This research project consisted in a critical edition and commentary of the Anonymus Florentinus for the Fragmente der griechischen Historiker IV (ed. by Stefan Schorn, Kai Bordersen, Klaus Geus), pursued jointly with an extensive study of the epistemic norms which inform the tradition of paradoxography. This latter, interpretive work is located within the context of a study of norms of rationality and evidence in Greek (primarily: Aristotelian) philosophy and science.
In the history of ancient philosophy and science, normative epistemic notions similar to common sense may be found. For Aristotle, what was accepted as true, generally or by some class of experts, tended to become acknowledged as an epistemic norm, i.e. became acceptable. Aristotle expressed this norm through the concept of ἔνδοξα. With this concept, acceptedness is conceived as evidence for the acceptability of a proposition, and propositions can be considered more or less acceptable depending upon the community or individual which accepts them. It is clear that not everything which is accepted is acceptable: for the acceptance of a claim or theory by just any group will not suffice to make that theory or claim acceptable in a normative sense. Certain groups (especially small or “marginal” ones) or persons (i.e. those without any particular epistemic qualifications such as experience or acknowledged expertise) do not succeed in making the positions they endorse acceptable, or even mentionable.
An equally important normative epistemic notion, and one which has received surprisingly little attention, is the concept of the strange. In Greek, this notion may be expressed as that which is “out of place” (ἄτοπον), or also by the expression παράδοξον, meaning “contrary to opinion”. What is contrary to opinion can be, in the most negative sense is, just weird and implausible (as it often is in Aristotle), or at least prima facie suspect; in any case, it requires further elucidation or explanation. But in the particular tradition of paradoxography, the accent of the norms governing the rational and plausible has shifted: “wondrous” things, mirabilia, are collected for their intrinsic interest and sometimes presented in lists, giving them the air of “facts”.
This material was first collected in a modern edition in 1839 by Westermann (“Paradoxographoi”) who coined the term paradoxographi to describe the authors of this genus. The material is geographical in a wide sense and includes writings on both rivers and places, as well as ethnography.
Within the Topoi research group (C-5) Common Sense Geography, Colin Guthrie King was translating and editing together with Robin Greene (Providence College, USA) the Anonymus Florentinus, a paradoxographical text on water-wonders, the dating of which is controversial.
Contributions to the research project are the following publications:
Klaus Geus, “Paradoxography and geography in antiquity: Some thoughts about the Paradoxographus Vaticanus”, in: Francisco J. González Ponce, Francisco Javier Gómez Espelosín and Antonio L. Chávez Reino (Eds.), La letra y la carta: Descripción verbal y representación gráfica en los diseños terrestres grecolatinos. Estudios en honor de Pietro Janni, 2016, 243–258
Klaus Geus and Colin Guthrie King, “Paradoxography: Wonder Stories, Tall Tales, and the Limits of Reason”, in: Paul Keyser and John Scarborough (Eds.), Oxford Handbook of Science and Medicine in the Classical World, Oxford – New York: Oxford University Press, 2018,