Presentation on theme: "The First Metaphysicians The “Axial Period:” Period, around 600 to 500 BCE, during which people around the world first came to the conviction that the."— Presentation transcript:
The First Metaphysicians The “Axial Period:” Period, around 600 to 500 BCE, during which people around the world first came to the conviction that the world (the cosmos) was something that could be understood and that human beings were capable of understanding it.
“For the first time philosophers appeared.... Hermits and wandering thinkers in China, ascetics in India, philosophers in Greece, and prophets in Israel all belong together, however much they may differ from each other in their beliefs, and the contents of their thought, and their inner dispositions. Man proved capable of confronting... the entire universe.... In speculative thought, he lifts himself up toward Being itself.” Karl Jaspers, The Axial Period
The First Philosophical Question What is real? Is all of reality fundamentally the same, or is reality composed of lots of different things? The Ionian Naturalists Group of philosophers who lived in Ionia (now the west coast of Turkey) in the Sixth Century BCE
Were the first to answer the question “What is real?” in a systematic way. Each believed that reality is different manifestations of one fundamental natural substance. – Naturalism: The view that phenomena should be explained in terms of natural, i.e. not divine, realities. – Monism: The view that, ultimately, there is only one kind of “stuff” to which all realities can be reduced. Thales (c. 580 BCE), maintained that water was the ultimate substance to which everything could be reduced.
Heraclitus (c. 470 BCE) Fire is the ultimate substance to which all realities may be reduced. Reality is an ever-changing fire that never “sits still.” Reality is never the same from one moment to another. Reality is like a rapidly flowing river that is never the same from moment to moment. “It is not possible to step twice into the same river.” – Heraclitus (as quoted by Plutarch)
Heraclitus’ view of reality is much like the opening verses of the Book of Genesis. “In the beginning... the earth was without form and void and darkness was upon the face of the deep.” – Genesis 1:1-2 In Genesis, God brings order and form to the chaos. Despite his references to the mysterious Logos that brings order to chaos, it seems, for Heraclitus, the chaos remains. Reality is, thus, an ever-changing formless flux.
Heraclitus’ contemporaries, the Protagorians, claimed that, if reality is an ever changing, formless flux, knowledge is impossible. Reality won’t “sit still” long enough for humans to know it. Any order that appears to exist in reality is not really “out there” in reality. Any order that appears to exist in reality is a projection from “in here,” i. e. from the human mind. – “Man is the measure of all things. Of things that are, that they are, and, of things that are not, that they are not.” -- Protagoras
Parmenides (c. 515 – 440 BCE) From Elea in present day southern Italy. “Since ‘nothing’ cannot be thought (without thinking of something), there is no nothing, there is only Being.... Being is uncreated, indestructible, eternal, and indivisible.... [M]otion is impossible because motion would involve going from where Being is to where Being isn’t (but there cannot be any such place as the place where Being isn’t.)” (Palmer, p. 32) Change is an illusion that is projected on the one immutable reality by the human mind.
Zeno (c. 490 BCE – ?) Zeno was a student of Parmenides. Developed a series of paradoxes that “proved” that motion and change are impossible. Achilles and the tortoise – To traverse the distance of his footrace with the tortoise, Achilles must first traverse half its distance.
– Before he can traverse half the distance of the race, Achilles must first traverse half of the half, and so on, and so on, and so on. – Since the the distance Achilles must traverse can be infinitely halved, and, since Achilles cannot complete the race until he first completes the “first half,” Achilles cannot begin the race. Thus, motion and change are impossible.
Zeno’s mistake was inferring that a distance must be infinite from the fact it can be infinitely divided. It was only after the development of calculus in the 17 th Century that Zeno’s “proofs” for the impossibility of motion and change could be rigorously refuted.