It is poetical rather than scientific. It is content with symbols and metaphors in place of rational explanations, and all this is a mark of the religious, rather than the philosophical, presentation of the truth. For example, the main thought of the Upanishads is that the entire universe is derived from a single, changeless, eternal, infinite, being, called Brahman or Paramatman. When we come to the crucial question how the universe arises out of this being, we find such passages as this"As the colours in the flame or the red-hot iron proceed therefrom a thousand-fold, so do all beings proceed from the Unchangeable, and return again to it.
But obviously these neither explain nor attempt to explain anything. They are nothing but hollow metaphors. They are poetic rather than scientific. They may satisfy the imagination and the religious feelings, but not the rational understanding. Or when again Krishna, in the Bhagavat-Gita, describes himself as the moon among the lunar mansions, the sun among the stars, Meru among the high-peaked mountains, it is clear that we are merely piling sensuous image upon sensuous image without any further understanding of what the nature of the absolute being in its own self is.
And this is totally sensuous thinking, whereas the aim of philosophy is to rise to pure thought. In such passages we are still on the level of symbolism, and philosophy only begins when symbolism has been surpassed. No doubt it is possible to take the line that man's thought is not capable of grasping the infinite as it is in itself, and can only fall back upon symbols. But that is another question, and at any rate, whether it is or is not possible to rise from sensuous to pure thought, philosophy is essentially the attempt to do so.
Lastly, Indian thought is usually excluded from the history of philosophy because, whatever its character, it lies outside the main stream of human development. It has been cut off by geographical and other barriers. Consequently, whatever its value in itself, it has exerted little influence upon philosophy in general. The claim is sometimes put forward by Orientals themselves that Greek philosophy came from India, and if this were true, it would greatly affect the statement made in the last paragraph. But it is not true. It used to be believed that Greek philosophy came from "the East," but this meant Egypt.
And even this theory is now abandoned. Greek culture, especially mathematics and astronomy, owed much to Egypt. But Greece did not owe its philosophy to that source. The view that it did was propagated by Alexandrian priests and others, whose sole motive was, that to represent the triumphs of Greek philosophy as borrowed from Egypt, flattered their national vanity.
It was a great thing, wherever they found anything good, to say, "this must have come from us. There is not a scrap of evidence for it, and it rests entirely upon the supposed resemblance between the two. But this resemblance is in fact mythical. The whole character of Greek philosophy is European and unoriental to the back-bone. The doctrine of re-incarnation is usually appealed to.
This characteristically Indian doctrine was held by the Pythagoreans, from whom it passed to Empedocles and Plato. The Pythagoreans got it from the Orphic sect, to whom quite possibly it came indirectly from India, although even this is by no means certain, and is in fact highly doubtful. But even if this be true, it proves nothing.
Re-incarnation is of little importance in Greek philosophy. Even in Plato, who makes much of it, it is quite unessential to the fundamental ideas of his philosophy, and is only artificially connected with them. And the influence of this doctrine upon Plato's philosophy was thoroughly bad. It was largely responsible for leading him into the main error of his philosophy, which it required an Aristotle to correct.
All this will be evident when we come to consider the systems of Plato and Aristotle. The origin of Greek philosophy is not to be found in India, or Egypt, or in any country outside Greece. The Greeks themselves were solely responsible for it. It is not as if history traces back their thought only to a point at which it was already highly developed, and cannot explain its beginnings.
We know its history from the time, so to speak, when it was in the cradle.
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From those crude beginnings we can trace the whole development in detail up to its culmination in Aristotle, and beyond. So there is no need to assume foreign influence at any point. Greek philosophy begins in the sixth century before Christ. It begins when men for the first time attempted to give a scientific reply to the question, "what is the explanation of the world? But they contain no attempt at a naturalistic explanation of things. They belong to the spheres of poetry and religion, not to philosophy. It must not be supposed, when we speak of the philosophy of Greece, that we refer only to the mainland of what is now called Greece.
Very early in history, Greeks of the mainland migrated to the islands of the Aegean, to Sicily, to the South of Italy, to the coast of Asia Minor, and elsewhere, and founded flourishing colonies. The Greece of philosophy includes all these places. It is to be thought of rather racially than territorially. It is the philosophy of the men of Greek race, wherever they happened to be situated. And in fact the first period of Greek philosophy deals exclusively with the thoughts of these colonial Greeks. It was not till just before the time of Socrates that philosophy was transplanted to the mainland.
Greek philosophy falls naturally into three periods. The first may be roughly described as pre-Socratic philosophy, though it does not include the Sophists who were both the contemporaries and the predecessors of Socrates. This period is the rise of Greek philosophy. Lastly, the period of post-Aristotelian philosophy constitutes the decline and fall of the national thought. These are not merely arbitrary divisions. Each period has its own special characters, which will be described in the sequel. A few words must be said of the sources of our knowledge of pre-Socratic philosophy.
If we want to know what Plato and Aristotle thought about any matter, we have only to consult their works. But the works of the earlier philosophers have not come down to us, except in fragments, and several of them never committed their opinions to writing.
Our knowledge of their doctrines is the result of the laborious sifting by scholars of such materials as are available. Luckily the material has been plentiful. It may be divided into three classes. First come the fragments of the original writings of the philosophers themselves. These are in many cases long and important, in other cases scanty. Secondly, there are the references in Plato and Aristotle.
Of these by far the most important are to be found in the first book of Aristotle's "Metaphysics," which is a history of philosophy up to his own time, and is the first attempt on record to write a history of philosophy. Thirdly, there is an enormous mass of references, some valuable, some worthless, contained in the works of later, but still ancient, writers. The earliest Greek philosophers belong to what in after times came to be called the Ionic school. The name was derived from the fact that the three chief representatives of this school, Thales, Anaximander, and Anaximenes, were all men of Ionia, that is to say, the coast of Asia Minor.
As the founder of the earliest school in history, Thales of Miletus is generally accounted the founder and father of all philosophy. He was born about B. These dates are approximate, and it should be understood that the same thing is true of nearly all the dates of the early philosophers. Different scholars vary, sometimes as much as ten years, in the dates they give.
We shall not enter into these questions at all, because they are of no importance. And throughout these lectures it should be understood that the dates given are approximate. Thales, at any rate, was a contemporary of Solon and Croesus. He was famous in antiquity for his mathematical and astronomical learning, and also for his practical sagacity and wisdom. The story of the Seven Sages is unhistorical, but the fact that the lists of their names differ considerably as given by different writers, whereas the name of Thales appears in all, shows with what veneration he was anciently regarded.
An eclipse of the sun occurred in B. And he must have been a great engineer, for he caused a diversion of the river Halys, when Croesus and his army were unable to cross it. Nothing else is known of his life, though there were many apocryphal stories. No writings by Thales were extant even in the time of Aristotle, and it is believed that he wrote nothing.
His philosophy, if we can call it by that name, consisted, so far as we know, of two propositions. Firstly, that the principle of all things is water, that all comes from water, and to water all returns. And secondly, that the earth is a flat disc which floats upon water. The first, which is the chief proposition, means that water is the one primal kind of existence and that everything else in the universe is merely a modification of water.
Two questions will naturally occur to us. Why did Thales choose water as the first principle? And by what process does water, in his opinion, come to be changed into other things; how was the universe formed out of water? We cannot answer either of these questions with certainty. Aristotle says that Thales "probably derived his opinion from observing that the nutriment of all things is moist, and that even actual heat is generated therefrom, and that animal life is sustained by water, But it will be noted that even Aristotle uses the word "probably," and so gives his statement merely as a conjecture.
How, in the opinion of Thales, the universe arose out of water, is even more uncertain. Most likely he never asked himself the question, and gave no explanation. At any rate nothing is known on the point. This being the sum and substance of the teaching of Thales, we may naturally ask why, on account of such a crude and undeveloped idea, he should be given the title of the father of philosophy. Why should philosophy be said to begin here in particular? Now, the significance of Thales is not that his water-philosophy has any value in itself, but that this was the first recorded attempt to explain the universe on naturalistic and scientific principles, without the aid of myths and anthropomorphic gods.
Moreover, Thales propounded the problem, and determined the direction and character, of all pre-Socratic philosophy. The fundamental thought of that period was, that under the multiplicity of the world there must be a single ultimate principle. The problem of all philosophers from Thales to Anaxagoras was, what is the nature of that first principle from which all things have issued? Their systems are all attempts to answer this question, and may be classified according to their different replies. Thus Thales asserted that the ultimate reality is water, Anaximander indefinite matter, Anaximenes air, the Pythagoreans number, the Eleatics Being, Heracleitus fire, Empedocles the four elements, Democritus atoms, and so on.
His importance is that he was the first to propound the question, not that he gave any rational reply to it. We saw in the first chapter, that man is naturally a materialist, and that philosophy is the movement from sensuous to non-sensuous thought. As we should expect, then, philosophy begins in materialism. The first answer to the question, what the ultimate reality is, places the nature of that reality in a sensuous object, water. The other members of the Ionic school, Anaximander, and Anaximenes, are also materialists.
And from their time onwards we can trace the gradual rise of thought, with occasional breaks and relapses, from this sensualism of the Ionics, through the semi-sensuous idealism of the Eleatics, to the highest point of pure non-sensuous thought, the idealism of Plato and Aristotle. It is important to keep in mind, then, that the history of philosophy is not a mere chaotic hotch-potch of opinions and theories, succeeding each other without connection or order.
It is a logical and historical evolution, each step in which is determined by the last, and advances beyond the last towards a definite goal. The goal, of course, is visible to us, but was not visible to the early thinkers themselves. Since man begins by looking outwards upon the external world and not inwards upon his own self, this fact too determines the character of the first period of Greek philosophy.
It concerns itself solely with nature, with the external world, and only with man as a part of nature. It demands an explanation of nature. And this is the same as saying that it is cosmological. It is not till the time of the Sophists that the Greek spirit turns inwards upon itself and begins to consider these problems, and with the emergence of that point of view we have passed from the first to the second period of Greek philosophy.
The next philosopher of the Ionic school is Anaximander. He was an exceedingly original and audacious thinker. He was probably born about B. He was an inhabitant of Miletus, and is said to have been a disciple of Thales. It will be seen, thus, that he was a younger contemporary of Thales. He was born at the time that Thales was flourishing, and was about a generation younger.
He was the first Greek to write a philosophic treatise, which however has been unfortunately lost. He was eminent for his astronomical and geographical knowledge, and in this connection was the first to construct a map. Details of his life are not known. Now Thales had made the ultimate principle of the universe, water.
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Anaximander agrees with Thales that the ultimate principle of things is material, but he does not name it water, does not in fact believe that it is any particular kind of matter. It is rather a formless, indefinite, and absolutely featureless matter in general. It must be iron, brass, water, air, or other such. The difference between the different kinds of matter is qualitative, that is to say, we know that air is air because it has the qualities of air and differs from iron because iron has the qualities of iron, and so on.
The primeval matter of Anaximander is just matter not yet sundered into the different kinds of matter. It is therefore formless and characterless. And as it is thus indeterminate in quality, so it is illimitable in quantity. Anaximander believed that this matter stretches out to infinity through space. The reason he gave for this opinion was, that if there were a limited amount of matter it would long ago have been used up in the creation and destruction of the "innumerable worlds. Professor Burnet, however, is of opinion that the "innumerable worlds" of Anaximander were not necessarily successive but rather simultaneously existing worlds.
According to this view there may be any number of worlds existing at the same time. But, even so, it is still true that these worlds were not everlasting, but began, developed and decayed, giving place in due time to other worlds. On this question Anaximander is vague and has nothing very definite to put forward.
Indeterminate matter by a vaguely conceived process separates itself into "the hot" and "the cold. This cold and moist matter becomes the earth, in the centre of the universe. The hot matter collects into a sphere of fire surrounding the earth. The earth in the centre was originally fluid. The heat of the surrounding sphere caused the waters of the earth progressively to evaporate giving rise to the envelope of air which surrounds the earth. For the early Greeks regarded the air and vapour as the same thing. As this air or vapour expanded under the action of heat it burst the outside hot sphere of fire into a series of enormous "wheel-shaped husks," resembling cart wheels, which encircle the earth.
You may naturally ask how it is that if these are composed of fire we do not see them continually glowing.
Anaximander's answer was that these wheel-shaped husks are encrusted with thick, opaque vapour, which conceals the inner fire from our view. But there are apertures, or pipe-like holes in the vapour-crust, and through these the fire gleams, causing the appearance of the sun, stars, and moon. You will note that the moon was, on this theory, considered to be fiery, and not, as we now know it to be, a cold surface reflecting the sun's light. There were three of these "cart wheels"; the first was that of the sun, furthest away from the earth, nearer to us was that of the moon, and closest of all was that of the fixed stars.
The "wheel-shaped husks" containing the heavenly bodies are revolved round the earth by means of currents of air. Men live on the top end of this pillar or cylinder. Anaximander also developed a striking theory about the origin and evolution of living beings. In the beginning the earth was fluid and in the gradual drying up by evaporation of this fluid, living beings were produced from the heat and moisture. In the first instance these beings were of a low order. They gradually evolved into successively higher and higher organisms by means of adaptation to their environment.
Man was in the first instance a fish living in the water. The gradual drying up left parts of the earth high and dry, and marine animals migrated to the land, and their fins by adaptation became members fitted for movement on land. The resemblance of this primitive theory to modern theories of evolution is remarkable. It is easy to exaggerate its importance, but it is at any rate clear that Anaximander had, by a happy guess, hit upon the central idea of adaptation of species to their environment.
The teaching of Anaximander exhibits a marked advance beyond the position of Thales. Thales had taught that the first principle of things is water. The formless matter of Anaximander is, philosophically, an advance on this, showing the operation of thought and abstraction. Secondly, Anaximander had definitely attempted to apply this idea, and to derive from it the existent world. Thales had left the question how the primal water developed into a world, entirely unanswered.
Like the two previous thinkers Anaximenes was an inhabitant of Miletus. He wrote a treatise of which a small fragment still remains. He agreed with Thales and Anaximander that the first principle of the universe is material. With Thales too, he looked upon it as a particular kind of matter, not indeterminate matter as taught by Anaximander. Thales had declared it to be water. Anaximenes named air as first principle. This air, like the matter of Anaximander, stretches illimitably through space.
Air is constantly in motion and has the power of motion inherent in it and this motion brought about the development of the universe from air. As operating process of this development Anaximenes named the two opposite processes of 1 Rarefaction, 2 Condensation. Rarefaction is the same thing as heat or growing hot, and condensation is identified with growing cold. The air by rarefaction becomes fire, and fire borne aloft upon the air becomes the stars. By the opposite process of condensation, air first becomes clouds and, by further degrees of condensation, becomes successively water, earth, and rocks.
The world resolves again in the course of time into the primal air. Anaximenes, like Anaximander, held the theory of "innumerable worlds," and these worlds are, according to the traditional view, successive. But here again Professor Burnet considers that the innumerable worlds may have been co-existent as well as successive. Anaximenes considered the earth to be a flat disc floating upon air. The origin of the air theory of Anaximenes seems to have been suggested to him by the fact that air in the form of breath is the principle of life.
But in one respect at least there is here an advance upon Anaximander. The latter had been vague as to how formless matter differentiates itself into the world of objects. Anaximenes names the definite processes of rarefaction and condensation. If you believe, as these early physicists did, that every different kind of matter is ultimately one kind of matter, the problem of the differentiation of the qualities of the existent elements arises.
For example, if this paper is really composed of air, how do we account for its colour, its hardness, texture, etc. Either these qualities must be originally in the primal air, or not.
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If the qualities existed in it then it was not really one homogeneous matter like air, but must have been simply a mixture of different kinds of matter. If not, how do these properties arise? How can this air which has not in it the qualities of things we see, develop them? The simplest way of getting out of the difficulty is to found quality upon quantity, and to explain the former by the amount or quantity, more or less, of matter existent in the same volume.
This is precisely what is meant by rarefaction and condensation. Condensation would result in compressing more matter into the same volume. Rarefaction would give rise to the opposite process.
Great compression of air, a great amount of it in a small space, might account for the qualities, say, of earth and stones, for example, their heaviness, hardness, colour, etc. We have now considered the three chief thinkers of the Ionic School. Others there were, but they added nothing new to the teaching of these three. They followed either Thales or Anaximenes in stating the first principle of the world either as water or as air. Hippo, for example, followed Thales, and for him the world is composed of water, Idaeus agreed with Anaximenes that it is derived from air.
Diogenes of Apollonia is chiefly remarkable for the fact that he lived at a very much later date. He was a contemporary of Anaxagoras, and opposed to the more developed teachings of that philosopher the crude materialism of the Ionic School. Air was by him considered to be the ground of all things. Not much is known of the life of Pythagoras. Three so-called biographies have come down to us from antiquity, but they were written hundreds of years after the event, and are filled with a tissue of extravagant fancies, and with stories of miracles and wonders worked by Pythagoras.
All sorts of fantastic legends seem to have gathered very early around his life, obscuring from us the actual historical details. A few definite facts, however, are known. He was born somewhere between and B. According to legend, before he arrived in South Italy he had travelled extensively in Egypt and other countries of the East. There is, however, no historical evidence of this. There is nothing in itself improbable in the belief that Pythagoras made these travels, but it cannot be accepted as proved for lack of evidence.
The legend is really founded simply upon the oriental flavour of his doctrines. In middle age he arrived in South Italy and settled at Crotona. There he founded the Pythagorean Society and lived for many years at the head of it. His later life, the date and manner of his death, are not certainly known. It was really a religious and moral Order, a Society of religious reformers. The Pythagoreans were closely associated with the Orphic Sect, and took from it the belief in the transmigration of souls, including transmigration of human souls into animals.
They also taught the doctrine of the "wheel of things," and the necessity of obtaining "release" from it, by which one could escape from the weary round of reincarnate lives. Thus they shared with the Orphic religious Sect the principle of reincarnation. The Orphic Sect believed that "release" from the wheel of life was to be obtained by religious ceremonial and ritual. The Pythagoreans had a similar ritual, but they added to this the belief that intellectual pursuits, the cultivation of science and philosophy, and, in general, the intellectual contemplation of the ultimate things of the universe would be of great help towards the "release" of the soul.
From this arose the tendency to develop science and philosophy. Gradually their philosophy attained a semi-independence from their religious rites which justifies us in regarding it definitely as philosophy. The Pythagorean ethical views were rigorous and ascetic in character. They insisted upon the utmost purity of life in the members of the Order. Abstinence from flesh was insisted upon, although this was apparently a late development. We know that Pythagoras himself was not a total abstainer from flesh. They forbade the eating of beans. They wore a garb peculiar to themselves.
The body, they taught, is the prison or tomb of the soul. They were not politicians in the modern sense, but their procedure in practice amounted to the greatest possible interference in politics. It appears that the Pythagoreans attempted to impose their ordinances upon the ordinary citizens of Crotona. They aimed at the supersession of the State by their own Order and they did actually capture the government of Crotona for a short period.
This led to attacks on the Order, and the persecution of its members. When the plain citizen of Crotona was told not to eat beans, and that under no circumstances could he eat his own dog, this was too much. A general persecution occurred. The meeting place of the Pythagoreans was burnt to the ground, the Society was scattered, and its members killed or driven away.
This occurred between the years and B. Some years later the Society revived and continued its activities, but we do not hear much of it after the fourth century B. It was largely a mystical society. The Pythagoreans developed their own ritual, ceremonial and mysteries. This love of mystery, and their general character as miracle-mongers, largely account for the legends which grew up around the life of Pythagoras himself. Their scientific activities were also considerable. They enforced moral self-control. They cultivated the arts and crafts, gymnastics, music, medicine, and mathematics.
The development of mathematics in early Greece was largely the work of the Pythagoreans. Pythagoras is said to have discovered the 47th Proposition of Euclid, and to have sacrificed an ox in honour thereof. And there is good reason to believe that practically the whole of the substance of the First Book of Euclid is the work of Pythagoras.
Turning now to their philosophical teaching, the first thing that we have to understand is that we cannot speak of the philosophy of Pythagoras, but only of the philosophy of the Pythagoreans.
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For it is not known what share Pythagoras had in this philosophy or what share was contributed by his successors. Now we recognize objects in the universe by means of their qualities. But the majority of these qualities are not universal in their scope; some things possess some qualities; others possess others. A leaf, for example, is green, but not all things are green. Some things have no colour at all. The same is true of tastes and smells. Some things are sweet; some bitter. But there is one quality in things which is absolutely universal in its scope, which applies to everything in the universe--corporeal or incorporeal.
All things are numerable , and can be counted. Moreover, it is impossible to conceive a universe in which number is not to be found. You could easily imagine a universe in which there is no colour, or no sweet taste, or a universe in which nothing possesses weight. But you cannot imagine a universe in which there is no number. This is an inconceivable thought. Upon these grounds we should be justified in concluding that number is an extremely important aspect of things, and forms a fundamental pad of the framework of the world. And it is upon this aspect of things that the Pythagoreans laid emphasis.
They drew attention to proportion, order, and harmony as the dominant notes of the universe. Now when we examine the ideas of proportion, order, and harmony, we shall see that they are closely connected with number. Similarly order is measurable by numbers. When we say that the ranks of a regiment exhibit order, we mean that they are arranged in such a way that the soldiers stand at certain regular distances from each other, and these distances are measurable by numbers of feet or inches.
Lastly, consider the idea of harmony. If, in modern times, we were to say that the universe is a harmonious whole, we should understand that we are merely using a metaphor from music. But the Pythagoreans lived in an age when men were not practised in thought, and they confused cosmical harmony with musical harmony. They thought that the two things were the same. Now musical harmony is founded upon numbers, and the Pythagoreans were the first to discover this. The difference of notes is due to the different numbers of vibrations of the sounding instrument.
The musical intervals are likewise based upon numerical proportions. So that since, for the Pythagoreans, the universe is a musical harmony, it follows that the essential character of the universe is number. The study of mathematics confirmed the Pythagoreans in this idea.
Arithmetic is the science of numbers, and all other mathematical sciences are ultimately reducible to numbers. For instance, in geometry, angles are measured by the number of degrees. Now, as already pointed out, considering all these facts, we might well be justified in concluding that number is a very important aspect of the universe, and is fundamental in it.
But the Pythagoreans went much further than this. At this point, then, we reach the heart of the Pythagorean philosophy. Just as Thales had said that the ultimate reality, the first principle of which things are composed, is water, so now the Pythagoreans teach that the first principle of things is number. Number is the world-ground, the stuff out of which the universe is made. In the detailed application of this principle to the world of things we have a conglomeration of extraordinary fancies and extravagances.
In the first place, all numbers arise out of the unit. This is the prime number, every other number being simply so many units. The unit then is the first in the order of things in the universe. Again, numbers are divided into odd and even. The universe, said the Pythagoreans, is composed of pairs of opposites and contradictories, and the fundamental character of these opposites is that they are composed of the odd and even.
The odd and even, moreover, they identified with the limited and the unlimited respectively. How this identification was made seems somewhat doubtful. But it is clearly connected with the theory of bipartition. An even number can be divided by two and therefore it does not set a limit to bipartition. Hence it is unlimited. An odd number cannot be divided by two, and therefore it sets a limit to bipartition.
The limited and the unlimited become therefore the ultimate principles of the universe. The Limit is identified with the unit, and this again with the central fire of the universe. The Limit is first formed and proceeds to draw more and more of the unlimited towards itself, and to limit it. Becoming limited, it becomes a definite "something," a thing. The Pythagoreans drew up a list of ten opposites of which the universe is composed. They are 1 Limited and unlimited, 2 odd and even, 3 one and many, 4 right and left, 5 masculine and feminine, 6 rest and motion, 7 straight and crooked, 8 light and darkness, 9 good and evil, 10 square and oblong.
With the further development of the number-theory Pythagoreanism becomes entirely arbitrary and without principle. We hear, for example, that 1 is the point, 2 is the line, 3 is the plane, 4 is the solid, 5 physical qualities, 6 animation, 7 intelligence, health, love, wisdom. There is no principle in all this. Identification of the different numbers with different things can only be left to the whim and fancy of the individual. The Pythagoreans disagreed among themselves as to what number is to be assigned to what thing. For example, justice, they said, is that which returns equal for equal.
If I do a man an injury, justice ordains that injury should be done to me, thus giving equal for equal. Justice must, therefore, be a number which returns equal for equal. Now the only numbers which do this are square numbers. Four equals two into two, and so returns equal for equal. Four, then, must be justice. But nine is equally the square of three. Hence other Pythagoreans identified justice with nine. According to Philolaus, one of the most prominent Pythagoreans, the quality of matter depends upon the number of sides of its smallest particles.
Of the five regular solids, three were known to the Pythagoreans. That matter whose smallest particles are regular tetrahedra, said Philolaus, is fire. This idea was developed further by Plato in the "Timaeus," where we find all the five regular solids brought into the theory.
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The central fire, already mentioned as identified with the unit, is a characteristic doctrine of the Pythagoreans. Up to this time it had been believed that the earth is the centre of the universe, and that everything revolves round it. But with the Pythagoreans the earth revolves round the central fire. One feels inclined at once to identify this with the sun. But this is not correct. The sun, like the earth, revolves round the central fire. We do not see the central fire because that side of the earth on which we live is perpetually turned away from it.
This involves the theory that the earth revolves round the central fire in the same period that it takes to rotate upon its axis. The Pythagoreans were the first to see that the earth is itself one of the planets, and to shake themselves free from the geocentric hypothesis. Round the central fire, sometimes mystically called "the Hearth of the Universe," revolve ten bodies.
First is the "counter-earth," a non-existent body invented by the Pythagoreans, next comes the earth, then the sun, the moon, the five planets, and lastly the heaven of the fixed stars. This curious system might have borne fruit in astronomy. That it did not do so was largely due to the influence of Aristotle, who discountenanced the theory, and insisted that the earth is the centre of the universe. But in the end the Pythagorean view won the day. We know that Copernicus derived the suggestion of his heliocentric hypothesis from the Pythagoreans.
The Pythagoreans also taught "The Great Year," probably a period of 10, years, in which the world comes into being and passes away, going in each such period through the same evolution down to the smallest details. There is little to be said by way of criticism of the Pythagorean system. It is entirely crude philosophy. The application of the number theory issues in a barren and futile arithmetical mysticism.
Hegel's words in this connection are instructive Such associations however are purely external; there is nothing in the mere numbers to make them express these definite thoughts. With every step in this method, the more arbitrary grows the association of definite numbers with definite thoughts To attach, as do some secret societies of modern times, importance to all sorts of numbers and figures is, to some extent an innocent amusement, but it is also a sign of deficiency of intellectual resource.
These numbers, it is said, conceal a profound meaning, and suggest a deal to think about. But the point in philosophy is not what you may think but what you do think; and the genuine air of thought is to be sought in thought itself and not in arbitrarily selected symbols. The Eleatics are so called because the seat of their school was at Elea, a town in South Italy, and Parmenides and Zeno, the two chief representatives of the school, were both citizens of Elea. So far we have been dealing with crude systems of thought in which only the germs of philosophic thinking can be dimly discerned.
Now, however, with the Eleatics we step out definitely for the first time upon the platform of philosophy. Eleaticism is the first true philosophy. In it there emerges the first factor of the truth, however poor, meagre, and inadequate. For philosophy is not, as many persons suppose, simply a collection of freak speculations, which we may study in historical order, but at the end of which, God alone knows which we ought to believe.
On the contrary, the history of philosophy presents a definite line of evolution. The truth unfolds itself gradually in time. The reputed founder of the Eleatic School was Xenophanes. It is, however, doubtful whether Xenophanes ever went to Elea. The real creator of the Eleatic School was Parmenides. But Parmenides seized upon certain germs of thought latent in Xenophanes and transmuted them into philosophic principles.
We have, therefore, in the first instance, to say something of Xenophanes. He was born about the year B. His long life was spent in wandering up and down the cities of Hellas, as a poet and minstrel, singing songs at banquets and festivals. Whether, as sometimes stated; he finally settled at Elea is a matter of doubt, but we know definitely that at the advanced age of ninety-two he was still wandering about Greece. His philosophy, such as it is, is expressed in poems. He did not, however, write philosophical poems, but rather elegies and satires upon various subjects, only incidentally expressing his religious views therein.
Fragments of these poems have come down to us. Xenophanes is the originator of the quarrel between philosophy and religion. He attacked the popular religious notions of the Greeks with a view to founding a purer and nobler conception of Deity. Popular Greek religion consisted of a belief in a number of gods who were conceived very much as in the form of human beings. Xenophanes attacks this conception of God as possessing human form. It is absurd, he says, to suppose that the gods wander about from place to place, as represented in the Greek legends.
It is absurd to suppose that the gods had a beginning. It is disgraceful to impute to them stories of fraud, adultery, theft and deceit. He argues, too, against the polytheistic notion of a plurality of gods. That which is divine can only be one. There can only be one best. Therefore, God is to be conceived as one. And this God is comparable to mortals neither in bodily form nor understanding.
He is "all eye, all ear, all thought. On the contrary, Xenophanes identified God with the world. The world is God, a sentient being, though without organs of sense. Looking out into the wide heavens, he said, "The One is God. God is unchangeable, immutable, undivided, unmoved, passionless, undisturbed. Xenophanes appears, thus, rather as a religious reformer than as a philosopher. Nevertheless, inasmuch as he was the first to enunciate the proposition "All is one," he takes his place in philosophy.
It was upon this thought that Parmenides built the foundations of the Eleatic philosophy. Certain other opinions of Xenophanes have been preserved. He observed fossils, and found shells inland, and the forms of fish and sea-weed embedded in the rocks in the quarries of Syracuse and elsewhere. From these he concluded that the earth had risen out of the sea and would again partially sink into it. Then the human race would be destroyed. He believed that the sun and stars were burning masses of vapour. The sun, he thought, does not revolve round the earth.
It goes on in a straight line, and disappears in the remote distance in the evening. It is not the same sun which rises the next morning. Every day a new sun is formed out of the vapours of the sea. This idea is connected with his general attitude towards the popular religion. His motive was to show that the sun and stars are not divine beings, but like other beings, ephemeral. Xenophanes also ridiculed the Pythagoreans, especially their doctrine of re-incarnation.
Parmenides was born about B. Not much is known of his life. He was in his early youth a Pythagorean, but recanted that philosophy and formulated a philosophy of his own. He was greatly revered in antiquity both for the depth of his intellect, and the sublimity and nobility of his character. Plato refers to him always with reverence. His philosophy is comprised in a philosophic didactic poem which is divided into two parts. The first part expounds his own philosophy and is called "the way of truth. The reflection of Parmenides takes its rise from observation of the transitoriness and changeableness of things.
The world, as we know it, is a world of change and mutation. All things arise and pass away. Nothing is permanent, nothing stands. One moment it is, another moment it is not. The truth of things cannot lie here, for no knowledge of that which is constantly changing is possible. Hence the thought of Parmenides becomes the effort to find the eternal amid the shifting, the abiding and everlasting amid the change and mutation of things.
And there arises in this way the antithesis between Being and not-being. The absolutely real is Being. Not-being is the unreal. Not-being is not at all. And this not-being he identifies with becoming, with the world of shifting and changing things, the world which is known to us by the senses. The world of sense is unreal, illusory, a mere appearance. It is not-being. Only Being truly is.
As Thales designated water the one reality, as the Pythagoreans named number, so now for Parmenides the sole reality, the first principle of things, is Being, wholly unmixed with not-being, wholly excludent of all becoming. The character of Being he describes, for the most part, in a series of negatives. There is in it no change, it is absolutely unbecome and imperishable. It has neither beginning nor end, neither arising nor passing away. If Being began, it must have arisen either from Being or from not-being.
But for Being to arise out of Being, that is not a beginning, and for Being to arise out of not-being is impossible, since there is then no reason why it should arise later rather than sooner. Being cannot come out of not-being, nor something out of nothing. Ex nihilo nihil fit. This is the fundamental thought of Parmenides.
Moreover, we cannot say of Being that it was, that it is, that it will be. There is for it no past, no present, and no future. It is rather eternally and timelessly present. It is undivided and indivisible. But there is nothing other than Being; there is no not-being. Therefore there is nothing by which Being can be divided. Hence it is indivisible. It is unmoved and undisturbed, for motion and disturbance are forms of becoming, and all becoming is excluded from Being. It is absolutely self-identical. It does not arise from anything other than itself. It does not pass into anything other than itself.
It has its whole being in itself. It does not depend upon anything else for its being and reality. It does not pass over into otherness; it remains, steadfast, and abiding in itself. Of positive character Being has nothing. Its sole character is simply its being. It cannot be said that it is this or that; it cannot be said that it has this or that quality, that it is here or there, then or now. It simply is. Its only quality is, so to speak, "isness.
But in Parmenides there emerges for the first time a distinction of fundamental importance in philosophy, the distinction between Sense and Reason. The world of falsity and appearance, of becoming, of not-being, this is, says Parmenides, the world which is presented to us by the senses. True and veritable Being is known to us only by reason, by thought. The senses therefore, are, for Parmenides, the sources of all illusion and error. Truth lies only in reason. This is exceedingly important, because this, that truth lies in reason and not in the world of sense , is the fundamental position of idealism.
The doctrine of Being, just described, occupies the first part of the poem of Parmenides. The second part is the way of false opinion. The theory here propounded, at any rate, is that the sense-world is composed of the two opposites, the hot and the cold, or light and darkness. The more hot there is, the more life, the more reality; the more cold, the more unreality and death. What position, now, are we to assign to Parmenides in philosophy? How are we to characterize his system?
Such writers as Hegel, Erdmann, and Schwegler, have always interpreted his philosophy in an idealistic sense. Professor Burnet, however, takes the opposite view. To quote his own words: "Parmenides is not, as some have said, the father of idealism. On the contrary, all materialism depends upon his view.
The question is therefore of cardinal importance. Let us see, in the first place, upon what grounds the materialistic interpretation of Parmenides is based. It is based upon a fact which I have so far not mentioned, leaving it for explanation at this moment. Parmenides said that Being, which is for him the ultimate reality, occupies space, is finite, and is spherical or globe-shaped. Now that which occupies space, and has shape, is matter. This interpretation of Parmenides is further emphasized in the disagreement between himself and Melissus, as to whether Being is finite or infinite.
Melissus was a younger adherent of the Eleatic School, whose chief interest lies in his views on this question. His philosophical position in general is the same as that of Parmenides. But on this point they differed. Parmenides asserted that Being is globe-shaped, and therefore finite. Now it was an essential part of the doctrine of Parmenides that empty space is non-existent. Empty space is an existent non-existence. This is self-contradictory, and for Parmenides, therefore, empty space is simply not-being. There are, for example, no interstices, or empty spaces between the particles of matter.
Being is "the full," that is, full space with no mixture of empty space in it. Now Melissus agreed with Parmenides that there is no such thing as empty space; and he pointed out, that if Being is globe-shaped, it must be bounded on the outside by empty space. And as this is impossible, it cannot be true that Being is globe-shaped, or finite, but must, on the contrary, extend illimitably through space. This makes it quite clear that Parmenides, Melissus, and the Eleatics generally, did regard Being as, in some sense, material.
Now, however, let us turn to the other side of the picture. What ground is there for regarding Parmenides as an idealist? In the first place, we may say that his ultimate principle, Being, whatever he may have thought of it, is not in fact material, but is essentially an abstract thought, a concept. Being is not here, it is not there. It is not in any place or time. It is not to be found by the senses. It is to be found only in reason. For example, we see this desk. Our entire knowledge of the desk consists in our knowledge of its qualities.
It is square, brown, hard, odourless, etc. Now suppose we successively strip off these qualities in thought--its colour, its size, its shape. We shall ultimately be left with nothing at all except its mere being. We can no longer say of it that it is hard, square, etc. We can only say "it is. It simply "is. It may be compared to such an idea as "whiteness.
Edited by M. Gill and P. Pellegrin, 77— Oxford: Oxford Univ. DOI: After a brief introduction to the history of interpretations of the Sophists and connected problems, Barney focuses on two questions: 1 To what extent were the Sophists engaged in offering what would later be termed doctrines or theories? Bonazzi, M. I Sofisti. Rome: Carocci. The Sophists. This important but hard to find book, which is being revised and translated into English, gives intelligent and innovative treatments to basic issues concerning the Sophists: existence and truth, man and reality, speech, grammar, rhetoric, politics, poetry and philosophy, justice and the laws, teaching virtue, religion, and the gods.
Gibert, J. In The Blackwell guide to ancient philosophy. Edited by C. Shields, 27— Oxford: Blackwell. This survey treats four issues. Guthrie, W. The world of the Sophists. In A history of Greek philosophy. Guthrie, 3— Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. A full and comprehensive treatment of the intellectual context of the Sophists, the topics they treated, and the individual Sophists, this has been the standard English-language reference work since its publication. Although superseded in ways by more recent work, this remains an excellent source of information and sensible interpretations.
Kerferd, G. In this revolutionary book whose influence is present in much recent discussion about the Sophists, Kerferd presents a historically based and philosophically informed interpretation of the Sophists, displaying their importance in their own time and establishing their importance as genuine philosophers dealing with issues relevant to contemporary philosophy. In The Routledge history of philosophy. Taylor, — London: Routledge. Kerferd presents a brief statement of his last thoughts on the main topics of controversy. Much of this article follows Kerferd , but many of his views have changed.
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The discussion of Antiphon in the light of the fragment first published in is particularly interesting. Die Sophistik. In Grundriss der Geschichte der Philosophie. Die Philosophie der Antike. Edited by F. Ueberweg and H. Flashar, 1— Basel, Switzerland: Schwabe. Contains an extensive bibliography. Romilly, J. Paris: Fallois. This book places the Sophists in their social, political, literary, and intellectual context and discusses their fundamental contributions to Greek education, thought, and culture. De Romilly argues that the Sophists contributed vitally to the transformation of Athenian culture and deserve a place among the most important thinkers of antiquity.