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Ancient Greek Philosophy


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Ancient Greek Philosophy

  1. 1. Philosophers Socrates, 469-399 Believed that one arrives at the truth by questioning the assumptions on which all things are based Plato, 428-347 Student of Socrates Aristotle, 384-322 Student of Plato “THE” philosopher by Medievalists
  2. 2. Greek Philosophy & Its Origins Philosophy = love of wisdom Mesopotamians and Egyptians contemplated how the natural world around them worked Early Greeks (time of Homer, c.800 BCE) used mythological stories to explain the natural world 7th Century BCE – Greeks looked for new, more practical explanations
  3. 3. Socrates (469-399 BCE) What little we know comes from his students, Plato and Xenophon, and his enemy, Aristophanes Humble birth Wrote nothing down Founded no formal school – taught in the agora Believed material things would not bring happiness Died for his principles
  4. 4. Socratic Philosophers
  5. 5. So Many Questions… What should we do? (i.e. how should we behave) What is the meaning of life? What is the meaning of happiness? Is perfection possible? What constitutes the good or just life? What is virtue? How should a man best conduct his life?
  6. 6. Exercise For each statement ask as many follow up questions as you can with a partner. Record questions that were brainstormed on the Statement #1 – Only people over the age of 19 should be allowed to drink Statement #2 – Canada should abolish the sale of firearms to the public
  7. 7. Socratic Method Method of elenchus (i.e. rigorous questioning technique) Designed to “sting” people into realizing their own ignorance Provoke genuine intellectual curiosity True knowledge gained only by constantly questioning assumptions that underly all we do To achieve truth is to engage in a permanent state of critical thinking
  8. 8. Socratic Method Example Q: So you think that the gods know everything/ A: Yes, because they are gods. Q: Do some gods disagree with others? A: Yes, of course they do. They are always fighting. Q: So gods disagree about what is true and right? A: I suppose they must do. Q: So some gods can be wrong sometimes? A: I suppose that is true. THEREFORE the gods cannot know everything!
  9. 9. The only life worth living is a good life. I can only live a good life if I really know what ‘good’ and ‘evil’ are. ‘Good’ and ‘evil’ are not relative; they are absolutes that can only be found by a process of questioning and reasoning. An unquestioning life is one of ignorance without morality. In this way, morality and knowledge are bound together. The life which is unexamined is not worth living.
  10. 10. Socrates’ End Alcibiades, Socrates’ pupil, betrayed fellow Athenians by defecting to Sparta in Peloponnesian War Socrates scapegoated by Alcibiades’ actions, accused of “not believing in the gods” and “corrupting the youth” Tried and sentenced to death Refused to plead for lesser punishment Wanted his punishment to be free meals for the rest of his life This was usually only given to state heroes Forced to drink poison hemlock and died
  11. 11. Legacy Socrates used the claim of wisdom as his moral basis Chief goodness consists in the caring of the soul concerned with moral truth and understanding “Wealth does not bring goodness, but goodness brings wealth and every other blessing, both to the individual and to the state” “Life without examination (dialogue) is not worth living” “I am a citizen of the world” “I know nothing except the fact of my ignorance” He would want you to evaluate society and your own life regularly!
  12. 12. Plato (429-347 BCE) The “idealist” or “utopian” or “dreamer” Born into a wealthy family in the second year of the Peloponnesian War Name means “high forehead” Student of Socrates Left Athens when Socrates died but returned to open a school called the Academy in 385 BCE Wrote 20 books, many in the dialectic style (a story which attempts to teach a specific concept) with Socrates as the main character
  13. 13. Plato’s Ideas Idealist, believes in order and harmony, morality and self-denial Immortality of the soul Virtue as knowledge Theory of Forms – the highest function of the human soul is to achieve the vision of the form of the good
  14. 14. Philosophy of Forms The real world is the world of Ideas, which contains the Ideal Forms of everything. The illusory world in which we live – the world of the senses – contains imperfect copies of the Ideal Forms We are born with the concepts of these Ideal Forms in our minds. We recognize things in the world, such as dogs, because we recognize they are imperfect copies of the concepts in our minds. Everything in this world is a ‘shadow’ of its Ideal Form in the world of Ideas. Humans can only access this world through reason.
  15. 15. Forms Explained
  16. 16. Plato’s Cave Exercise 1. Read through the allegory of the cave as a class 1. When reading, highlight any parts of the story that is detailed and offers you a clear mental picture 2. Now, instead of writing about the cave, draw a picture of the cave using your highlighted material 3. Share your drawing with some classmates around you. What differences do you have? 4. What do you think about the allegories made?
  17. 17. Anti-Democratic Plato Most perfect form of government: “Philosopher Kings” (i.e. very smartest) rule over an essentially communistic society Why Philosopher Kings? Plato believed they alone possess the intellectual capacity to achieve the highest form of human contemplation Such penetrating powers of insight necessary to distinguish between truth (i.e. that which is eternal and unchanging and therefore is “really real”) from that which is untrue (changeable stimuli received by our faulty instruments of perception that serve to trick us into thinking that something is in fact “real”)
  18. 18. Plato’s Impact Plato’s thinking on the immortality of the soul, his conception of a world beyond the sensory and his god-like form of good have very much shaped Christian thinking on God, the soul, and an afterlife Nietzsche called Christianity “Plato for the people”
  19. 19. Famous Quotes from Plato ‘If particulars are to have meaning, there must be universals.’ ‘The soul of man is immortal and imperishable’ ‘What we call learning is only a process of recollection’
  20. 20. Aristotle (384-322 BCE) The “real” or “encyclopedist” or “inspired common sense” or “the prince of those who know” Studied under Plato at the Academy Son of a Macedonian doctor, returned home to become the teacher of Alexander of Macedon for three years, beginning in 343 BCE Later returned to Athens to open school called the Lyceum in 335 BCE
  21. 21. Plato vs. Aristotle We see different instances of ‘dog’ in the world around us. Using our senses and our reason, we understand what makes a dog a dog. We recognize the common characteristics of dogs in the world. We find the truth from evidence gained in the world around us. Plato = sense bad Aristotle = senses good
  22. 22. Aristotle, continued Believed in the Golden Mean i.e. all things follow the middle course; by avoiding extremes, one will enjoy a maximum of happiness and a minimum of pain Called the “encycolpedist” as he had a profound love of order Numerous fields of scientific study he either invented or contributed to: Logic, biology, zoology, botany, psychology, chemistry, astronomy, cosmology, metaphysics, ethics, political theory, constitutional history, history of sport
  23. 23. Aristotle, continued Founder of scientific method A valid and reliable process by which all scientific analyses of a given phenomenon could take place Led to explosive advances in the Greek scientists’ capacity to conduct scientific research Middle Ages’ scholars felt Aristotle knew almost as much as God, therefore called him “The Philosopher” “Everything that depends on the action of nature is by nature as good as it can be.” “All men by nature desire to know.” “Every action must be due to one or other of seven causes: chance, nature, compulsion, habit, reasoning, anger, or appetite.”
  24. 24. Elements of the Art of Rhetoric Ethos = Ethics Appeal based on the trustworthiness/character of the speaker Relies on the reputation of the author Logos = Logic Appeal based on logic or reason Found primarily in scholarly articles and corporate financial reports Pathos = Pathetic, sympathy, empathy Appeal based on emotion Found in advertisements The more people react without full consideration for the “why,” the more effective an argument can be Although it can be manipulative, it is the cornerstone of moving people to action
  25. 25. Legacy of Greek Philosophers Taught us how to think Provided a great deal of insight into the natural world Provided many of the most profound and meaningful answers to the great philosophical questions that have befuddled humans since the dawn of civilization Provided a comprehensive, valid, and reliable method by which we could test whether or not a given idea is true
  26. 26. Mark Steel Lectures: Aristotle 1. Why were there so many philosophers during Aristotle’s time? 2. What does Plato mean by the perfect form? 3. What are some examples of what Aristotle researched? 4. What is his ‘4 Essence’ theory? 5. What did Politics address concerning nature? 6. Why did he feel the rich AND poor were unfit to rule? 7. How was he before his time?
  27. 27. Reflect Reflect on Aristotle’s view on education and apply it to the 21st century and what education’s role in our society today.