The nature of inquiry is not one that is uncommon to the human race. From the very origin of philosophy, the term for the “love of wisdom”, individuals have spent countless hours contemplating the most essential and critical matters before them. These individuals have made substantial attempts to explain reasoning behind the functioning of earthly matters, and by virtue of their study, they have come to be known as philosophers. While various philosophers have contributed to significant revelations and theories, the main pre-socratic philosophical movements were of ancient Greek origin and are attributed to the following philosophers:
Thales, Anaximander, Xenophanes, Heraclitus, and Parmenides. Born in Miletus, Thales was discontent with the traditional stories of enchantment known as myths. Aristotle contributed the fact that he saw him as the very first philosopher, which a very common belief in the modern world. His major contributions were his beliefs that the cause and element of all things is water, and that all things are occupied with gods. The impressive matter is that Thales recognized that there is only one particular base for all things and that it was a naturally occurring substance that was very tangible and real.
While there is not much information on Thales, it is speculated that he chose water because of its diversity and physical characteristics that allow for it to prevail in liquid, solid, and gaseous forms. As for his second contribution, the Greeks were firm believers of the immortality of the gods and their occupation in the lives of the humans and the natural world. Therefore, it would not be unusual for them to 2 reside in all things present on the earth. Thales very truly was the very first philosopher as he began the search for the answer to why things happen as they do.
The Greek nature was not one to simply accept Thales propositions, but rather they focused on refuting it and providing other alternatives. Anaximander provided his own input on the matter with a theoretical proposition. He claims, that a system is in place, in which the Boundless is the infinite source of all, and it is the beginning- there was definitively nothing before it. The key feature of the Boundless is the immortality that it possesses, and further, it “encompasses all things” and “steers all things. ” This concept of resolute envelopment is seen again in the New Testament, where it is reinforced that God is in all things.
The Boundless is neither one thing, nor another, but rather, it maintains its own distinctive persona, and from it came all other things. Anaximander contributed many more developments, but they were all later proved incorrect. However, he does also state that existing things “make reparation to one another for their injustice according to the ordinance of time. ” This suggests that a balance in nature must be properly observed. A hot summer must be counteracted with a cold winter, and so the seasons encroach on the “rights” as a result of the others and serve them injustice, but
reparation is seen at the turn of the seasons. The developments made by Anaximander contradict what was then the Homeric tradition and essentially spurred a cultural crisis as the Greeks were unable to choose between the side of logic or that of myth and legend. A man known as Xenophanes came to the scene of philosophical inquiry when he clearly stated the religious implications of the new ideas of philosophy- a concept strictly avoided by most before him. He begins to critique the very nature of the gods, with the belief that it is shameful to portray them as no better than humans.
While Xenophanes was not a disbeliever, he firmly believed in the presence of one god that reigned above all and was very different from 3 mortals in both body and mind. Xenophanes denies association with the gods through inspiration (i. e. muses) and any proposed revelation does not necessarily guarantee truth. He does, however, push us to format out believes by constantly seeking, even though he does not explain how. The belief is that over time, the continuous seeking will give to better opinions that may eventually be very near truth.
He does not deny that there is the potential that some truth is known, but simply that there is no such thing as certainty without definitive proof. He goes into the matter that there is a scale of truth, and unbeknownst to us, there is no way to tell on which side our supposed revelations lay. Xenophanes contributes a new direction for thought. The questioning that he provides, in fact, questions its very own self, which is the basis of epistemology, or the theory of knowledge. Lastly, he provides his belief that only the one god knows the absolute basis and value of the truth, and while we may seek it out, because we are inferior, we cannot know for sure.
Known to the Romans as “Heraclitus the obscure” this philosopher often wrote in complex riddles. One of his famous thoughts is “All things come into being through opposition, and that all are in flux, like a river. ” The major bit that he provides is that reality in itself is a flux. It is possible to step many times into the same river, but it will never exactly be the same as the waters will be different. He postulates that all things are then in flux and are ever-changing, even though they maintain a constant identity over the change. Further, the opposition is necessary to cause events to occur.
A lyre will only play music if tension is pushed onto its strings. What makes a river is the force of the water that constantly runs through it, for without this force, there would be no river. It can be said that Heraclitus was an optimist as he believe that the changes in the world are not chaotic, but are structured by an order that is divine in nature, and therefore, it is good and beautiful. He stresses the presence of logos, and his belief 4 that those who are intelligent listen to it, while many who do not and are foolish. The many miss this because they fail to recognize the logos that is present in everyday life.
Unlike his predecessors in philosophy, Parmenides was not Ionian, but instead from Elea. He wrote a complicated metaphysical poem in which he decrees that the content was revealed to him by divine powers. In his poem, an argument is provided, but rather than to accept it, it beckons one to judge it instead, which makes it philosophical in nature. His argument is divided between “the Way of Truth” and “the Way of Opinion. ” Interestingly, he makes the point that you cannot think “nothing. ” When you think, you think of what is, so you cannot think of something that is not, since nothing cannot be something.
Parmenides urges people to follow reason, and reason alone. Therefore, he holds the title of the very first rationalist philosopher. Additionally, he believes that all that exists, exists all at once. By existing at once, it evades the concept of being what is not, because that which is not is inconceivable and cannot be thought about. Since the fathering of philosophy by Thales, the developments and inquisitions made by astounding men grew strongly throughout the Pre-Socratic era, and then progressively even more into the more current era. The most significant early men that helped philosophy take its very roots were Thales, Anaximander, Xenophanes, Heraclitus, and Parmenides.
Collectively, these men brought into question the very essential questions of philosophy that are even still argued and debated furiously over in the modern world. 5 Melchert, Norman. The Great Conversation: A Historical Introduction to Philosophy. New York: Oxford UP, 2011. Print. “Parmenides. ” Web. 13 Mar. 2012. <http://www. abu. nb. ca/courses/grphil/parmenides. htm>. “Presocratics. ” SparkNotes. SparkNotes. Web. 13 Mar. 2012. <http://www. sparknotes. com/philosophy/presocratics/context. html>.