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Ancient Philosophy

Pre Socratic Period


Philosopher Background and Contributions
1. Thales of Miletus Thales of Miletus (c. 624 - 546 B.C.) was an
early Pre-Socratic philosopher, mathematician
and astronomer from the Greek city of Miletus
in Ionia (modern-day Turkey). He was one of
the so-called Seven Sages of Greece, and
many regard him as the first philosopher in
the Western tradition.

a. His idea of justice included both


the letter of the law and the spirit of the
law (e.g. adultery and perjury about it in
court are equally bad).
b. He had some common sense moral advice:
that we should expect the same support from
our children that we give to our parents; that
we should not let talk influence us against
those we have come to trust; and that we
should not do ourselves that for which
we blame others.
c. He believed that a happy man was one who
was "healthy in body, resourceful in soul and
of a readily teachable nature".

2. Anaximander Anaximander (c. 610 - 546 B.C.) was an early


Pre-Socratic philosopher from the Greek city
of Miletus in Ionia.

a. He was a key figure in the Milesian School, as


a student of Thales and teacher of
Anaximenes and Pythagoras.
b. According to Anaximander, at any given
time there are an infinite number of
worlds that have been separated off
from the infinite, which is the source and
reservoir of all things.

3. Anaximenes Anaximenes (c. 585 - 525 B.C.) was an early


Pre-Socratic philosopher from the Greek city
of Miletus in Ionia (modern-day Turkey).
a. In the physical sciences, Anaximenes was the
first Greek to distinguish clearly
between planets and stars, and he used
his principles to account for
various natural phenomena, such as
thunder and lightning, rainbows,
earthquakes, etc.
b. Anaximenes posited the first theory to explain
a single substance capable of changing its
form and the first to attribute the nature of
matter entirely to physical rather than moral
laws.

4. Heraclitus Life: Heraclitus (fl. c.500 BC) was born in


Ephesus, the second great Ionian city. He was
a man of strong and independent
philosophical spirit.

a. Heraclitus wrote a single book, with the


title On Nature, perhaps divided in three
sections: cosmology, politics and
theology. He dedicated and placed his
book in the temple of Artemis.
b. Thus in the diversity of human laws (not
beyond them) there flashed upon Heraclitus
the idea of an eternal law of nature that
corresponds to mans reason as sharing in the
eternal logos.
c. Heraclitus doctrine had a practical aim. It
was intended to stress the value of the laws
and their binding force against the fickleness
of the uncritical masses.

5. Pythagoras Pythagoras was born on the Greek island


of Samos, in the eastern Aegean Sea off the
coast of Turkey, some time between 580 and
572 B.C. His father was Mnesarchus, a
Phoenician merchant from Tyre; his mother
was Pythais, a native of Samos. He spent
his early years in Samos, but also travelled
widely with his father.

a. He was one of the first to propose that


the thought processes and the soul were
located in the brain and not the heart.
b. He discovered the theory of mathematical
proportions, constructed from three to five
geometrical solids, and also
discovered square numbers and square
roots.

6. Xenophanes Xenophanes, (born c. 560 bc, Colophon, Ionia


died c. 478) Greek poet and rhapsode,
religious thinker, and reputed precursor of the
Eleatic school of philosophy, which stressed
unity rather than diversity and viewed the
separate existences of material things as
apparent rather than real.

a. Despite his varying interests, he is most


commonly remembered for his critiques
of popular religion, particularly false
conceptions of the divine that are a
byproduct of the human propensity to
anthropomorphize deities.

7. Parmenides Parmenides of Elea (c. 515 - 450 B.C.) was an


early Pre-Socratic Greek philosopher and
founder and chief representative of the
Eleatic School of ancient Greek philosophy.
He was the founder of the School of Elea,
which also included Melissus of Samos and
the young Zeno of Elea (who was about 25
years younger than Parmenides and may also
have been his eromenos or adolescent lover,
a common tradition of ancient Greece).
a. Parmenides argued that the every-day
perception of the reality of the physical world
is mistaken, and that the reality of the world
is "the One", an unchanging, ungenerated,
indestructible whole. Likewise, the
phenomena of movement and change are
simply appearances of the real static, eternal
reality. He further asserted that
the truth cannot be known through sensory
perception, only through pure reason
8. Zeno of Elea a. Brilliant in paradoxes
b. Distinguished from Zeno of Citium, founder of
Stoicism.
c. A student of Parmenides
d. Brilliant in producing paradoxes
e. Achilles and the tortoise (most famous
philosophical paradox)
f. Oxford Companion criticizes him that,
HE TURNED HIS STYLE OF
ARGUMENTATION TO DESTRUCTIVE
ENDS

9. Empedocles a. Like Parmenides, Empedocles admitted that


matter cannot come into existence out of
nothing.
b. Ever changing world of sensory experience
c. World is made up of 4 elements:

EARTH, WATER, AIR, FIRE

10. Leucippus a. Leader of the Atomists


b. EVERYTHING IS MADE UP OF ATOMS THAT
ARE TOO SMALL TO BE SEEN OR EVEN
SUBDIVIDED ANY FURTHER
Atom- Greek word cannot be cut
c. Causal Interpretation of Change- change
occurs when atoms alter either their
formations or their locations.
d. Leucippus and Democritus- universe is not a
continuum instead consists of separate
entities, contradicting Parmenides.

11. Democritus
a. Leader of the Atomists
b. Particle Theorist
c. First and only Pre-Socratic philosopher to
elaborate an ethical theory
d. Milesian School identified the cosmic
intelligence as MIND
e. Atomists made a fundamental break with the
Milesians.
f. ATOMISTS REDUCTIVE MATERIALISM
g. LIFELESS AND MINDLESS ATOMS
h. Gods are large, long-lived beings inhabiting
intracosmic void and moral values
Theory of Physical Atonimism

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