Internal Realism or Historical Realism
C.3. Searle’s Empirical Realism and Social Construction of Reality
10. The Embodied Ground of Abstract and Speculative Thought
A. The Matter of Mind: An Archaeological Approach to Ancient Thought
B. John Dewey and William James on the Context of Consciousness
C. Thinking Through Metaphor and the Body of Knowledge
11. Archaeology and Future Research in Ancient Philosophy: The Two Methods
A. The Method of Discovery
B. The Method of Exposition
12. The Application of Archaeology to Ancient Philosophy: Metaphysical Foundations and Historical Narratives
A. The Realism in Narrative Accounts
B. The Hopelessness of Metaphysical Realism
C. Crafting a Case for “Experiential Realism”: The Argument of Part II
D. The Presence of the Past and the Problem of the Supracelestial Thesis

Detailed study of how Anaximander’s cosmological and philosophical conceptions were affected by architectural technologies.


Promoting a new way to study and illuminate early Greek philosophy, Archaeology and the Origins of Philosophy explores archaeological resources and art historical evidence to contribute to the ongoing debates concerning the origins of philosophy. Focusing on the philosopher Anaximander, Robert Hahn addresses the history of scholarship surrounding ancient philosophy, which has often overlooked archaeology, as he unearths the importance of both a historical and cultural context in the study of philosophy. Weaving together the significance of ancient building sites in ancient Greek culture to the empirical inspiration for Anaximander's cosmology, this distinctive and encompassing study reveals new possibilities for the origins of Greek philosophy.

Robert Hahn is Professor of Philosophy at Southern Illinois University Carbondale. He is the author of Anaximander and the Architects: The Contributions of Egyptian and Greek Architectural Technologies to the Origins of Greek Philosophy and the coauthor (with Dirk L. Couprie and Gerard Naddaf) of Anaximander in Context: New Studies in the Origins of Greek Philosophy, both also published by SUNY Press.


"This book, and Hahn's enterprise over the years, may be called courageous, as it intends to lay bare lines of investigation that have hardly been explored before, if at all. It is also courageous in its effort to row up the stream of a historic study of ancient philosophy by choosing explicitly to place the ancient thinkers in their historical and social contexts. " — Aestimatio