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Mythos, Logos, & the Pre-Socratics

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Presentation on theme: "Mythos, Logos, & the Pre-Socratics"— Presentation transcript:

1 Mythos, Logos, & the Pre-Socratics

2 Philosophy Is Is Not The search for beliefs that are rationally justified. The questioning of the meaning of basic concepts and assumptions. A method, a mode of thought. The search for justification for what we want to believe The process of picking a set of beliefs to believe in.

3 1st Principle of Philosophy: Conceptual Clarity
If the meaning of the terms of the argument aren’t clear, then the argument isn’t clear. “The nation’s wealth should be distributed among the population fairly.” “Too many entering college students are not competent in the basics.”

4 2nd Principle of Philosophy: Consistency
No contradictions. An argument that contains two statements that cannot both be true is inconsistent. “Everything that happens is part of God’s plan, and I have freewill.” An argument that contains statements that deny their own legitimacy is inconsistent (i.e. self-referential inconsistency). “It is impossible to be certain about anything.” “There are no truths.”

5 3rd Principle of Philosophy: Coherence
The way ideas and claims “fit” or “hang” together. “God is all good and all powerful. He allows evil to exist in the world.” “I know I have a mind that exists separately from my brain, but I can’t identify where my mind is, describe its origins, or explain how it interacts with my brain.”

6 4th Principle of Philosophy: Comprehensiveness
Good philosophy explains a wide range of phenomena; bad philosophy explains a narrow range of phenomena. “It’s true for me.” “Only scientific facts matter.”

7 What are the questions of philosophy?
Metaphysics/Ontology Epistemology What is the nature of reality? What is the “stuff” of the universe? What exists? What “is” and what makes it as it is? What are the differences between the way something appears to be and the way it is? What is knowledge? What does it mean “to know?” Where does knowledge come from and how do we come “to know?” What is knowable/unknowable? How do we know we know what we claim to know?

8 More Kinds of Questions
Aesthetics Ethics What are the relationships among art, nature, and culture? What is beauty? What is the nature of the experience of beauty? Does beauty inhere in the object or is it a projection? What are the bases for the standards of beauty? How should I/we/people live? What makes an act right or wrong? What is value/worth? What makes an act “good?” Does morality need God? To what degree should the situation or context for an ethical decision bear on the decision?

9 Where did philosophy come from?
The Scenario You discover today that the world we live in is not governed by natural and physical laws and is not part of the universe as we know it. The whole thing is an MMO game. You experience consciousness and feel like you’re freely making choices, but you know, too, that the game designers, the game platform, and the gamers determine the ways things are. You are absolutely, unshakably certain in this.

10 And then you find…. Who are you?
The game. The gamers. The history (the story of the game and the gamers). A listing of those who have contact with the gamers. A description of the game world and explanation of why what happens happens as it does. Who are you? What is the purpose/meaning of your life? Why is the world the way it is? Why do things happen as they do? Who has authority in this world? Where does order/harmony come from?

11 The Power of Mythos What is this hurricane and why is it happening?
Situated the world within a supernatural context—natural events have supernatural causes (Zeus and thunder). Promotes community—we’re all in the same story. Very stable society: “So behaved the sacred ancestors; so must we behave.” Provides moral code. What is this hurricane and why is it happening?

12 6th Century BCE (600 BCE-501 BCE); near coast of present-day Turkey.
Theater of Miletus 6th Century BCE (600 BCE-501 BCE); near coast of present-day Turkey. Collapse of social and political structures leads to collapse of mythos. Collapse of mythos: You’re still in the game, but it’s not clear in what sense it’s a game with gamers. The story is in question.

13 Logos The force of thought leads to wisdom (Sophia) & those who have love (Philo) for wisdom and devote themselves to its pursuit are engaged in “philosophia”—the love of wisdom. Greek for “word.” Source of English “logic”—psychology, biology, sociology, etc. Logos refers to speaking or setting forth ideas in words, which implies a certain kind of thinking about, reflection upon, and evaluation of those words—LOGICAL ANALYSIS.

14 The “Pre-Socratics” Idea: “I can create explanations of what happens by observing phenomena and using reason/logic to draw inferences. The challenge: Find a way to create order and harmony without the myths. A group of thinkers—”inquirers”—that assumed reason and senses (and not just gods and myths) had authority to determine the nature of the universe, its phenomena, and the place of human beings in it. Began the Western tradition of “philosophy.” Empedocles fragment

15 Thales of Miletus (@580c. BCE)
Things seem to change—bodies decay, plants grow, etc. If there is change, there must be something that changes AND something that doesn’t change—otherwise, chaos. In other words, there must be a unity (Oneness) underneath the plurality of the world. So what is the unifying, unchanging substance that is hidden by the appearance of constant change?

16 It changes without changing.
Hogwash? How far is the leap from the claim that water is the building block of everything and the claim that atoms are? Key insight? Plurality of the world must be reducible to one category. “The first principle and basic nature of all things is water,” says Thales. Rivers turn into deltas….waters turns into ice and then back into water….which turns into steam…which becomes air….which becomes wind….which fans fire, etc.

17 Anaximander (@610-546 BCE) Student of Thales.
How can water become its opposite, fire? And if water is the fundamental of everything, why hasn’t everything returned to water? (entropy?) The source of all things has to be greater than any of the things. In fact, it has to be greater than any “thing”—it has to be a non-thing or beyond-thing.

18 The “Boundless” or “Unlimited” (apeiron).
The Boundless is opposed to nothing because everything is it. Boundless originally in vortex, disrupted, fragmented into elements (Big Bang?). World will end and return elements to unified Boundless.

19 Anaximenes BCE) Criticism of Anaximander: An unspecific, indeterminate, “something-or-other” is no better than nothing at all. Besides, “Nihilo nihil” (from nothing comes nothing). Air is it. Less dense=fire. Condensed=cloud and water. More condensed=earth and rock. Key idea: Differences in quality are really differences in quantity.

20 Thales, Anaximander, Anaximenes
All from Miletus. All lived around 550 BCE. All desired simple explanations. All tried to identify the fundamental “stuff” the universe is made of. All relied on observation. All focused on explaining natural phenomenon in terms of other natural phenomenon and not in terms of supernatural phenomenon.

21 Xenophanes of Elea (@570 BCE)
Some Pre-Socratics Focused Not on Explanations of the Material World but on Nature of Ideas Xenophanes of Elea BCE) “But mortals suppose that the gods are born (as they themselves are), and that they wear man’s clothing and have a human voice and body.” (fragment 5) (fragment 6)

22 Parmenides BCE) Shows that the nature of reality can be demonstrated through logic without observation. Follow this: “It is” is a truth of reason that does not depend on observation. “It is” cannot be denied without self-contradiction: “It is not” is “It is nothing,” but if “nothing” exists, then it is not nothing; it is something. “It is.”

23 So….. Since “nothing” cannot be thought without thinking of it as “something,” there is no nothing, only Being. Being must, therefore, be uncreated (if it were created it would have been created from nothing, and there is no nothing); indestructible (if destroyed, it would turn into non-Being, but there is no nothing); eternal (if it were not eternal it would eventually become non-Being); indivisible (if it could be divided, there would be spaces of non-Being between it parts, but there is no non-Being).

24 And, therefore, Parmenides says….
Motion is impossible. For Being to move, it would have to go from where Being is to where Being isn’t (but there can’t be any such place where Being isn’t!)

25 Zeno of Elea (@490 BCE) Defended Parmenides.
Even given the possibility of motion, it is impossible to ever get anywhere.

26 Parmenides and Zeno Force a choice between sensory observation and mathematics and logic. The senses deceive, so reason/logic should reign. This later becomes the tension between empiricism and rationalism.

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