All things come out of the one and the one out of all things. (Heraclitus)
What gave these men the right to be considered
philosophers, unlike the other astronomers, geographers and doctors who were
active especially in the latter half of the period, was their common assumption
that the world possessed some kind of integral unity and determinability which
could be understood and explained in rational terms. A more important debt
to myth appears in the central presupposition that the world is coherent and
intelligible, is somehow a unity in spite of the diversity of its appearance.
It is from the more or less obscure intuition of the oneness that is the ground and principle of all multiplicity that philosophy takes its source. And not alone philosophy, but natural science as well. All science, in Meyerson's phrase, is the reduction of multiplicities to identities. Divining the One within and beyond the many, we find an intrinsic plausibility in any explanation of the diverse in terms of a single principle. (Aldous Huxley, The Perennial Philosophy)
And those whose hearts are fixed on Reality itself deserve the title of Philosophers. (Plato, Republic)
The society we have described can never grow into a reality or see the light of day, and there will be no end to the troubles of states, or indeed, my dear Glaucon, of humanity itself, till philosophers are kings in this world, or till those we now call kings and rulers really and truly become philosophers, and political power and philosophy thus come into the same hands, while the many natures now content to follow either to the exclusion of the other are forcibly debarred from doing so. This is what I have hesitated to say so long, knowing what a paradox it would sound; for it is not easy to see that there is no other road to happiness, either for society or the individual. (Plato, Republic)
When the mind's eye rests on objects illuminated by truth and reality, it understands and comprehends them, and functions intelligently; but when it turns to the twilight world of change and decay, it can only form opinions, its vision is confused and its beliefs shifting, and it seems to lack intelligence. (Plato, Republic)
Ancient Greek Philosophy marked a fundamental turning point in the evolution of humanity and our ideas about our existence in the universe. Over the past 2,500 years their knowledge directly contributed to the evolution of our current science / reason based society. Thus it is unfortunate that many people imagine our post-modern society to now be so 'enlightened' that the Ancient Greek Philosophers have become irrelevant. In fact the opposite is true. As Bertrand Russell observed (History of Western Philosophy), it was the Ancient Greek Philosophers who first discovered and discussed the fundamental Principles of Philosophy, and most significantly, little has been added to their knowledge since. As Einstein wrote;
Somebody who only reads newspapers and at best books of contemporary authors looks to me like an extremely near-sighted person who scorns eyeglasses. He is completely dependent on the prejudices and fashions of his times, since he never gets to see or hear anything else. And what a person thinks on his own without being stimulated by the thoughts and experiences of other people is even in the best case rather paltry and monotonous. There are only a few enlightened people with a lucid mind and style and with good taste within a century. What has been preserved of their work belongs among the most precious possessions of mankind. We owe it to a few writers of antiquity (Plato, Aristotle, etc.) that the people in the Middle Ages could slowly extricate themselves from the superstitions and ignorance that had darkened life for more than half a millennium. Nothing is more needed to overcome the modernist's snobbishness. (Albert Einstein, 1954)
It is therefore both interesting and important to consider the foundations which caused the blossoming of Ancient Greek Philosophy. First and foremost was the realisation that ALL IS ONE, as Nietzsche writes;
Greek philosophy seems to begin with a preposterous fancy, with the proposition that water is the origin and mother-womb of all things. Is it really necessary to stop there and become serious? Yes, and for three reasons: firstly, because the preposition does enunciate something about the origin of things; secondly, because it does so without figure and fable; thirdly and lastly, because it contained, although only in the chrysalis state, the idea :everything is one. ... That which drove him (Thales) to this generalization was a metaphysical dogma, which had its origin in a mystic intuition and which together with the ever renewed endeavors to express it better, we find in all philosophies- the proposition: everything is one! (Friedrich Nietzsche, The Greeks)
Further, the Ancient Greeks realised that Motion (Flux / Activity / Change) was central to existence and reality, as Aristotle writes;
The first philosophy (Metaphysics) is universal and is exclusively concerned with primary substance. ... And here we will have the science to study that which is just as that which is, both in its essence and in the properties which, just as a thing that is, it has. (Aristotle, 340BC)
The entire preoccupation of the physicist is with things that contain within themselves a principle of movement and rest. And to seek for this is to seek for the second kind of principle, that from which comes the beginning of the change. (Aristotle, 340BC)
Only recently (Wolff, 1986 - Haselhurst, 1997) has it been possible, with the discovery of the Metaphysics of Space and Motion and the Wave Structure of Matter (WSM), to unite the ideas of Ancient Greek Philosophy with modern Physics, Philosophy and Metaphysics. The solution is simple and obvious once known.
We hope you enjoy the quotes from
the Ancient Greek Philosophers - and reflect upon what it truly means to 'Know Thyself' as the foundation
for living wisely.
Geoff Haselhurst, Karene Howie Email
Greek philosophy seems to begin with a preposterous fancy, with the proposition that water is the origin and mother-womb of all things. Is it really necessary to stop there and become serious? Yes, and for three reasons: firstly, because the preposition does enunciate something about the origin of things; secondly, because it does so without figure and fable; thirdly and lastly, because it contained, although only in the chrysalis state, the idea :everything is one. ..That which drove him (Thales) to this generalization was a metaphysical dogma, which had its origin in a mystic intuition and which together with the ever renewed endeavors to express it better, we find in all philosophies- the proposition: everything is one! (Nietzsche, 1890)
The philosopher tries to make the total-chord of the universe re-echo within himself and then to project it into ideas outside himself: whilst he is contemplative like the creating artist, sympathetic like the religionist, looking out for ends and causalities like the scientific man, whilst he feels himself swell up to the macrocosm, he still retains the circumspection to contemplate himself coldly as the reflex of the world (Nietzsche, 1890)
... it is true, on the one hand the only means to communicate what has been seen, but on the other hand it is a paltry means, and at the bottom a metaphorical, absolutely inexact translation into a different sphere and language. Thus Thales saw the Unity of the 'Existent,' and when he wanted to communicate this idea he talked of water. (Nietzsche, 1890, The Greeks)
Thales was a native of Miletus, in Asia Minor. He is said to
have travelled in Egypt, and to have then brought to the Greeks the science
of Geometry. .. Thales seemed to have discovered how to calculate the distance
of a ship at sea from observations taken at two points on land, and how to
estimate the height of a pyramid from the length of its shadow.
According to Aristotle, Thales thought that water is the original substance, out of which all others are formed; and he maintained that the earth rests on water. Aristotle also says of him that he said the magnet has a soul in it, because it moves the iron and further, that all things are full of gods. (Russell, The Milesian School, 1946)
Anaximander held that all things come from
a single primal substance, but it is not water, as Thales held, or any other
of the substances that we know. It is infinite, eternal and ageless, and 'it
encompassed all the worlds'- for he thought our world was only one of many.
(Bertrand Russell, The History of Western Philosophy)
Into that from which things take their rise they pass away once more, as is ordained, for they make reparition and satisfaction to one another for their injustice according to the ordering of time. (Anaximander) (Bertrand Russell, The History of Western Philosophy)
The worlds were not created, as in Jewish or Christian theology, but evolved. There was evolution also in the animal kingdom.
.. he thought that the earth was shaped like a round table, and that air encompasses everything: ' Just as our soul, being air, holds us together, so do breath and air encompass the whole world.' (Anaximander) It seems that the world breathes. (Bertrand Russell, The History of Western Philosophy)
Anaximander accepted the idea of the single originative material, divine and all-encircling, but called it 'the Indefinite'- implying that it was both boundless in extent and not identical with any nameable constituent of our world. At this Anaximander stayed; that is, he remained within the deep shadows which like gigantic specters were lying on the mountain range of such a world-perception. The more one wanted to approach the problem of solving how out of the Indefinite the Definite, out of the Eternal the Temporal, out of the Just the Unjust could by succession ever originate, the darker the night became. (Nietzsche, 1890, The Greeks)
Everything that has once come into existence also perishes, whether we think of human life or of water or of heat and cold; everywhere where definite qualities are to be noticed, we are allowed to prophesy the extinction of these qualities- according to the all-embracing proof of experience. Thus a being that possesses definite qualities and consists of them can never be the origin and principle of things; the veritable ens, the 'Existent,' Anaximander concluded, cannot posses any definite qualities, otherwise, like all other things, it would necessarily have originated and perished. (Nietzsche, 1890, The Greeks)
The immortality and eternity of the Primordial-being lies not in an infiniteness and inexhaustibility- as usually the expounders of Anaximander presuppose- but in this, that it lacks the definite qualities which lead to destruction, for which reason it bears also its name: The Indefinite. The thus labeled Primordial-being is superior to all Becoming and for this very reason it guarantees the eternity and unimpeded course of Becoming. This last unity is that Indefinite, the mother-womb of all things, can, it is true, be designated only negatively by man, as something to which no predicate out of the existing world of Becoming can be allotted, and might be considered a peer to the Kantian 'Thing-in-itself'. (Nietzsche, 1890, The Greeks)
Thales shows the need of simplifying the empire of plurality, and of reducing it to a mere expansion or disguise of the one single existing quality, water. Anaximander goes beyond him with two steps. Firstly he puts the question to himself: how, if there exists an eternal Unity at all, is that Plurality possible? And he takes the answer out of the contradictory, self-devouring, and denying character of this Plurality. The existence of this Plurality becomes a moral phenomenon to him; it is not justified, it expiates itself continually through destruction. But then the question occurs to him: yet why has not everything that has become perished long ago, since, indeed, quite an eternity of time has already gone by? Whence the ceaseless current of the River of Becoming? (Nietzsche, 1890, The Greeks)
In the next generation (3rd Milesian) Anaximenes reverted to the concept of a specific cosmogonical substance: air/mist (aer in Greek) or breath. .. succeeded in making material monism logically feasible for the first time..... Xenophanes put in their place a single, motionless god who 'shakes all things by the thought of his mind'. (The Concise Encyclopedia of Western Philosophy and Philosophers, 1991)
We must here simply combine their ideas of One Cosmogonical substance Space (aer, aether) and the shaking of all things is the perpetual motion of waves in an infinite Space.
Further modifications of the Milesian approach were made by Heraclitus .. stating that the unity of things was to be found in their essential structure or arrangement rather than their material. This common structure or Logos, which was not superficially apparent, was chiefly embodied in a single kinetic material, fire. It was responsible both for the regularity of natural changes and for the essential connexion of opposites - Heraclitus adopted this traditional analysis of differentiation - through balanced interaction. The regularity underlying change was for Heraclitus the significant thing ...
The Spherical In and Out Waves explains this change and opposites.
Firstly, Heraclitus denied the duality of two quite diverse worlds, into the assumption of which Anaximander had been pushed; he no longer distinguished a physical world from a metaphysical, a realm of definite qualities from a realm of indefinable indefiniteness. For this one world which was left to him - shielded all round by eternal, unwritten laws, floating up and down in the brazen beat of rhythm - shows nowhere persistence, indestructibility, a bulwark in the stream. Louder than Anaximander, Heraclitus exclaimed: 'I see nothing but Becoming. Be not deceived! It is the fault of your limited outlook and not the fault of the essence of things if you believe that you see firm land anywhere in the ocean of Becoming and Passing. You need names for things, just as if they had a rigid permanence, but the very river in which you bathe a second time is no longer the same one which you entered before.
This is also true, there are no continuously existing material particles, rather, the particle effect of Matter is continually appearing and disappearing as each successive In-Wave flows In and Out through its Wave-Center. Further, as Matter exists as spherical Wave Motions of Space, matter is in perpetual motion / activity / change.
(From Friedrich Nietzsche, 1890, The Greeks)
Just as Heraclitus conceived time, so also for instance did Schopenhauer, who repeatedly says of it that in it every instant exists only in so far as it has annihilated the preceding one, its father, in order to be itself effaced equally quickly; that past and future are as unreal as any dream; that the present is only the dimensionless and unstable boundary between the two; that, however, like time, so space and again like the latter, so also everything that is simultaneously in space and time, has only a relative existence, only through and for the sake of a something else, of the same kind as itself, i.e., existing only under the same limitations.
This truth is in the highest degree self-evident, accessible to everyone, and just for that very reason, abstractly and rationally, it is only attained with great difficulty. Whoever has this truth before his eyes must, however, also proceed at once to the next Heraclitean consequence and say that the whole essence of actuality is in fact activity, and that for actuality there is no other kind of existence and reality, as Schopenhauer has likewise expounded (The World as Will and Idea, Vol.1, sect.4):
Only as active does it fill space and time: its action upon the immediate object determines the perception in which alone it exists: Cause and effect thus constitute the whole nature of matter; its true being is its action. The totality of everything material is therefore very appropriately called in German Wirklichkeit [actuality]- a word which is far more expressive then Realitat [reality]. That upon which actuality acts is always matter; actuality's whole 'Being' and essence therefore consist only in the orderly change, which one part of it causes in another, and is therefore wholly relative, according to a relation which is valid only within the boundary of actuality, as in the case of time and space.
The Eternal and exclusive Becoming, the total instability of all reality and actuality, which continually works and becomes and never is, as Heraclitus teaches- is an awful and appalling conception, and its effects most nearly related to that sensation by which during an earthquake one loses confidence in the firmly grounded earth.'
The Things themselves in the permanency of which the limited intellect of man and animal believes do not 'exist' at all; they are as the fierce flashing and fiery sparkling of drawn swords, as the stars of Victory rising with a radiant resplendence in the battle of the opposite qualities.
The arena and the object of this struggle is Matter - which some natural forces alternately endeavour to disintegrate and build up again at the expense of other natural forces - as also Space and Time, the union of which through causality is this very matter.
With such discontented persons also originate the numerous complaints as to the obscurity of the Heraclitean style; probably no man has ever written clearer and more illuminatingly; of course, very abruptly, and therefore naturally obscure to the racing readers.
As man among men Heraclitus was incredible; and though he was seen paying attention to the play of noisy children, even then he was reflecting upon what never man thought of on such an occasion: the play of the great world-child, Zeus. ...'I sought and investigated myself,' he said, with a word by which one designates the investigation of an oracle; as if he and no one else were the true fulfiller and achiever of the Delphic precept: Know thyself.
That which he beheld, the doctrine of the Law in the Becoming, and of the Play in the Necessity, must henceforth be beheld eternally; he has raised the curtain of this greatest stage play. (Nietzsche, 1890, The Greeks)
Parmenides and his follower Zeno, who lived in Elea (Greek colony in southern Italy) argued that reality must be single and unchanging, and by implication that the plural sense-world is illusory.
Also counted as an Eleatic, because he accepted these views, was Milissus of Samos, who flourished ~ 440 B.C.; he amended Parmenides by arguing that Being was infinite, not finite and incorporeal. He also produced an explicit argument against sensation: we perceive plurality, yet we also perceive that things change, which on Eleatic premises is logically impossible; therefore perception is false, and if there are many they must be of the same kind as the Eleatic One.
By tearing entirely asunder the senses and the ability to think in abstractions, i.e. reason, just as if they were two thoroughly separate capacities, he demolished the intellect itself, and incited people to that wholly erroneous separation of 'mind' and 'body' which, especially since Plato, lies like a curse on philosophy. All sense perceptions, Parmenides judges, cause only illusions, and their chief illusion is their deluding us to believe that even the 'Nonexistent' exists, that even the Becoming has a 'Being'. (Russell, 1946)
This is simply the Problem of the One and the Many which is solved by understanding how Many Things (matter as spherical Wave-Motions of Space) exist and are interconnected by One Thing (Space).
As with many of the Ancient Greek Philosophers, Parmenides believed the only true being is 'The One', which is infinite, ageless, indivisible and eternal.
... the Existent is always there and could not of itself first originate and it could not explain any Originating, any Becoming.
'Existent' is indivisible, for where is the second power, which should divide it? It is immovable, for whither should it move itself? It cannot be infinitely great nor infinitely small, for it is perfect and a perfectly given infinitude is a contradiction. Thus the 'Existent' is suspended, delimited, perfect, immovable, everywhere equally balanced and such equilibrium equally perfect at any point, like a globe, but not in a space, for otherwise this space would be a second 'Existent'. But there cannot exist several 'Existents,' for in order to separate them, something would have to exist which was not existing, an assumption which neutralizes itself. Thus there exists only the eternal Unity. (Russell, 1946)
Parmenides wrote a poem, On Nature, claiming that we can only meaningfully say of anything that 'it is'. The predicate 'is not' is literally nonsense: not-being is impossible, inexpressible, and inconceivable. Since not-being was equated at this time with empty space, there could be no movement; but Parmenides rejected change on metaphysical rather than physical grounds, since any change involved its subject in not-being what it was before. This confusion between the existential and the predicative 'is' was not cleared up until Plato. From the single premise 'it is' Parmenides proceeded to the conclusion that reality or 'being' is homogeneous, motionless, solid and indivisible. (The Concise Encyclopedia of Western Philosophy and Philosophers, 1991)
The Metaphysics of Space and Motion and the Wave Structure of matter solves Parmenides dilemma. It is true that One Space is homogenous, solid and indivisible, his error is to assume that Space is Motionless (same error as Kant and indeed most philosophers). On the contrary, it is matter, as the spherical wave Motion of Space, which is the second thing that can exist within the One Thing, Space. This then explains how Many material things (Wave-Centers of Spherical Standing Waves) can exist within One Thing (Space). It is the interconnected Motions of the Wave-Centers (the Cause of the Existence and Identity of Material Objects including ourselves) that is changing and perishable. Thus the Changing Flux (wave Motion of Space) can now be related to the Unchanging Eternal Space.
The 'Existent' (Space) does not 'Become', it eternally exists, rather it is the Waves that continuously 'Pass' and 'Become' in Space, thus explaining Parmenides' speculation;
That which is true must exist in eternal presence; about it
cannot be said 'it was,' 'it will be.' The 'Existent' cannot have become; for
out of what should it have become? Out of the 'Nonexistent'? But that does
not exist and can produce nothing. Out of the 'Existent'? This would not produce
anything but itself. The same applies to the Passing; it is just as impossible
as the Becoming, as any change, any increase, any decrease.
Thou canst not know what is not - that is impossible - nor utter it; for it is the same thing that can be thought and that can be.
How, then, can what is to be going to be in the future? Or how could it come into being? If it came into being, it is not; nor is it if it is going to be in the future. Thus is becoming extinguished and passing away not to be heard of. (From Russell, 1946)
The One is infinite and indivisible. It is not, as Heraclitus, a union of opposites, since there are no opposites. He apparently thought, for instance, that 'cold' means only 'not hot' and 'dark' means only 'not light'. ... He seems to think of it (the One) as material and extended, for he speaks of it as a sphere. But it cannot be divided, because of the whole of it is present everywhere. (Russell, 1946)
The Ancient Greek Philosophers were often very close to the truth, as reflected in Parmenides realisation that the One existent is material (substance), extended (Space) and a Sphere (caused by matter as Spherical Waves in Space). Further, the Wave-Center of the Spherical Waves, which causes the discrete particle effect, is not a division, but rather, a production from the One Unity, the Focal-Point of Spherical Standing Waves that determine the size of our finite spherical Universe within an Infinite Space. (Matter and universe are one and the same thing - matter is large!)
The ancient Greeks 'Atomic Theory of Matter' is not correct (founded on many discrete things, rather than One continuous Infinite thing) and has caused many problems for human knowledge ever since. The discrete 'particle' effect of 'Atoms' is caused by the Wave-Centers of Spherical Standing Waves in Space.
At the most fundamental level atomism is the belief that all
phenomena are explicable in terms of the properties and behavior of ultimate,
elementary, localized entities (or 'fundamental particles'). Thus it prescribes
a strategy for the construction of scientific theories in which the behavior
of complex bodies is to be explained in terms of their component parts. That
strategy has led to many of the successes of modern physical science, though
these do not prove that there actually are 'ultimate entities' of the type
postulated by atomism.
Their (the atomists) analysis goes 'behind' the appearance of minute, unchangeable and indestructible 'atoms' separated by the emptiness of 'the void'. It is the void which is said to make change and movement possible. All apparent change is simply the result of rearrangements of the atoms as a consequence of collisions between them. This seems to lead to mechanical determinism, though, in an attempt to leave room for freewill, Epicurus and Lucretius postulated that atoms might 'deviate' in their courses.
The later atomists also regarded 'weight' as an intrinsic property of the atoms. Lucretius says, that the number of atoms is infinite but the variety of shapes and sizes is finite (arguing fallaciously that otherwise there could be no limit to the size of the atoms).
However if 'what exists' is 'atoms', what of the 'void'? In different ways both Aristotle and Descartes denied that there could be such a thing as literally 'empty space'. Physically therefore they saw the world as a plenum. Atomism was also associated with atheism, since as Lucretius put it, 'Nothing can ever be created out of nothing, even by divine power.' Conversely no thing can ever become nothing - so the atomists proposed a strict principle of conservation of matter.
Newton, following the example of the Cambridge Platonist Henry
More, justified his introduction of 'Space' as a real, infinite entity (and
by implication, the existence of 'hard, massy, impenetrable, movable particles')
by claiming that Absolute Space is constituted by the Omnipresence of God.
Newton sought to make the action of Universal Gravitation across empty space believable by references to the power of God, but as the investigation of electricity, magnetism and chemical affinity developed in the 18th and 19th centuries attempts were made to find physical explanations for 'action-at-a-distance'. In the theories of Boscovich and Faraday the dualism of Atoms and the Void is replaced by an all-pervasive 'field of force' in which there are many mathematical centers. (This version also informs the account of gravitation in Einstein's General Theory of Relativity.)
A thoroughgoing positivism will continue to hold that 'atomic theories' are simply devices for talking about observable phenomena.
The attempt of the ancient atomists to solve a metaphysical problem about the nature of change resulted in a brilliantly fruitful strategy for the construction of theories in the physical sciences. However there are unanswered philosophical objections to atomism and the very successes it has stimulated suggest that 'the stuff of the world' cannot ultimately be understood in terms of atomism. (Urmson, The Concise Encyclopedia of Western Philosophy and Philosophers, 1991)
The Ancients used the phrase, 'The Void' ; Modern Physics, 'The Spatially
Extended Force Field' as the Connecting Medium for the Atoms. The mathematical
logic of the 'Force Field' acts as the required 'Medium' that connects and
moves (accelerates) the 'Particles'. It is a tool for the mathematical physicist
(Logical Positivist), but does not physically exist. As shown by the Metaphysics
of Space and Motion and the Wave Structure of Matter, there are many problems
and paradoxes with this separate 'Particle' view of the world. It is obvious
that 'Particles' cannot explain action-at-a-distance through 'empty' Space,
thus require the further existence of 'Force Fields', but then how does the
'Particle generate the Force Field' - there is no necessary connection!
Likewise it is obvious that One Thing must physically exist which necessarily connects the Many Things, and there is only one thing that is common to all things, Space.
But Socrates divined still more. He saw right through his noble Athenians; he perceived that his case, his peculiar case, was no exception even in his time. The same kind of degeneracy was silently preparing itself everywhere: ancient Athens was dying out. And Socrates understood that the whole world needed him- his means, his remedy, his special artifice for self-preservation. Everywhere the instincts were in a state of anarchy; everywhere people were within an ace of excess: the monstrum in animo was the general danger. 'The instincts would play the tyrant; we must discover a countertyrant who is stronger than they.' (Friedrich Nietzsche, The Greeks)
Reason was then discovered as a saviour; neither Socrates nor his 'patients' were at liberty to be rational or not, as they pleased; at that time it was de riguer, it had become a last shift. (Friedrich Nietzsche, The Greeks)
To be obliged to fight the instincts- this is the formula of
degeneration: as long as life is in the ascending line, happiness is the same
as instinct. (Friedrich Nietzsche, The Greeks)
.. tends to the view that virtue is knowledge and vice is ignorance. Socrates takes a particular virtue and tries to find its essence by giving a general definition of it. He produces syllogistic arguments, that is, arguments where two premises when put together necessitate a new proposition, the conclusion. (Urmson, The Concise Encyclopedia of Western Philosophy and Philosophers, 1991, p299)
He impresses us, more than any other figure in literature, with the supreme importance of thinking as well as possible and making our actions conform to our thoughts. To this end he preaches knowledge of one's own starting-points, hypothetical entertainment of opinions, exploration of their consequences and connexions, willingness to follow argument wherever it leads, public confession of one's thoughts, invitation to others to criticize, readiness to reconsider, and at the same time firm action in accordance with one's present beliefs. (Urmson, The Concise Encyclopedia of Western Philosophy and Philosophers, 1991, p301)
Plato is an astute and important philosopher, who writes beautifully and with great power and elegance on Truth and Reality. His work is still profoundly important in today's Post-modern world, and can be easily understood due to its simplicity of language and engaging style of dialogue. The following quotes are taken from Plato's great work 'The Republic', and speak grandly for themselves, thus I largely leave them as they are, with little commentary or analysis.
'We are like people looking for something they have in their hands all the time; we're looking in all directions except at the thing we want, which is probably why we haven't found it.'
'That is the story. Do you think there is any way of making them believe it?'
'Not in the first generation', he said, 'but you might succeed with the second and later generations.'
'We will ask the critics to be serious for once, and remind them that it was not so long ago that the Greeks thought - as most of the barbarians still think - that it was shocking and ridiculous for men to be seen naked. When the Cretans, and later the Spartans, first began to take exercise naked, wasn't there plenty of material for the wit of the comedians of the day?'
'There was indeed'
'But when experience showed them that it was better to strip than wrap themselves up, what reason had proved best ceased to look absurd to the eye. Which shows how idle it is to think anything ridiculous except what is wrong.'
'And isn't it a bad thing to be deceived about the truth, and a good thing to know what the truth is? For I assume that by knowing the truth you mean knowing things as they really are.'
'The philosopher is in love with truth, that is, not with the changing world of sensation, which is the object of opinion, but with the unchanging reality which is the object of knowledge.'
'Truthfulness. He will never willingly tolerate an untruth, but will hate it as much as he loves truth .. And is there anything more closely connected with wisdom than truth?'
'Then may we not fairly plead in reply that our true lover of knowledge naturally strives for truth, and is not content with common opinion, but soars with undimmed and unwearied passion till he grasps the essential nature of things with the mental faculty fitted to do so, that is, with the faculty which is akin to reality, and which approaches and unites with it, and begets intelligence and truth as children, and is only released from travail when it has thus reached knowledge and true life and satisfaction?'
'What is at issue is the conversion of the mind from the twilight of error to the truth, that climb up into the real world which we shall call true philosophy.'
'The object of knowledge is what exists and its function to know about reality.'
'And those whose hearts are fixed on Reality itself deserve the title of Philosophers.'
'When the mind's eye rests on objects illuminated by truth and reality, it understands and comprehends them, and functions intelligently; but when it turns to the twilight world of change and decay, it can only form opinions, its vision is confused and its beliefs shifting, and it seems to lack intelligence.'
'But surely 'blind' is just how you would describe men who have no true knowledge of reality, and no clear standard in their mind to refer to, as a painter refers to his model, and which they can study closely before they start laying down rules about what is fair or right or good where they are needed, or maintaining, as Guardians, any rules that already exist.'
'Yes, blind is just about what they are'
'One trait in the philosopher's character we can assume is his love of the knowledge that reveals eternal reality, the realm unaffected by change and decay. He is in love with the whole of that reality, and will not willingly be deprived even of the most insignificant fragment of it - just like the lovers and men of ambition we described earlier on.'
'...for the object of education is to teach us to love beauty.'
'And once we have given our community a good start,' I pointed out, ' the process will be cumulative. By maintaining a sound system of education you produce citizens of good character, and citizens of sound character, with the advantage of a good education, produce in turn children better than themselves and better able to produce still better children in their turn, as can be seen with animals.'
'... It is in education that bad discipline can most easily creep in unobserved,' he replied.
'Yes,' I agreed, ' because people don't treat it seriously there, and think no harm can come of it.'
'It only does harm,' he said, 'because it makes itself at home and gradually undermines morals and manners; from them it invades business dealings generally, and then spreads into the laws and constitution without any restraint, until it has made complete havoc of private and public life.''
''And when men who aren't fit to be educated get an education they don't deserve, are not the thoughts and opinions they produce fairly called sophistry, without a legitimate idea or any trace of true wisdom among them?'
'The first thing our artist must do,' I replied, ' - and it's not easy - is to take human society and human habits and wipe them clean out, to give himself a clean canvas. For our philosophic artist differs from all others in being unwilling to start work on an individual or a city, or draw out laws, until he is given, or has made himself, a clean canvas.'
'Because a free man ought not to learn anything under duress. Compulsory physical exercise does no harm to the body, but compulsory learning never sticks to the mind.'
'Then don't use compulsion,' I said to him, ' but let your children's lessons take the form of play. You will learn more about their natural abilities that way.'
'Do we learn with one part of us, feel angry with another, and desire the pleasures of eating and sex with another? Or do we employ our mind as a whole when our energies are employed in any of these ways?'
'We can call the reflective element in the mind the reason, and the element with which it feels hunger and thirst, and the agitations of sex and other desires, the irrational appetite - an element closely connected with pleasure and satisfaction.'
'So the reason ought to rule, having the ability and foresight to act for the whole, and the spirit ought to obey and support it. And this concord between them is effected, as we said, by a combination of intellectual and physical training, which tunes up the reason by intellectual training and tones down the crudeness of natural high spirits by harmony and rhythm.'
'When these two elements have been brought up and trained to their proper function, they must be put in charge of appetite, which forms the greater part of each man's make-up and is naturally insatiable. They must prevent taking its fill of the so-called physical pleasures, for otherwise it will get too large and strong to mind its own business and will try to subject and control the other elements, which it has no right to do, and so wreck life entirely.'
'Then let us be content with the terms we used earlier on for the four divisions of our line - knowledge, reason, belief and illusion. The last two we class together as opinion, the first two as intelligence, opinion being concerned with the world of becoming, knowledge with the world of reality. Knowledge stands to opinion as the world of reality does to that of becoming, and intelligence stands to belief and reason to illusion as knowledge stands to opinion.'
In the analogy of The Cave, Plato shows the ascent of the mind from illusion to truth and pure philosophy, and the difficulties which accompany its progress.
'Then think what would happen to them if they were released from their bonds and cured of their delusions. Suppose one of them were let loose, and suddenly compelled to stand up and turn his head and look and walk towards the fire; all actions would be painful and he would be too dazzled to see properly the objects of which he used to see the shadows. So if he was told that what he used to see was mere illusion and that he was now nearer reality and seeing more correctly, because he was turned towards objects that were more real, and if on top of that he were compelled to say what each of the passing objects was when it was pointed out to him, don't you think he would be at a loss, and think that what he used to see was more real than the objects now being pointed out to him?'
'Because he would need to grow accustomed to the light before he could see things in the world outside the cave. First he would find it easiest to look at shadows, next at the reflections of men and other objects in water, and later on at the objects themselves. After that he would find it easier to observe the heavenly bodies and the sky at night than by day, and to look at the light of the moon and stars, rather than at the sun and its light.'
'But anyone with any sense,' I said, 'will remember that the eyes may be unsighted in two ways, by a transition either from light to darkness or from darkness to light, and that the same distinction applies to the mind. So when he sees a mind confused and unable to see clearly he will not laugh without thinking, but will ask himself whether it has come from a cleaner world and is confused by the unaccustomed darkness, or whether it is dazzled by the stronger light of the clearer world to which it has escaped from its previous ignorance.'
'If this is true,' I continued, ' we must reject the conception of education professed by those who say that they can put into the mind knowledge that was not there before - rather as if they could put sight into blind eyes.'
'It is a claim that is certainly made,' he said
'But our argument indicates that this is a capacity which is innate in each man's mind, and that the faculty by which he learns is like an eye that cannot be turned from darkness to light unless the whole body is turned; in the same way the mind as a whole must be turned away from the world of change until its eyes can bear to look straight at reality, and at the brightest of all realities which we call the Good. Isn't that so?'
'The society we have described can never grow into a reality or see the light of day, and there will be no end to the troubles of states, or indeed, my dear Glaucon, of humanity itself, till philosophers are kings in this world, or till those we now call kings and rulers really and truly become philosophers, and political power and philosophy thus come into the same hands, while the many natures now content to follow either to the exclusion of the other are forcibly debarred from doing so. This is what I have hesitated to say so long, knowing what a paradox it would sound; for it is not easy to see that there is no other road to happiness, either for society or the individual. '
' ...there are some who are naturally fitted for philosophy and political leadership, while the rest should follow their lead and let philosophy alone.''
'But the man who is ready to taste every form of knowledge, is glad to learn and never satisfied - he's the man who deserves to be called a philosopher, isn't he? '
'Then who are the true philosophers?', he asked
'Those whose passion is to see the truth.'
'Suppose the following to be the state of affairs on board a ship or ships. The captain is larger and stronger than any of the crew, but a bit deaf and short-sighted, and doesn't know much about navigation. The crew are quarrelling with each other about how to navigate the ship, each thinking he ought to be at the helm; they know no navigation and cannot say that anyone ever taught it them, or that they spent any time studying it; indeed they say it can't be taught and are ready to murder any one who says it can. They spend all their time milling around the captain and trying to get him to give them the wheel. If one faction is more successful then another, their rivals may kill them and throw them overboard, lay out the honest captain with drugs and drink, take control of the ship, help themselves to what's on board, and behave as if they were on a drunken pleasure-cruise. Finally, they reserve their admiration for the man who knows how to lend a hand in controlling the captain by force or fraud; they praise his seamanship and navigation and knowledge of the sea and condemn everyone else as useless. They have no idea that the true navigator must study the seasons of the year, the sky, the stars, the winds and other professional subjects, if he is really fit to control a ship; and they think that it's quite impossible to acquire professional skill in navigation (quite apart from whether they want it exercised) and that there is no such thing as an art of navigation. In these circumstances aren't the sailors on any ship bound to regard the true navigator as a gossip and a star-gazer, of no use to them at all?'
'Yes, they are,' Adeimantus agreed
'I think you probably understand, without any explanation, that my illustration is intended to show the present attitude of society towards the true philosopher''
'And tell him it's quite true that the best of the philosophers are of no use to their fellows; but that he should blame, not the philosophers, but those who fail to make use of them.'
I also feel like standing and applauding when I read Plato, for he is one of the true greats. The early Greeks, as you can see, were exceedingly smart and aware, and they created the system that then led to Aristotle, and his most profound work, 'The Metaphysics'. Their knowledge lies at the very heart of the Metaphysics of Space and Motion.
When we maintain that pleasure is an end, we do not mean the pleasures of profligates and those that consists in sensuality ... but freedom from pain in the body and from trouble in the mind. For it is not continuous drinkings, nor the satisfaction of lust,.. but sober reasoning, searching out the motives for all choice and avoidance.' Pains of the mind are much more important than those of the body, which are either bearable or produce death, which is no evil. Death 'is nothing to us, since so long as we exist death is not with us, but when death comes then we no longer exist. (Epicurus, from Urmson, The Concise Encyclopedia of Western Philosophy and Philosophers, 1991, p93)
Thales was the first to inquire into such matters: he thought God was a Spirit who made all things out of water; Anaximander said that the gods are born and die with the seasons and that there are worlds infinite in number; Anaximenes said God was Air, immense, extensive, ever moving; Anaxagoras was the first to hold that the delineation and fashioning of all things was directed by the might and reason of an infinite Spirit; Alcmaeon attributed Godhead to the Sun, the Moon, the stars and to the soul; Pythagoras made God into a Spirit diffused throughout all nature and from whom our souls are detached; for Parmenides God was a circle of light surrounding the heavens and sustaining the world with its heat; Empedocles made gods from the four natural elements of which all things are compounded; Protagoras would not say whether the gods existed or not or what they are if they do; Democritus sometimes asserted that the constellations and their circular paths were gods, sometimes that God was that Nature whose impulse first made them move; then he said our knowledge and our intellect were God; Plato's beliefs are diffuse and many-sided: in the Timaeus he says that the Father of the world cannot be named; in the Laws he forbids all inquiry into the proper being of God: elsewhere, in these very same books, he makes the world, the sky, the heavenly bodies, the earth and our souls into gods, recognising as well all the gods accepted by ancient customs in every country. Xenophon records a similar confusion in the teachings of Socrates: sometimes he has Socrates maintaining that no inquiry should be made into the properties of God; at other times he has him deciding that the Sun is God, that the soul is God, that there is only one God and then that there are many. The nephew of Plato, Speusippus, holds God to a certain animate power governing all things; Aristotle sometimes says that God is Mind and sometimes the World; at times he gives the world a different Master and sometimes makes a god from the heat of the sky. Zenocrates has eight gods: five are named after the planets; the sixth has all the fixed stars as his members, the seventh and eighth being the Sun and Moon. Heraclides of Pontus meanders along beneath these various notions and ends up with a God deprived if all sensation; he has him changing from one form to another and finally asserts that he is heaven and earth. Theophrastus is similarly undecided, wandering about between his many concepts, attributing the government of the world sometimes to Intelligence, sometimes to the sky and sometimes to the stars; Strato says God is Nature, giving birth, making things wax and wane, but itself formless and insensate; Zeno makes a god of Natural Law: it commands good, forbids evil and is animate; he dismisses the gods accepted by custom- Jupiter, Juno and Vesta; Diogenes of Apollonia says God is Time. Xenophanes makes God round, able to see and hear but not to breathe and having nothing in common with human nature; Ariston thinks that the form of God cannot be grasped: he deprives him of senses and cannot tell whether he is animate or something quite different. For Cleanthes God is sometimes Reason, sometimes the World, sometimes the Soul of Nature, sometimes absolute Heat surrounding and enveloping all things. Perseus, a pupil of Zeno's, maintained that the name god was bestowed on people who had contributed some outstanding useful improvements to the life of Man- or even on the improvements themselves. Chrysiippus made a chaotic mess of all these assertions and included among his thousand forms of gods men who had been immortalised. Diagoras and Theodorus bluntly denied that gods exist. Epicurus has shiny gods, permeable to wind and light, who are lodged between two worlds which serve as fortresses protecting them from being battered; they are clothed in human shape, with limbs like ours which are quite useless. (Michel de Montaigne, 1572)
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