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Introduction to Humanities Lecture 3 Pre-Socratic Philosophy By David Kelsey.

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1 Introduction to Humanities Lecture 3 Pre-Socratic Philosophy By David Kelsey

2 Philosophical Questions & myths In the 6th and 5th century B.C. questions about the nature of the world began to take importance. –Questions such as: What is the meaning of life? Does life end in death? What is the best life to live? –Prior to the 6th century B.C., answers to such questions came in the form of myths.

3 Myths Myths: –a story told and retold as a part of tradition. –Often involved the Gods in some struggle, either with each other or with human beings, and intervening in human life for good or evil. The Greeks and their Gods: –Kronos, Rhea, Zeus, Poseidon, Hades, Aphrodite… –Myths often involve a moral lesson.

4 An example of a myth An example in the first few lines of Homer’s Iliad (page 5 of Melchert): –Rage--Goddess, sing the rage of Peleus’ son Achilles, –murderous, doomed, that cost the Achaeans countless losses, –hurling down to the House of Death so many sturdy souls, –great fighters’ souls, but made their bodies carrion, feasts for the dogs and birds, –and the will of Zeus was moving toward its end. –Begin, Muse, when the two first broke and clashed, Agamemnon lord of men and brilliant Achilles. –What god drove them to fight with such a fury? –Apollo the son of Zeus and Leto. Incensed at the king –he swept a fatal plague through the army--men were dying –and all because Agamemnon had spurned Apollo’s priest. The Iliad, Book 1, 1-12

5 Explaining Homer’s Iliad What’s Homer on about: –The theme of the Iliad: rage (the irrational anger of Achilles) –The Greeks capture a beautiful girl in a Trojan raid and the army awards her to Agamemnon… –Her father, a priest, pleads for her return… –Agamemnon finally gives up the girl but demands Achilles prize, a lovely woman. –Enraged, Achilles refuses to fight –Patrocles pleads with Achilles to return to battle but he refuses. –So Patrocles talks Achilles into letting him use Achilles’ armor to fight himself. During the battle Patrocles is killed by the great Trojan warrior Hector… –Achilles rejoins the battle and wreaks havoc…He meets Hector in battle and kills him. –Achilles then drags Hector’s body back to the greek camp... –The story ends with Hector’s father, King Priam, travelling at night to the Greek camp to plead for his sons body…Achilles gives up the body.

6 New Answers to Philosophical Questions During the 5th and 6th centuries B.C. there arose a discontent among some. –Not content with the myths as answers In early philosophical thought, certain questions gained precedence. –The Question of the one an the many: –The appearance/reality distinction: –Human reality:

7 Thales Thales of Miletus ( B.C.) Held that: –1) the cause and element of all things is water Water is underlying everything… –2) all things are filled with Gods So the Gods are explanations for why things exist and happen, Example: –Problem for Thales’ view: Why water?

8 Anaximander Anaximander: – B.C. –from Miletus as Thales was. Held the following: –Given any state of things, Z, it had a beginning –But then some prior state, Y, must have brought Z to be –But Y must have had a beginning –So some prior state X must have brought Y to be –But this reasoning cannot go on forever –So there is something that has no beginning –What does Anaximander call this thing without a beginning?

9 Anaximander’s boundless The boundless: –The beginning for all things –No beginning and no end –Called divine –Encompasses all things and steers all things –Indefinite in character –Swirling in a vortex like motion Swirling water in a pan… –Why think that the boundless is swirling in a vortex? Just look around. –Problem: how can one such abstract cause account for all the variety we see in nature? Do we need one big cause?

10 Pythagoras – B.C. –Lived in Croton (southern Italy) most of his adult life –Had much influence on Plato –Much influence on mathematics and music: He and his followers first developed Geometry Developed the Pythagorean theorem Discovered the mathematical ratios of musical intervals: the octave, the fifth and the fourth –Believed in Dualism. The soul… Reincarnation… A Vegetarian…

11 Heraclitus Heraclitus: – B.C. –Lived in Ephesus (north of Miletus, on the shores of Asia Minor) –Wrote the book of Heraclitus –His solution of the one and the many: We live in a world of many. There is a multitude of apparently different, changing and conflicting things. This multitude of things is made one by the logos. The logos is…

12 The Logos The logos: The law like or rational process or structure or pattern which governs all things. The logos provides structure in chaos… Reality is a flux, structured by the logos –All things are in flux, like a river: ever changing, yet preserving an identity through the changes. –River metaphor: although the water that makes the river is ever changing, it is the same river. –The logos is the structure that unifies the many –In every one, many persist. –Example…

13 The Logos continued The Logos continued: –The logos is a divine fire: Divine fire: –“All things are an exchange for fire, and fire for all things…” (DK 22 B 31, IEGP, 91) Fire both is the world order, I.e. the logos, and manifests itself in that world order –Through the logos there is a harmonious union of opposites Reality is in a state of constant change but All things come into being through opposition: –Without tension, opposition and conflict, the world could not persist –Example: The divine world order guarantees a balance of opposites: –Example:

14 Perceiving the Logos Perceiving the Logos: –Humans pay no attention to the logos. –We perceive conflict, disorder and chaos. –But there is structure behind the madness. This is the logos. –The logos: all that is and ever will be is ever changing.

15 The Ethics of Heraclitus The logos and how we should act: –Always be at one with the logos in one’s actions and character. Act according to a balance of opposites. –Moderation is the greatest virtue It is never good for man to get all he wishes

16 Parmenides Parmenides: –from Elea (now the southern part of Italy) & –lived from 515 B.C. to roughly 450 B.C. –The first Rationalist: wants to see where reasoning and argument takes us An argument for Monism: –Monism is the metaphysical view that there is only one type of thing as opposed to more than one. –1. Thought and being are the same –2. You cannot think “nothing” –3. Things don’t ever come into being. –And 4. Things don’t ever fall out of existence. –Thus, 5. Things don’t have beginnings or endings and change is impossible.

17 There is only the One So what follows from this argument: –Time is an illusion what is must exist all at once in a continuous present –What is, is indivisible The one has no parts –There cannot be things of different kinds There is only the one. It is eternal, indivisible and unchanging. –The appearance/reality distinction is also solved: –So Parmenides view is counterintuitive…

18 Atomism Democritus and Leucippus were the originators of Atomism. –Not much is known of Leucippus –Democritus: B.C. lived in Abdera in the middle of the 5th century B.C. Atomism gives us a solution to the one and the many problem which isn’t counterintuitive like Parmenides solution. Atomists think we can grant that being and not being are opposites and that not being is not. –But they think that from this monism needn’t follow

19 An Ambiguity Atomism calls attention to an ambiguity in Parmenides argument: –The ambiguity is in the term “what is”. For Democritus, what is can be either body or empty space. So space can be empty in that it contains no things and yet it can have being of its own. –Democritus calls empty space “the void”

20 Atomism vs. Monism Here we see the contrast in views: Parmenides Atomism     Being Not-Being Is Is Not Thing No-Thing Body Void

21 Atoms So for Atomism, reality consists of atoms and the void. Bodies that we can see and touch are composed of atoms. Atoms: –Tiny, indivisible, indestructible and exist eternally –In constant motion… –Mechanical laws… –Can differ in 3 ways…

22 How Atoms form into bodies Atoms combine and hook together to form the bodies we can see and touch: –Atoms move about in the void –Atoms can hook into each other –If enough atoms get hooked together, they can form bodies that are visible to us –Bodies differ… An explanation of change: –A body comes into being: –A body passes away:

23 The Implications of Atomism Here are some implications of the view: –1-there is no room for intelligent design or purpose in explaining events or actions: The laws of motion and freedom of the will… –2-Everything in the universe must be explained in terms of materialist terms, I.e. there is only atoms, the void and the mechanical laws that govern their behavior. So the mind and the soul must be explained in completely materialist terms. –Sensations, mental states and qualia… Other problems: –Ghosts, angels and reincarnation

24 The rise of Athens During the 4th & 5th centuries B.C. Athens becomes the center of Greek cultural life –Greece was composed of city states, which included… –The city states each had their own citizens, armies, etc. –Democracy… 499 B.C. = Eastern Greek city states (on the shores of Asia Minor) rebelled against Persian taxation. –Athens sends 20 ships to defend against the Persians and burns Sardis to the ground. –The Persians respond… 480 B.C. = The Persian king Xerxes took an army of near 200,000 to defeat Athens –Leonidas lead Spartan soldiers to meet the Persians at Thermopylae: many Persians killed but the Spartans are defeated –The Persians are defeated by the Athenians in a sea battle –The Persians returned a year later to be defeated again As a result, Athens gains prominence and wealth. –Athens forms the league for the future defense of Greek lands & rules the sea

25 The Sophists The Sophists were teachers. –Popular during the 5th and 4th centuries B.C. –Protagoras was one of the greatest –Taught virtue, politics, astronomy, geometry and arithmetic, music and philosophy –Most notably taught rhetoric The uses of rhetoric… –Rhetoric are the principles and practice of persuasive speaking. By using the principles of persuasive speaking, one can make a case for any position at all. –Rhetoric was taught: –The Sophist claimed to teach how to turn the weaker argument into the stronger one

26 Man is the Measure of All Things The Sophists thought man is the measure of all things: –Since any position can be made to persuade, there are only opinions –So humans are confined to appearances and we cannot discriminate truth from opinion Can we gain truth at all? –So man is the measure of all things: There is no criterion, standard or mark by which to judge except ourselves This is the view known as Relativism –Says truth is relative to the individual, group or culture

27 Physis & Nomos Physis: –The characteristics of the world or things in general independent of what human beings impose on it Nomos: –custom or convention Example… –Things for which humans alone have decided that they be so For the Sophists, morality, virtue and justice were a question of Nomos not Physis. –Right and wrong, just and unjust are merely a convention because we sort such questions out by consulting the laws.

28 The Peloponnesian War The Peloponnesian War: –Between the Greek city states of Athens and Sparta –Occurred between 431 and 404 B.C. –Death and killing was pervasive throughout… –Lead to the defeat of Athens and the beginning of the end of the Golden Age of Greece –The peace treaty and the Thirty…

29 The Thirty The Thirty: –Were supported by Spartan men-at-arms –Carried out a purge of criminals and wrong doers –Executed criminals and persecuted many… –Lasted almost a year… –The thirty were finally defeated but Athens would never recover…

30 Results of the Thirty’s reign of terror Results of the reign of terror on the people of Athens and Greece: –Athenians lost confidence… –The world and human affairs seemed beyond managing… –Disillusionment at Sophistry… –A Greek known as Aristophanes wrote ‘The Clouds’… –To Aristophanes, argument was nothing more than a contest that the most persuasive will always win –The central concern of Socrates…


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