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 />Medieval Philosophy<br />The term medieval refers to the Middle Ages, the time in European history between classical antiquity and the Italian Renaissance, from about 500 A.D. to about 1350.<br />
Medieval philosophy is theocentric in its character.
During the decline of Greco-Roman civilization, Western philosophers turned their attention from the scientific investigation of nature and the search for happiness in this world, to the problem of salvation and life in another, better world.
The torch of civilization in Western Europe was carried mainly by the Christian Church, where thought were conducted under the context of Christian doctrines.
By the 3rd century AD, Christianity had spread throughout the Roman Empire. The religious teachings of the Gospels were combined by the Fathers of the Church with many of the philosophical concepts of the Greeks and Roman schools.
The tendency of the philosophers during this period was to seek orthodoxy as well as truth. Nearly all medieval thinkers—Jewish, Christian, and Muslim—were determined to merge or synthesize philosophy with religion.
Islamic civilization performed the function of preserving the culture of classical antiquity, particularly the philosophy of Aristotle.
Their thoughts were more imposing than informative due to the prevalence and dominance of paganism and barbarianism.
Much of what we now regard as Christian doctrine had its origin in Greek and Hellenistic philosophy.
Prominent Philosophers of the Medieval Period<br />
St. Thomas Aquinas
Modern Philosophy<br />Modern philosophy is characteristically anthropocentric.<br />Renaissance and Reformation<br />
The Renaissance was a literary and cultural movement that spread through Western Europe in the 14th and 15th centuries; it represents a transitional period from medieval synthesis to modern analysis.
The 15th and 16th centuries were periods of radical social, political, and intellectual developments. The exploration of the world; the Reformation, with its emphasis on individual faith; the rise of commercial urban society; and the dramatic appearance of new ideas in all areas of culture stimulated the development of a new philosophical world view.
By the end of the 15th century, the authority of medieval scholasticism—which utilized Neoplatonic and Aristotelian philosophy to support Christian theology—began to erode as many thinkers began to reject the scholastics’ excessive reliance on authority of earlier scholars and theologians.
Just as religious reformers challenged ecclesiastical authority and made individual believers responsible for their own relation to God, prominent Renaissance thinkers proposed an analogous elimination of all appeals to authority in education and science.
The Renaissance revival of Greek and Roman studies emphasized the value of the classics for their own sake, rather than for the relevance of Christianity.
An explosion in shared ideas was made possible by the expansion of universities and the invention of the printing press. Educational practice was revolutionized by the recovery of ancient documents, the rejection of institutional authority, and renewed emphasis on individual freedom.
Renaissance philosophers drifted away from abstract speculations in life after death and developed an intense interest in the visible world and in knowledge derived from concrete sensory experience.
Political institutions and ethical principles ceased to be regarded as reflections of divine command and came to be seen as practical devices created by humans.
The medieval view of the world as a hierarchical order of beings created and governed by God was supplanted by the mechanistic picture of the world as a vast machine, the parts of which move in accordance with strict physical laws, without purpose or will.
In this new philosophical view, experience and reason became the sole standards of truth.
The Renaissance was marked by a conspicuous rise in individualism and secularism, illustrated in the following areas: humanism, religious reformation, politics, science and skepticism.
The ‘Age of Enlightenment’ is term used to describe the trends in thought and letters in Europe and American colonies during the 18th century, prior to the French Revolution of 1789-1799.
The phrase was frequently employed by writers of the period itself, convinced that they were emerging from centuries of darkness and ignorance into a new age enlightened by reason, science, and a respect for humanity.
The precursors of the Enlightenment can be traced to the 17th century philosophers and earlier. Equally important, though, were the self-confidence engendered by new discoveries in science and the spirit of cultural relativism encouraged by the exploration of the non-European world.
Of the basic assumptions and beliefs common to philosophers and intellectuals of this period, perhaps the most important was an abiding faith in the power of human reason. People came to assume that through a judicious use of reason, an unending progress would be possible—progress in knowledge, in technical achievement and even in moral values.
Although they saw the church—especially the Roman Catholic church—as the principal force that had had the enslaved the human mind in the past, most Enlightenment thinkers did not renounce religion altogether.
Many opted for a form of Deism, accepting the existence of God and of a hereafter, but rejecting the intricacies of Christian theology.
Human aspirations, they believed, should not be centered on the next life, but rather on the means of improving this life. Worldly happiness was placed before religious salvation.
More than a set of fixed ideas, the Enlightenment implied an attitude and a method of thought. A desire arose to reexamine and question all received ideas and values, to explore new ideas in many different directions.
During the first half of the 18th century, the leaders of the Enlightenment waged an uphill struggle against considerable odds. Several were imprisoned for their writings, and most were hampered by government censorship and attacks by the church.
The Age of Enlightenment ended with the French Revolution. It was followed by the period of Postmodernism which associates with the critique of Enlightenment values and truth claims.
Prominent Philosophers of the Modern Period<br />
Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel
John Stuart Mill
Contemporary Philosophy<br />This literally mean “the philosophy of our time.”<br />Evolutionary Philosophy—the Late 19th Century<br />Philosophy in the second half of the 19th century was based more on biology and history than on mathematics and physics. Revolution thought drifted away from metaphysics and epistemology and shift towards ideologies in science, politics, and sociology.<br />Significant historical developments during this period include:<br />
the Revolution of 1848 in France, Austria, and throughout much of Western Europe
the expansion and progress of the Industrial Revolution in Europe and America
the growth of industrial prosperity, population, and urbanization
increased nationalism, and the unification of Germany and Italy
the spread of European imperialism and colonial rule
advances in science, increasing secularization, and the growth of materialism
Realism in art and literature
Particularly influential was the theory of evolution through natural selection, announce in 1858, by Charles Darwin. His work inspired conceptions of nature and humanity that emphasized conflict and change, as against unity and substantial permanence.<br />A New Worlds Order—Transition to the 20th Century<br />Profound material progress and European hegemony over world affairs during the 19th century gave way to world war, revolution, and economic collapse in the 20th century.<br />Major historical developments during this time include:<br />
Imperialism, industrialization, and advancements in technology and production produced a golden age in Europe and America at the turn of the century.
This facilitated the rise of nationalism, militarism, and political alliances which led to ongoing brinkmanship as nations jockeyed for political and economic position.
The Great War (1914-1918) brought an end to the old world order and European hegemony of the 19th century, and further eroded the European balance of power.
This was followed by worldwide economic decline and eventually the Great Depression.
Socialist labor movements before and after the Bolsheviks Revolution in Russia increased political and social unrest throughout the world.
Although these events had a profound significant effect on history—especially nationalism and global economics—they seemed to have little effect on developments in philosophy.<br />20th Century Philosophy <br />The 20th century made the biggest advances on two fronts of philosophy, namely:<br />
A radical reappraisal of the nature of human knowledge as such
An attempt to understand the human condition in a universe no longer seen as created by God, or as having any meaning or purpose of its own.
A philosophy which seeks to express allegiance to rigor and precision, science, logical techniques, and perhaps most distinctively of all – careful investigation of language as the best means of investigating concepts.