Research Paper: Philosophers of Ancient Greece

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[. . .] He belonged to the Ephesians school of thought. He is responsible for hypothesizing the notion of flow. Heraclitus hailed from a noble family and hence was the first aristocrat to be inducted in the Greek Philosophers' hall of fame. Heraclitus went on to negate all of his acclaimed predecessors and interestingly propose that insipidity and impudence were inherent human natures. (Knierim 1999) He is as such often described as a cynic who had minimal faith in human attributes. His philosophical beliefs revolved around immovable morals and their inflexible pursuit. He has talked of ideas regarding self-mastery and staunch abstinence from sinfulness. He was in this regard the upholder of moralistic purification and the perfection of the human soul. His rebellious and rigid attitude has been of particular interest to historians.

His basic belief was that all things exist in a continuous state of flux and hence there is no such thing as a permanent entity. In other words, he believed that the space was actually a process instead of a static phenomenon. Heraclitus is said to have become rather unsocial towards the close of his life and equally preoccupied with the idea of permanent flow. His robust belief in the dynamism of all entities was what he based all his findings upon: from cosmology to theology. He is also said to a pantheist believing firmly that God was not as defined by Greek mythology but instead an immortal essence living within each individual soul. Extending from this faith was his theory of the 'unity of opposites' whereby he insinuated that all opposing forces exist in a natural state of equilibrium. For instance there is no night without day, no summer without winter and so on. Again this theory was in perfect harmony with his original theory of perpetual flux. Conclusively, it can be observed that Heraclitus's theories were indeed all encompassing and once again showed a tendency to merge science with theological perspectives. (Harris n.d.)

We now transcend into the illustrious Eleatic Genre of Philosophy. It is ironic that Heraclitus's successors went on to directly clash their view with his, stating that nothing is in a perennial state of flux. Parmenides was the thinker responsible for proposing that all entities are constant in nature and hence never change. Parmenides was once again, a nobleman and had the means that most of his Milesian and Ionian predecessors did not possess. He examined the area of lawmaking and permeated the Greek setup of law with his philosophical conjectures. Parmenides was accompanied by his premier disciple Zeno who also promulgated the same notions as his educator. It is for this reason that their philosophy can very much be studied simultaneously. One of the many stimulating suppositions provided by Parmenides was that the actual state of the external world was much different than what the human senses perceived; in this way the established thinker surreptitiously stated that human senses are subject to an inherent mediocrity, which can only be cured through educated logic. He equated his theories with divinity by suggesting that that logic and investigation lead a person to 'the One.' But contrary to theological inferences, his version of 'The One' was not an omnipotent divine being but instead a finite and material entity. He associated the existence of phenomena by the simple giveaway that people are able to think and speak of it: that is anything that a person can possibly conceive in his or her mind exists. In a way he was incorporating some deep truth of all supernatural or superstitious phenomena into his philosophies, which can be proven by the myriads of symbols in his notions. (Pennsylvania State University 1999)

Since Parmenides' basic teachings are so deeply grounded in all things merely conceivable, his theories faced a lot of opposition from future generations. This is where Zeno stepped in to defend his master's original school of thought. In doing so, Zeno presented a number of famous paradoxes. These were in essence arguments that were contradictions unto themselves meant to ultimately prove that motion is impossible. In this way Zeno aimed to reinforce Parmenides' view that there is no such thing as flow and plurality. The most prevalent of these paradoxes were: 'The Midway Problem', the 'Achilles and Tortoise' paradox, the 'Arrow' and finally the 'Stadium', all of which being theories through which Zeno says that all distances are divisible into many parts and hence infinite and so an infinite distance cannot be covered in a limited amount of time. (Lynds 2003) Ultimately all of this era's works generated much future debate and cemented the fact that multiplicity gives rise to contradictions. (Seyffert 1894)

In the following era of Acragas (490-430 BC) we come across the well-known works of Empedocles. First and foremost Empedocles can be credited for having postulated the existence of the four primordial elements: earth, air, fire and water. He also hailed from a well-off background and was a strong supporter of democratic governments along with being a scientist and a physician. (Knierim 1999) About Empedocles it was largely believed at the time that he was capable of miracles: supposedly controlling winds and even restoring lives. He flaunted this reputation in a grandiose manner, going to great lengths to portray himself as a deity. His most significant writings are based on natural phenomena, and he was able to integrate theories of flux and stagnation. He did so by recommending that dynamism is indeed true and at the same time reality is essentially constant, thereby solidifying the views of both Heraclitus and Parmenides. What is most appealing is that he fused the basic primordial elements with the elements of love and strife. (Knierim 1999) He believed that love was the ultimate unifying force in the universe which denoted absolute harmony, whereas strife was the principle of discord or chaos representing the universal dividing force. He further emphasized that under the influence of love, all elements unite to become 'the One' that is the divine and singular entity responsible for all natural phenomena. Conversely, he highlighted that strife was the major cause of utter destruction in the external worlds. He suggested that such forces exist in a cyclical pattern, being generated and destroyed in turns. Empirically speaking, this theory states that the sum of all things is zero, or can be cancelled out. This can be extended to the universal belief that energy is neither created nor destroyed, but only converted from one form to another.

Moving on, Empedocles had tremendous wisdom which can be proven by the fact that he predicted that the moon was not a luminous body but reflected sun light, and also that solar eclipses are caused by lunar motion. He also hypothesized that light takes time to travel from one position to another but this time is infinitesimal in quantity; he discovered the basic principles of centrifugal force and even set the foundations for the study of evolution and natural selection. It can therefore be concluded with regard to Empedocles that he presented many relevant and everlasting theories which form the foundation of most scientific works today. (Solmsen 1965)

As we progress into 500-428 BC, we stumble upon the Clazomenae period which is predominantly marked by the celebrated philosophies of Anaxagoras. Anaxagoras grew up in an era when the Greek city state of Athens was at the summit of various triumphs. It was the commencement of a golden age whereby the city state prospered both in terms of dominance and knowledge. (Knierim 1999) He was the follower of the Milesian school of thought and also largely agreed with Empedocles' works. However he begged to differ with Empedocles' 'Love and Strife' theory on grounds of lack of scientific evidence. He did however concur with Empedocles' age old belief that everything is infinitely divisible and hence contains portions of all four primordial elements. He also proposed that the sum is greater than it parts and used snow as a pertinent case in point: he stated that snow contained both black as well as white fragments and the only reason as to why snow appears white is because it predominates the color black. (Knierim 1999) The crux of his theoretical work was the conjecture of separation. Anaxagoras argued that every object is formed due to a separation of matter, and all entities in the material world are derived from 'the One' being via constant dichotomization. In other words matter multiplies continuously and becomes infinitely more complex. (Sider 2005)

Anaxagoras is also often ascribed the foundations of psychology because he introduced the idea of the human mind, articulating that it was infinite in capacity and independent in nature. According to him the mind had final control over all other aspects of the soul. Apart from this, Anaxagoras also committed his mind to comprehending the technicalities of spiral phenomena and vortexes. He explained that the world was created through the rotational movement of a typical spiral whereby all matter was initially united and then divided by… [END OF PREVIEW]

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