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Early Greek philosophy

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    Posted: 01 Sep 2017 at 23:05
Early Greek philosophy is commonly called Presocratic, or Pre-Platonic philosophy.  This is deceptive in many ways, first it puts the cart before the horse, the "Presocratics" did not think of themselves as doing Presocratic philosophy, many of them probably did not think of themselves as doing philosophy.  The word may have been invented by Pythagoras, and while we apply it to earlier figures, it is at best a rough fit for some of them.  Some people that are often called Presocratic, are in fact contemporary with Socrates, and Plato.  Some people who we do not call philosophers, (the Sophists) are more appropriately understood as such, despite their tarring and feathering by Plato.
A few dates:  

Thales of Miletus, the first "philosopher" 
and one of the seven sages (sophistes) 
predicts an eclipse in 585 BC

Pythagoras of Samos is born c. 572 BC
Pythagoras is said to have coined the name
"philosopher."
He immigrates to Croton in Southern Italy,
c 532 BC, where he and followers, the Pythagoreans,
flourish.
Pythagoras dies in Metapontum in Southern Italy,
c. 492 BC

Socrates dies (is forced to drink hemlock) in 399 BC

So there is about 200 years of philosophy before the death of Socrates.  When looking at ancient Greek philosophy, it is important to realize that.  This is the later part of the Greek archaic age, and the first part of the Classical era.  It is an active time period, when literacy was beginning to spread, and a reading public was starting to develop.  It is the readers that are more important than the writers in this development.  Rhetoric is important in the law courts and participation in public life.  Mathematics as an independent field of study, and history.  Medicine as a science based art, is just beginning to get started.

It is also important to realize that of those we might call philosophers in that early period, probably 80 % of them were Pythagoreans, of which we only know a name, or maybe the titles of a few Orphic poems and little else.  Those are not the ones we are interested in, not only do we not have anything from them, but "conceptually" they probably stayed close to the party line.  But, it is important to note that they were there, and to some extent the early philosophers whose fragments we have, were affected by their gravity, so to speak.  
The other major group of philosophers in this time period, are not recognized as philosophers because of the brilliant propaganda move of Plato, who defined the sophists as verbal mercenaries teaching people rhetoric, or how to make the worse argument win, and the best argument loose.  As such 'straw men,' they tend to be a foil for the Platonic Socrates, who historically is best considered as part of this movement which rebelled against the traditional standards of the ancient polis, and used dialectic as a technique to get at the truth.  It is important whenever looking at the sophists to remember that we do not have them defining themselves, rather we have Plato defining them, and doing it so well, that his prejudicial definition has become, well, 'definitive' for them.  Plato paints a portrait of Socrates, and the others that we want to be true.  Either we can become seduced by the beauty, or we can keep on our guard, realizing that Plato's vision, is a vision orchestrated by him, and not necessarily the reality. 

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Where does Homer fit in all of this? Are his works considered sophist? 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote franciscosan Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 03 Sep 2017 at 00:18
Good question, pain in the backside:P but a good question.  By no means a simple one.
:)
Protagoras of Abdera, the greatest of the sophists wrote the laws for the foundation of Thurium, founded primarily by Athens in 443 in Southern Italy.  I say that so you can hang a date on him, he hung out with Pericles in the Golden Age of Athens, before Athens and Sparta (and their allies) got into the devastating Peloponnesian War in which Athens was defeated and Sparta was exhausted.  Written about by Thucydides.
Any who,
Protagoras of Abdera, greatest of the sophists, taught a radical subjectivity, "man is the measure of all things, of what is, that it is, of what is not, that is not."  In other words, however you see the world, that is what is real to you.  That is kind of what the sophists in general advocated, and in advocating that they were overturning the old traditional ways, that idolized Homer.  They were kind of hired guns, lecturing on topics and tutoring for fees.  Teaching rhetoric (how to argue in law courts, very valuable), dialectic and other things, we might call them the first literary critics.  They gave people the tools to do what they want, but at the same time people don't always want what is good for them, or for others, and so they had a reputation of undermining the traditional morality, that was based on Homer.

Homer was the equivalent of the Bible, for the ancient Greeks, it was the foundation of their society.  Now, when I say Homer, I mean all the Greek myths and tales, which included more epics than just the Iliad and the Odyssey, and also tales that get used in Attic tragedy.  Aeschylus of Athens, when he wrote his tragedies, talked about serving up morsels from the feast of Homer.  Aeschylus, btw, served at the Battle of Salamis, 480 BC, and that is what he put on his tombstone, not his tragedies. but anyways, the tragedians that we know of intentionally avoided writing plays based on the stories of the Iliad and the Odyssey.  That means, what we consider Homer, and what they considered Homer are two different things.  We attribute other epics back then to other poets, but back then, it was all vaguely attributed to Homer.  By vaguely, I mean that many of the epics were probably not written down at that time, but were the property of the Homeridae, a class of bards said to be descended from Homer.  They had a monopoly on Homer, and the telling of him through an oral tradition.  It is very interesting that somehow their monopoly got broken, and Homer's Iliad, and Odyssey were written down.  How that happened is not very clear.
But, in any case, the sophists to a great extent, rejected the cultural eminence of Homer, but again, they also developed literary criticism.  And Plato in "the Protagoras" has Protagoras claiming that Homer too was a sophist.  Now the original meaning of "sophist" (sophistes) is wise man, and so originally all that title meant was that people, like Thales and the other seven sages, were wise men, and so in that sense, Homer (and other poets) were in their day and age, wise men.  Later the sophists adopted that title, and then later still Plato twists it and makes the downfall of Athens look like, morally, it was all their fault.

So the question is, when Plato has Protagoras say that Homer is sophist, the question is what does Plato mean, and what would Protagoras have meant (if he had said it, which I believe he could well have, but not because Plato says so.

When Plato in "the Republic" wants to outlaw poetry, he is talking about Homer.  Remember that one of Socrates' accusers was a poet, and in a very real way, Plato is against poetry.  Plato believes it is a choice between philosophy and poetry, and he is going to make sure that philosophy wins.  Socrates, btw, is not the exception to the rule, a lot of other philosophers/sophists were persecuted and martyred.  In general though modern scholars, who can't imagine anyone not loving a philosopher, minimize and explain away the stories of persecutions.

Some other dates,
The events in Homer are said to date to the 13th century BC (1200s)

Homer is usually said to date to, say, a couple hundred years later, (I don't have my books here).
We can tell from artistic depictions, that various stories were in circulation in 9th-6th century BC.  When it actually gets written down, or started to get written down, can be deduced somewhat by the standardization of some of the art work, although particularly early on variants exist.

Again Aeschylus and also Herodotus consider the name Homer to apply to a wider range than just "the Iliad" and the Odyssey."

Thucydides shows in his writing that he is not familiar with sections of our Iliad.

Zenodotus? and Aristophanes? of Byzantium collate and edit (clean-up) the manuscripts of the Iliad and the Odyssey in the (3rd to 1st c. BC)? in Alexandria, according to their educated judgment.

Half of all Greek literary papyri found in the Egyptian desert, are Homer, with most being "the Iliad."  (Moses Finley).




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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Vanuatu Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 05 Sep 2017 at 04:47
Quote So the question is, when Plato has Protagoras say that Homer is sophist, the question is what does Plato mean, and what would Protagoras have meant (if he had said it, which I believe he could well have, but not because Plato says so.

What do you think about what Stanford Encyclopedia says?
I read that there is some evidence that Protagorus did develop strategies for argument or "Overthrowing" the alternative title of his famous work "Truth." Diogenes Laertius listed titles (titles that are not know but for the list) attributed to Protagorus on the subject of Argument. 
And Socrates here:

Socrates' description of the audience's loud applause (339d10–e1) is one of the many indications that sophistic argumentative contests had the status of a spectator sport, even to the extent of figuring among the sideshows at the great athletic festivals; in Plato's Lesser Hippias (363c–364a) Hippias describes how he goes regularly to the Olympic Games to take part in contests of question and answer and has never yet been beaten, and similarly Protagoras says that he has had verbal contests with many people, and that he would never have become celebrated if he had allowed his opponents to dictate the rules of the contest (Prot. 335a). According to Diogenes Laertius IX.52 Protagoras was the first to institute such contests.



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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote franciscosan Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 05 Sep 2017 at 22:53
I assume that Stanford Encyclopedia is accurate, as far as those things go.  Things like the Stanford Encyclopedia reflect modern version of the doxographical tradition.  In other words, "so and so believed such an such" without necessarily getting into how those beliefs were reached, what kind of beliefs those were, and nothing really about the transition from previous beliefs/assertions to new ones.  It would be like knowing about Newton's Calculus and theory of Gravity, without having looked at Copernicus, Galileo, Descrartes, Brahe, Kepler, or for that matter Leibniz.  Except the thing about quantitative science is that on some level it works, and can be taught without the societal purposes.  We are still in the wake of Newton, but earlier waves have calmed down, and so in order to understand how big of a splash earlier ideas made, we have to look more at the context, how they changed the world.  Doxography doesn't really do that that well.  

For Protagoras, I have heard his book just called, "wrestling," in other words argumentation to overthrow one's opponent.  The sophist got into the nature of argument, including using what Aristotle would call "logical fallacy."  In other words, if you can attack the man (ad hominem) instead of criticizing his argument, that is fair game.  It is from Protagoras that we hear that all arguments have two sides.  It is true to us, but I am not sure that it would be so true in a multiparty system.  But again, this is a subjective position, in that everything radically depends on from where you look at.  We do not have complete works of Protagoras, but we do have fragments and secondary writings on his stuff.  We can get a pretty good handle on a lot of his thought, in its vague outlines.  That is true for most of the Presocratics and sophists, complete works do not survive in philosophy until Plato and Aristotle.

I think "the status of spectator sport" is a little too official sounding for me.  Somewhere between that and a good carny.  But yes, sophists were not just for stating the logic of their argument, they were very much for the performance, and in fact if the logic of their argument suffered in the face of their performance, that was okay because there purpose was to win.  But I don't think that any self-respecting sophist would care for Trump, because while his attacks on others got him into office, it has made it impossible for him to lead.  I mean sophist would admire his ability, but they would also recognize how it created what may be a fatal flaw.

In an era when the ability to argue in the law courts of the city-state was extremely important, the sophists provided a worthwhile skill to those who could afford it, but at the same time it lead to nitpicking and wrangling, stilted definitions of terms and appearance over "substance."  It catered to a new class of up-and-comer, and degraded the old aristocratic version of virtue.  Eventually, Plato an aristocrat responded to it, characterizing the "sophists" as a class, as responsible for the decline in virtue in Greece, which lead to Athens loosing the Peloponnesian War, and Sparta exhausted.

But let's start at the other end of this trend, with Thales and Miletus.


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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote franciscosan Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 06 Sep 2017 at 23:30
For Presocratic philosophy, there are two separate strands, this is a traditional division found in Diogenes Laertius, the only "handbook" of philosophy to have survived from antiquity.

Greek names have up to three parts, personal name, polis (city), and father's name.  So Socrates' name is properly, Socrates of Athens, son of Sophronicus.  I will generally just present the personal name, and the polis.

First there is the Ionic, the Ionian cities being those Greek cities of the Ionic background that are found on the coast of Turkey.

Second there are the Italic philosophers those being from the Greek cities in Southern Italy and Sicily.
Ionian Italic
Thales of Miletus, the sage Pherecydes of Syros, mixed mythographer
Anaximander of Miletus, student of Thales Pythagoras of Samos, and the Pythagoreans
Anaximenes of Miletus, student of Anaximander Xenophanes of Colophon
Heraclitus of Ephesus Parmenides of Elea
Anaxagoras of Clazomenae Zeno of Elea
Archelaus of Athens, student of Anaxagoras,  Empedocles of Acragas
a teacher of Socrates.
Socrates of Athens Gorgias of Leontini, the sophist
Protagoras of Abdera, sophist
Democritus of Abdera, atomist Prodicus 
Plato of Athens Hippias of Elis

It should be noted how strong Miletus was in philosophy and other intellectual matters in the late 7th, early 6th century BC, with the fall of Lydia (548) and the coming of the Persians most of the Ionian states lost their independence, send intellectual refugees like Pythagoras and Xenophanes to the "colonies" in the West, in Italy and Sicily.  
"Colony" is a bit of a misnomer, for while "oikomenos" had cultural ties to their parent states, they were by no means dependent upon them, but often agriculturally and resource-wise richer than the parent states.  Because of that the Pythagoreans coined the name Magna Graecia, or Greater Greece for the Southern Italian region.  But in any case, Pythagoras comes from Samos, and Xenophanes comes from Colophon in Ionia.  
Xenophanes was a philosophical poet who is sometimes counted as the first of the Eleatic philosophers, but they are probably more greatly influenced by the Pythagoreans.  Different than that, was the early Ionian philosophy is the physicalist tradition trying to figure out what was the primary element, Thales said water is the origin of all things.  Others choose other things.  With the possible exception of Thales, who may have not written at all (although wise men tend to be poets), the Ionic philosophers wrote in the new medium of prose.  Whereas, for the Italic philosophers, Xenophanes, Parmenides, Empedocles, and maybe Pythagoras (if he wrote at all), wrote in poetry.  Poetry tends not to be the medium used for philosophy, but Parmenides showed why reality could not originate from a single substance, and Empedocles gave us the four (actually 5?) elements, aether, fire, air, water, earth.  Or as we would say in modern terms; solid, liquid, gas, plasma and a funny new state of matter that happens at around 2 degrees on Kelvin scale.

But remember that there are traditionally two primary schools of Presocratic philosophy, the Ionian, and the Italic, with some crossover, and when we get to Plato or Democritus, some confusion, as strands really get mixed up.


Edited by franciscosan - 06 Sep 2017 at 23:39
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote franciscosan Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 09 Sep 2017 at 23:25
Thales of Miletus, one of the seven sages, is also the first philosopher.  
He considered water to be the source of all things, what that exactly means is debatable, but of course, he would know that solid ice and water vapor would come from liquid water.  This kind of thinking meant that figuring things out were potentially in man's grasp, man interacting with his environment, responding to it, but also manipulating it.  A view of human nature as wonder, somewhat separate from the awe filled reverence of priesthood, with things being handed down from the gods, and from the priest to men.  Thales still believed in gods, he asserted "all things are filled with gods." remember that every tree had a tree spirit and every breeze was the caress of one of the wind gods.

*Also Thales was aware of magnetism, and static electricity (amber and fur), so that added to "all things are filled with gods."

Thales supposedly wrote a book on nautical astronomy, but it is debatable whether he or someone else wrote it, and whether he wrote anything.  He predicted an eclipse in 585 BC, probably from Babylonian records.  One year he predicted that there was going to be a bumper crop of olives, and he reserved all the oil presses in an area, cornering the market and showing that philosophers, if they want to, can make money.  He fell into a ditch while not watching where he was going, and a Thracian servant girl laughed at him for looking at the stars while he should have been watching his feet.
Of course, water is necessary for life, and there is a primordial aspect to its fluidity.

Thales' student was Anaximander of Miletus.
Ancient doxographies tend to link together philosophers in chains, in order to make schools.  Some of these links are quite tenuous, some are quite solid.  The link between Thales and Anaximander, and then Anaximenes, are quite solid, forming the Milesian school.  Miletus at this time (eclipse 585 BC) was probably the most important city of that era.  Because of the influence of Lydia, and the invasion of the Persians (548 BC), however, power would shift away from Miletus and Samos, to the mainland of Greece.


Edited by franciscosan - 14 Sep 2017 at 02:19
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Vanuatu Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 11 Sep 2017 at 01:59
Does Plato endorse some of the theories of the Miletus school? Such as Anaximander's "Boundless" theory of the origin of everything? 

What is it about the poets that the philosophers object to? 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote franciscosan Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 11 Sep 2017 at 21:11
Plato mentions Thales several times in his collected works, he mentions "there are gods everywhere" in the Laws.  Anaximander and Anaximenes do not get mentioned in Plato.  I think that it is really Aristotle in Metaphysics A (Alpha) that first put them into a semi historical perspective. Metaphysics A is the first book of Aristotle's Metaphysics, numbered by the Greek letter.  Aristotle talks about the early philosophers as a way of historically introducing the one who is really important himself.  He tends to radically fit them to his theory, instead of appreciating who they are for their own characteristics.  the physicalists are thought to be going after the causa materialis, whereas Pythagoras is thought to be exploring the causa formalis, another one of the four-fold causes that Aristotle discusses.


The behavior of the gods and heroes tends to be shocking, you have Oedipus who kills his father and marries his mother, murder, mayhem, infidelity. castration, rape, wrongful imprisonment.  The Greek gods are not exactly boy scouts upholding the ideals of what a good society is.   And people are expected to emotionally identify with them, and use them as models for their activities.

And remember that one of the prosecutors of Socrates was a poet, so they did consider themselves moral experts to a degree.


Edited by franciscosan - 11 Sep 2017 at 21:13
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote franciscosan Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 14 Sep 2017 at 02:42
But, again not all philosophy is opposed to poetry.  The Italic school, Xenophanes, Parmenides, Empedocles, maybe Pythagoras, and many (other) Pythagoreans, wrote in poetry.  But reportedly, Empedocles revealed Pythagorean secrets, and so the Pythagoreans decided they shouldn't share their secrets with poets (or with Plato for that matter, who was considered equivalent to a poet).  Whether that is true or not, that is one story, which like many stories in antiquity may or may not have a basis in the facts.  Personally, I think Empedocles, of which we have substantial fragments, did appropriate Pythagorean doctrines.

Lucretius, the Roman Epicurean (Roman Republic) wrote his philosophy in the poem, De Rerum Natura (On the Nature of Things), there is a Stoic hymn to Zeus (by Cleanthes?).  But otherwise, poetry is generally not used in philosophy in antiquity.  Of course, we don't necessarily know what did not survive. 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Vanuatu Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 14 Sep 2017 at 03:56
Telling stories about the gods seems like the best way to preserve history. The meanings could be allegorical and understood by ancient people in a way that we don't quite understand.


Quote Lucretius, the Roman Epicurean (Roman Republic) wrote his philosophy in the poem, De Rerum Natura (On the Nature of Things), there is a Stoic hymn to Zeus (by Cleanthes?).  But otherwise, poetry is generally not used in philosophy in antiquity.  Of course, we don't necessarily know what did not survive.

Lucretius has pretty heavy ideas about atomic structure and movement. He lived through some crazy violent times, Spartacus! And he was born in Samos. 

He does say in De Rerum Natura that the poetry is just icing on the cake. It's Epicurus that he wants to deify. Ever see this quote from St. Jerome? 


94

[sic] BC. . . The poet Titus Lucretius is born. He was later driven mad by a love philtre and, having composed between bouts of insanity several books (which Cicero afterwards corrected), committed suicide at the age of 44.

http://www.iep.utm.edu/lucretiu/

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote franciscosan Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 14 Sep 2017 at 22:49
yeah, I would say that St Jerome is scuttlebutt.  There may be some truth to it, but there is no way to tell.  Anyways, Lucretius is an outlier in that he is writing philosophy as poetry, and he is a Roman Epicurean.  (Romans tended towards the Stoic side, Marcus Aurelius, Seneca, Cicero).  I haven't read the whole thing, but I seem to remember that, On the Nature of Things lauds Aphrodite, not the sexual Aphrodite, but Aphrodite Urania, the cosmic principle of attraction.

Other later Epicureans are, (possibly), Diogenes Laertius, who gives a fairly extensive biography of Epicurus with documents, and Diogenes of Oinoanda (or Oenoanda) who erected walls with Epicurean sayings on them (like billboards, sort of).  The Epicureans were thought of as atheists, because they thought of the gods as detached and not involved in this world.  I believe that Lucretius book survived in just one copy into modern times, but I am not sure of that.

Epicurus (and hence also Lucretius) got a lot of his physical theory from Democritus and the atomists.

Epicurus was from an Athenian colony on Samos, he later settled in Athens and had his Epicurean Garden there.  Pythagoras was originally from Samos, and Melissus of Samos, an Eleatic and a general vs. Athens in the Peloponnesian War, was from Samos.


Edited by franciscosan - 14 Sep 2017 at 22:57
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote franciscosan Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 16 Sep 2017 at 00:34
The Presocratic philosophers, particularly the Milesian wanted to come up with the arche of things.  The arche is both the origin of things, but it also is that which rules over them.  The question that concerned them was how do things come-to-be?  In Greek, coming-to-be or becoming is phusis, from whence we get our word physics, and physician.  How did something that was not there, come to be, and how did something that was there, pass away?  Thales said the first arche was water.  One can see how liquid would be perceived as having an "existence" between "nothing" and something (solid).  One should note that one should be careful about terminology, water is not an "element" because philosophy has not started talking about elements yet, it is not a substance, substance is the latin translation of an Aristotelian term hypokeimon.  It is very easy to fall into the trap of using anachronistic terminology and thus say what an earlier Presocratic philosopher supposedly said, but do so with concepts that weren't around when the Presocratic was around.  This is especially true with Aristotle, who kind of painted a picture that what the Presocratics where doing lead up to him.  After Thales comes Anaximander in the typical doxography (history) of the philosophers.  Instead of choosing an "element," he choose a 'pre-elemental amorphous "originative substance."
"Of those who say that it is one, moving, and infinite, Anaximander... said that the principle (arche) and element of existing things was the apron [indefinite or infinite (boundless)]"  Simplicius, Phys, 24. 13.

"And the source of coming-to-be for existing things is that into which destruction, too, happens 'according to necessity;
'for they pay penalty and retribution to each other for their injustice according to the assessment of Time', as he describes it in these rather poetical terms."  Simplicius

This is thought to be an actual quote from Anaximander's (prose) book.  So you have a kind of reciprocal relationship between that which is coming to be and that which is passing away, with things "paying penalty" [or perhaps, giving esteem] to that which was or that which will be.

A story from Greek mythology might illustrate this.  Apollo killed the Python in order take over the Earth mother's shrine at Delphi, but after killing the Python, he had to purify himself, and rituals were adopted in memory of the Python, after which the shrine became named (Pythian).  It is not just a matter of killing the monster and getting it out of the way (although there is a lot of that in Greek mythology), it is a matter of giving due respect to the guardian of the shrine.  I think this can give a good example of what it means to "pay penalty" for the stuff passing away.  And how much as we get older do we feel a little nostalgic for all the big and little things that are passing away and being replaced by new trends and new fads, which in due time, will themselves fade away.

Anaximander probably had a level of his philosophy that dealt with the "cosmos" (a Pythagorean term), but also the world and the polis.  One thing he was known for was the first map, which of course, is not _the_ first map, but a map of the known world, which probably reflected the science of time.  Herodotus mentions the ruler of Miletus referring to a bronze map in front of the Spartans.  He made the mistake of saying how far away the Persians were (he was asking for assistance) and the Spartans decided it was too far away to deal with.  Pythagoras when he immigrated from Samos to Croton in Southern Italy probably had a map like this for on a modern map (not counting the distortion from the curvature), Samos, Delphi (the center of the Greek world) and Croton make a straight line, as almost does Delos, Delphi and Metapontum, where Pythagoras died (or ascended in an apotheosis?!?). 


Edited by franciscosan - 16 Sep 2017 at 00:35
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Vanuatu Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 17 Sep 2017 at 18:47
Ley lines are found all over the world. Literally all over the world.
Modern life may have displaced some natural tendencies that ancient man used regularly to navigate the world. Even current studies in wild places demonstrate extra sensory human abilities in cultures where commercialism and modernity have been minimal.

Do you think that Plato was actually in agreement with the pre Socratic and Socratic poet/philosophers?

Was he only trying to skew the information to create a world view? 
This is bringing Jared Diamond to mind.

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (1) Thanks(1)   Quote franciscosan Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 18 Sep 2017 at 00:16
Delphi was considered to be the center (omphalos=bellybutton) of the world.  So there definitely is some attribution of sacredness to that location.  The ancient Greeks would probably consider directions and alignments with this and other sacred sites to be spiritually significant.  I have heard a long time ago much ado about temple alignments in antiquity, facing Delphi, or Delos, or Dodona, etc, but I don't know of any good sources for that.  And like the alignments of 'ley lines,' I think that it is very easy to read into that, read into that perhaps more than there really is.  In any case, I am arguing that Pythagoras would have found it significant that Samos-Delphi-Croton are on a 'straight' line, and that Delos-Delphi-Metapontum are on a 'straight' line.  I think that is more symbolic than anything else, and I wouldn't assign cosmic meaning to that, although Pythagoras might have.  I don't think there is any chance of the locations being in line of sight from each other, although I don't rightly know.

"information" is a modern concept that they would not subscribed to in antiquity.  There is a notion that information is neutral, truth and knowledge for antiquity were never neutral, knowledge implied values, implied action.  We tend to think that there is a world of science and "reality" and a world of politics and ethics, as if the two were separate.

Think of Plato as a special kind of lens, that once you look at the world that way, it is hard to imagine that there is/was anything ever different.  Now realize that someone may never have read Plato, but they're still looking at the world through that lens, it is in our "cultural DNA" so to speak.  You can't get free of Plato if you don't know what is holding on to you.  The only chance of getting free, is to read Plato, so you know what it is that has a hold on you.  And when you read Plato and internalize it, you may decide that it is too beautiful and that you don't want to let go, in fact now that you 'have' Plato' explicitly, you may not be able to imagine ever letting it go, but want to abide (chat) with him forever.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (1) Thanks(1)   Quote franciscosan Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 18 Sep 2017 at 22:58
Anaximenes of Miletus
The third of the Milesian philosophers is Anaximenes of Miletus, whereas,
Thales said the arche was water, and
Anaximander said the arche was the unlimited (or boundless),
Anaximenes said that the arche was aer.  
This may seem like a step backwards, listing a particular thing as the arche, but remember that aer is related to pneuma or breath, and thus related to life.  Aer is invisible although it can be detected by air pressure.  One might imagine Anaximenes and other experimenting with an air bladder as a crude barometer.  Furthermore, not only did Anaximenes chose Aer for his arche, but he had a way by which the other elements were derived by air.  Through rarification of aer came fire, and condensation came mist, clouds, (rain) water, earth, stones.

Again, all this may sound quite primitive, and it is, but it does not rely on the gods for an explanation, but natural processes.  Nature and natal come from the latin word that is the equivalent to the Greek word that describes these early philosophers from the Milesian camp, they are called Physicalists, after phusis, the Greek word for nature, becoming or presencing.  This is a very far cry to the view that "the gods did it," whatever "it' is.  And that is another thing, once one gets past saying "the gods did it," one also has to figure out what it is, what its "mechanism" is, how do things occur.  And "what things should occur in human society?"  Calling into question laws and tradition.  But that is getting ahead of things.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Vanuatu Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 21 Sep 2017 at 15:34
Might be primitive but some things never change. Is there any indication that Anaximenes treated the concept of 'gods' as a subject unworthy of actual study?

For the earliest humans you can see why water would have been their idea of life source. Once people could divert water for agriculture, do they start to see themselves as imbued with god-like skills? In your informed view?
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (1) Thanks(1)   Quote franciscosan Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 21 Sep 2017 at 20:54
Secondary sources say that Anaximenes said that air (aer) is a god, or that the gods originate from air.  It is very hard to tell what an early philosopher thought about 'x' unless you have something quoting him directly.  Most secondary sources are interpreting what they say in addition to presenting what they say.  I would think that for Anaximenes air is primary and would be divine and the source of other divine things.  But, then you are looking at a notion of divinity that would be different from a theologians definition of divinity.  And far different than the capricious gods of "the Iliad," or "the Odyssey."

We don't have any real good quotes for Anaximenes, just summaries and maybe a few select words that he used in his writing, like "condensed," or "rarified."

The time at which "atheism" starts arising is later on, during the time period of the sophists.  Its more during the later 5th century, that man starts getting too big for the britches.  I would think that belief in the gods went hand in hand with architecture, the belief that the flooding of the Nile or Euphrates were partially divine gifts, partially capricious.  Also, the development of scribes to manage the grain, and rulers to organize the harvests, calendar development.  The paradigm they are transitioning from is (harvest, worship of the gods), is awe filled reverence (worshipper bowed low), to wonder, (the individual on a more equal basis with divinity, cooperation in discovery).  Aristotle talks about philosophy beginning in wonder.  Before that (before Thales) man is prostrate before the gods, waiting to be commanded.  But getting to an actual atheism of, say, Diagoras of Athens, is quite a few steps away.  Greek polis were also very traditional and reverent and generally would not tolerate atheism or violation of custom.  There is a lot of persecution of philosophers and sophists in the early times of Greek philosophers, but usually they are dismissed or explained away by modern scholars, who can't imagine why anybody wouldn't love philosophy.  The Milesians, however, are probably before this trend.


Edited by franciscosan - 21 Sep 2017 at 20:56
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