HIS 101 History of Western Civilization I

His 101 western cyclization

Northern Virginia Community College

Question Description

Read the document Greek: Philosophy

Then respond to the following questions in a response that is no less than 200 words:

1) What can we learn about Greek philosophy from these quotes? What were their beliefs?

2) Choose 4 quotes from 4 different philosophers that you find interesting or important and explain why.

3) Can any of these quotes apply to the world today? Do their words still have meaning for people living in 2020?

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1 Greek Philosophy (570 BCE-270 CE) Source: Norman Melchert. The Great Conversation: A Historical Introduction to Philosophy. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007. 2 Introduction The following features quotes from 10 Greek philosophers spanning nearly nine hundred years, from 570 BCE to 270 CE. The Greeks were the first to produce Rationalist philosophers who questioned and outright denied the existence of the gods. But there were also plenty of Greek philosophers who believed in God and the soul, and even would go on to inspire the development of Christianity. A common theme among all ten is a love for wisdom and a strong desire to help humans lead the best life. Xenophanes (571-475 BCE) Heraclitus (535-475 BCE) Parmenides (515 BCE) Democritus (460-370 BCE) Protagoras (490-420 BCE) Socrates (469-399 BCE) Plato (428-348 BCE) Aristotle (384-322 BCE) Epicurus (341-270 BCE) Plotinus (204-270 CE) 3 Xenophanes (571-475 BCE) • ”The Ethiopians make their gods snub-nosed and black; the Thracians make theirs gray-eyed and red-haired. And if oxen and horses and lions had hands, and could draw with their hands and do what man can do, horses would draw the gods in the shape of horses, and oxen in the shape or oxen, each giving the gods bodies similar to their own.” • ”There is One god, the greatest among gods and men, in no way similar to mortals either in body in mind…He sees all over, thinks all over, hears all over…He remains always in the same place, without moving…but without toil, he sets all things in motion by the thought of his mind.” • “[Men believe rainbows are the goddess Iris but it] is in reality a cloud.” • “The gods have not revealed all things from the beginning to mortals; but, by seeking, men find out, in time, what is better.” • “No man knows the truth, nor will there be a man who has knowledge about the gods and what I say about everything. For even if he were to hit by chance upon the whole truth, he himself would not be aware of having done so, but each forms his own opinion…Let these things, then, be taken as like the truth.” 4 Heraclitus (535-475 BCE) • “All things come into being through opposition, all are in flux, like a river.” • “The path traced by the pen is straight and crooked.” • “Sea water is very pure and very impure; drinkable and healthy for fishes, but undrinkable and destructive to men.” • “The way up and the way down are the same.” • “This world-order, the same for all, no god made or any man, but it always was and is and will be an ever-lasting fire, kindling by measure and going out by measure.” • “War is the father and king of all.” • “It is necessary to understand that war is universal and justice is strife, and that all things take place in accordance with strife and necessity.” • “To god all things are beautiful and good and just; but men suppose some things to be just and others unjust.” • “It is not characteristic of men to be intelligent; but it is characteristic of god.” 5 • “Though they are in daily contact with the Logos (can be translated as The Word, The First Principle, or God) they are at variance with it, and what they meet appears alien to them.” • “To those who are awake the world-order is one, common to all; but the sleeping turn aside each into a world of his own.” • “We ought to follow what is common to all; but though the logos is common to all, the many live as though their thought were private to themselves.” • “Nature loves to hide.” • “The lord whose oracle is at Delphi neither speaks out nor conceals, but gives a sign.” • “Those things of which there is sight, hearing, understanding, I esteem most.” • “Eyes and ears are bad witnesses to men if they have souls that do not understand their language.” • “It is not good for men to get all they wish.” • “If happiness consisted in bodily pleasures we ought to call oxen happy who find [plants] to eat.” 6 • “It is hard to fight against impulse; for what it wants it buys at the expense of the soul.” • “Moderation is the greatest virtue, and wisdom is to speak the truth and to act according to nature, giving heed to all.” • “One man is worth ten thousand to me, if only he be best…For the best men choose one thing above all the rest: everlasting fame among mortal men.” • “All human laws are nourished by the one divine law. For it governs as far as it will, and is sufficient for all things, and outlasts them.” 7 Heraclitus 8 Parmenides (born 515 BCE) • “Welcome, youth, who come attended by immortal charioteers and [horses] which bear you on your journey to our dwelling. For it is no evil fate that has set you to travel on this road, far from the beaten paths of men, but right and justice. It is [right] that you learn all things—both the unshakeable heart of well-rounded truth and the opinions of mortals in which there is no true belief.” • “Thought and being are the same.” • “Helplessness guides the wandering thoughts in their breasts; they are carried along deaf and blind alike, dazed, beasts without judgement, convinced that to be and not to be are the same and not the same, and that the road of all things is a backward-turning one.” • “Judge by reasoning…the argument that I have spoken.” 9 Democritus (460-370 BCE) • “Nothing occurs at random, but everything occurs for a reason and by necessity.” • “There are two forms of knowledge: one legitimate, one bastard. To the bastard sort belong all the following: sight, hearing, smell, taste, touch. The legitimate is quite distinct from this. When the bastard form cannot see more minutely, nor hear nor smell nor taste nor perceive through the touch, then another, firmer form must be employed.” • “Disease occurs in a household, or in a life, just as it does in a body.” • “Medicine cures the diseases of the body; wisdom, on the other hand, relieves the soul of its sufferings.” • “The needy animal knows how much it needs; the needy man does not.” • “It is hard to fight with desire; but to overcome it is the mark of a rational man.” • “Moderation increases enjoyment, and makes pleasure even greater.” • “The good things of life are produced by learning with hard work; the bad are reaped of their own accord, without hard work.” 10 • “The brave man is he who overcomes not only his enemies but his pleasures. There are some men who are masters of cities but slaves to women.” • “In cattle excellence is displayed in strength of body; but in men it lies in strength of character.” • “I would rather discover a single cause [of why something in Nature happens] than become king of the Persians.” 11 Protagoras (490-420 BCE) • “Man is the measure of all things; of existing things, that they exist; of nonexisting things, that they do not exist.” • “Concerning the gods I am not in a position to know either that they are or that they are not, or what they are like in appearance; for there are many things that are preventing knowledge, the obscurity of the matter and the brevity of human life.” 12 Socrates (469-399 BCE) • “The unexamined life is not worth living.” • “I do not even have any knowledge of what virtue itself is.” • “There’s one proposition that I’d defend to the death, If I could, by argument and by action: that as long as we think we should search for what we don’t know we’ll be better people—less faint-hearted and less lazy—than if we were to think that we had no chance of discovering what we don’t know and that there’s no point in even searching for it.” • “The wise man admits that he knows nothing.” • “Those who [have] the highest reputation [are] nearly the most [ignorant], while those who [are] thought to be the inferior [are] more knowledgeable.” • “Even now I continue this investigation as the god [gave] me—and I go around seeking out anyone, citizen or strange, whom I think wise. Then if I do not think he is, I come to the assistance of the god and show him that he is not wise.” • “I myself believe that there are gods and am not altogether an atheist.” • “Wherever a man has taken a position that he believes to be best…there he must I think remain and face danger, without a thought for death or anything 13 else, rather than disgrace.” • “To fear death…is no other than to think oneself wise when one is not, to think one knows that one does not know. No one knows whether death may not be the greatest of all blessings for a man, yet men fear it as if they knew that it is the greatest of evils.” • “If I were to claim that I am wiser than anyone in anything, it would be in this, that, as I have no adequate knowledge of things in the underworld, so I do not think I have. I do know, however, that it is wicked and shameful to do wrong, to disobey one’s superior, be he god or man.” • “I have never been anyone’s teacher.” • ”My art of midwifery is in general like that of midwives. The only difference is that my patients are men, not women. My concern is not with the body but with the soul that is in labor. The highest point of my art is the power to prove by every test whether the offspring of a young man’s thoughts is a false phantom or is something alive and real. I am so much like the midwife that I cannot myself give birth to wisdom. The common reproach is true, although I question others, I can bring nothing to light because there is no wisdom in me. This is because God constrains me to serve as a midwife, but has debarred me from giving birth.” • “It is not easy to dispel great slanders in a short time.” 14 • “Neither I nor any other man should, on trial or in war, contrive to avoid death at any costs.” • “It is not difficult to avoid death…it is much more difficult to avoid wickedness, for it runs faster than death.” • “Either the dead are nothing and have no perception of anything, or it is, as we are told, a change and a relocating for the soul from here to another place. If it is complete lack of perception, like a dreamless sleep, then death would be a great advantage…If death is like this I say it is an advantage, for all eternity would then seem to be no more than a single night. If, on the other hand, death is a change from here to another place, and what we are told is true and all who have died are there, what greater blessing could there be?” • “A good man cannot be harmed either in life or in death, and…his affairs are not neglected by the gods.” • “The most important thing is not life, but the good life.” 15 Plato (428-348 BCE) • “So the philosopher, who consorts with what is divine and ordered, himself becomes godlike and ordered as far as a man can see…” • “No one must have any private property whatsoever, except what is absolutely necessary. Secondly, no one must have any lodging or storehouse at all which is not open to all comers…They must live in common…They alone of all in the city dare not have any dealings with gold or silver or even touch them or come under the same roof with them.” (Plato’s requirements for the ruling class in his ideal Republic) • “Unless communities have philosophers as kings, or the people who are currently called kings and rulers practice philosophy with enough integrity…there can be no end to political troubles…or even to human troubles in general, I’d say.” • “All soul is immortal.” • “Those who practice philosophy aright are cultivating dying, and for them, least of all men, does being dead hole any terror.” • “Can there be any profit in the immoral acquisition of money, if this entails the enslavement of the best part of oneself to the worst part?” • “All men are teachers of virtue, each one according to his ability.” 16 • “Knowledge is the food of the soul.” • “There is far greater peril in buying knowledge than in buying food or drink…You cannot buy the wares of knowledge and carry them away in an independent container; when you have paid for them, you must receive them into your soul and go your way, either harmed or benefitted; and therefore we should deliberate and get the advice of our elders, for we are still young—too young to decide such a matter.” 17 Aristotle (384-322 BCE) • “It is those who act rightly who get the rewards and the good things in life.” • “All men by nature desire to have knowledge. An indication of this is the delight that we take in the senses…we take delight in them for their own sake, and more than of any other this is true of the sense of sight…the reason for this is that, more than any other sense, it enables us to get to know things, and it reveals a number of differences between things.” • “To say that what is is not, or that what is not is, is false and to say that what is is, or that what is not is not, is true.” • “The world does not wish to be governed badly. As Homer says: ‘To have many kings is not good, let there be one.’” • “The soul is not separable from the body.” • “We are not studying in order to know what virtue is, but to become good, for otherwise there would be no profit in it.” • “Good is the object of all endeavor.” • “What is the highest good in all matters of action? As to the name, there is almost complete agreement; for the uneducated and the educated alike call it happiness…” 18 • “The function of man is activity of soul in accordance with reason, or at least not without reason.” • “It is evident that the state is a creation of nature, and that man is by nature a political animal. And he who by nature and not by mere accident is without a state, is either above humanity, or below it; he is the ‘Tribeless, lawless, [homeless] one,’…the outcast who is a lover of war; he may be compared to a bird which flies alone” • “As far as possible, we should become immortal and do everything toward living by the best that is in us.” • “At his best, man is the noblest of all animals; separated from law and justice he is the worst.” 19 Epicurus (341-270 BCE) • “Pleasure is the beginning and end of the blessed life. We recognize pleasure as the first and natural good; starting from pleasure we accept or reject; and we return to this as we judge every good thing, trusting this feeling of pleasure as our guide.” • “Let no young man delay the study of philosophy, and let no old man become weary of it; for it is never too early nor too late to care for the well being of the soul. The man who says that the season for this study has not yet come or is already past is like the man who says it is too early or too late for happiness. • “Do not think that knowledge about the things above the earth, whether treated as part of a philosophical system or by itself, has any other purpose than peace of mind and confidence. This is also true of other studies.” • “To die, to sleep; To sleep: perchance to dream: ay, there’s the rub; For in that sleep of death what dreams may come when we have shuffled off this mortal coil, must give us pause.” • “That which is blessed and immortal is not troubled itself, nor does it cause trouble to another. As a result, it is not affected by anger or favor, for these belong to weakness.” • “Accustom yourself to the belief that death is of no concern to us since all good and evil lie in sensation and sensation ends with death…Death, the 20 most dreaded of evils, is therefore of no concern to us; for while we exist death is not present, and when death is present we no longer exist. It is therefore nothing either to the living or to the dead since it is not present to the living, and the dead no longer are.” • “Of the desires some are natural, some are vain, and of those that are natural, some are necessary, others only natural. Of the necessary desires, some are necessary for happiness, some for the ease of the body, some for life itself.” • “Natural wealth is limited and easily obtained; the wealth defined by vain fancies is always beyond reach.” • “Nothing satisfies him to whom what is enough is little.” • “The aim of all actions to avoid fear and pain.” • “If our possessions are few, we may be content with what we have, sincerely believing that those enjoy luxury most who depend on it least, and that natural wants are easily satisfied if we are willing to forego [excess]. Plain fare yields as much pleasure as a luxurious table, provided the pain of real want is removed; bread and water can give exquisite delight to hungry and thirsty lips. To form the habit of a simple and modest diet…is the way to health: it enables us to perform the needful employments of life without shrinking, it puts us in better condition to enjoy luxuries when they are offered, and it renders us fearless of fortune.” 21 • “On particular occasions we may have reason to treat the good as bad, and the bad as good.” • “Is there any better and wiser man than he who holds reverent belief about the gods, is altogether free from the fear of death, and has serenely contemplated the basic tendencies of natural law?” • “Our own actions are free, and it is to them that praise and blame are properly attached.” • “The wise man does not deify [Destiny] as most men do; for if it were divine it would not be without order.” • “Meditate [on these sayings] day and night, both privately and with some companion who is of [the same spirit]. Thereby shall you never suffer disturbance, waking or asleep, but shall live like a god among them. For a man who lives constantly among immortal blessings is surely more than mortal.” • “Gods do exist…but they are not such as the many believe them to be.” • “The wise man neither rejects life nor fears death…he savors not the longest time but the most pleasant.” 22 Plotinus (204-270 CE) • “Men should apply themselves to the study of soul, learning among other things that it proceeds from The Intelligence and attains virtue by participating in the reason that proceeds from The Intelligence.” • “The One, the source of all things, is simple. It is above even the highest in the world of being because it is above The Intelligence, which itself, not The One but like The One, would become The One. Not sundered from The One, close to The One, but to itself present, it has to a degree dared secession.” • “The strictly nameless, [The One] is difficult to know. The best approach is through its offspring: Being…” • “The One is infinite.” • “The One is already one. It does not even need itself.” • “The One, in its aloneness, can neither know nor be ignorant of anything. Being with itself, it does not need to know itself.” • “Whatever is not one, but multiple, needs something else.” 23 • “[The One] is present to all those who can touch it and absent only to those who cannot.” • “This divinity, it is said, is not outside any being but, on the contrary, is present to all beings though they may not know it. They are fugitives from the divine, or rather from themselves. What they turn from they cannot reach. Themselves lost, they can find no other. A son distraught and beside himself is not likely to recognize his father. But the man who has learned to know himself will at the same time discover whence he comes.” ...
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Final Answer




The Greek Philosophy
Institutional Affiliation



From the quotes, it is worth noting that the classical Greek Philosophy exhibited specific
characteristics that are uniquely evident from each of the philosopher’s perspective. One of the
key learning points that any rational being can note from the quotes is that the philosophers had
some attitude towards reality and the belief in some immortal and supernatural powers
(Melchert, 2014). The philosophers align their attitude towards knowing some reality by
demonstrating an aspect of inquiry. In their philosophy, they believed...

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