[PHI 205] - Midterm Exam Guide - Everything you need to know! (20 pages long)

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PHI 205
MIDTERM EXAM
STUDY GUIDE
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The Ancient Provenance of Philosophy: The Presocratics and the Sophists
Had its roots in Greek literature
o Homer’s Odyssey and Iliad
o Hesiod’s Works and Days
These works contained stories, narratives, and myths about gods
o Were essentially the Ancient Greek equivalent of bibles
Additionally, they were not just stories about gods, but also people.
They were stories, people, and gods representative of arête
o Arête means “virtue” or “excellence”
Background of the political arrangement of Athens at the time:
Servants and slaves were common
Monarchy and priesthood tended to rule
o Not much freedom or ability to contribute to the government/laws
Then, a proto-democracy emerged
o Not democracy like we think of it today
Still, however, it was very unusual for its time.
o Had to be wealthy, land-owning patriarch (or son of a patriarch)
These individuals got to have a say or vote
At times, required to be jurors, make decisions, be judges, etc.
o It became valuable to be articulate
The ability to speak well (and publicly), read, and write were valued
o Education began to be desired
There were no schools, however.
Families would hire people, like tutors or private teachers
Wanted to teach their sons reading, writing, and public speaking
o Teaching became a profession
Xenophanes and Protagoras were both teachers in this time
Especially Protagoras
Xenophanes of Colophan (c. 570 BCE)
“Both Homer and Hesiod have ascribed to the gods all deeds
which among men are matters of reproach and blame:
“T   H a a  a   a a a
 , a     []…B     a
the sophistries of mythology, whereas we must interrogate those who present a
aa a.” – Aristotle
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thieving, adultery, and deceiving one another.”
Xenophanes critically questioned the double standard between gods and humans
Critique of blind worship
“If horses had hands, or oxen or lions,
or if they could draw with their hands and produce works as men do,
then horses would draw figures of gods like horses, and oxen like oxen,
and each would render the bodies
to be of the same frame that each of them have.”
We make the gods like us in our depictions of them
o (“We” referring to ancient Grecians, though it could be applicable today)
If the gods are above us, why are we attributing our chracteristics to them, and not vice
versa?
Xenophanes is saying that there’s something problematic about the Grecians’ depictions
of gods
This is a strong example of what can be called rational theology (or rational
polytheology )
“One god, greatest among gods and men,
not at all like mortals in form or thought.”
This excerpt is almost monotheistic
This was a very challenging thought for that time
However, it was typically interpreted as Xenophanes saying there is a pantheon of gods,
but still one who is essentially in charge, or more powerful or holy than the others.
Protagoras of Aberda (c. 490-420 BCE)
“Concerning the gods I am unable to know either that they are or that they are not or
what their appearance is like. For many are the things that hinder knowledge: the
obscurity of the matter and the shortness of human life.”
This is more of an agnostic view, in contrast to Xenophanes’ beliefs or theories.
All of these questions and critiques posed by Protagoras and Xenophanes were possible
because of the political setup of Athens at the time
o This would not have been possible in other areas or at an earlier time
o If circumstances were different, there could have been threats to life were
someone to pose similar beliefs or critiques.
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