When today we read what he says, the discipline appears a mixture of astronomy and philosophy of religion. Christian and Muslim Aristotelians added to it elements drawn from the teaching of their sacred books. It was when St Thomas Aquinas, in the thirteenth century, drew a sharp distinction between natural and revealed theology that the first important fission took place, removing from the philosophical agenda the appeals to revelation. It took rather longer for the astronomy and the natural theology to separate out from each other. This example shows that what may be sloughed off by philoso- phy need not be a science but may be a humanistic discipline such as biblical studies.
It also shows that the history of philosophy contains examples of fusion as well as of fission. Philosophy resembles the arts in having a significant relation to a canon. A philosopher situates the problems to be addressed by reference to a series of classical texts. Because it has no specific subject matter, but only characteristic methods, philosophy is defined as a discipline by the activities of its great practitioners. The earliest people whom we recognize as philosophers, the Presocratics, were also scientists, and several of them were also religious leaders.
They did not yet think of themselves as belonging to a common profession, the one with which we twenty- first-century philosophers claim continuity. It was Plato who in his writings first used the word 'philosophy' in some approximation to our modern sense. Those of us who call ourselves philosophers today can genuinely lay claim to be the heirs of Plato and Aristotle. But we are only a small subset of their heirs.
If philosophy lies somewhere between the sciences and the arts, what is the answer to the question 'Is there progress in philosophy? On this, modest, view of the philosopher's role, the tasks to be addressed differ across history, since each period needs a different form of therapy. The knots into which the undisciplined mind ties itself differ from age to age, and different mental motions are necessary to untie the knots. A prevalent malady of our own age, for instance, is the temptation to think of the mind as a computer, whereas earlier ages were tempted to think of it as a telephone exchange, a pedal organ, a homun- culus, or a spirit.
Maladies of earlier ages may be dormant, such as belief that the stars are living beings; or they may return, such as the belief that the stars enable one to predict human behaviour. The therapeutic view of philosophy, however, may seem to allow only for variation over time, not for genuine progress. But that is not necessarily true. A confusion of thought may be so satisfactorily cleared up by a philosopher that it no longer offers temptation to the unwary thinker. One such example will be considered at length in the first volume of this history.
Parmenides, the founder of the discipline of ontology the science of being , based much of his system on a systematic confusion between different senses of the verb 'to be'. Plato, in one of his dialogues, sorted out the issues so successfully that there has never again been an excuse for mixing them up: indeed, it now takes a great effort of philosophical imagination to work out exactly what led Parmenides into confusion in the first place.
Progress of this kind is often concealed by its very success: once a philosophical problem is resolved, no one regards it as any more a matter of philosophy. It is like treason in the epigram: 'Treason doth never prosper, what's the reason? For if it prosper none dare call it treason. Philosophy does not progress by making regular additions to a quantum of information; as has been said, what philosophy offers is not information but understanding. But there are also some things that philosophers of the present day understand which even the greatest philosophers of earlier generations failed to understand.
For instance, philosophers clarify language by distinguishing between different senses of words; and once a distinction has been made, future philosophers have to take account of it in their deliberations. Take, as an example, the issue of free will. At a certain point in the history of philosophy a distinction was made between two kinds of human freedom: liberty of indifference ability to do otherwise and liberty of spontaneity ability to do what you want.
Once this distinction has been made the question 'Do human beings enjoy freedom of the will? Even someone who believes that the two kinds of liberty coincide has to provide arguments to show this; he cannot simply ignore the distinction and hope to be taken seriously on the topic. It is unsurprising, given the relationship of philosophy to a canon, that one notable form of philosophical progress consists in coming to terms with, and interpreting, the thoughts of the great philosophers of the past. The great works of the past do not lose their importance in philosophy — but their intellectual contributions are not static.
Each age interprets and applies philosophical classics to its own problems and aspirations. This is, in recent years, most visible in the field of ethics. The ethical works of Plato and Aristotle are as influential in moral thinking today as the works of any twentieth-century moralists — this is easily verified by taking any citation index — but they are being interpreted and applied in ways quite different from the ways in which they were applied in the past.
These new inter- pretations and applications do effect a genuine advance in our understand- ing of Plato and Aristotle; but of course it is understanding of quite a different kind from what is given by a new study of the chronology of Plato's dialogues or a stylometric comparison between Aristotle's various ethical works.
The new light we receive resembles rather the enhanced appreciation of Shakespeare we may get by seeing a new and intelligent production of King Lear. The historian of philosophy, whether primarily interested in philosophy or primarily interested in history, cannot help being both a philosopher and a historian. A historian of painting does not have to be a painter; a historian of medicine does not, qua historian, practise medicine. It is not just that someone who knows no philosophy will be a bad historian of philosophy; it is equally true that someone who has no idea of how to cook will be a bad historian of cookery.
The link between philosophy and its history is a far closer one. The historical task itself forces historians of philosophy to paraphrase their subjects' opinions, to offer reasons why past thinkers held the opinions they did, to speculate on the premisses left tacit in their arguments, and to evaluate the coherence and cogency of the inferences they drew. But the supplying of reasons for philosophical conclusions, the detection of hidden premisses in philosophical arguments, and the logical evaluation of philosophical inferences are themselves full-blooded philosophical activities.
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Consequently, any serious history of philosophy must itself be an exercise in philosophy as well as in history. On the other hand, the historian of philosophy must have a knowledge of the historical context in which past philosophers wrote their works. When we explain historical actions, we ask for the agent's reasons; if we find a good reason, we think we have understood his action. If we conclude he did not have good reason, even in his own terms, we have to find, different, more complicated explanations. What is true of action is true of taking a philosophical view. If the philosophical historian finds a good reason for a past philosopher's doctrine, then his task is done.
But if he concludes that the past philosopher has no good reason, he has a further and much more difficult task, of explaining the doctrine in terms of the context in which it appeared — social, perhaps, as well as intellectual. In modern times this has been most brilliantly illustrated by the masterpiece of the great nineteenth- century Cerman philosopher Gottlob Frege, The Foundations of Arithmetic.
Almost half of Frege's book is devoted to discussing and refuting the view of other philosophers and mathematicians. While he is discussing the opinions of others, he ensures that some of his own insights are artfully insinuated, and this makes easier the eventual presentation of his own theory. But the main purpose of his lengthy polemic is to convince readers of the seriousness of the problems to which he will later offer solutions. Most histories of philosophy, in this age of specialization, are the work of many hands, specialists in different fields and periods.
In inviting me to write, single-handed, a history of philosophy from Thales to Derrida, Oxford University Press gave expression to the belief that there is something to be gained by presenting the development of philosophy from a single viewpoint, linking ancient, medieval, early modern, and contemporary philosophy into a single narrative concerned with con- nected themes. The work will appear in four volumes: the first will cover the centuries from the beginning of philosophy up to the conver- sion of St Augustine in ad The second will take the story from Augustine up to the Lateran Council of The third will end with the death of Hegel in The fourth and final volume will bring the narrative up to the end of the second millennium.
Obviously, I cannot claim to be an expert on all the many philosophers whom I will discuss in the volumes of this work. I hope that the work that went into the writing of these books gave me an insight into the philosophical style of four different eras in the history of philosophy. It certainly gave me a sense of the perennial importance of certain philosophical problems and insights. I hope to write my history in a manner that takes account of the points I have raised in this Introduction.
I do not suffer from any Whiggish illusion that the current state of philosophy represents the highest point of philosophical endeavour yet reached. On the contrary, my primary pur- pose in writing the book is to show that in many respects the philosophy of the great dead philosophers has not dated, and that today one may gain philosophical illumination by a careful reading of the great works that we have been privileged to inherit. The kernel of any kind of historiography of philosophy is exegesis: the close reading and interpretation of philosophical texts. Exegesis may be of two kinds, internal or external.
In external exegesis the interpreter seeks to bring out the significance of the text by comparing it and contrasting it with other texts. Exegesis may form the basis of the two quite different historical endeav- ours that I described at the beginning of this Introduction. In one, which we may call historical philosophy, the aim is to reach philosophical truth, or philosophical understanding, about the matter or issue under discussion in the text.
Typically, historical philosophy looks for the reasons behind, or the justification for, the statements made in the text under study. In the other endeavour, the history of ideas, the aim is not to reach the truth about the matter in hand, but to reach the understanding of a person or an age or a historical succession. Typically the historian of ideas looks not for the reasons so much as the sources, or causes, or motives, for saying what is said in the target text. It is possible to be a good philosopher while being a poor exegete.
At the beginning of his Philosophical Investigations Wittgenstein offers a discussion of St Augustine's theory of language. What he writes is very dubious exegesis; but this does not weaken the force of his philosophical criticism of the 'Augustinian' theory of language.
Ancient Philosophy by Anthony Kenny
But Witt- genstein did not really think of himself as engaged in historical philosophy, any more than he thought of himself as engaged in the historiography of ideas. The invocation of the great Augustine as the author of the mistaken theory is intended merely to indicate that the error is one that is worth attacking. In different histories of philosophy the skills of the historian and those of the philosopher are exercised in different proportions. The due proportion varies in accordance with the purpose of the work and the field of philosophy in question.
The pursuit of historical understanding and the pursuit of philosophical enlightenment are both legitimate approaches to the history of philosophy, but both have their dangers. Historians who study the history of thought without being themselves involved in the philosophical problems that exercised past philosophers are likely to sin by superficiality.
Rare is the historian of philosophy who can tread firmly without falling into either trap. Each of these errors can nullify the purpose of the enterprise. The historian who is unconcerned by the philosophical problems that troubled past writers has not really understood how they themselves conducted their thinking. The philosopher who ignores the historical background of past classics will gain no fresh light on the issues that concern us today, but merely present contemporary prejudices in fancy dress.
The two dangers threaten in different proportions in different areas of the history of philosophy. In the area of metaphysics it is superficiality which is most to be guarded against: to someone without a personal interest in fundamental philosophical problems the systems of the great thinkers of the past will seem only quaint lunacy. In political philosophy the great danger is anachronism: when we read Plato's or Aristotle's criticisms of democracy, we shall not make head or tail of them unless we know something about the institutions of ancient Athens.
In between o metaphysics and political philosophy stand ethics and philosophy of mind: here both dangers threaten with roughly equal force. I shall attempt in these volumes to be both a philosophical historian and a historical philosopher. Multi-authored histories are sometimes struc- tured chronologically and sometimes structured thematically. I shall try to combine both approaches, offering in each volume first a chronological survey, and then a thematic treatment of particular philosophical topics of abiding importance. The reader whose primary interest is historical will focus on the chronological survey, referring where necessary to the thematic sections for amplification.
The reader who is more concerned with the philosophical issues will concentrate rather on the thematic sections of the volumes, referring back to the chronological surveys to place particular issues in context. Thus in this first volume I offer in the first part a conventional chrono- logical tour from Pythagoras to Augustine, and in the second part a more detailed treatment of topics where I believe we have still much to learn from our predecessors in classical Greece and imperial Rome.
The topics of these thematic sections have been chosen partly with an eye to the development of the same themes in the volumes that are yet to come. I realize, however, that many of those interested in the history of philosophy may themselves be enrolled in courses that are not primarily philosophical.
Ancient Philosophy: A New History of Western Philosophy Volume 1
Accordingly, I shall do my best not to assume a familiarity with contemporary philosophical techniques or terminology. I aim also to write in a manner clear and light-hearted enough for the history to be enjoyed by those who read it not for curricular purposes but for their own enlightenment and entertainment. Aristotle was the first philosopher who systematically studied, recorded, and criticized the work of previous philosophers.
In the first book of the Metaphysics he summarizes the teachings of his predecessors, from his distant intellectual ancestors Pythagoras and Thales up to Plato, his teacher for twenty years. To this day he is one of the most copious, and most reliable, sources of our information about philosophy in its infancy. The Four Causes Aristotle offers a classification of the earliest Greek philosophers in accordance with the structure of his system of the four causes. Scientific inquiry, he believed, was above all inquiry into the causes of things; and there were four different kinds of cause: the material cause, the efficient cause, the formal cause, and the final cause.
To give a crude illustration of what he had in mind: when Alfredo cooks a risotto, the material causes of the risotto are the ingredients that go into it, the efficient cause is the chef himself, the recipe is the formal cause, and the satisfaction of the clients of his restaurant is the final cause. Aristotle believed that a scientific understanding of the universe demanded an inquiry into the operation in the world of causes of each of these kinds Metaph.
Thales and his successors posed the following question: At a fundamen- tal level is the world made out of water, or air, or fire, or earth, or a combination of some or all of these? Even if we have an answer to this question, Aristotle thought, that is clearly not enough to satisfy our scientific curiosity. The ingredients of a dish do not put themselves together: there needs to be an agent operating upon them, by cutting, mixing, stirring, heating, or the like. Some of these early philosophers, Aristotle tells us, were aware of this and offered conjectures about the agents of change and development in the world.
Sometimes it would be one of the ingredients themselves — fire was perhaps the most promising suggestion, as being the least torpid of the elements. More often it would be some agent, or pair of agents, both more abstract and more picturesque, such as Love or Desire or Strife, or the Good and the Bad Metaph. A Meanwhile in Italy — again according to Aristotle — there were, around Pythagoras, mathematically inclined philosophers whose inquiries took quite a different course. A recipe, besides naming ingredients, will contain a lot of numbers: so many grams of this, so many litres of that.
The Pythagoreans were more interested in the numbers in the world's recipe than in the ingredients themselves. They supposed, Aristotle says, that the elements of numbers were the elements of all things, and the whole of the heavens was a musical scale. They were inspired in their quest by their discovery that the relationship between the notes of the scale played on a lyre corresponded to different numerical ratios between the lengths of the strings.
They then generalized this idea that qualitative differences might be the upshot of numerical differences. Their inquiry, in Aristotle's terms, was an inquiry into the formal causes of the universe. But Plato's Theory of Ideas, while being the most comprehensive scientific system yet devised, seemed to Aristotle — for reasons that he summarizes here and develops in a number of his treatises — to be unsatisfactory on several grounds.
Most dissertations that begin with literature searches seek to show that all work hitherto has left a gap that will now be filled by the author's original research. Aristotle's Metaphysics is no exception.
His not too hidden agenda is to show how previous philosophers neglected the remaining member of the quartet of causes: the final cause, which was to play a most significant role in his own philosophy of nature Metaph. The earliest philosophy, he concluded, is, on all subjects, full of babble, since in its beginnings it is but an infant Metaph. A philosopher of the present day, reading the surviving fragments of the earliest Greek thinkers, is impressed not so much by the questions they were asking, as by the methods they used to answer them.
After all, the book of Genesis offers us answers to the four causal questions set by Aristotle. If we ask for the origin of the first human being, for instance, we are told that the efficient cause was God, that the material cause was the dust of the earth, that the formal cause was the image and likeness of God, and that the final cause was for man to have dominion over the fish of the sea, the fowl of the air, and every living thing on earth. Yet Genesis is not a work of philosophy.
On the other hand, Pythagoras is best known not for answering any of the Aristotelian questions, but for proving the theorem that the square on the hypotenuse of a right-angled triangle is equal in area to the sum of the squares on the other two sides. Thales, again, was believed by later Greeks to have been the first person to make an accurate prediction of an eclipse, in the year bc. These are surely achievements in geometry and astronomy, not philosophy.
The fact is that the distinction between religion, science, and philosophy was not as clear as it became in later centuries. The works of Aristotle and his master Plato provide a paradigm of philosophy for every age, and to this day anyone using the title 'philosopher' is claiming to be one of their heirs. Writers in twenty-first-century philosophy journals can be seen to be using the same techniques of conceptual analysis, and often to be repeating or refuting the same theoretical arguments, as are to be found in the writings of Plato and Aristotle.
From the sixth century bc onwards elements of religion, science, and philosophy ferment together in a single cultural cauldron. From our distance in time philoso- phers, scientists, and theologians can all look back to these early thinkers as their intellectual forefathers. The Milesians Only two sayings are recorded of Thales of Miletus c. They illustrate the melange of science and religion, for one of them was 'All things are full of gods', and the other was 'Water is the first principle of everything'.
Thales was a geometer, the first to discover the method of inscribing a right-angled triangle in a circle; he celebrated this discovery by sacrificing an ox to the gods D. He measured the height of the pyramids by measuring their shadows at the time of day when his own shadow was as long as he was tall. He put his geometry to practical use: having proved that triangles with one equal side and two equal angles are congruent, he used this result to determine the distance of ships at sea.
Thales also had a reputation as an astronomer and a meteorologist. In addition to predicting the eclipse, he is said to have been the first to show that the year contained days, and to determine the dates of the summer and winter solstices. He studied the constellations and made estimates of the sizes of the sun and moon.
He turned his skill as a weather forecaster to good account: foreseeing an unusually good olive crop, he took a lease on all the oil mills and made a fortune through his monopoly. Thus, Aristotle said, he showed that philosophers could easily be rich if they wished Pol. If half the stories current about Thales in antiquity are true, he was a man of many parts. But tradition's portrait of him is ambiguous. On the one hand, he figures as a philosophical entrepreneur, and a political and military pundit.
On the other hand, he became a byword for unworldly absent-mindedness. Theaetetus a An unlikely story went around that he had met his death by just such a fall while stargazing. Thales was reckoned as one of the Seven Sages, or wise men, of Greece, on a par with Solon, the great legislator of Athens. He is credited with a number of aphorisms. He said that before a certain age it was too soon for a man to marry; and after that age it was too late.
When asked why he had no children, he said 'Because I am fond of children. Anyone who makes a list of a dozen really great philosophers is likely to discover that the list consists almost entirely of bachelors. Aristotle is the grand exception that dis- proves the rule that marriage is incompatible with philosophy. Even in antiquity people found it hard to understand Thales' adoption of water as the ultimate principle of explanation. The earth, he said, rested on water like a log floating in a stream — but then, asked Aristotle, what does the water rest on? He went further and said that everything came from and was in some sense made out of water.
Again, his reasons were obscure, and Aristotle could only conjecture that it was because all animals and plants need water to live, or because semen is moist Metaph. It is easier to come to grips with the cosmology of Thales' junior compatriot Anaximander of Miletus d. We know rather more about his views, because he left behind a book entitled On Nature, written in prose, a medium just beginning to come into fashion.
Like Thales he was credited with a number of original scientific achievements: the first map of the world, the first star chart, the first Greek sundial, and an indoor clock as well. He taught that the earth was cylindrical in shape, like a stumpy column no higher than a third of its diameter. Around the world were gigantic tyres full of fire; each tyre was punctured with a hole through which the fire could be seen from outside, and the holes were the sun and moon and stars.
Blockages in the holes accounted for eclipses of the sun and phases of the moon. Anaximander was much impressed by the way trees grow and shed their bark. He used the same analogy to explain the origin of human beings. Other animals, he observed, can look after themselves soon after birth, but humans need a long nursing. If humans had always been as they are now, the race would not have survived. In an earlier age, he conjectured, humans had spent their childhood encased in a prickly bark, so that they looked like fish and lived in water.
Because of this, Anaximander, though not otherwise a vegetarian, recommended that we abstain from eating fish, as the ancestors of the human race KRS —7. Anaximander's cosmology is more sophisticated than Thales' in several ways. First of all, he does not look for something to support the earth: it stays where it is because it is equidistant from everything else and there is no reason why it should move in any direction rather than any other DK 12 All; Aristotle, Cad. Secondly, he thinks it is an error to identify the ultimate material of the universe with any of the elements we can see around us in the contem- porary world, such as water or fire.
The fundamental principle of things, he said, must be boundless or undefined apetron. Anaximander's Greek word is often rendered as 'the Infinite', but that makes it sound too grand. He may or may not have thought that his principle extended for ever in space; what we do know is that he thought it had no beginning and no end in time and that it did not belong to any particular kind or class of things.
Aristotle was later to refine the notion into his concept of prime matter. He saw the universe as a field of competing opposites: hot and cold, wet and dry. Sometimes one of a pair of opposites is dominant, sometimes the other: they encroach upon each other and then withdraw, and their interchange is governed by a principle of reciprocity. As Anaximander put it poetically in his one surviving fragment, 'they pay penalty and render reparation to each other for their injustice under the arbitration of time' DK 12 Bl.
Thus, one surmises, in winter the hot and the dry make reparation to the cold and the wet for the aggression they committed in summer. Heat and cold were the first of the opposites to make their appearance, separating off from an original cosmic egg of the everlasting indeterminate stuff. From them developed the fire and earth which, we have seen, lay at the origin of our present cosmos. In several ways he is closer to Thales than to Anaximander, but it would be wrong to think that with him science is going backwards rather than forwards.
Like Thales, he thought that the earth must rest on something, but he proposed air, rather than water, for its cushion. The earth itself is flat, and so are the heavenly bodies. These, instead of rotating above and below us in the course of a day, circle horizontally around us like a bonnet rotating around a head KRS —6.
The rising and setting of the heavenly bodies is explained, apparently, by the tilting of the flat earth. As for the ultimate principle, Anaximenes found Anaximander's boundless matter too rarefied a concept, and opted, like Thales, for a single one of the existing elements as fundamental, though again he opted for air rather than water. In its stable state air is invisible, but when it is moved and condensed it becomes first wind and then cloud and then water, and finally water condensed becomes mud and stone.
Rarefied air became fire, thus com- pleting the gamut of the elements.
Ancient Philosophy: A New History of Western Philosophy Volume 1
In this way rarefaction and condensa- tion can conjure everything out of the underlying air KRS —1. In support of this claim Anaximenes appealed to experience, and indeed to experiment — an experiment that the reader can easily carry out for herself. Blow on your hand, first with the lips pursed, and then from an open mouth: the first time the air will feel cold, and the second time hot.
This, argued Anaximenes, shows the connection between density and tempera- ture KRS The use of experiment, and the insight that changes of quality are linked to changes of quantity, mark Anaximenes as a scientist in embryo. Only in embryo, however: he has no means of measuring the quantities he invokes, he devises no equations to link them, and his fundamental principle retains mythical and religious properties.
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The Milesians, then, are not yet real physicists, but neither are they myth-makers. They have not yet left myth behind, but they are moving away from it. They are not true philosophers either, unless by 'philosophy' 2 See J. Barnes, The Ptesocratk Philosophers, rev. London: Routledge, , 46—8. They make little use of conceptual analysis and the a priori argument that has been the stock-in-trade of philosophers from Plato to the present day.
They are speculators, in whose speculations elements of philosophy, science, and religion mingle in a rich and heady brew. The Pythagoreans In antiquity Pythagoras shared with Thales the credit for introducing philosophy into the Greek world. He was born in Samos, an island off the coast of Asia Minor, about bc. At the age of 40 he emigrated to Croton on the toe of Italy. There he took a leading part in the political affairs of the city, until he was banished in a violent revolution about bc.
He moved to nearby Metapontum, where he died at the turn of the century. During his time at Croton he founded a semi- religious community, which outlived him until it was scattered about bc. He is credited with inventing the word 'philosopher': instead of claiming to be a sage or wise man sophos he modestly said that he was only a lover of wisdom philosophos D.
The details of his life are swamped in legend, but it is clear that he practised both mathematics and mysticism. In both fields his intellectual influence, acknowledged or implicit, was strong throughout antiquity, from Plato to Porphyry. The Pythagoreans' discovery that there was a relationship between musical intervals and numerical ratios led to the belief that the study of mathematics was the key to the understanding of the structure and order of the universe.
Astronomy and harmony, they said, were sister sciences, one for the eyes and one for the ears Plato, Rep. However, it was not until two millennia later that Galileo and his successors showed the sense in which it is true that the book of the universe is written in numbers. In the ancient world arithmetic was too entwined with number mysticism to promote scientific progress, and the genuine scientific advances of the period such as Aristotle's zoology or Galen's medicine were achieved without benefit of mathematics.
Some such communities were legal entities, and others less formal; some resembled a modern research institute, others were more like monasteries. Pythagoras' associates held their property in common and lived under a set of ascetic and ceremonial rules: observe silence, do not break bread, do not pick up crumbs, do not poke the fire with a sword, always put on the right shoe before the left, and so on. The Pythagoreans were not, to begin with, complete vegetarians, but they avoided certain kinds of meat, fish, and poultry.
Most famously, they were forbidden to eat beans KRS —2, —6. The dietary rules were connected with Pythagoras' beliefs about the soul. It did not die with the body, he believed, but migrated elsewhere, perhaps into an animal body of a different kind. Pythagoras himself, however, after his death was believed by his followers to have become a god. They wrote biographies of him full of wonders, crediting him with second sight and the gift of bilocation; he had a golden thigh, they said, and was the son of Apollo. More prosaically, the expression 'Ipse dixit' was coined in his honour.
Xenophanes The death of Pythagoras, and the destruction of Miletus in , brought to an end the first era of Presocratic thought. In the next generation we encounter thinkers who are not only would-be scientists, but also philoso- phers in the modern sense of the word. Xenophanes of Colophon a town near present-day Izmir, some hundred miles north ol Miletus straddles the two eras in his long life c.
He is also, like Pythagoras, a link between the eastern and the western centres of Greek cultures. Expelled from Colophon in his twenties, he became a wandering minstrel, and by his own account travelled around Greece for sixty-seven years, giving recitals of his own and others' poems D.
He sang of wine and games and parties, but it is his philosophical verses that are most read today. Like the Milesians, Xenophanes propounded a cosmology. The basic element, he maintained, was not water nor air, but earth, and the earth reaches down below us to infinity. But Xenophanes elsewhere links water with earth as the original source of things, and indeed he believed that our earth must at one time have been covered by the sea. This is connected with the most interesting of his contributions to science: the observation of the fossil record.
Seashells are found well inland, and on mountains too, and in the quarries in Syracuse impressions of fish and seaweed have been found. An impression of a bay leaf was found in Paros deep in a rock, and in Malta there are flat shapes of all kinds of sea creatures. These were produced when everything was covered with mud long ago, and the impressions dried in the mud.
Since he believed that the earth stretched beneath us to infinity, he could not accept that the sun went below the earth when it set. On the other hand, he found implausible Anaximenes' idea of a horizontal rotation around a tilting earth. He put forward a new and ingenious explanation: the sun, he maintained, was new every day.
It came into existence each morning from a congregation of tiny sparks, and later vanished off into infinity. The appearance of circular movement is due simply to the great distance between the sun and ourselves. Showing Rating details. More filters. Sort order. Feb 25, Jibran rated it it was amazing Shelves: philosophy. From Thales to the Hellenistic philosophers, with some interesting information about St. The book is well-written and well-organized; and the language is readable! I found the book so informative and enjoyable! I do highly recommend it as a first step before indulging in reading the works of those great philosophers.
Nov 01, Jacqueline Quackenbush rated it liked it Shelves: history , philosophy. This entry covers the span of major philosophical inquiry from the Pre-Socratics to the pre-Christian Augustine. It starts off with the first two chapters chronologically covering the general concepts of the major philosophical players. The next seven chapters each cover a specific aspect of philosophy and the arguments that contributed to each field, including: Logi Ancient Philosophy by Anthony John Patrick Kenny is the first in a four part collection on the progression of Western Philosophy.
The next seven chapters each cover a specific aspect of philosophy and the arguments that contributed to each field, including: Logic, epistemology, physics, metaphysics, the study of the soul and mind, and god. Despite being in college I have yet to take a single philosophy course the joys of being a science major , so to fill this gap in my formal education I decided to pick this up. The subject of philosophy told in the context of historical progression is one of the simplest ways to introduce a topic to someone uninitiated at least in my opinion which is one of the reasons I started here.
Most of the tediousness has more to do with my own preferences than anything else. My major complaint with this book would have to be organization. I appreciate that the author attempted something a bit more outside the box than merely speaking from a purely chronological view by concentrating the last seven chapters on philosophical topics. In fact, it really became kind of annoying for two large reasons. One: In the introduction to this text he states that the book is meant for those without a background in philosophy, much like myself. That being said, this organization makes the unfamiliar reader have to flip back and forth to the chronological list at the end of the text to keep all of these newly introduced Greek and Latin names straight.
Seriously, I wish I had counted how many times I read that. Now, despite my criticisms I did actually like this book. I fully intend on reading the next installment in this series. A concise yet comprehensive overview of ancient western philosophy starting with the presocratic philosophers and stopping with the baptism of St. Jan 15, Christopher Blosser rated it really liked it.
Anthony Kenny. OUP Oxford , Sir Anthony Kenny here tells the fascinating story of the birth of philosophy and its remarkable flourishing in the ancient Mediterranean world. This is the initial volume of a four-book set in which Kenny will unfold a magisterial new history of Western philosophy, the first major single-author history of philosophy to appear in decades.
Ancient Philosophy spans over a thousand years and brings to life the great minds of the past, from Thales, Pythagoras, and Parmenides, to Socrates, Epictetus, Marcus Aurelius, and Augustine.