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Greek Philosophy – Sept 17th.docx

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PHIL 232
Richard Greenfield

Greek Philosophy – Sept. 17 , 2013 Continuity and Change:  Early Greek society was highly literate o This even happened before the invention of actual writing  Poems – oral  One of the reasons we are unsure if Homer was a real person or a group  Story may have been retold and refined throughout generations  Orature – oral literature  Milesians: o Thales – “From what is related about him, it seems that Thales too held that the soul is something productive of motion, if indeed he said that the lodestone has soul, because it moves iron”  Contrast with Hesiod – Hesiod’s Theogany seems much more complicated and sophisticated  “First of all Chaos came into being….”  Grand ambitions  Worked out world view  Thales expresses no world view in this text – ideas seem simpler (e.g. magnets have souls)  From the quote about Thales, this argument can be deduced:  If anything has a self-starting motor, then it has a soul  Lodestones have self-starting motors  Therefore lodestones have souls o Aristotle wrote about Thales hundreds of years after Thales lived  Used qualifiers – “It seems that”, “from what is related about him”, “if indeed” – several in one text alone  This text can’t be read without confronting the textual challenge of early Greek philosophy  Did Aristotle actually get this from Thales? We don’t know  Aristotle is being honest with us – he’s not sure either  It is hard to be sure of anything when we do not have writing directly from their original sources  More survives from later philosophers  Different tones can be more definitive than others  Fewer qualifiers – less uncertainty  When Aristotle writes about Anaximander, there are no qualifiers  He is much more authoritative in his claims about what was said/thought  Veracity matters  Anaximander disputed Thales’ claim that the indefinite, the origin of all things (first principle), is water  Argument: water puts out fire  If water were infinite, by now it would have put out all the fire  Water hasn’t put out all the fire in the world  Therefore, water isn’t infinite  The indefinite is infinite  Therefore, water can’t be the indefinite o Anaximander claimed that the arkhe (first principle) wasn’t any of the elements  Instead, it’s something called the apeiron – the indefinite  The indefinite becomes definite only after it causes the world to come into being – elements are created  No matter what property you pin for the arkhe, you will encounter objections  If it’s water, then you encounter the problem of fire  The apeiron has no fixed properties before it creates matter – this is the solution  Continuity (Between Hesiod, Homer, and others vs. the Pre Socratics): o Sophistication o Both sets of thinkers wanted to explain some similar things – similar interests  Cosmogony/Cosmology  Origins/birth of the world and structure/nature of the world  Origins vs. logos o Portray the world as something we can understand  As opposed to mystics who think the universe is beyond our grasp  Universe is rationall
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