What isthe significanceinunderstandingthe historyof the past?
To see itssignificantcontributionstothe solutionorat leastthe illuminationof contemporaryissuesand
To understandthateveryperiodorage has itsown identityorcharacteristics.
To witnessthe evolutionaryphaseordevelopmentof the humanmindinhistory.
Historyof westernphilosophycanbe dividedintodifferentstagesorepochs;namely
The term ancientphilosophyreferstothe philosophical activitiesof the earlyGreekworld.
Theyoperatedovera periodof some 1,000 yearsfrom the middle of the 1st
millenniumB.C.tothe middle of the 1st
the specificationof non-perceptibleitemssuchasnumbers,deities,anduniversal kinds.
The Pre-Socraticswere uninhibitedinproposingboldtheoriesonthe largestpossiblescale.
The analysisandevaluationof patternsof reasoningandargument.
The importance of understandinginthe pursuitof goodlife.
The needto analyze the nature of humanperson.
The importance of the conceptof justice indefiningthe nature of political system.
Theyusedtheirreasonto understandthe world,withoutappealingtoreligion,revelation,authorityortradition.
Theytaught otherpeople touse theirownreason,andto thinkforthemselves.
AncientPhilosophy canbe subdividedinthree periods: thePre-Socratics,theGreektriumvirate,and the Post-Aristolelian
Pre-Socratic philosophersconsistmostly of philosophers beforethe 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 theMilesian philosophers.
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 transforminto the apparently diversekinds of things we experience in our everyday lives.Thales's innovation
was to argue that that there was actually only onekind of thing underlyingeverything; even earth, air,and fireare j ustdifferent
manifestations of water. Why would he say this? Aristotlespeculates that Thales sawhow things likeplants grow when you give
them water, as though the water is beingtransformed into the solid structureof the plant. It might also bethat Thales noticed that
water has three phases—water is,in fact, the only substancean average person would experience variously as a liquid,a solid,and a
gas.Perhaps he extrapolated from this that water could become so solid thatit would become rock or metal, or so vaporous that it
would become air or fire. It is difficultto know, but the standard story presumes that he drew this conclusion by reasoning fromhis
observations,and this,as we will see, is critical for explainingwhy we think Thales counts as a philosopher atall.
Anaximander apparently agreed with Thales that there must be one fundamental thing underlyingeverything else, but he disagreed
with the contention that it was any of the four familiar elements.Instead, Anaximander posited that itwas something which he
called the apeiron, which translates into "boundless"or "infinite."Anaximander actually offered a cosmological model,in which
there is initially nothingexcept 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 justthat everything started
out with apeiron, is not entirely clear.
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 lotof people consider Anaximenes a step backwards fromAnaximander, 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 obscureto be helpful,and realized that the hypothesis that everything is made of air accounted
better for what he observed. He also developed an accountof how it is air seems to transforminto other substances:itis all a
matter of density, with sufficiently compressed air becomingwater and earth, and sufficiently rarified air becomingfire.This he
inferred not through a flightof fancy, but through observations,such as by noticingthatone's own breath can be either hot or cold,
depending on how much one compresses the stream of air with one's lips.
Importance of the Milesian School
The Milesiansbucked this trend by developing a suitably naturalistic viewof the world,in which a deeper understandingof
nature could be had by analyzingthe natural world into its fundamental constituents (water, or apeiron, or air),the
behavior of which was not capricious atall.
They appealed to that which everyone could perceive with their own senses,and that which everyone could figureout
through the power of their own reason.
Some other notable Pre-Socratics areDemocritus who claimed that everything is made up of indivisibleparticleca lled an atom;
Heraclitus who believes that fireis the element which makes up everything; Anaxagoras which claimed thatit was nous (mind); and
Pythagoras who presents the idea that that number is the essence and basis of all things.
The Greek Triumvirate
The Greek triumvirateof Socrates,Plato, and Aristotleis considered as the golden era of Greek philosophy, theperiod of highest
perfection. The period of highest perfection in philosophy was also theperiod of the political greatness of Greece. From the
preoccupation with the ultimate material stuff which composes the universe,the Greek triumviratestarted inquiringtopicsabout
man, virtues such as justice,happiness,temperance, the state and some other diverseissues.
The bare facts of the lifeof Socrates
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 discussthings,usingdialecticsor the so called Socratic Method.
He was arrested and condemned to death becauseof two charges:(a) impiety, (b) corruption of the minds of the youth.
He did not admitany guilt,he refused to be set free by friends,and he died after drinkingglass of hemlock in the pr esence
His philosophical contribution may besummed up thus: (a) He employed “inductivearguments and universal definitions.”
Called his “practical method,” it took the form of “dialectic”or conversation.
A pupil of Socrates, Plato,too, had a bias againstdemocracy.He had an aristocratic upbringing,and was immersed in the cultureof
his day,but his plan,abetted by relatives,to enter politicswas abandoned after he sawwhat was done to Socrates.
Among the salientpoints of his philosophy are:
Knowledge is not sense-perception, not what simply appears to me.
Like Socrates, Plato believes in “virtue is knowledge,” and the sourceof knowledge is virtue. It is notabstract,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 philosophictruth.
Aristotleis a towering figurein ancientGreek philosophy,makingcontributions 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.
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 FirstCause,sourceof all change,but is unchangeableitself.This,for him, is God.
The goal of human lifeis happiness,to reach this is moderation or avoidanceof extremes.
Logic would enable man to perceive that the ideal state is one governed by a ruleof law,a state ruled by the middleclass.
Post-Aristotelian schools refer to the philosophical schoolswhich 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 arethe following:
As an ethical doctrine, stoicismconsidersapathy or indifferenceto pleasureas the moral norm. It advocates are called stoics, who
are known for their exemplary patience, self-sacrifice,perseverance,forbearance, and long sufferingattitude. Their highest virtues
or ideals aremental 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 attainablethrough apathy or
indifference to pleasure.
Hedonism is an ethical doctrinewhich claims thatpleasureis thenorm of morality.By pleasure,in this context, is meant the
satisfaction of desire;hence, the greater the pleasure,the better. Pleasureis the one and only good; hence, it must be the basisfor
moral judgment. The hedonistformula for happiness is :“Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow you die.”
Epicureanismprofesses moderate pleasureas the moral norm. In their application of the doctrineof pleasure,the Epicureans
recognize that each man is,in a certain sense, his own legislator.Itis for himto determine what is useful or pleasantand what is
harmful or painful.Hence the principleof moderation: Restrain your needs and desires within the measure in which you will be able
to satisfy them. And, whileno kind of pleasureis evil in itself,thewise man will avoid thosepleasures which disturb hispeaceof
mind and which, therefore, entail pain.