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Lecture

The Greek Miracle
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Department
Political Science
Course
POL2107
Professor
Sophie Bourgault
Semester
Fall

Description
The "Greek Miracle" was neither a miracle nor entirely Greek, however, it does signify a hazy start to a new minded human in the western world. The supposed "Greek Miracle" has been, according to modern philosophers, initially started by a man named Thales from Miletus, to signify the 'break' from designating the causes for natural phenomena to the gods and their whims (mythical) to a more natural 'answer' to natural 'problems'. I will argue that this is not a miracle, of course, but also that it is not even what is meant by that term either, namely, that there was one significant break from the norm into a more 'modern' way of thinking. I will show that it was a step by step progression (albeit a significant one) that may have well been started further back, had we any evidence for or against it, that lead up to Socrates and, inevitably, us. To discuss this as a progression I must start before the supposed 'miracle' of Thales, and his new ideas, in the realm of ancient megaliths. We have evidence, and I have seen personally, that Stonehenge in England is set up, on purpose, to lay out the astronomical patterns of a given year, from the equinoxes to the solstices, which would tell me that they had a decent amount of knowledge of observed natural phenomena. This may have been for many different reasons, all of which are irrelevant here. With the ability to observe this process of nature changing they could, and did, pass that on in the form of megaliths, the very ancient version of a book, for the next generation to use and learn from, even if it were latently. This step in human history is the step to observing natural occurrences as something important to the existence of humans on some level, which will give rise to the next step. The next step was using this information for more practical uses than erecting large stones in fields for whatever reason. One of the first known writers of the western world on natural occurrences is Hesiod. Hesiod used this observable information to advise people of when to plant and harvest crops. This no doubt had a positive effect on the situation of the farmers; he himself was the son of one so he would have heard about it if he were wrong. This, however, isn't the big break from mythical causes, since Hesiod had a hand, according to Lindberg, in creating the characters to become the famous Greek gods, alongside Homer of course. His observation into the patterns of natural things only went so far, since he set up an elaborate realm of the gods, from their genealogy to their wars and history to explain the origins of the earth. I think this just comes from the lack of knowledge gained in the next several centuries for the default answer of 'supernatural' beings causing the changes. But Hesiod is a significant step in this hullabaloo by adding his data from observation and the connection from natural occurrences to natural changes, namely; that if you plant at a certain time of year your harvest will be better. "When the Pleiades, daughters of Atlas, are rising, begin your harvest, and your ploughing when they are going to set.” This information would no doubt, if correct, give rise to a class of people who had more free time than previous generations to do what they like, and no doubt some people chose thinking as what they like. Thales no doubt liked thinking. This is our next step, the illusive Thales. Thales took this observed natural process, or change, and started dwelling on this topic. After he traveled around the known world, Egypt and Mesopotamia, he learned from their teachers the art of mathematics and astronomy, which is why I mentioned that it isn't an exclusively Greek progression, and combined this new information with what the previous generation of his own area had learned. This combination resulted in his major four theories: the first is that the earth floats on water (which answers the earthquake question); the second is that the Arche of all things is water (since it was observed as giving life to things); the third is that magnets are alive (which is not important to this discussion); and finally that all things are filled with gods (which ruins the major point in the discussion of the "Greek Miracle" that this was the break from the mythical explanations to the natural ones). It is a step to think that the gods aren't in the sky or effecting things in human form necessarily, but if all things are full of gods that would include water, and in turn, would mean that his theory is based on mythical existence. Thales made other significant advances in the progression of natural philosophy by starting the communit
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