Evidence and Explanation in Cicero’s On Divination

Author: Cabrera, Frank
Title: Evidence and Explanation in Cicero’s On Divination
Review/Collection: "Studies in history and philosophy of science", 82
Year edition: 2020
Pages: 34-43
Keywords: Philosophie - Filosofia - Philosophy, Religion - Religione - Religion
Description: [Cabrera, Frank] [Abstract] In this paper, I examine Cicero’s oft-neglected De divinatione, a dialogue investigating the legitimacy of the practice of divination. First, I offer a novel analysis of the main arguments for divination given by Quintus, highlighting the fact that he employs two logically distinct argument forms. Next, I turn to the first of the main arguments against divination given by Marcus. Here I show, with the help of modern probabilistic tools, that Marcus’ skeptical response is far from the decisive, proto-naturalistic assault on superstition that it is sometimes portrayed to be. Then, I offer an extended analysis of the second of the main arguments against divination given by Marcus. Inspired by Marcus’ second main argument, I formulate, explicate, and defend a substantive principle of scientific methodology that I call the “Ciceronian Causal-Nomological Requirement” (CCR). Roughly, this principle states that causal knowledge is essential for relying on correlations in predictive inference. Although I go on to argue that Marcus’ application of the CCR in his debate with Quintus is dialectically inadequate, I conclude that De divinatione deserves its place in Cicero’s philosophical corpus, and that ultimately, its significance for the history and philosophy of science ought to be recognized.
Link: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0039368119301451
Author initials: Cabrera 2020