13 March 2014
Early Philosophers “Pre-Socratic” or “Mythopoeic” thinkers? The Ancient Greek philosophers played a pivotal role in the shaping of the western philosophical tradition. The Ancient Greek philosophical tradition broke away from a mythological approach to explaining the world, and it initiated an approach based on reason and evidence. Initially concerned with explaining the entire cosmos (the universe seen as a well-ordered whole), the Pre-Socratic philosophers strived to identify its single underlying principle. Their theories were diverse and none achieved a consensus, yet their legacy was the initiation of the quest to identify underlying principles. This sparked a series of investigations into the limit and role of reason and of our sensory faculties, how knowledge is acquired and what knowledge consists of. The Pre-Socratic philosophers focused on three problems over a 200 year period. Firstly, they tried to explain how one basic thing could be the source of many things such as water. They tried to find the arché (origin of existence). The world was made up of a large variety of objects whether it be biotic or abiotic, in liquid or in solid form. It seemed reasonable to suppose that all things shared a common source. Secondly, they tried to explain how things remained constant whilst changing over time. They believed that all things in the world were subjected to change eventually. Regardless of all the changes the objects still held certain characteristics which suggested that they could be changed back to their original form. Thirdly, they tried to see if principles of the universe were created by people or if this principles were absolute, in other words they tried to find out if there is a universal standard. These Pre-Socratic theories were regarded to be strange and daring. The first philosophers can thus be regarded to be the first scientist as they were looking for evidence and conducted numerous experiments to test the theories. Some theories were rejected over time as the theories were challenged by different philosophers who had their own ideas thus criticising the theories made in the past as stated by, Fieser (2012) I agree with this as early philosophers might not have had the technology available to test their theories but as technology developed over time their successor tested the theories and either approved or disapproved them. Thales of Miletus was regarded as the first philosopher as he predicted the first solar eclipse or so is said by astronomers. Thales was born in 625 BC and died in 545 BC. Thales theorized that the world was made from water, however, he did not refer to a water as a god, but as a force of nature and was believed to have held the transformation of this fundamental substance is the source of all living things. This shows that Pre-Socratic thinkers look to physical evidence and did not merely make wild accusations. In other words their theories were made on the observations they made. Thales noticed the different forms water took such as the liquid, solid and gas phases and made the conclusion that water should obviously be the main element which all other elements consist of as stated by Ballantyne (2008). Thales took these physical observations and made his conclusion on facts. This proves that he was not a mythopoeic thinker. However, one of Thales successors Anaximander, born in 670 BC and who died in 547 BC, believed that Thales was wrong. He doubted that any fundamental substance can exist in pure observable form. He believed that it will be “timeless” and “overpowering”. Thales other successor Anaximenes (585-525 BC) suggested that water was not the fundamental substance. He suggested that air was the fundamental substance. Summed up by Fieser (2012). This shows how different theories were criticized by numerous philosophers and new theories which was better and this significance brought about the development of technology and scientific methods. Some are...
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