I. Myths and the Birth of Science
Myths have always been part of human consciousness. Before the Spaniards introduced Christianity to the Philippines, Filipinos have embraced myths as a rule of life. The myth of “Bathala”, for example, was firmly believed as the explanation of how man and the world came to be. “Bathala”, the supreme being bestowed with all the superlative qualities, was then seen as the ultimate “cause” of everything. For our ancestors, myths were the “accepted explanations” for the various cosmological and social phenomena. They were seen as “the truths” that underlie reality. This mythological predisposition has been so engrained in our Filipino mindset that traces of it can still be observed today. Whenever beset by a seemingly unsolvable predicament, we Filipinos often say “bahala na” (anything goes), firmly believing that everything will be alright under the grace of the Almighty. The word “bahala” is obviously a modern rendition of “Bathala.” This alludes to the fact that the phrase “bahala na” also means “Bathala (God) will take care of everything.” Indeed myths shaped, not only the world-view of our ancestors, but also our modern life-worlds. 2500 years ago, mythological explanations were also widespread in Greece, the heart of the ancient western civilization. Before it became the much-applauded scientific and philosophical culture, Greece has also been a mythological culture. Spearheaded by the likes of Hesiod and Homer, Greeks viewed the world from a very complex mythological perspective. Famous gods and goddesses like Zeus and Athena, and Aphrodite and Aries were all Greek concoctions that were considered as “causes” of the many transformations observed in nature. Myths served as the uncontested rationalization for all the natural phenomena. However, something remarkable and “unthinkable” happened in Miletus, a small corner of a Greek colony in Asia Minor – man suddenly began to think “scientifically” and “philosophically.” This was a moment (considered as a gift to mankind) which totally changed the course of the human history. Until today, no one still knows why or how this happened. It continues to be a mystery – a blessing, I can say – that elevated man into a higher state of consciousness. Some scholars say that the flourishing economic condition of sixth-century Miletus was the impetus for the emergence of this scientific and philosophical approach of thinking in Greece. Veritably, wealth stimulates not only the economic progress of a nation but also its intellectual and cultural progress. When his primal needs have all been served, man begins to ask questions which “busy” and “preoccupied” minds cannot ask. Questions like “why are we here?”, “where did everything come from?”, and “what is the underlying stuff of all things?” This is what happened in Greece. While the slaves did all the manual labors, the citizens concentrated on knowledge and culture. Eventually, the citizens’ inquisitive minds sought for explanations beyond the myths, for explanations which were grounded in the objects themselves. Thus, an imminent change from a mythologically imagined world to a world grasped scientifically and philosophically took place in Greece. However, science and philosophy were not yet distinguished during that time. The Greek philosophers simply saw both disciplines as man’s passionate disposition towards the acquisition of “wisdom.” Their entanglement proved to be very fruitful and find their visible significance in the natural philosophers.
II. The Quest for the “Underlying Stuff” of Nature
According to Aristotle, “Thales of Miletus” (624-547 BC) was the first scientific and philosophical thinker, as he was the first person to investigate on the originating principle (archê) of things. He was often pronounced as the “Father of Science” and the founder of the school of natural philosophy or Cosmology (study of the “ordered” universe). He has varied interests, investigating on almost all...
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