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Chapter 2

Chapter 2

Course Code
Michelle Hilscher

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Chapter 2: Touchstones: The Origins of Psychological Thought
Touchstone originally referred to stone used to test quality of gold or silver because of mark it left upon
Came to mean any criterion by which the value of something is measured
Pythagoras (570-495 BCE)
One of most famous figures in Western intellectual tradition
Very little known about certainty about his life
Described as having miraculous powers
Central features of Pythagorean myth is that he founded semi-secret society in Italy
oMembers of society supposed to have been able to attune themselves to harmony that ordered the
First understood reality has an underlying mathematical order
oUpon hearing sounds from black smiths hammers, he realized that pitch and hammer’s weight
correlated- high sounds with light hammers
Pythagoreans convinced of virtue of unity and all that this concept implies
oUnity implies wholeness and oneness
oOpposite of unity is undesirable, leading to chaos
Problem felt by every person is how to reconcile that discordant state of affairs we normally experience
with one that we value
Pythagorean Cosmology
Many see universe as initially a unity that becomes differentiated into pairs of opposites
oOpposites are then reunited or harmonized to generate various forms of life we witness
Several features of Pythagorean world view
oNature of opposites
oImportance of number in regulating phenomena
The Pythagorean Opposites
Pythagoreans believed that some pairs of opposites were particularly useful for describing our experience
oMost important is limite vs. unlimited
Crucial to process of creation
The integration of opposites produces the limited
We do not experience things that are unlimited
Everything we experience has a limit
oUnion of unlimited and limited produces the world we experience
When mixture of opposite tendencies is just right proportion, there is harmonious outcome, union of
opposites that achieves unity and integrity we value
Psyche or soul seeks harmony
Things we overlook are those harmonies developing out of the interplay of opposites
Limit is positive, unlimited is negative
oUnlimited is out of balance, lacking proportion
oPositive: odd, unity, square
oNegative: even, plurality, oblong
Pythagorean Mathematics
oLiterally, refers to carpenters square
oFiguratively, addition or subtraction of one figure from another figure of same shape
oExample page 21
Numbers are responsible for uniting the opposites in harmonious manner
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