The Presocratic Philosophers:

Logos vs Mythos

  1. Philosophy vs Mythology:
    1. Cosmogeny - the origin of the universe

    2. Cosmology - the reason the universe is the way it is

  2. The Ionian Philosophers:

  3. Click here for a map of the Eastern Presocractic World

    1. The Milesian Thinkers:

      1. The General World-view of the Milesians -

        1. The rejection of anthropomorphic deities in favor of "the Infinte" (to apeiron)

        2. The universe is orderly (regulated by law), not random

        3. The observable order/universe (kosmos) is controlled/determined by the Unbounded

      2. The Big Three and their particular contributions -

        1. Thales of Miletus - (c. 624-545 BCE)

          1. Water is the "principle" (arche) of the universe

          2. Everything is "full of gods"

        2. Anaximander of Miletus - (c. 610-545 BCE)

          1. The universe (and the opposites) is caused by eternal motion or vortex (dine) within the Infinite

          2. The "opposites" (hot/cold, wet/dry, up/down) are the cause of change

          3. Order is maintained by the Infinte as the opposites are regulated by justice

        3. Anaximenes of Miletus - (c. 580-500 BCE)

          1. Infinte Air (aera apeiron) is the basic substance of things in the universe

          2. The elements (fire, air, wind, cloud, water, earth, rock) are created out of the Infinite through a process of ...

            • Condensation and

            • Rarefication

    2. Other Ionian Thinkers:

      1. Xenophanes of Colophon - (c. 570-480 BCE) The Philosophical Poet

        1. Rational Theology -

          1. Three Criticisms of Popular Theology:

            • Gods not necessary to account for natural phenomena

            • Gods are immoral

            • Gods are anthropomorphic and, therefore, absurd

          2. The God of Philosophy:

            • No personal attributes

            • Monotheistic Pantheism

            • God is the conscious universe

        2. Epistemology - Introduction of Skepticism (first to draw a distinction between belief and knowledge) What seems to be is not reality

      2. Heraclitus of Ephesus - (c. 540-480 BCE)

        1. Writing Style -

          1. Aphorisms (short, pithy, memorable)

          2. Obscure, if not paradoxical (deliberate?)

        2. Epistemology - Skepticism

          1. Heraclitus agrees with Xenophanes that the truth of nature (phusi) is hidden from ordinary perception

          2. Draws a distinction between wisdom (sophia) and knowledge (gnosis)

          3. Wisdom comes only from understanding the Logos -

            • The impersonal intelligence (design) throughout the universe

            • The rational unity (harmonia) which lies behind (and guides) all change

        3. Cosmology - Unity in Change (the eternal fire)

          1. The appearance of the kosmos is...

              - many discrete objects

              - undergoing constant change

          2. The reality of the universe is...

            • Palentropo Harmonia ("backward-turning structure") between opposites which when understood is an...

            • Eternal Unity

            • The nature of change - oscillation between the four element:

              • fire becomes air

              • air becomes water

              • water becomes earth

              • (then the cycle repeats with earth becoming water, etc.)

          3. God -

            • Logos

            • eminent throughout the universe (God is in the tension between opposites)

            • Though God is impersonal, God is rational or "ensouled"

            • The Soul and human destiny -

              • the "dry" (fiery) soul - becomes one with the divine consciousness upon death

              • the "moist" soul - becomes water and is absorbed into the ever-changing material cycle of the universe

  4. Pythagoreanism:

  5. Click here for a map of the Western Presocractic World

    1. Pythagoras of Samos (emagrated to Croton) - (c. 571-497 BCE)

    2. Rejection of Critical Discourse in Prose (in favor of akusmata ["sayings"])

    3. The Doctrine of the Soul -

      1. A unified, rational, immortal substance

      2. The soul is repeatedly incarnated -

        1. avoidance of bodily passion leads to higher incarnations

        2. indulgence in bodily passion leads to purgatorial incarnations in lower life-form

      3. Asceticism is the best way to live

    4. Mathematical Doctrines - (Harmonia and number in all things)

  6. The Eleatic Philosophers:
    1. Parmenides of Elea - (c. 515-450 BCE) The One

      1. The Poem of Parmenides -

        1. Verse (hexameter) rather than prose

        2. The Allegory - Parmenides is instructed by the goddess Dike (Justice)

          1. the "road" = the inquiry itself

          2. the two "horses" = the power of reason

          3. the daughters of Helios = intuition and illumination

          4. the "Gate between Day and Night" = the way to truth and the way to error, respectively

          5. the goddess Justice = the assurance of reaching the right conclusion if one perseveres

      2. The Two Paths of Inquiry -

        1. The Path of Persuasion -

          1. That which is, and cannot not be...

          2. Being itself -

            • one (indivisible)

            • unchanging (without motion)

            • eternal (without beginning or end)

        2. The Path of Opinion -

          1. That which is not, and cannot be...

          2. Non-Being (or opposites)

      3. The "Path of Opinion" is gibberish


      NOTE: The argument against the "second path" goes something like this:

      P1. Thinking implies a subject.

      P2. If one is thinking of something, something must exist in order to be the subject of that thought.

      P3. Nothing does not exist.

      C1. Therefore, non-being (the opposite of being) cannot be conceived.

      C2. Therefore, only Being exists.

      The metaphysical consequences of this view are significant, but it will fall to Zeno and Melissus to work out the details.


  7. The Pluralists:
    1. Empedocles of Acragas - (c. 484-424 BCE) The Synthesis

      1. Cosmological Poetry (to Pausinaus)

      2. Variation is explained through a mixture of basic elements -

        1. The elements (air, fire, water, earth) exist eternally

        2. The elements are separated and brought together by two equal forces -

          1. Love

          2. Hate

      3. Empedocles accepts the Pythagorean explanation for why a divine spirit (daimonion) should ever be born in mortal form incarnation is a form of purgation

    2. Anaxagoras of Clazomenae - (c. 500-428 BCE)

      1. An infinite number of eternal "seeds" (spermata) - no smallest or largest

      2. Everything is a mixture of "seeds" (everything is in everything) in the beginning

      3. Objects emerge through a process of "separation" caused by a circulation (vortex)

      4. The circulation which causes separation is put in motion by Mind (nous)

    3. Democritus of Abdera - (c. 460-370 BCE) Rejection of Teleology

      1. Metaphysics - Materialism:

        1. Two kinds of things...

          1. Atoms (atomos - that which is indivisible) and

          2. Void (emptiness)

        2. Atoms are innumerable, of varying size, constantly moving

        3. The Universe is composed of a series of colliding atoms that cause a circulation (vortex) which in turn causes more random collisions of atoms causing visible objects to come into being.

        4. The Soul (Psyche) - a convergence of "soul" atoms


        NOTE: Atoms have only two properties: size and shape. All other properties are caused by the interaction of atoms in the void.

      2. Epistemology - Skepticism

        1. Sensations are caused by a collision of atoms with the sense organs

        2. What we perceive is not the atoms, but the properties brought about by the confluence of atoms (hence, perception is relative)


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