Brief Historical Introduction<br />What is the significance in understanding the history of the past?<br />
To see its significant contributions to the solution or at least the illumination of contemporary issues and problems.
To understand that every period or age has its own identity or characteristics.
To witness the evolutionary phase or development of the human mind in history.
History of western philosophy can be divided into different stages or epochs; namely<br />Ancient Philosophy<br />The term ancient philosophy refers to the philosophical activities of the early Greek world.<br />They operated over a period of some 1,000 years from the middle of the 1st millennium B.C. to the middle of the 1st millennium A.D.<br />
Ancient philosophy, specifically during the Pre-Socratic period is characteristically cosmocentric, which speaks of the specification of non-perceptible items such as numbers, deities, and universal kinds.
The Pre-Socratics were uninhibited in proposing bold theories on the largest possible scale.
The analysis and evaluation of patterns of reasoning and argument.
The importance of understanding in the pursuit of good life.
The need to analyze the nature of human person.
The importance of the concept of justice in defining the nature of political system.
They used their reason to understand the world, without appealing to religion, revelation, authority or tradition.
They taught other people to use their own reason, and to think for themselves.
Ancient Philosophy can be subdivided in three periods: the Pre-Socratics, the Greek triumvirate, and the Post-Aristolelian time.<br />The Pre-Socratics<br />Pre-Socratic philosophers consist mostly of philosophers before the time of Socrates. This period, from Thales to Socrates was the period of beginnings. Thales, and his two successors Anaximander and Anaximenes were based out of the city of Miletus, and hence they are known collectively as the Milesian philosophers. <br />Thales<br />Thales literally believed everything is made of water. How could this be? Well, you have to put yourself back into an ancient Greek mindset. By tradition, most people believed that everything consisted of four fundamental elements: earth, air, water, and fire. These elements could transform into the apparently diverse kinds of things we experience in our everyday lives. Thales's innovation was to argue that that there was actually only one kind of thing underlying everything; even earth, air, and fire are just different manifestations of water. Why would he say this? Aristotle speculates that Thales saw how things like plants grow when you give them water, as though the water is being transformed into the solid structure of the plant. It might also be that Thales noticed that water has three phases—water is, in fact, the only substance an average person would experience variously as a liquid, a solid, and a gas. Perhaps he extrapolated from this that water could become so solid that it would become rock or metal, or so vaporous that it would become air or fire. It is difficult to know, but the standard story presumes that he drew this conclusion by reasoning from his observations, and this, as we will see, is critical for explaining why we think Thales counts as a philosopher at all.<br />Anaximander<br />Anaximander apparently agreed with Thales that there must be one fundamental thing underlying everything else, but he disagreed with the contention that it was any of the four familiar elements. Instead, Anaximander posited that it was something which he called the apeiron, which translates into "boundless" or "infinite." Anaximander actually offered a cosmological model, in which there is initially nothing except the apeiron, but then different elements spontaneously begin to separate out of the apeiron. Whether Anaximander means that everything is fundamentally composed of apeiron, or just that everything started out with apeiron, is not entirely clear.<br />Anaximenes<br />Finally, there is Anaximenes, who argued that everything was made of one of the four traditional elements, after all, only the element in question was air rather than water. A lot of people consider Anaximenes a step backwards from Anaximander, a naive retreat from the sophisticated back to the crude and familiar. Others think this is not at all fair. Anaximenes, it is argued, thought that the concept of apeiron was too obscure to be helpful, and realized that the hypothesis that everything is made of air accounted better for what he observed. He also developed an account of how it is air seems to transform into other substances: it is all a matter of density, with sufficiently compressed air becoming water and earth, and sufficiently rarified air becoming fire. This he inferred not through a flight of fancy, but through observations, such as by noticing that one's own breath can be either hot or cold, depending on how much one compresses the stream of air with one's lips.<br />Importance of the Milesian School<br />
The Milesians bucked this trend by developing a suitably naturalistic view of the world, in which a deeper understanding of nature could be had by analyzing the natural world into its fundamental constituents (water, or apeiron, or air), the behavior of which was not capricious at all.
They appealed to that which everyone could perceive with their own senses, and that which everyone could figure out through the power of their own reason.
Some other notable Pre-Socratics are Democritus who claimed that everything is made up of indivisible particle called an atom; Heraclitus who believes that fire is the element which makes up everything; Anaxagoras which claimed that it was nous (mind); and Pythagoras who presents the idea that that number is the essence and basis of all things.<br />The Greek Triumvirate<br />The Greek triumvirate of Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle is considered as the golden era of Greek philosophy, the period of highest perfection. The period of highest perfection in philosophy was also the period of the political greatness of Greece. From the preoccupation with the ultimate material stuff which composes the universe, the Greek triumvirate started inquiring topics about man, virtues such as justice, happiness, temperance, the state and some other diverse issues.<br />Socrates<br />The bare facts of the life of Socrates<br />
His father is s stoneman or sculptor, his mother a midwife.
His wife Xantippe, said to be an ugly woman, bore him three children.
He would go to the marketplace, the agora where he would discuss things, using dialectics or the so called Socratic Method.
He was arrested and condemned to death because of two charges: (a) impiety, (b) corruption of the minds of the youth.
He did not admit any guilt, he refused to be set free by friends, and he died after drinking glass of hemlock in the presence of friends.
His philosophical contribution may be summed up thus: (a) He employed “inductive arguments and universal definitions.” Called his “practical method,” it took the form of “dialectic” or conversation.
Plato<br />A pupil of Socrates, Plato, too, had a bias against democracy. He had an aristocratic upbringing, and was immersed in the culture of his day, but his plan, abetted by relatives, to enter politics was abandoned after he saw what was done to Socrates.<br />Among the salient points of his philosophy are:<br />
Knowledge is not sense-perception, not what simply appears to me.
Like Socrates, Plato believes in “virtue is knowledge,” and the source of knowledge is virtue. It is not abstract, but concrete knowledge, not theoretical but practical knowledge. A man must know what is good so that he may do good.
Virtue can be taught, and there are four cardinal virtues: wisdom, courage, or fortitude, temperance and justice.
Plato has shown his interest in man as knower and as a possessor of an immortal soul. Much has been made of his theory of knowledge, his main contribution to philosophic truth.<br />Aristotle<br />Aristotle is a towering figure in ancient Greek philosophy, making contributions to logic, metaphysics, mathematics, physics, biology, botany, ethics, politics, agriculture, medicine, dance and theatre. He was a student of Plato who in turn studied under Socrates. He was more empirically-minded than Plato or Socrates and is famous for rejecting Plato’s theory of forms.<br />For Aristotle:<br />
Knowledge comes from the senses and can be true in itself.
Reality consists of matter and form, and matter is a continuous process of developing or becoming.
There is First Cause, source of all change, but is unchangeable itself. This, for him, is God.
The goal of human life is happiness, to reach this is moderation or avoidance of extremes.
Logic would enable man to perceive that the ideal state is one governed by a rule of law, a state ruled by the middle class.
Post-Aristotelian Schools<br />Post-Aristotelian schools refer to the philosophical schools which emerged after the death of Aristotle. The opening of the post-Aristotelian period begins the age of decay and dissolution. Some of the major philosophical school are the following:<br />Stoicism<br />As an ethical doctrine, stoicism considers apathy or indifference to pleasure as the moral norm. It advocates are called stoics, who are known for their exemplary patience, self-sacrifice, perseverance, forbearance, and long suffering attitude. Their highest virtues or ideals are mental tranquility, temperance, contentment, serenity and composure. Of all these, the greatest is peace of mind. It is for this reason that the basis for moral action for them is apatheia or state of imperturbability which is attainable through apathy or indifference to pleasure.<br />Hedonism<br />Hedonism is an ethical doctrine which claims that pleasure is the norm of morality. By pleasure, in this context, is meant the satisfaction of desire; hence, the greater the pleasure, the better. Pleasure is the one and only good; hence, it must be the basis for moral judgment. The hedonist formula for happiness is : “Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow you die.”<br />Epicureanism<br />Epicureanism professes moderate pleasure as the moral norm. In their application of the doctrine of pleasure, the Epicureans recognize that each man is, in a certain sense, his own legislator. It is for him to determine what is useful or pleasant and what is harmful or painful. Hence the principle of moderation: Restrain your needs and desires within the measure in which you will be able to satisfy them. And, while no kind of pleasure is evil in itself, the wise man will avoid those pleasures which disturb his peace of mind and which, therefore, entail pain.<br />