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The Axial Age presentation #1

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1 The Axial Age presentation #1
500 BC – 100 AD

2 Thoughts, Thinkers, and Empires
Solve problems of human nature Identify human nature Social and political solutions Iran’s Zoroaster Approx. 600 BC give or take 100 years Dualist religion Zoroastrianism (IDEA #7) Ahura Mazda vs. Ahriman Light vs. Dark Dominates Iran for 1000 years Spreads outward to influence all other thinkers of the Axial Age

3 Zoroaster (from Raphael’s School of Athens)

4 Upishands India c. 600 BC Basis of early Hinduism
Universe eternal and uncreated Reality exists outside the senses Reincarnation (IDEA #8)

5 India’s Sages Mahavira Siddhartha Guatama c. 600 BC Jainism The Buddha
Escape from desire Nirvana = extinction of the self (IDEA #9)


7 China’s Sages Lao Tzu c. 450 BC Confucius Warring States Period
Detach from the world to avoid suffering Salvation in another world, not just survival in this (IDEA #10) Use power of mind and rituals Confucius c. 500 BC Loyalty to family and state


9 Lao Tzu

10 Confucius and his disciples

11 Hebrew Philosophy/Religion
Jews of the Levant (Asia’s Med. coast) Inhabit war zone between Egypt and Mes. Pastoral people (herders) Early tribal religion (like Mesopotamians) Est. two warring kingdoms Israel Judah Conquered in 580 BC by Babylonia King Nebuchadnezzar Deported Jews (Babylonian Captivity) Diaspora Attempt to maintain identity led to codifying religious law (IDEA #11)





16 Old/Hebrew Testament Superior tribal god morphs into 1 true God
(IDEA #12) Lack of power in political sphere led to belief that suffering = punishment for sin (IDEA #13) Living according to God’s Law would lead to reward Immortality Relief from sinfulness Elimination of evil Empire over enemies

17 Jesus of Nazareth Jesus last great teacher of the Axial Age
Died c. 33 AD Independent Jewish rabbi with radical message Purge priesthood of corruption Cleanse temple of money lending practices Salvation comes from grace (IDEA #14) Personal connection w/ God rather than law Kristus = Greek for “Messiah” or “Anointed One”

18 The Last Supper by Leonardo Da Vinci

19 Greek Teachers of 4th Century BC
Socrates Plato Aristotle

20 Socrates

21 Plato and Aristotle from Raphael's The School of Athens

22 Big Ideas of the Axial Age
Creation (IDEA #15) Invention of the concept of “nothing” or “zero” Earlier myths simply redistributed pre-existing matter “Big Bang” Theory Brahma spinning Universe like a spider Creation by intellectual not physical act Thought Emotion Logos Word Now the fundamental principle of world philosophy

23 Brahma, Shiva, and Vishnu


25 Monotheism (IDEA #12) Previous religions diverse and polytheistic
Dualism (Persia) Hierarchical (Greece) Multiplicity = Unity (Hinduism) Monotheism develops early in Judaism Yahweh Treasure too precious to share with Gentiles Abrahamic tradition now most pop. in world Judaism Christianity Islam



28 Divine Love (IDEA #14) Begins with doctrines of unselfishness common to many religions Mozi in China Brahmanism (world is an illusion) Greek (world is divine) Confucianism (world is neutral) Buddhism (world is transient) Zoroastrianism (world is evil) Christianity (world is good)

29 Divine Love cont. Led to belief that humans are divinely special
Previous thinkers tended to see all living things as equal Jainists Southern Italian philosophers New hierarchical structures Greece (Aristotle) China (Xunzi) Christianity pop. because it did not restrict Divine Love to a single people or race

30 New Political Thought Debate regarding basic view of human nature
Optimists (man is intrinsically good) (IDEA #16) Pessimists (man is intrinsically evil) (IDEA #17)

31 Pessimists Strengthen state to protect man from himself Plato
Censorship Repression Militarism Extreme communism Selective breeding (eugenics) Deception of people by the state Rigid class structure All power in the hands of philosopher-kings (Guardians) (IDEA #18) Intellectual superiority Heredity and education

32 Plato’s Classes

33 More Pessimists Legalism in China (4th Century BC)
Law is right regardless of ethics (IDEA #19) Obedience is all that matters “goodness” is irrelevant, only “order” matters No equating human law w/ divine law Reaction to inability of Confucianism and Daoism to control Warring States Severe punishments Anticipation of modern fascism Glorification of “order” and “war” Praised agriculture Anti-capitalism Suppression of the individual in subordination to the state

34 Political Optimists Confucianism Indian Sages
Function of state to liberate subjects to fullest States not working in best interest of subjects should be rebelled against State obligated to subjects, not subjects to state (IDEA #20) Indian Sages Rulers/kings elected by aristocrats (IDEA #21) Usually hundreds or thousands of voters

35 Optimists cont. Daoists Ruler’s job is to enforce virtue
Must lead by example Greek optimists States as practical methods Experiments Republican Aristocratic Democratic True democracy is dangerous Best gov. = flexible aristocracy limited by laws (IDEA #22) Aristotle’s combination government Romans United States?


37 Still more Optimists Jesus as a political subversive
“Render unto Caesar” Political irony (IDEA #23) Welcomed social outcasts from Jewish system Leads to political execution

38 Challenging Illusions
Debate over Appearance vs. Reality Plato’s Allegory of the Cave Attempts to “know” true reality Mathematics Indian sages come up with concept of infinity (IDEA #24) Greeks find incalculable ratios Pi Golden mean (approximately 1.618) Underpin descriptions of the universe Pythagoras c. 550 BC (IDEA #25) Believed universe made of numbers “5” and “2” exist even if there is nothing to count Result is “Rationalism” (distrust of the senses) Reason will find truth and solve problems


40 Reason Parmenides c. 500 BC Chinese Paradoxes Zeno
Geometry = reality “a perfect triangle, like god has never been seen” all objects like this (IDEA #25) Chinese Paradoxes thought its pure because not filtered through senses Zeno 1/2 paradoxes Aristotle’s exposition on reason taught western world how to think (IDEA #26) syllogism (Nyaya school in India similar)


42 Science Also distrust of senses
No differentiation between natural and supernatural until Chinese 679 B.C. (IDEA #27) attempts to explore “natural” to dig out superstition. inanimate substances have no wills Greek science rooted in magic nature worship encouraged natural explanation developed scientific method to know gods better.

43 Science cont. led to Greek scientific achievements
Aristotle’s biological texts Archimedes principles of mechanics C. 250 B.C. C. 200 B.C. Eratosthenes calculated almost exactly the size of the planet Chinese Science ( systematic investigation of nature) from Daoist nature worship avoided theory in favor of observation to avoid contamination of reason Chinese science weak on theory and heavy on technology.

44 Eratosthenes Formula

45 Archimedes

46 Medicine Hippocrates C. 500 B.C. Indian C. 550 B.C. balance 4 humors
Phlegm, blood, yellow bile, and black bile Phlegmatic, melancholic, sanguine, choleric diet, vomiting, laxatives, bloodletting scientifically based Indian C. 550 B.C. Susutra charaka



49 Skepticism world might be purposeless China Greeks Epicurus Romans
Liezi “Mosquito” Wang Chong Greeks Epicurus imaginary world of gods nothing to hope/fear atomic theory Romans Sextus Empiricus man invented gods as a form of social control

50 Stoicism (Greeks) Zeno C. 400 B.C. Nature morally neutral
fatalism indifference Similar to Buddism

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