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Ancient Philosophy Presocratics

University of Saint Thomas PHIL200 Ancient Philosophy Presocratics Fall 2010
Class of early Greek philosophers before Socrates whose writings exist only in fragments.
In the ancient Greek philosophy, arche (ἀρχή) is the beginning or the first principle of the world. The idea of an arche was first philosophized by Thales of Miletus, who claimed that the first principle of all things is water. His theory was supported by the observation of moisture throughout the world and coincided with his theory that the earth floated on water.
His arche was there there is no first principle and that the first principal is undefinable. It is unlimited, boundless, and infinite. (Greek word) Apeiron = not bound. It is spatially unbound, meaning it can take any form and is unlimited in amount and duration. It is thus indestructible, deathless, and immortal. He speaks of "bark" in this fragments, which is like the bark of an eggshell.
Thales thought that water was the first principal and that everything was water in a different format. Water moves (tides, rainfall, streams) and has different states (gas, liquid, solid). Life requires water.
Arche was air/(greek word) aer. Air changes forms through condensation and rarefaction. Through a felting process, air becomes denser and colder.
Fire - Air - Wind - Cloud - Water - Earth - Stone. He was a proponent of constant motion.
Arch was Logos. A common, divine, objective, ordering principal. It is law like, intelligible, regulates order and is capable of being known. It regulates change but the average person is oblivious to the Logos - they are caught in their own desires.
Heraclitus 22B07
Ears and eyes can help us learn the Logos if we apply reason, reflect, and interpret.
Heraclitus 22B101
It is our duty to learn the Logos. Turn in and reflect, know ourselves.
Heraclitus 22B08
Harmony composed of things @ varying strife amount the parts - balance. Focus on change as defining of objects - "An object remains what it is because it changes."
There is a tension between the opposite parts of an object, always pulling in one direction and then in another. This flux/change is necessary for objects to be what it is. 22B84a - Changing it rests. The Logos is the ordering harmonia that regulates this change.
Two paths to the argument.
1) It is & it is not possible for it NOT to be.
2) It is not and it is necessary for it not to be. (It is not and it must not be)
E = It Is
1) (E or ~E)
2) ~(~E)
Conclusion: E
Parmenides 2nd path
Why is the second path unlearn-able or unthinkable?
1) Thought or thinking requires an object. Either you are not thinking or your treating the object of thought as existing. (therefore you're not really thinking about that which is not - you're really thinking of something). The second path starts with the idea that nothing exists.
2) To claim that "nothing exists" (What-is-not) "is", is a contradiction. That is, to say that "nothing" is an object or possibility that exists, is both asserting and denying existence.
Parmenides "What-is"
It is un-generated, imperishable, whole/fully is, of a single kind (no difference), unshaken, continuous. Not change or motion.
Parmenides Argument Against Generation
1) If [what-is came to be], then [it came to be from what-is-not]. (P then Q)
2) But [what-is did not come to be from what-is-not] (because there is no "what-is-not" as proven by his second path) ~Q
Conclusion: [What-is did not come to be] ~P

This shows that nothing could be generated because it would have had to come from that which is "what-is-not" and there is no "what-is-not".
Parmenides Argument Against Perishing
1) If [what-is ceased to be], then [it would perish into what-is-not]. (P then Q)
2) But [what-is cannot perish into what-is-not, because then what-is-not would be/exist (and that would be a contradiction). ~Q
Conclusion: What-is cannot cease to be - imperishable. ~P
Parmenides Argument Against Change
Freddy the frog is orange and changes color into green. Freddy then started as being "not-green" and then ended being "not-orange". Either what-is comes to be from what-is-not (eg - green from not green) or what-is perishes into what-is-not (eg - orange perishes into not orange). As we have seen from the previous arguments, Parmenides has baned the possibility of anything being generated from what-is-not, or anything being able to perish into what-is-not.
Parmenides Argument Against Difference
Difference/plurality involves what-is-not. For instance, if we say one object is blue and the other is not-blue, we are asserting a non-existant quality - a what-is-not. Since what-is-not doesn't exist, there can be no difference between an object.
Parmenides Conclusion
Parmenides concluded that reason informs observation and thus if observation contradicts reason, it cannot be trusted. This is a dualist approach - saying that reason/intellect/soul stands outside the body and that the body cannot be trusted if it does not agree with the reason.
He continued on with the Parmenidean ban on change/motion/difference/true coming to be/perishing. He stated that apparent coming to be and perishing are really just recombination of parts that persist.
Anaxagoras Original Mixture
Everything is present, air, aether, seeds of all things (colors, shapes, flavors), opposites (wet & dry). This original mixture is very dense, wet, and unlimited in amount or smallness. It is in chaotic motion. His idea of seeds are 1) biological seeds, 2) collections of basic stuffs within the mixture.
Anaxagoras on the Mind
The mind is separate from the original mixture and is pure by itself. Begins rotation and ordering of the cosmos. It is unlimited and self ruled (autocratic). This was his arche = the mind and the original mixture.
Anaxagoras Argument
1) Either it is mixed or unmixed (M or V)
2) If mind were mixed, it would be mixed with something. (M then S)
3) If it were mixed with something, then it would be mixed with everything (S then E)
4) If it were mixed with everything, it would be hindered in it ruling (E then H)
5) But it is not hindered in its ruling (~H)
Conclusion: Mind is unmixed (U)
Anaxagoras Conclusion
Mind is pure and mixing with the material would introduce limites and an element of disorder. The ruler must stand outside the ruled. The mind orders things and rules them. The original mixture contains things whose division gives two parts of the same kind as the original (eg - if you split a cow in half you don't have two cows, but if you split two hunks of hamburger in half, you have two hamburgers.)
Zeno defends Parmenides position that there is no change, no plurality, no motion. He does so using the reductio ad absurdum.
Reductio Ad Absurdum Defined
1) Take the opponents position. (P)
2) Show that this position leads to either an absurdity or contradiction. (P then Q)
3) Reject the absurdity (~Q)
Conclusion: Conclude opposite of opponents position (~P)
Zeno Motion Argument
Moving object must reach the midpoint before reaching the end, between any position and end there will be a midpoint. Between any beginning and midpoint there is another midpoint. Therefore, there are a infinite number of midpoints. The midpoints multiply to infinity. You cannot cross an infinite number of midpoints therefore you are not moving.
Zeno Achilles and the Tortoise
In a race the tortoise begins first. Achilles must pass the point the tortoise has just left in order to catch and pass the tortoise. The point the tortoise just left is always ahead of Achilles. This generates an infinite number of points to be crossed.
Aristotle's Reply to Zeno
Zeno assumes we must cross an infinite number of points in a finite time. However, he fails to recognize the distinction between:
1) infinite indivision/divisibility (able to be divided infinitely can always make a new division).
2) Infinite with respect to extremities - infinite in span/infinitely large/endless.
Zeno forgets that both span and time can be divided - a 1:1 ratio of spacial and temporal points.
Zeno Flying Arrow
It is composed of "nows" and a thing is at rest when it occupies of a space equal to itself. Then the arrow is at rest throughout its flight. Each unit of time finds the arrow at rest therefore motion is composed of sets of rests.
Zeno Flying Arrow Objections
1) What if "nows" have duration? Object can shift during a "now"
2) We could deny that time is composed of "nows" instead it could be a continuam.
3) Object to the description of rest
4) Fallacy - can't move from claim that "each part of x is f" to the claim that "x as a whole is f".
Zeno Conclusion
1) If an object is divisible, then complete division will result in either:
a) An infinite number of parts with magnitude
b) nothing

2) But there is no complete division because complete division results in absurdity.
a) if we sum the parts we would have an infinitely large object rather than a finite object.
b) if we sum the parts we get nothing, rather than the original object.

Therefore the object is not divisible. No plurality.
Socratic Method
Elenchus - a method of testing or examining a definition. Refine the definition through questioning:
1) Try to make the definition more precise
2) If you come to a contradiction or absurdity, you have to rework the definition and begin the questioning again.
Early dialogues often end in aporia (confusion). Ironic in geek means he is being willfully deceitful.
Plato Euthyphro
This bit is about trying to find a good definition of piety. A good definition is universal, encompasses all the particulars of the kind, articulates the shared characteristic/form and can serve as a model for thought or action. A good definition gives an account of its being.
First and second definition of Piety
Euthyphro defines pious as what is loved by the gods/what is dear to the gods. The problem is that some action or thing could be both loved by some gods and thus pious and hated by other gods, thus impious. Euthyphro refines his definition to say that pious is "what is loved by all gods". This avoids the contradiction. If all gods must love the action or object, no gods are left to hate the action or object. Therefore, the object/action cannot be both pious and impious.
Euthyphro Piety - Definition Problem
We have a problem here though.
1) Is the pious loved by all the gods because it is pious
2) or is the pious pious because it is loved by all the gods.

a) The pious itself is pious due to something innate. Objectively pious
b) The pious is pious because the gods love it. The piety is bestowed onto the pious because the gods love it. Subjectively pious.

The goal for a good definition is to identify the internal characteristic of the pious that makes it worthy of the gods love.
Third Definition of Piety
Part of Justice concerned with tending to the gods/care of the gods. What does "tending to" involve?
1) benefit or make more excellent/improve. We must reject this option because it is potentially blasphemous. If the gods are perfect in their godliness, they cannot be improved.
2) Helping them achieve their aims (which makes us slaves of the gods). Much more reasonable a definition.
13D - Further the aims of the gods as a servent furthers the aims of a master. What do the gods aim at and how do we help them?
13C - Goods provided by gods - welfare of homes and city. Service - prayer & sacrifice - giving to the gods (dead animals and smelly stuff). Prayer is really asking/begging goods from the gods.
A good gift is 1) a gift you need 2) or is pleasing.
We cannot give the gods what is "needed" or pleasing. Instead we give worship/praise/honor/thanks. Not because they need it, but to honor them.
This defaults back to the pious being what the gods love.
Student and friend of Socrates who tried to persuade Socrates to flee Athens and escape his death sentence. Socrates' response is contained in the Platonic dialogue named after him.
Crito first reason
Socrates should flee:
- If socrates dies, the majority will think his friends are cowardly and greedy (value money more than friendship). Reputations will be ruined.
- Deserting friends and abandoning the children.
- Wrong to give up your life when we can save it (benefits our enemies).
- These are consequential reasons. Wrong, unjust, shameful to stay and die.
- We ought to listen to the expert rather than the majority.