PHIL 101S0A SUNYSB Plato the Bike Geometry & Fragments of The Soul Discussion

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1. In what way does Plato agree with Parmenides?  With Heraclitus? (page 155 from the text)

2. Why does Plato think that the Form of Bicycle is more real than the bicycle I ride to work? (page 155 from the text)

3. . What two relationships exist between a Form and some visible thing that “participates” in it?  (page 162 from the text)

4. What are the parts of the soul?  What are their functions?  (page 171 from the text)

5. What questions does the Ring of Gyges pose?  (page 177 from the text)

6. What is the psychology of the just person?  Of the unjust person?  (page 177 from the text)

7. How is justice in the soul related to moral behavior in the community?  Relate this to the image of the man, the lion, and the monster?  (page 177 from the text)

8. Who should rule the state?  And why? (page 179 from the text)

9. Explain the analogy of the navigator.  (page 179 from the text)

10. How will the “many” be “educated” in Plato’s ideal Republic?  (page 179 from the text)

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T H E G R E AT C O N V E R S AT I O N T HE GR EAT CON V ERSATION A Historical Introduction to Philosophy EIGHTH EDIT ION NOR M A N M ELCHERT Professor Emeritus, Lehigh University DAV ID R . MOR ROW Visiting Fellow, George Mason University New York  Oxford OXFORD UNIVERSITY PRESS Oxford University Press is a department of the University of Oxford. It furthers the University’s objective of excellence in research, scholarship, and education by publishing worldwide. Oxford is a registered trade mark of Oxford University Press in the UK and certain other countries. Published in the United States of America by Oxford University Press 198 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10016, United States of America. © 2019, 2014, 2011, 2007, 2002, 1999, 1995, 1991 by Oxford University Press For titles covered by Section 112 of the US Higher Education Opportunity Act, please visit for the latest information about pricing and alternate formats. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, without the prior permission in writing of Oxford University Press, or as expressly permitted by law, by license, or under terms agreed with the appropriate reproduction rights organization. Inquiries concerning reproduction outside the scope of the above should be sent to the Rights Department, Oxford University Press, at the address above. You must not circulate this work in any other form and you must impose this same condition on any acquirer. Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Names: Melchert, Norman, author. | Morrow, David R., author. Title: The great conversation : a historical introduction to philosophy / Norman Melchert, Professor Emeritus, Lehigh University; David R. Morrow, Visiting Fellow, George Mason University. Description: Eighth edition. | New York : Oxford University Press, 2018. | Includes bibliographical references and index. Identifiers: LCCN 2018011655 | ISBN 9780190670610 (hardcover) Subjects: LCSH: Philosophy–Textbooks. Classification: LCC BD21 .M43 2018 | DDC 190–dc23 LC record available at Printing number: 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 Printed by LSC Communications Inc. United States of America CON T E N T S the soul 31 how to live 33 A Word to Instructors xiii A Word to Students xv Acknowledgments xxi 3. APPEARANCE AND REALITY IN ANCIENT INDIA 35 1. BEFORE PHILOSOPHY: MYTH IN HESIOD AND HOMER 1 The Vedas and the Upaniṣads 35 The Buddha 38 the four noble truths and the noble eightfold path 39 right view 41 Non-Self and Nāgasena 43 The Brahmanical Schools 45 vaiŚeṢika 46 nyĀya 48 The Great Conversation in India 53 Hesiod: War Among the Gods 2 Homer: Heroes, Gods, and Excellence 4 2. PHILOSOPHY BEFORE SOCRATES 9 Thales: The One as Water 10 Anaximander: The One as the Boundless 11 Xenophanes: The Gods as Fictions 13 Sketch: Pythagoras 15 Heraclitus: Oneness in the Logos 17 Parmenides: Only the One 22 Zeno: The Paradoxes of Common Sense 27 Atomism: The One and the Many Reconciled 28 the key: an ambiguity 29 the world 30 4. THE SOPHISTS: RHETORIC AND RELATIVISM IN ATHENS 55 Democracy 55 The Persian Wars 56 The Sophists 58 v vi   Contents rhetoric 60 relativism 62 63 Athens and Sparta at War 67 Aristophanes and Reaction 69 physis and nomos 5. REASON AND RELATIVISM IN CHINA 75 A Brief History of Ancient China 75 Mozi 77 The School of Names 80 The Later Mohists 82 Zhuangzi 83 Sketch: Laozi 88 6. SOCRATES: TO KNOW ONESELF 91 Character 92 Is Socrates a Sophist? 95 What Socrates “Knows” 97 we ought to search for truth 98 human excellence is knowledge 99 all wrongdoing is due to ignorance 100 the most important thing of all is to care for your soul 100 7. THE TRIAL AND DEATH OF SOCRATES 102 Euthyphro 103 translator’s introduction the dialogue 103 commentary and questions Apology 116 translator’s introduction the dialogue 117 commentary and questions Crito 135 translator’s introduction 103 111 116 129 135 the dialogue 135 commentary and questions 142 Phaedo (Death Scene) 144 translator’s introduction 144 the dialogue (selection) 145 commentary and questions 147 8. PLATO: KNOWING THE REAL AND THE GOOD 148 Knowledge and Opinion 149 making the distinction 149 we do know certain truths 151 the objects of knowledge 152 the reality of the forms 154 The World and the Forms 155 how forms are related to the world 155 lower and higher forms 158 the form of the good 160 The Love of Wisdom 162 what wisdom is 162 love and wisdom 165 The Soul 168 the immortality of the soul 169 the structure of the soul 170 Morality 171 The State 177 Problems with the Forms 179 9. ARISTOTLE: THE REALITY OF THE WORLD 182 Aristotle and Plato 182 Logic and Knowledge 184 terms and statements 185 truth 187 reasons why: the syllogism 188 knowing first principles 190 Contents The World 192 nature 193 the four “becauses” 194 is there purpose in nature? 195 teleology 196 First Philosophy 197 not plato’s forms 198 what of mathematics? 199 substance and form 199 pure actualities 201 god 201 The Soul 203 levels of soul 204 soul and body 205 nous 206 The Good Life 208 happiness 208 virtue or excellence (areté) 212 the role of reason 213 responsibility 216 the highest good 217 10. CONFUCIUS, MENCIUS, AND XUNZI: VIRTUE IN ANCIENT CHINA 220 Confucius 220 the way of confucius 221 ritual propriety 223 good government 224 Mencius 226 differentiated love 226 human nature is good 228 Xunzi 230 The Confucians’ Legacy 233 11. EPICUREANS, STOICS, AND SKEPTICS: HAPPINESS FOR THE MANY 235 The Epicureans 236   vii The Stoics 241 Profile: Marcus Aurelius 244 The Skeptics 246 12. JEWS AND CHRISTIANS: SIN, SALVATION, AND LOVE 253 Background 253 Jesus 255 The Meaning of Jesus 259 13. AUGUSTINE: GOD AND THE SOUL 261 Wisdom, Happiness, and God 267 God and the World 270 the great chain of being 270 Sketch: Hypatia of Alexandria 273 evil 273 time 274 Human Nature and Its Corruption 277 Human Nature and Its Restoration 282 Augustine on Relativism 284 The Two Cities 285 Augustine and the Philosophers 287 reason and authority 288 intellect and will 288 epicureans and stoics 289 14. PHILOSOPHY IN THE ISLAMIC WORLD: THE GREAT CONVERSATION SPREADS OUT 292 A Sea Change in the Mediterranean Basin 292 Al-Kindī, the “Philosopher of the Arabs” 294 Al-Fārābi, the “Second Master” 297 religion as subordinate to philosophy 297 emanation and the active intellect 298 viii   Contents Sketch: The Celestial Spheres 299 certitude, absolute certitude, and opinion 299 Avicenna, the “Preeminent Master” 300 existence and essence 301 the necessary existent, god 302 the soul and its faculties 304 Al-Ghazālī 306 Sketch: Maimonides (Moses ben Maimon) 309 The Great Conversation in the Islamic World 309 15. ANSELM AND AQUINAS: EXISTENCE AND ESSENCE IN GOD AND THE WORLD 311 Anselm: On That, Than Which No Greater Can Be Conceived 311 The Transfer of Learning 315 Thomas Aquinas: Rethinking Aristotle 316 Sketch: Averroës, the Commentator 317 philosophy and theology 318 from creation to god 319 the nature of god 324 humans: their souls 326 humans: their knowledge 328 humans: their good 330 Ockham and Skeptical Doubts—Again 335 16. FROM MEDIEVAL TO MODERN EUROPE 340 The World God Made for Us 340 Reforming the Church   344 Revolutions 348 humanism 348 skeptical thoughts revived 350 copernicus to kepler to galileo: the great triple play 353 The Counter-Reformation 358 17. RENÉ DESCARTES: DOUBTING OUR WAY TO CERTAINTY 360 The Method 362 Meditations on First Philosophy 364 meditation i 366 Commentary and Questions 368 meditation ii 369 Commentary and Questions 372 meditation iii 375 Commentary and Questions 381 meditation iv 384 Commentary and Questions 387 meditation v 388 Commentary and Questions 391 meditation vi 392 Commentary and Questions 398 What Has Descartes Done? 400 a new ideal for knowledge 400 a new vision of reality 401 problems 401 the preeminence of epistemology 402 18. HOBBES, LOCKE, AND BERKELEY: MATERIALISM AND THE BEGINNINGS OF EMPIRICISM 404 Thomas Hobbes: Catching Persons in the Net of the New Science 404 method 405 minds and motives 406 Sketch: Margaret Cavendish 407 Sketch: Francis Bacon 412 the natural foundation of moral rules 413 John Locke: Looking to Experience 416 origin of ideas 417 Contents idea of the soul 419 idea of personal identity 419 language and essence 420 the extent of knowledge 422 of representative government 424 of toleration 426 George Berkeley: Ideas into Things 427 abstract ideas 428 ideas and things 430 god 434 19. DAVID HUME: UNMASKING THE PRETENSIONS OF REASON 438 How Newton Did It 439 Profile: Émilie du Châtelet 440 To Be the Newton of Human Nature 441 The Theory of Ideas 443 The Association of Ideas 444 Causation: The Very Idea 445 The Disappearing Self 451 Rescuing Human Freedom 453 Is It Reasonable to Believe in God? 455 Understanding Morality 458 reason is not a motivator 458 the origins of moral judgment 460 Is Hume a Skeptic? 462 20. IMMANUEL KANT: REHABILITATING REASON (WITHIN STRICT LIMITS) 465 Critique 467 Judgments 468 Geometry, Mathematics, Space, and Time 470 Common Sense, Science, and the A Priori Categories 473 Phenomena and Noumena 476   ix Sketch: Baruch Spinoza 477 Sketch: Gottfried Wilhelm von Leibniz 478 Reasoning and the Ideas of Metaphysics: God, World, and Soul 479 the soul 481 the world and the free will 482 god 483 the ontological argument 484 Reason and Morality 485 the good will 486 the moral law 488 Sketch: Jean-Jacques Rousseau 490 autonomy 491 freedom 492 21. GEORG WILHELM FRIEDRICH HEGEL: TAKING HISTORY SERIOUSLY 496 Historical and Intellectual Context 497 the french revolution 497 the romantics 498 Epistemology Internalized 498 Sketch: Arthur Schopenhauer 501 Self and Others 504 Stoic and Skeptical Consciousness 507 Hegel’s Analysis of Christianity 508 Reason and Reality: The Theory of Idealism 509 Spirit Made Objective: The Social Character of Ethics 511 History and Freedom 516 22. KIERKEGAARD AND MARX: TWO WAYS TO “CORRECT” HEGEL 521 Kierkegaard: On Individual Existence 521 the aesthetic 522 the ethical 525 x   Contents the religious 528 the individual 535 Marx: Beyond Alienation and Exploitation 537 alienation, exploitation, and private property 539 communism 542 23. MORAL AND POLITICAL REFORMERS: THE HAPPINESS OF ALL, INCLUDING WOMEN 545 The Classic Utilitarians 545 Profile: Peter Singer 553 The Rights of Women 555 24. FRIEDRICH NIETZSCHE: THE VALUE OF EXISTENCE 562 Pessimism and Tragedy 563 Goodbye Real World 567 The Death of God 570 Revaluation of Values 573 master morality/slave morality 574 Profile: Iris Murdoch 575 our morality 578 The Overman 581 Affirming Eternal Recurrence 589 25. THE PRAGMATISTS: THOUGHT AND ACTION 593 Charles Sanders Peirce 593 fixing belief 594 belief and doubt 596 truth and reality 597 meaning 601 signs 604 John Dewey 606 the impact of darwin 606 naturalized epistemology 608 Sketch: William James 609 nature and natural science 610 value naturalized 612 26. LUDWIG WITTGENSTEIN: LINGUISTIC ANALYSIS AND ORDINARY LANGUAGE 617 Language and Its Logic 617 Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus 619 Sketch: Bertrand Russell 620 picturing 622 thought and language 624 logical truth 626 saying and showing 627 setting the limit to thought 628 value and the self 629 good and evil, happiness and unhappiness 631 the unsayable 633 Profile: The Logical Positivists 634 Philosophical Investigations 636 philosophical illusion 637 language-games 639 naming and meaning 640 family resemblances 641 The Continuity of Wittgenstein’s Thought 643 Our Groundless Certainty 645 Profile: Zen 646 27. MARTIN HEIDEGGER: THE MEANING OF BEING 651 What Is the Question? 652 The Clue 653 Phenomenology 655 Being-in-the-World 657 The “Who” of Dasein 662 Contents Modes of Disclosure 664 attunement 665 understanding 667 discourse 669 Falling-Away 670 idle talk 671 curiosity 671 ambiguity 672 Care 672 Death 673 Conscience, Guilt, and Resoluteness 674 Temporality as the Meaning of Care 677 28. SIMONE DE BEAUVOIR: EXISTENTIALIST, FEMINIST 680 Ambiguity 680 Profile: Jean-Paul Sartre 684 Ethics 686 Woman 691 29. POSTMODERNISM: DERRIDA, FOUCAULT, AND RORTY 698 Deconstruction: Jacques Derrida 699 writing, iterability, différance 701 deconstructing a text 705 Knowledge and Power: Michel Foucault 706 archaeology of knowledge 708 genealogy 709   xi Liberal Irony: Richard Rorty 712 contingency, truth, and antiessentialism 713 liberalism and the hope of solidarity 716 relativism 719 30. PHYSICAL REALISM AND THE MIND: QUINE, DENNETT, SEARLE, NAGEL, JACKSON, AND CHALMERS 722 Science, Common Sense, and Metaphysics: Willard van Orman Quine 723 holism 724 ontological commitment 728 natural knowing 729 The Matter of Minds 733 intentionality 734 intentional systems: daniel dennett 735 the chinese room: john searle 738 consciousness: nagel, jackson, chalmers 739 Afterword........................................... A-1 Appendix:Writing a Philosophy Paper....... App-1 Glossary.. ........................................... G-1 Credits.............................................. C-1 Index................................................. I-1 A W O R D T O IN S TRU CTO RS P New to This Edition hilosophy is both argument and innovation. We try in this introductory text to provide students with excellent examples of both in the ongoing story of a basic part of our intellectual life. We aim to teach students how to think by apprenticing them to a succession of the best thinkers humanity has produced, mainly but not exclusively in the Western tradition, thereby drawing them into this ongoing conversation. So we see how Aristotle builds on and criticizes his teacher, Plato, how Augustine creatively melds traditions stemming from Athens and Jerusalem, how Kant tries to solve “Hume’s problem,” and why Wittgenstein thought most previous philosophy was meaningless. This eighth edition continues to represent the major philosophers through extensive quotations set in a fairly rich cultural and historical context. The large number of cross-references and footnotes continue to make the conversation metaphor more than mere fancy. And the four complete works— Euthyphro, Apology, Crito, and ­ Meditations—are retained. A number of new features will be found in this edition. Throughout, the text has been tightened up and minor sections were deleted to make room for new material. In addition, several larger changes have been made. These changes include the following: • • • Three new chapters introduce students to the beginnings of philosophical conversations in India and China, with one chapter on ancient Indian philosophy and two chapters on ancient Chinese philosophy. A new chapter is devoted entirely to philosophy in the Islamic world. A section on Hildegaard of Bingen in a chapter on medieval thought and new sketches of Hypatia and Margaret Cavendish, and a profile of Émilie du Châtelet. Again, for this edition, a student web page is available at Here students will find essential points, vocabulary flashcards, sample multiple-choice questions, and further web xiii xiv   A Word to Instructors resources for each chapter. The latter consist mainly, though not exclusively, of original philosophical texts. This means that if you want to assign students to read, say, Hume’s Enquiry or parts of Plato’s Republic, these texts are easy for them to find. An Instructor’s Manual is available at the same site. The text is again available both as a single hardback edition and as two paperback volumes, so it can be used economically in either a whole-year or a single-semester course. Although the entire book contains too much material for a single semester, it provides a rich menu of choices for instructors who do not wish to restrict themselves to the earlier or later periods. In this era, when even the educated have such a thin sense of history, teaching philosophy in this conversational, cumulative, back- and forwardlooking way can be a service not just to philosophical understanding, but also to the culture as a whole. A W O R D T O S TU DE N TS W e all have opinions—we can’t help it. Having opinions is as natural to us as breathing. Opinions, moreover, are a dime a dozen. They’re floating all around us and they’re so different from each other. One person believes this, another that. You believe in God, your buddy doesn’t. John thinks there’s nothing wrong with keeping a found wallet, you are horrified. Some of us say, “Everybody’s got their own values”; others are sure that some things are just plain wrong—wrong for everybody. Some delay gratification for the sake of long-term goals; others indulge in whatever pleasures happen to be at hand. What kind of world do we live in? Jane studies science to find out, Jack turns to the occult. Is death the end for us?—Some say yes, some say no. What’s a person to do? happen to know or where you were brought up. You want to believe for good reasons. That’s the right question, isn’t it? Which of these many ­opinions has the best reasons behind it? You want to live your life as wisely as possible. Fortunately, we have a long tradition of really smart people who have been thinking about issues such as these, and we can go to them for help. They’re called “philosophers”—lovers of wisdom—and they have been trying to straighten out all these issues. They are in the business of asking which opinions or views or beliefs there is good reason to accept. Unfortunately, these philosophers don’t all agree either. So you might ask, If these really smart philosophers can’t agree on what wisdom says, why should I pay them any attention? The answer is—because it’s the best shot you’ve got. If you seriously want to improve your opinions, there’s nothing better you can do than engage in a “conversation” with the best minds our history has produced. One of the authors of this book had a teacher— a short, white-haired, elderly gentleman with a Study Philosophy! You don’t want simply to be at the mercy of accident in your opinions—for your views to be decided by irrelevant matters such as whom you xv xvi   A Word to Students thick German accent—who used to say, “Whether you will philosophize or won’t philosophize, you must philosophize.” By this, he meant that we can’t help making decisions about these crucial matters. We make them either well or badly, conscious of what we are doing or just stumbling along. As Kierkegaard would say, we express such decisions in the way we live, whether or not we have ever given them a moment’s thought. In a sense, then, you are already a philosopher, already engaged in the business philosophers have committed themselves to. So you shouldn’t have any problem in making a connection with what they write. Does it help to think about such matters? You might as well ask whether it helps to think about the recipe before you start to cook. Socrates says that “the unexamined life is not worth living.” And that’s what philosophy is: an examination of ­opinions—and also of our lives, shaped by these opinions. In thinking philosophically, we try to sort our opinions into two baskets: the good-views basket and the trash. We want to think about these matters as clearly and rationally as we can. Thinking is a kind of craft. Like any other craft, we can do it well or poorly, with shoddy workmanship or with care, and we improve with practice. It is common for people who want to learn a craft—cabinetmaking, for example—to apprentice themselves for a time ­ to a master, doing what the master does until the time comes when they are skillful enough to set up shop on their own. You can think of reading this book as a kind of apprenticeship in thinking, with Socrates, Plato, Kant, and the rest as the masters. By thinking along with them, noting their insights and arguments, following their examinations of each other’s opinions, you should improve that allimportant skill of your own. This Book This book is organized historically because that’s how philosophy has developed. It’s not just a recital of this following that, however. It is also intensively interactive because that’s what philosophy has been. We have taken the metaphor of a conversation seriously. These folks are all talking to each other, arguing with each other, trying to convince each other—and that makes the story of philosophy a dramatic one. Aristotle learns a lot from his teacher, Plato, but argues that Plato makes one big mistake—and that colors everything else he says. Aquinas appreciates what Aristotle has done but claims that Aristotle neglects a basic feature of reality—and that makes all the difference. In the seventeenth century, Descartes looks back on his predecessors with despair, noting that virtually no agreement has been reached on any topic; he resolves to wipe the slate clean and make a new start. Beginning with an analysis of what it is to believe anything at all, C. S. Peirce argues that what Descartes wants to do is impossible. And so it goes. Not all the philosophers in this book have been involved in the same conversation, however. While this book focuses mainly on the Western tradition—the philosophical conversation that began in ancient Greece—other cultures have had their own philosophical conversations. Philosophy arose independently in India and China as well, and the conversations in South and East Asia have been as rich as those in the West. This book cannot hope to convey those conversations in their entirety, but it will introduce you to some key ideas in each of them. Examining early Indian and Chinese philosophy alongside Western philosophy helps illuminate both the commonalities among those traditions— the questions that human beings have wrestled with all over the globe—and the differences between them. To emphasize the conversational and interactive aspect of philosophy, the footnotes in this book provide numerous cross-references, mainly within Western philosophy but also between Western and non-Western thinkers. Your understanding of an issue will be substantially enriched if you follow up on these. To appreciate the line one thinker is pushing, it is important to see what he is arguing against, where he thinks that others have made mistakes, and how other thinkers have approached the same problems. No philosopher simply makes A Word to Students pronouncements in the dark. There is always something that bugs each thinker, something she thinks is terribly wrong, something that needs correction. This irritant may be something current in the culture, or it may be what other philosophers have been saying. Using the cross-­references to understand that background will help you to make sense of what is going on—and why. The index of names and terms at the back of this book will also help you. Philosophers are noted for introducing novel terms or using familiar words in novel ways. They are not alone in this, of course; poets and scientists do the same. There is no reason to expect that our everyday language will be suited, just as it is, to express the truth of things, so you will have some vocabulary to master. You will find key words in boldface and a list of them at the end of each chapter. Use this list to help you review important concepts and arguments. Many of these boldfaced terms are defined in the Glossary at the back of the book. The Issues The search for wisdom—that is, philosophy— ranges far and wide. Who can say ahead of time what might be relevant to that search? Still, there are certain central problems that especially concern philosophers. In your study of this text, you can expect to find extensive discussions of these four issues in particular: 1.  Metaphysics, the theory of reality. In our own day, Willard Quine has said that the basic question of metaphysics is very simple: What is there? The metaphysical question, of course, is not like, “Are there echidnas in Australia?” but “What kinds of things are there fundamentally?” Is the world through and through made of material stuff, or are there souls as well as bodies? Is there a God? If so, of what sort? Are there universal features to reality, or is everything just the particular thing that it is? Does everything happen necessarily or are fresh starts possible?   xvii 2.  Epistemology, the theory of knowledge. We want to think not only about what there is, but also about how we know what there is— or, maybe, whether we can know anything at all! So we reflectively ask, What is it to know something anyway? How does that differ from just believing it? How is knowing something related to its being true? What is truth? How far can our knowledge reach? Are some things simply unknowable? 3.  Ethics, the theory of right and wrong, good and bad. We aren’t just knowers and believers. We are doers. The question then arises of what wisdom might say about how best to live our lives. Does the fact that something gives us pleasure make it the right thing to do? Do we need to think about how our actions affect others? If so, in what way? Are there really goods and bads, or does thinking so make it so? Do we have duties? If so, where do they come from? What is virtue and vice? What is justice? Is justice important? 4.  Human nature—Socrates took as his motto a slogan that was inscribed in the temple of Apollo in Delphi: know thyself. But that has proved none too easy to do. What are we, anyway? Are we simply bits of matter caught up in the universal mechanism of the world, or do we have minds that escape this deterministic machine? What is it to have a mind? Is mind separate from body? How is it related to the brain? Do we have a free will? How important to my self-identity is my relationship to others? To what degree can I be responsible for the creation of myself? Running through these issues is a fifth one that perhaps deserves special mention. It centers on the idea of relativism. The question is whether there is a way to get beyond the prejudices and assumptions peculiar to ourselves or our culture—or whether that’s all there is. Are there just opinions, with no one opinion ultimately any better than any other? Are all views relative to time and place, to culture and position? Is there no truth—or, anyway, no truth that we can know to be true? xviii   A Word to Students This problem, which entered all the great conversations early, has persisted to this day. Most of the Western philosophical tradition can be thought of as a series of attempts to kill such skepticism and relativism, but this phoenix will not die. Our own age has the distinction, perhaps, of being the first age ever in which the basic assumptions of most people, certainly of most educated people, are relativistic, so this theme will have a particular poignancy for us. We will want to understand how we came to this point and what it means to be here. We will also want to ask ourselves how adequate this relativistic outlook is. What we are is what we have become, and what we have become has been shaped by our history. In this book, we look at that history, hoping to understand ourselves better and, thereby, gain some wisdom for living our lives. Reading Philosophy Reading philosophy is not like reading a novel, nor is it like reading a research report in biology or a history of the American South. Philosophers have their own aims and ways of proceeding, and it will pay to take note of them at the beginning. Philosophers aim at the truth about fundamental matters, and in doing so they offer arguments. If you want to believe for good reasons, what you seek is an argument. An argument in philosophy is not a quarrel or a disagreement, but simply this business of offering reasons to believe. Every argument, in this sense, has a certain structure. There is some proposition the philosopher wants you to believe—or thinks every rational person ought to believe—and this is called the conclusion. And there are the reasons he or she offers to convince you of that conclusion; these are called the premises. In reading philosophy, there are many things to look for—central concepts, presuppositions, overall view of things—but the main things to look for are the arguments. And the first thing to identify is the conclusion of the argument: What is it that the philosopher wants you to believe? Once you have identified the conclusion, you need to look for the reasons given for believing that conclusion. Usually philosophers do not set out their arguments in a formal way, with premises listed first and the conclusion last. The argument will be embedded in the text, and you need to sniff it out. This is usually not so hard, but it does take careful attention. Occasionally, especially if the argument is complex or obscure, we give you some help and list the premises and conclusion in a more formal way. You might right now want to look at a few examples. Socrates in prison argues that it would be wrong for him to escape; that is the conclusion, and we set out his argument for it on p. 144. Plato argues that being happy and being moral are the same thing; see an outline of his argument on p. 176. Anselm gives us a complex argument for the existence of God; see our summary on p. 314. And Descartes argues that we have souls that are distinct from and independent of our bodies; see p. 319. Often, however, you will need to identify the argument buried in the prose for yourself. What is it that the philosopher is trying to get you to believe? And why does he think you should believe that? It will be helpful, and a test of your understanding, if you try to set the argument out for yourself in a more or less formal way; keep a small notebook, and list the main arguments chapter by chapter. Your first aim should be to understand the argument. But that is not the only thing, because you will also want to discover how good the argument is. These very smart philosophers, to tell the truth, have given us lots of poor arguments; they’re only human, after all. So you need to try to evaluate the arguments. In evaluating an argument, there are two things to look at: the truth or acceptability of the premises and whether the premises actually do support the conclusion. For an argument to be a good one, the reasons given in support of the conclusion have to at least be plausible. Ideally the premises should be known to be true, but that is a hard standard to meet. If the reasons are either false or implausible, they can’t lend truth or plausibility to the conclusion. If there are good reasons to doubt the premises, then the argument should not convince you. A Word to Students It may be, however, that all the premises are true, or at least plausible, and yet the argument is a poor one. This can happen when the premises do not have the right kind of relation to the conclusion. Broadly speaking, there are two kinds of arguments: deductive and inductive. A good deductive argument is one in which the premises— if true—guarantee the truth of the conclusion. In other words, the conclusion couldn’t possibly be false if the premises are true. When this condition is satisfied, we say that the argument is valid. Note that an argument may have validity even though the premises are not in fact true; it is enough that if the premises were true, then the conclusion would have to be true. When a deductive argument is both valid and has true premises, we say it is sound. Inductive arguments have a looser relation between premises and conclusion. Here the premises give some support to the conclusion—the more support the better—but they fall short of guaranteeing the truth of the conclusion. Typically philosophers aim to give sound deductive arguments, and the methods of evaluating these arguments will be those of the preceding two paragraphs. You will get some help in evaluating arguments because you will see philosophers evaluating the arguments of other philosophers. (Of course, these evaluative arguments themselves may be either good or bad.) This is what makes the story of philosophy so dramatic. Here are a few examples. Aristotle argues that Plato’s arguments for eternal, unchanging realities (which Plato calls Forms) are completely unsound; see pp. 198– 199. Augustine tries to undercut the arguments of the skeptics on pp. 267–268. And Hume criticizes the design argument for the existence of God on pp. 456-458. Sometimes you will see a philosopher criticizing another philosopher’s presuppositions (as Peirce criticizes Descartes’ views about doubt, pp. 596–597) or directly disputing another’s conclusion (as Hegel does with respect to Kant’s claim that there is a single basic principle of morality, pp. 512–513). But even here, it is argument that is the heart of the matter. In reading philosophy you can’t just be a passive observer. It’s no good trying to read for   xix understanding while texting with your friends. You need to concentrate, focus, and be actively engaged in the process. Here are a few general rules: 1. Have an open mind as you read. Don’t decide after the first few paragraphs that what a philosopher is saying is absurd or silly. Follow the argument, and you may change your mind about things of some importance. 2. Write out brief answers to the questions embedded in the chapters as you go along; check back in the text to see that you have got it right. 3. Use the key words to check your understanding of basic concepts. 4. Try to see how the arguments of the philosophers bear on your own current views of things. Bring them home; apply them to the way you now think of the world and your place in it. Reading philosophy is not the easiest thing in the world, but it’s not impossible either. If you make a good effort, you may find that it is even rather fun. Web Resources A website for this book is available at www.oup. com/us/melchert. Here you will find, for each chapter, the following aids: Essential Points (a brief list of crucial concepts and ideas) Flashcards (definitions of basic concepts) Multiple-Choice Questions (practice tests) Web Resources (mostly original works that are discussed in this text—e.g., Plato’s Meno or Nietzsche’s Beyond Good and Evil—but also some secondary treatments) The web also has some general resources that you might find helpful: Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: http:// Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy: http:// xx   A Word to Students Both these encyclopedias contain reliable in-depth discussions of the philosophers and topics we will be studying. Philosophy Pages: http://www. A source containing a variety of things, most notably a Philosophical Dictionary. Project Vox: A source containing information about selected women philosophers of the early modern period, whose philosophical voices and contributions are being recovered and recognized by historians of philosophy. YouTube contains numerous short interviews with and about philosophers, such as those at https://youtube/ nG0EWNezFl4 and https://youtube/ B2fLyvsHHaQ, as well as various series of short videos about philosophical concepts, such as those by Wireless Philosophy at com/user/WirelessPhilosophy A C KN O W L E D GM E N TS W e want to thank those readers of the seventh edition who thoughtfully provided us with ideas for improvement. We are grateful to Peter Adamson, Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich; Eric Boynton, Allegheny College; David Buchta, Brown University; Amit Chaturvedi, University of Hawai’i at Mānoa; Douglas Howie, North Lake College; Manyul Im, University of Bridgeport; Jon McGinnis, University of Missouri, St. Louis; Susan M. Mullican, University of Southern Mississippi – Gulf Coast Campus; Danny Muñoz-Hutchinson, St. Olaf College; Hagop Sarkissian, The City University of New York, Baruch College and Graduate Center; Stephanie Semler, Northern Virginia Community College; Nancy Shaffer, California University of Pennsylvania; Georgia Van Dam, Monterey Peninsula College; and Bryan William Van Norden, Yale-NUS College. We are also grateful to the specialists in nonWestern and Islamic philosophy who provided valuable feedback on the new chapters in this edition, including Peter Adamson, David Buchta, Amit Chaturvedi, Manyul Im, Jon McGinnis, and Hagop Sarkissian. All errors remain our own. Finally, we would like to thank the editorial team at Oxford University Press, including Robert Miller, Alyssa Palazzo, Sydney Keen, and Marianne Paul. Comments relating to this new edition may be sent to us at or xxi I was aware that the reading of all good books is indeed like a conversation with the noblest men of past centuries who were the authors of them, nay a carefully studied conversation, in which they reveal to us none but the best of their thoughts. —René Descartes We—mankind—are a conversation. —Martin Heidegger In truth, there is no divorce between philosophy and life. —Simone de Beauvoir CHAPTER 1 BE F OR E PH ILO S OPHY Myth in Hesiod and Homer E verywhere and at all times, we humans have wondered at our own existence and at our place in the scheme of things. We have asked, in curiosity and amazement, “What’s it all about?” “How are we to understand this life of ours?” “How is it best lived?” “Does it end at death?” “This world we find ourselves in—where does it come from?” “What is it, anyway?” “How is it related to us?” These are some of the many philosophical questions we ask. Every culture offers answers, though not every culture has developed what we know as philosophy. Early answers to such questions universally take the form of stories, usually stories involving the gods—gigantic powers of a personal nature, engaged in tremendous feats of creation, frequently struggling with one another and intervening in human life for good or ill. We call these stories myths. They are told and retold, taught to children as the plain facts, gaining authority by their age, by repetition, and by the apparent fact that within a given culture, virtually everyone accepts them. They shape a tradition, and traditions shape lives. Philosophy, literally “love of wisdom,” begins when individuals start to ask, “Why should we believe these stories?” “How do we know they are true?” When people try to give good reasons for believing (or not believing) these myths, they have begun to do philosophy. Philosophers look at myths with a critical eye, sometimes defending them and sometimes appreciating what myths try to do, but often attacking myths’ claims to literal truth. So there is a tension between these stories and philosophy, a tension that occasionally breaks into open conflict. This conflict is epitomized in the execution of the philosopher Socrates by his fellow Athenians in 399 B.C. The Athenians accused Socrates of corrupting the youth because he challenged the commonly accepted views and values of ancient Athens. But even though Socrates challenged those views, his own views were deeply influenced by them. He was part of a conversation, already centuries old among the Greeks, about how to understand the world and our place in it. That conversation continued after his death, right down to the present 1 2   CHAPTER 1   Before Philosophy: Myth in Hesiod and Homer day, spreading far beyond Athens and winding its way through all of Western intellectual history. If we want to understand this conversation, we need to understand where and how it began. We need to understand Socrates, and we need to understand where he came from. To do that, we need to understand the myths through which the ancient Greeks had tried to understand their world. Our aim is neither a comprehensive survey nor mere acquaintance with some of these stories. We will be trying to understand something of Greek religion and culture, of the intellectual and spiritual life of the people who told these stories. As a result, we should be able to grasp why Socrates believed what he did and why some of Socrates’ contemporaries reacted to him as they did. With that in mind, we take a brief look at two of the great Greek poets: Hesiod and Homer. Hesiod: War Among the Gods The poet we know as Hesiod probably composed his poem Theogony toward the end of the eighth century B.C., but he drew on much older traditions and seems to have synthesized stories that are not always consistent. The term theogony means “origin or birth of the gods,” and the stories contained in the poem concern the beginnings of all things. In this chapter, we look only at certain central events, as Hesiod relates them. Hesiod claims to have written these lines under divine inspiration. (Suggestion: Read quotations aloud, especially poetry; you will find that they become more meaningful.) The Muses once taught Hesiod to sing Sweet songs, while he was shepherding his lambs On holy Helicon; the goddesses Olympian, daughters of Zeus who holds The aegis,* first addressed these words to me: “You rustic shepherds, shame: bellies you are, Not men! We know enough to make up lies Which are convincing, but we also have The skill, when we’ve a mind, to speak the truth.” So spoke the fresh-voiced daughters of great Zeus And plucked and gave a staff to me, a shoot Of blooming laurel, wonderful to see, *The aegis is a symbol of authority. And breathed a sacred voice into my mouth With which to celebrate the things to come And things which were before. —Theogony, 21–351 The Muses, according to the tradition Hesiod is drawing on, are goddesses who inspired poets, artists, and writers. In this passage, Hesiod is telling us that the stories he narrates are not vulgar shepherds’ lies but are backed by the authority of the gods and embody the remembrance of events long past. They thus represent the truth, Hesiod says, and are worthy of belief. What have the Muses revealed? And sending out Unearthly music, first they celebrate The august race of first-born gods, whom Earth Bore to broad Heaven, then their progeny, Givers of good things. Next they sing of Zeus The father of gods and men, how high he is Above the other gods, how great in strength. —Theogony, 42–48 Note that the gods are born; their origin, like our own, is explicitly sexual. Their ancestors are Earth (Gaea, or Gaia) and Heaven (Ouranos).* And like people, the gods differ in status and power, with Zeus, king of the gods, being the most exalted. There is confusion in the Greek stories about the very first things (no wonder), and there are contradictions among them. According to Hesiod, first there is chaos, apparently a formless mass of stuff, dark and without differentiation. Out of this chaos, Earth appears. (Don’t ask how.) Earth then gives birth to starry Heaven, to be An equal to herself, to cover her All over, and to be a resting-place, Always secure, for all the blessed gods. —Theogony, 27–30 After lying with Heaven, Earth bears the first race of gods, the Titans, together with the *Some people nowadays speak of the Gaea hypothesis and urge us to think of Earth as a living organism. Here we have a self-conscious attempt to revive an ancient way of thinking about the planet we inhabit. Ideas of the Earthmother and Mother Nature likewise echo such early myths. Hesiod: War Among the Gods Cyclops—three giants with but one round eye in the middle of each giant’s forehead. Three other sons, “mighty and violent,” are born to the pair, each with a hundred arms and fifty heads: And these most awful sons of Earth and Heaven Were hated by their father from the first. As soon as each was born, Ouranos hid The child in a secret hiding-place in Earth* And would not let it come to see the light, And he enjoyed this wickedness. —Theogony, 155–160 Earth, distressed and pained with this crowd hidden within her, forms a great sickle of hardest metal and urges her children to use it on their father for his shameful deeds. The boldest of the Titans, Kronos, takes the sickle and plots vengeance with his mother. Great Heaven came, and with him brought the night. Longing for love, he lay around the Earth, Spreading out fully. But the hidden boy Stretched forth his left hand; in his right he took The great long jagged sickle; eagerly He harvested his father’s genitals And threw them off behind. —Theogony, 176–182 Where Heaven’s bloody drops fall on land, the Furies spring up—monstrous goddesses who hunt down and punish wrongdoers.† In the Titans’ vengeance for their father’s wickedness, we see a characteristic theme in Greek thought, a theme repeated again and again in the great classical tragedies and also echoed in later philosophy: Violating the rule of ­justice—even in the service of justice—brings consequences. The idea repeats itself in the Titan’s story. Kronos, now ruler among the Titans, has children by Rhea, among them Hera, Hades, and ­Poseidon. Learning of a prophecy that he will be dethroned by one of these children, Kronos *This dank and gloomy place below the surface of the earth and sea is known as Tartarus. †In contemporary literature, you can find these Furies represented in Jean-Paul Sartre’s play The Flies.   3 seizes the newborns and swallows them.* When Rhea bears another son, however, she hides him away in a cave and gives Kronos a stone wrapped in swaddling clothes to swallow. The hidden son, of course, is Zeus. When grown to full strength, Zeus disguises himself as a cupbearer and persuades Kronos to drink a potion. This causes Kronos to vomit up his brothers and sisters—together with the stone. (The stone, Hesiod tells us, is set up at Delphi, northwest of Athens, to mark the center of the earth.) Together with his brothers and their allies, Zeus makes war on the Titans. The war drags on for ten years until Zeus frees the Cyclops from their imprisonment in Tartarus. The Cyclops give Zeus a lightning bolt, supply Poseidon with a trident, and provide Hades with a helmet that makes him invisible. With these aids, the gods overthrow Kronos and the Titans and hurl them down into Tartarus. The three victorious brothers divide up the territory: Zeus rules the sky (he is called “cloudgatherer” and “storm-bringer”); Poseidon governs the sea; and Hades reigns in Tartarus. Earth is shared by all three. Again, the myths tell us that wickedness does not pay. Thus, the gods set up a relatively stable order in the universe, an order both natural and moral. Although the gods quarrel among themselves and are not above lies, adultery, and favoritism, each guards something important and dear to humans. They also see to it that wickedness is punished and virtue is rewarded, just as was the case among themselves. 1. Why are philosophers dissatisfied with mythological accounts of reality? 2. What is the topic of Hesiod’s Theogony? 3. Tell the story of how Zeus came to be king of the gods. 4. What moral runs through these early myths? *“Kronos” is closely related to the Greek word for time, “chronos.” What might it mean that Kronos devours his children? And that they overthrow his rule to establish cities— communities of justice—that outlive their citizens? 4   CHAPTER 1   Before Philosophy: Myth in Hesiod and Homer Homer: Heroes, Gods, and Excellence Xenophanes, a philosopher we will meet later,* tells us that “from the beginning all have learnt in accordance with Homer.”2 As we have seen, poets were thought to write by divine inspiration, and for centuries Greeks listened to or read the works of Homer, much as people read the Bible or the Koran today. Homer, above all others, was the great teacher of the Greeks. To discover what was truly excellent in battle, governance, counsel, sport, the home, and human life in general, the Greeks looked to Homer’s tales. These dramatic stories offered a picture of the world and people’s place in it that molded the Greek mind and character. Western philosophy begins against the Homeric background, so we need to understand something of Homer. Homer simply takes for granted the tradition of gods and heroes set down in Hesiod’s Theogony. That sky-god tradition of Zeus, Athena, and Apollo celebrates clarity and order, mastery over chaos, intellect and beauty: fertile soil, one must think, for philosophy. Homer’s two great poems are The Iliad and The Odyssey. Here, we focus on The Iliad, a long poem about a brief period during the nine-year-long Trojan war.† This war came about when Paris, son of the Trojan king Priam, seduced Helen, the famously beautiful wife of the Spartan king Menelaus. Paris spirited Helen away to his home in Troy, across the Aegean Sea from her home in Achaea, in southern Greece (see Map 1). Menelaus’s brother, Agamemnon, the king of Argos, led an army of Greeks to recover Helen, to avenge the wrong against his brother, and—not just ­incidentally—to gain honor, glory, and plunder. *See “Xenophanes: The Gods as Fictions,” in Chapter 2. †The date of the war is uncertain; scholarly estimates tend to put it near the end of the thirteenth century B.C. The poems took form in song and were passed along in an oral tradition from generation to generation. They were written down some time in the eighth century B.C. Tradition ascribes them to a blind bard known as Homer, but the poems we now have may be the work of more than one poet. Among Agamemnon’s forces was Achilles, the greatest warrior of them all. Here is how The Iliad begins. Rage—Goddess, sing the rage of Peleus’ son Achilles, murderous, doomed, that cost the Achaeans countless losses, hurling down to the House of Death so many sturdy souls, great fighters’ souls, but made their bodies carrion, feasts for the dogs and birds, and the will of Zeus was moving toward its end. Begin, Muse, when the two first broke and clashed, Agamemnon lord of men and brilliant Achilles. What god drove them to fight with such a fury? Apollo the son of Zeus and Leto. Incensed at the king he swept a fatal plague through the army—men were dying and all because Agamemnon had spurned Apollo’s priest. —The Iliad, Book 1, 1–123 The poet begins by announcing his theme: rage, specifically the excessive, irrational anger of ­Achilles—anger beyond all bounds that brings death and destruction to so many Greeks and almost costs them the war. So we might expect that the poem has a moral aspect. Moreover, in the sixth line we read that what happened was in accord with the will of Zeus, who sees to it that flagrant violations of good order do not go unpunished. In these first lines we also learn of Apollo, the son of Zeus, who has sent a plague on the Greek army because Agamemnon offended him. We can see, then, that Homer’s world is one of kings and heroes, majestic but flawed, engaged in gargantuan projects against a background of gods who cannot safely be ignored. The story Homer tells goes roughly like this. In a raid on a Trojan ally, the Greeks capture a beautiful girl who happens to be the daughter of a priest of Apollo. The army awards her to Agamemnon as part of his spoils. The priest comes to plead for her return, offering ransom, but he is rudely rebuffed. Agamemnon will not give back the girl. The priest appeals to Apollo, who, angered by the treatment his priest is receiving, sends a plague to Agamemnon’s troops. Homer: Heroes, Gods, and Excellence Abdera CE MA DO NIA   5 THRACE SAMOTHRACE Mount Olympus Potidaea Hellespont Troy LEMNOS CORCYRA AE THESSALY AN SEA Delphi Eretria Megara PELOPONNESUS I A AD ES 100 Miletus N CL Sparta 50 Ephesus O CY ACHAEA SALAMIS Argos Clazomenae Colophon Marathon Athens I Corinth IONIAN SEA 0 LYDIA CHIOS Thebes BOEOTIA Plataea Olympia Mytilene LESBOS EUBOEA Thermopylae ITHACA GE PAROS DELOS NAXOS MELOS Miles map 1 The Greek Mainland The soldiers, wanting to know what is causing the plague, appeal to their seer, who explains the situation and suggests returning the girl. Agamemnon is furious. To forfeit his prize while the other warriors keep theirs goes against the honor due him as commander. He finally agrees to give up the girl but demands Achilles’ prize, an exceptionally lovely woman, in exchange. The two heroes quarrel bitterly. Enraged, Achilles returns to his tent and refuses to fight anymore. Because Achilles is the greatest of the Greek warriors, his anger has serious consequences. The war goes badly for the Greeks. The Trojans fight their way to the beach and begin to burn the ships. Patroclus, Achilles’ dearest friend, pleads with him to relent, but he will not. If Achilles won’t have pity on his comrades, Patroclus says, then at least let him take Achilles’ armor and fight in his place. Achilles agrees, and the tactic has some success. The Greeks drive the Trojans back toward the city, but in the fighting Patroclus is killed by Hector, another son of Priam and the greatest of the Trojan warriors. Achilles’ rage now turns on Hector and the Trojans. He rejoins the war to wreak havoc among them. After slaughtering many, he comes face to face with Hector. Achilles kills him and drags his body back to camp behind his chariot—a profoundly disrespectful thing to do. As the poem ends, King Priam goes alone by night into the Greek camp to plead with Achilles for the body of his son. He and Achilles weep together, for Hector and for Patroclus, and Achilles gives up the body. This summary emphasizes the human side of the story. From that point of view, The Iliad can be 6   CHAPTER 1   Before Philosophy: Myth in Hesiod and Homer thought of as the story both of the tragedy that excess and pride lead to and of the humanization of Achilles. The main moral is the same as that expressed by a motto at the celebrated oracle at Delphi: “Nothing too much.”* Moderation is what Achilles lacked, and his lack led to disaster. At the same time, the poem celebrates the “heroic virtues”: strength, courage, physical prowess, and the kind of wisdom that consists in the ability to devise clever plans to achieve one’s ends. For Homer and his audience, these characteristics, together with moderation, make up the model of human excellence. These are the virtues ancient Greeks taught their children. The gods also appear throughout the story, looking on, hearing appeals, taking sides, and interfering. For instance, when Achilles is sulking about Agamemnon having taken “his” woman, he prays to his mother, the goddess Thetis. (Achilles has a mortal father.) Achilles asks Thetis to go to Zeus and beg him to give victory to—the Trojans! Zeus frets that his wife Hera will be upset—she favors the Greeks—but he agrees. If Zeus grants an appeal, that will be done. (Recall the sixth line of the poem.) Homeric religion, while certainly not a monotheism, is not exactly a true polytheism either. The many powers that govern the world seem to be under the rule of one.† That rule gives a kind of order to the universe. Moreover, this order is basically a just order, though it may not be designed altogether with human beings in mind. Zeus sees to it that certain customs are enforced: that oaths are kept, that suppliants are granted mercy, and that the rules governing guest and host are observed—the rules that Paris violated so grossly when he seduced Helen away from her husband, Menelaus. Homer suggests that the Greeks eventually win the war because Zeus punishes the violation of these customs. However, the Greeks are punished with great losses *This was one of several mottoes that had appeared mysteriously on the temple walls. No one could explain how they got there, and it was assumed that Apollo himself must have written them. †We shall see philosophers wrestling with this problem of “the one and the many.” In what sense, exactly, is this world one world? before their eventual victory because Agamemnon had acted unjustly in taking Achilles’ prize of war. The Homeric idea of justice is not exactly the same as ours. The mortals and gods in Homer’s world covet honor and glory above all else. Agamemnon is angry not primarily because “his” woman was taken back to her father but because his honor has been offended. Booty is valued not for its own sake so much as for the honor it conveys—the better the loot, the greater the honor. Achilles is overcome by rage because Agamemnon has humiliated him, thus depriving him of the honor due him. That is why Thetis begs Zeus to let the Trojans prevail until the Greeks restore to Achilles “the honor he deserves.” What is just in this social world is that each person receive the honor that is due, given that person’s status and position. Nestor, wise counselor of the Greeks, tries to make peace between Agamemnon and Achilles by appealing to precisely this principle. “Don’t seize the girl, Agamemnon, powerful as you are— leave her, just as the sons of Achaea gave her, his prize from the very first. And you, Achilles, never hope to fight it out with your king, pitting force against his force: no one can match the honors dealt a king, you know, a sceptered king to whom Zeus gives glory. Strong as you are—a goddess was your mother— he has more power because he rules more men.” —The Iliad, Book 1, 321–329 Nestor tries to reconcile them by pointing out what is just, what each man’s honor requires. Unfortunately, neither one heeds his good advice. The gods are also interested in honor. It has often been remarked that Homer’s gods reflect the society that they allegedly govern; they are powerful, jealous of their prerogatives, quarrel among themselves, and are not above a certain deceitfulness, although some sorts of evil are simply beneath their dignity. The chief difference between human beings and the gods is that human beings are bound for death and the gods are not. Greeks often refer to the gods simply as “the immortals.” Immortality makes possible a kind of blessedness among the gods that is impossible for human beings. Homer: Heroes, Gods, and Excellence As immortals, the gods are interested in the affairs of mortals, but only insofar as they are entertained or their honor is touched. They are spectators of the human comedy—or tragedy; they watch human affairs the way we watch soap operas and reality television. In a famous passage from the Iliad, Zeus decides to sit out the battle about to rage below and simply observe, saying, “These mortals do concern me, dying as they are. Still, here I stay on Olympus throned aloft, here in my steep mountain cleft, to feast my eyes and delight my heart.” —The Iliad, Book 20, 26–29 The gods both deserve and demand honor, punishing humans who refuse to give it. We saw that Apollo sent a plague because Agamemnon refused the ransom offered by Apollo’s priest. When humans dishonor the gods or do not respect their prerogatives, they are guilty of arrogance, or hubris. In this state, human beings in effect think of themselves as gods, forgetting their finitude, their limitations, their mortality. Hubris is punished by the gods, as hero after hero discovers to his dismay. The gulf between Homeric gods and ­mortals— even those, like Achilles, who have one divine parent—is clear and impassable. In closing this brief survey of Greek myths, we want to emphasize a particular aspect of this gulf: Those whose thoughts were shaped by Homer neither believed in nor aspired to any immortality worth prizing. There is a kind of shadowy existence after death, but the typical attitude toward it is expressed by Achilles when Odysseus visits him in the underworld. “No winning words about death to me, shining Odysseus! By god, I’d rather slave on earth for another man— some dirt-poor tenant farmer who scrapes to keep alive— than rule down here over all the breathless dead.” —The Odyssey, Book 11, 555–5584 For these conquerors who glory in the strength of their bodies, nothing after death could compare to glory in this life. They know they are destined to die, believe that death is the end of any life worth   7 living, and take the attitude expressed by Hector when faced with Achilles: “And now death, grim death is looming up beside me, no longer far away. No way to escape it now. This, this was their pleasure after all, sealed long ago— Zeus and the son of Zeus, the distant deadly Archer— though often before now they rushed to my defense. So now I meet my doom. Well let me die— but not without struggle, not without glory, no, in some great clash of arms that even men to come will hear of down the years!” —The Iliad, Book 22, 354–362 Again, even at the end, the quest for honor is paramount. 1. Describe the main characters in Homer’s poem The Iliad—for example, Agamemnon, Achilles, Apollo, Zeus, and Hector. 2. Retell the main outline of the story. 3. What is the theme of the poem, as expressed in the first lines? 4. How are honor and justice related in Homer’s view of things? 5. What virtues are said to constitute human excellence? 6. Describe the relationship between humans and gods. In what ways are they similar, and how do they differ? 7. What is hubris, and what is its opposite? 8. Do Homer’s heroes long for immortality? Explain. FOR FURTHER THOUGHT 1. Gather examples of mythological thinking that are current today. What questions would a ­philosopher want to ask about them? KEY WORDS Socrates Hesiod Theogony Titans Justice Hades Poseidon Zeus 8   CHAPTER 1   Before Philosophy: Myth in Hesiod and Homer Homer Paris Priam Helen Menelaus Troy Agamemnon Achilles Apollo Hector moderation honor hubris NOTES 1. Hesiod, Theogony, trans. Dorothea Wender, in Hesiod and Theognis (New York: Penguin Books, 1973). All quotations are taken from this translation; numbers are line numbers. 2. Kathleen Freeman, Ancilla to the Pre-Socratic Philosophers (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1948), 22. 3. Homer, The Iliad, trans. Robert Fagles (New York: Penguin Books, 1990). All quotations are taken from this translation; references are to book and line numbers. 4. Homer, The Odyssey, trans. Robert Fagles (New York: Penguin Books, 1996). References are to book and line numbers. CHAPTER 2 PH ILO SOPH Y BE F ORE S O C R AT E S I f the great conversation of Western philosophy is rooted in the poetry of Hesiod and Homer, it first sprouted in the protoscientific thought of Ionia (see Map 1). A little more than a century before Socrates’ birth, Greek thinkers on the eastern shore of the Aegean Sea began to challenge the traditional myths with attempts at more rational explanations of the world around them. Western philosophy was born in these attempts and in the conversation that it began. So, it is to these first Greek philosophers that we now turn. It is seldom entirely clear why thinkers raised in a certain tradition become dissatisfied enough to try to establish a new one. The reason is even more obscure in the case of the earliest Greek philosophers because we have a scarcity of information about them. Although most of them wrote books, these writings are almost entirely lost, some surviving in small fragments, others known only by references to them and quotations or paraphrases by later writers. As a group, these thinkers are usually known as the “pre-Socratics.” This name testifies to the pivotal importance put on Socrates by his successors.* For whatever reason, a tradition grew up in which questions about the nature of the world took center stage, a tradition that was not content with stories about the gods. For thinkers trying to reason their way to a view about reality, the Homeric tales and Hesiod’s divine genealogy must have seemed impossibly crude. Still, the questions addressed by these myths were real questions: What is the true nature of reality? What is its origin? What is our place in it? How are we related to the powers that govern it? What is the best way to live? Philosophy is born when thinkers attempt to answer these questions more rationally than myth does. In early Greek philosophical thought, certain issues took center stage. There is the problem of *In this chapter, we look only at selected pre-Socratic thinkers. A more extensive and very readable treatment of others—including Anaximenes, Empedocles, and ­Anaxagoras—can be found in Merrill Ring, Beginning with the Pre-Socratics (Boston: McGraw-Hill, 1999). 9 10   CHAPTER 2   Philosophy Before Socrates 2Philosophy Before Socrates the one and the many: If reality is in some sense one, what accounts for the many different individual things (and kinds of things) that we experience? Greek myth tends to answer this question in animistic or personal terms by referring either to birth or to spontaneous emergence. For instance, we find Hesiod simply asserting that “Chaos was first of all, but next appeared / Broad bosomed Earth” (Theogony, 116, 117). How, why, when, and by what means did it appear? On these questions the tradition is silent. Then there is the problem of reality and appearance. True, things appear to change; they appear to be “out there,” independent of us. But we all know that things are not always what they seem. Might reality in fact be very different from the way it appears in our experience? How could we know? Of course, there is also the question about human reality: Who are we, and how are we related to the rest of what there is? These questions perplex our first philosophers and we shall see them struggling to frame ever more satisfactory answers to them. Thales: The One as Water Thales (c. 625–547 B.C.) of Miletus, a Greek seaport on the shore of Asia Minor (see Map 1), seems to have been one who was dissatisfied with the traditional stories. Aristotle, one of the most important philosophers in the Western tradition, calls Thales the founder of philosophy.* We know very little about Thales, and part of what we do know is arguably legendary. So, our consideration here is brief and somewhat speculative. He is said to have held (1) that the cause and element of all things is water and (2) that all things are filled with gods. What could these two rather obscure sayings mean? Concerning the first, it is striking that Thales supposes there is some one thing that is both the origin and the underlying nature of all things. It is surely not obvious that wine and bread and stones and wind are really the same stuff despite all their differences. It is equally striking that Thales chooses one of the things that occur naturally in the world of our experience to play that role, rather *We cover Aristotle in Chapter 9. than one of the gods. Here we are clearly in a different thought-world from that of Homer. Thales’ motto seems to be this: Account for what you can see and touch in terms of things you can see and touch. This idea is a radical departure from anything prior to it. Why would Thales choose water to play the role of the primeval stuff? Aristotle speculates that Thales must have noticed that water is essential for the nourishment of all things and that without moisture, seeds will not develop into plants. We might add that Thales must have noticed that water is the only naturally occurring substance that can be seen to vary from solid to liquid to gas. The fact that the wet blue sea, the white crystalline snow, and the damp and muggy air seem to be the same thing despite their differences could well have suggested that water might take even more forms. At first glance, the saying that all things are full of gods seems to go in a quite different direction. If we think a moment, however, we can see that it is consistent with the saying about water. What is the essential characteristic of the gods, according to the Greeks? Their immortality. To say that all things are full of gods, then, is to say in effect that in each thing—not outside it or in addition to it—is a principle that is immortal. But this suggests that the things of experience do not need explanations from outside themselves as to why they exist. Moreover, tradition appeals to the gods as a principle of action. Why did lightning strike just there? Because Zeus was angry with that man. But to say that all things are themselves full of gods may well mean that we do not have to appeal beyond them to explain why events happen. Things have the principles of their behavior within themselves. Both sayings, then, point thought in a direction quite different from the tradition of Homer and Hesiod. They suggest that if we want to understand this world, then we should look to this world, not to another. Thales seems to have been the first to have tried to answer the question, Why do things happen as they do? in terms that are not immediately personal. In framing his answer this way, Thales is not only the first philosopher in the Greek tradition, but also the first scientist. It is almost impossible to overestimate the significance of this shift for the story of Western culture. Anaximander: The One as the Boundless 1. In what way are the two sayings attributed to Thales consistent? 2. Contrast the view suggested by Thales’ sayings with that of Homer. Anaximander: The One as the Boundless Let’s grant that Thales produced a significant shift in Western thought. What next? Although he may have done so, we have no evidence that Thales addresses the question of how water accounts for everything else. If everything is water, why does it seem as though so many things are not water, that water is just one kind of thing among many? There is something else unsatisfactory about his suggestion: Even though water has those unusual properties of appearing in several different states, water itself is not unusual. It is, after all, just one of the many things that need to be explained. If we demand explanations of dirt and bone and gold, why should we not demand an explanation for water as well? Ancient Greeks would have found a third puzzling feature in Thales’ idea. They tended to think in terms of opposites: wet and dry, hot and cold. These pairs are opposites because they cancel each other out. Where you have the wet, you can’t have the dry, and so on. Water is wet, yet the dry also exists. If the origin of all things were water, how could the dry have ever come into existence? It seems impossible. Although again we are speculating, it is reasonable to suppose that problems such as these led to the next stage in our story. We can imagine A ­ naximander, a younger fellow citizen from Miletus born about 612 B.C., asking himself—or perhaps asking Thales—these questions. How does water produce the many things of our experience? What makes water so special? So the conversation develops. Like Thales, Anaximander wants an account of origins that does not appeal to the gods of Homer and Hesiod, but as we’ll see, he does not reject the divine altogether. We can reconstruct ­Anaximander’s reasoning thus:   11 1. Given any state of things X, it had a beginning. 2. To explain its beginning, we must suppose a prior state of things W. 3. But W also must have had a beginning. 4. So we must suppose a still prior state V. 5. Can this go on forever? No. 6. So there must be something that itself has no beginning. 7. We can call this “the infinite” or “the Boundless.” It is from this, then, that all things come. We are ready now to appreciate a passage of Aristotle’s, in which he looks back and reports the views of Anaximander. Everything either is a beginning or has a beginning. But there is no beginning of the infinite; for if there were one, it would limit it. Moreover, since it is a beginning, it is unbegotten and indestructible. . . . Hence, as we say, there is no source of this, but this appears to be the source of all the rest, and “encompasses all things” and “steers all things,” as those assert who do not recognize other causes besides the infinite. . . . And this, they say, is the divine; for it is “deathless” and “imperishable” as Anaximander puts it, and most of the physicists agree with him. (DK 12 A 15, IEGP, 24)1 Only the Boundless, then, can be a beginning for all other things. It is a beginning, as Aristotle puts it; it does not have a beginning. Because it is infinite, moreover, it has no end either—otherwise it would have a limit and not be infinite. It should be no surprise that the infinite is called “divine.” Recall the main characteristic of the Greek gods: They are immortal; they cannot die. As Anaximander points out, this is a key feature of the Boundless. Here we have the first appearance of a form of reasoning that we will meet again when later thinkers try to justify belief in a god (or God) conceived in a much richer way than Anaximander is committed to.* Yet even here some of the key features of later thought are already present. The Boundless “encompasses all things” and “steers all things.” Those familiar with the New Testament will be *For examples, see Thomas Aquinas’ proofs of the existence of God (Chapter 15). 12   CHAPTER 2   Philosophy Before Socrates 2Philosophy Before Socrates reminded of Paul’s statement that in God “we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28).2 We have seen how Anaximander deals with one of the puzzles bequeathed to him by Thales. It is not water but the Boundless that is the source and element of all things. What about the other problem? By what process does the Boundless produce the many individual things of our experience? Here we have to note that the Boundless is thought of as indefinite in character, neither clearly this nor that. If it had a clear nature of its own, it would already exclude everything else; it would be, for instance, water but not fire, so it would have limits and not be infinite. Therefore, it must contain all things, but in a “chaotic” mixture.* The hot, the cold, the dry, and the wet are all present in the Boundless, but without clear differentiation. How, then, does the process of differentiation from the Boundless work? If Anaximander could show how these basic four elements (hot, cold, dry, and wet) separate out from the chaos, his basic problem would be solved. The one would generate many things. The question of how particular things are formed could be solved along similar lines. Note that at this early stage of thought, no clear distinction is made between heat as a property of a thing and the thing that is hot. There is just “the hot” and “the cold,” what we might think of as hot stuff and cold stuff. In fact, these stuffs are virtually indistinguishable from earth (the cold), air (the dry), fire (the hot), and water (the wet). To the ancient Greeks, the universe as we experience it seems to be composed of various mixtures of these elemental stuffs.† To solve his problem, Anaximander uses an analogy: Fill a circular pan with water; add some bits of limestone, granite, and lead (what you need is a variety of different weights); and then swirl the water around. You will find that the heavier bits move toward the middle and the lighter bits to the *Remember that Hesiod tells us that “Chaos was first of all.” †Much of Greek medicine was based on these same principles. A feverish person, for instance, has too much of the hot, a person with the sniffles too much of the wet, and so on. What is required is to reach a balance among the opposite elements. outside. Like goes to like; what starts as a jumble, a chaos, begins to take on some order. Anaximander is apparently familiar with this simple experiment and makes use of it to explain the origin of the many. If the Boundless were swirling in a vortex motion, like the water in the pan, then what was originally indistinguishable in it would become separated out according to its nature. You might ask, Why should we think that the Boundless engages in such a swirling, vortex motion? Anaximander would simply ask you to look up. Every day we see the heavenly bodies swirl around the earth: the sun, the moon, and even the stars. Did you ever lie on your back in a very dark, open spot (a golf course is a good place) for a long time and look at the stars? You can see them move, although it takes a long while to become conscious of their movement.* Furthermore, it seems clear that the motions we observe around us exemplify the vortex principle that like goes to like. What is the lightest of the elements? Anyone who has stared at a campfire for a few moments will have no doubt about the answer. The sticks stay put, but the fire leaps up, away from the cold earth toward the sky—toward the immensely hot, fiery sun and the other bright but less hot heavenly bodies. In short, Anaxminader turns not to gods or myths to try to explain the nature of the world, but to reasoning and experience. Of Anaximander’s many other interesting ideas, one deserves special attention—an idea that connects him to Hesiod and Homer as surely as his reliance on reasoning and experience sets him apart. Anaximander tells us that existing things “make reparation to one another for their injustice according to the ordinance of time” (DK 12 B 1, IEGP, 34). Several questions arise here. What existing things? No doubt it is the opposites of hot and cold, wet and dry that Anaximander has in mind, but why does he speak of injustice? How can the hot and cold do each other injustice, and how can they “make reparation” to each other? *Copernicus, of course, turns this natural view inside out. The stars only appear to move; in actuality, Copernicus suggests, it is we who are moving. See pp. 353–354. Xenophanes: The Gods as Fictions Much as Homer requires a certain moderation or balance in human behavior, assuming, for instance, that too much anger or pride will bring retribution, Anaximander presupposes a principle of balance in nature. The hot summer is hot at the expense of the cold; it requires a cold winter to right the balance. The rainy season comes at the expense of the dry; it requires the dry season to right the balance. Thus, each season encroaches on the “rights” due to the others and does them an injustice, but reparation is made in turn when each gets its due—and more. This keeps the cycle going. Unlike in Hesiod and Homer, though, ­Anaximander’s cosmic balance is not imposed on reality by the gods. Anaximander conceives it as immanent in the world process itself. In this he is faithful to the spirit of Thales, and in this both of them depart from the tradition of Homer. Anaximander’s explanations are framed impersonally. It is true that the Boundless “steers all things,” but the jealous and vengeful Homeric gods who intervene at will in the world have vanished. To explain particular facts in the world, no will, no purpose, no emotion, no intention is needed. The gods turn out to be superfluous. You can see that a cultural crisis is on the way. Since the Homeric tradition was still alive and flourishing in the religious, artistic, political, and social life of Greek cities, what would happen when this new way of thinking began to take hold? Our next thinker begins to draw some conclusions. 1. What puzzling features of Thales’ view seem to have stimulated Anaximander to revise it? 2. State Anaximander’s argument for the Boundless. 3. How, according to Anaximander, does the Boundless produce the many distinct things of our experience? 4. What evidence do we have in our own experience for a vortex motion? 5. How is the injustice that Anaximander attributes to existing things related to the Homeric virtue of moderation? 6. What sort of crisis was brewing in Ionia? Why?   13 Xenophanes: The Gods as Fictions Anaximander, as far as we know, only criticized the gods implicitly. He focused on solving his problems about the nature and origins of the world. Although his results were at odds with tradition, we have no record that he took explicit notice of this. But about forty miles north of Miletus, in the city of Colophon (see Map 1), another thinker named X ­ enophanes did notice. Like Thales and Anaximander, Xenophanes was an Ionian Greek living on the eastern shores of the Aegean Sea. We are told that he fled in 546 B.C., when Colophon fell to the Persians, and that he lived at least part of his life thereafter in Sicily. Xenophanes was a poet and apparently lived a long life of more than ninety-two years. Xenophanes is important to our story because he seems to have been the first to state clearly the religious implications of the new nature philosophy. He explicitly criticizes the traditional conception of the gods on two grounds. First, the way Hesiod and Homer picture the gods is unworthy of our admiration or reverence: Homer and Hesiod have attributed to the gods all those things which in men are a matter for reproach and censure: stealing, adultery, and mutual deception. (DK Z1 B11, IEGP, 55)* What he says is true, of course. It has often been remarked that Homer’s gods are morally no better (and in some ways may be worse) than the *When the Greeks talk about “men,” they may not have been thinking about women. Women were not citizens, for example, in ancient Athens. It does not follow, of course, that what the Greeks say about “men” has no relevance for women of today. Here is a useful way to think about this. Aristotle formulated the Greek understanding of “man” in terms of rational animal, a concept that can apply to human beings generally. What the Greeks say about “man” may well apply to women, too, although one should be on guard lest they sneak masculinity too much into this generic “man.” Their mistake (and not theirs alone!) was to have underestimated the rationality and humanity of women. We will occasionally use the term “man” in this generic sense, but we will often paraphrase it with “human being” or some other substitute. Rather than the awkward “he or she,” we will sometimes use “he” and sometimes “she,” as seems appropriate. 14   CHAPTER 2   Philosophy Before Socrates 2Philosophy Before Socrates band of ruthless warrior barons on whom they are so clearly modeled. They are magnificent in their own fashion, but flawed, like a large and brilliant diamond containing a vein of impurities. What matters about Xenophanes’ statement is that he not only notices this but also clearly expresses his disapproval.* He thinks it is shameful to portray the gods as though they are no better than the kind of human beings whom good men regard with disgust. That Homer, to whom all Greeks of the time look for guidance in life, should give us this view of the divine seems intolerable to Xenophanes. This moral critique is further developed by Plato.† For both of them, such criticism is the negative side of a more exalted idea of the divine. This kind of criticism makes sense only on the basis of a certain assumption: that Homer is not simply reporting the truth but is inventing stories. Several sayings of Xenophanes make this assumption clear. The Ethiopians make their gods snub-nosed and black; the Thracians make theirs gray-eyed and redhaired. (DK 21 B 16, IEGP, 52) 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 of oxen, each giving the gods bodies similar to their own. (DK 21 B 15, IEGP, 52) Here we have the first recorded version of the saying that god does not make man in his own image but that we make the gods in our image. Atheists and agnostics have often made this point since Xenophanes’ time. Was Xenophanes, then, a disbeliever in the divine? No, not at all. No more than Anaximander, who says the infinite sees all and steers all. Xenophanes tells us there is one god, greatest among gods and men, in no way similar to mortals either in body or mind. (DK 21 B 23, IEGP, 53) *For a contrary evaluation, see Nietzsche, p. 564. †See Euthyphro 6a, for instance. This criticism is ex- panded in Plato’s Republic, Book II, where Plato explicitly forbids the telling of Homeric and Hesiodic tales of the gods to children in his ideal state. Several points in this brief statement stand out. There is only one god.* Xenophanes takes pains to stress how radically different this god is from anything in the Homeric tradition. It is “in no way similar to mortals.” This point is brought out in some positive characterizations he gives of this god. He sees all over, thinks all over, hears all over. (DK 21 B 24, IEGP, 53) He remains always in the same place, without moving; nor is it fitting that he should come and go, first to one place and then to another. (DK 21 B 26, IEGP, 53) But without toil, he sets all things in motion by the thought of his mind. (DK 21 B 25, IEGP, 53) By contrast, we humans see with our eyes, think with our brain, and hear with our ears. We seldom remain in the same place for more than a short time, and if we want to set anything besides ourselves in motion, just thinking about it or wishing for it isn’t enough. Xenophanes’ god is very different from human beings indeed. Yet there is a similarity after all, and Xenophanes’ “in no way similar” must be qualified. The one god sees and hears and thinks; so do we. He does not do it in the way we do it; the way the god does it is indeed “in no way similar.” But god is intelligent, and so are we. Here is a good place to comment on an assumption that seems to have been common among the Greeks. Where there is order, there is intelligence. Order, whether in our lives or in the world of nature, needs an explanation, and only intelligence can explain it. Though never argued for, this assumption lies in the background as something almost too obvious to comment on. We can find experiences to give it some support, and perhaps these are common enough to make it seem selfevident—but it is not. For example, consider the state of papers on your desk or tools in your workshop. If you are like us, you find that these things, *It may seem that Xenophanes allows the existence of other gods in the very phrase he uses to praise this one god. Scholars disagree about the purity of his monotheism. In the context of other things he says, however, it seems best to understand this reference to “gods” as a reference to “what tradition takes to be gods.” Xenophanes: The Gods as Fictions   15 PYTHAGORAS P ythagoras (b. 570 B.C.), about whom we have as many legends as facts, lived most of his adult life in Croton in southern Italy (see Map 2 on page 23). He combined mathematics and religion in a way strange to us and was active in setting up a pattern for an ideal community. The Pythagorean influence on Plato is substantial.* Pythagoras and his followers first developed geometry as an abstract discipline, rather than as a tool for practical applications. It was probably Pythagoras himself who discovered the “Pythagorean theorem” (the square of the hypotenuse of a triangle is equal to the sum of the squares of the other two sides). He also discovered the mathematical ratios of musical intervals: the octave, the fifth, and the fourth. Because mathematics informs these intervals, the *We cover the great Greek philosopher Plato in ­Chapter 8. if left to their own devices, degenerate slowly into a state of chaos. Soon it is impossible to find what you want when you need it and it becomes impossible to work. What you need to do then is deliberately and with some intelligent plan in mind impose order on the chaos. Order is the result of intelligent action, it seems. It doesn’t just happen. Whether this assumption is correct is an interesting question, one about which modern physics and evolutionary biology say interesting things.* Modern mathematicians tell us that however chaotic the jumble of books and papers on your desk, there exists some mathematical function according to which they are in perfect order. But for these ancient Greeks, the existence of order always presupposes an ­ordering *See p. 361 for an example. Here Descartes claims that a chaos of randomly distributed elements, if subject to the laws of physics, would by itself produce an order like that we find in the world. For more recent views, see the fascinating book by James Gleick, Chaos: Making a New Science (New York: Penguin Books, 1987). The dispute over “intelligent design” shows that this is still a live issue. Pythagoreans held, somewhat obscurely, that all things are numbers. They also believed that the sun, the moon, and other heavenly bodies make a noise as they whirl about, producing a cosmic harmony, the “music of the spheres.” Pythagoras believed that the soul is a distinct and immortal entity, “entombed” for a while in the body. After death, the soul migrates into other bodies, sometimes the bodies of animals. To avoid both murder and cannibalism, the Pythagoreans were vegetarians. Xenophanes tells the story, probably apocryphal, that Pythagoras saw a puppy being beaten and cried out, “Do not beat it; I recognize the voice of a friend.” Mathematics was valued not just for itself but as a means to purify the soul, to disengage it from bodily concerns. In mathematical pursuits the soul lives a life akin to that of the gods. It is said that Pythagoras was the first to call himself a philosopher, a lover of wisdom. intelligence. We find this assumption at work in Anaximander’s and Xenophanes’ ideas of god. Consider now a saying that shows how closely Xenophanes’ critique of the traditional gods relates to the developing nature philosophy: She whom men call “Iris,” too, is in reality a cloud, purple, red, and green to the sight. (DK 21 B 32, IEGP, 52) In The Iliad, Iris is a minor goddess, a messenger for the other gods. After Hector has killed Patroclus, Iris is sent to Achilles to bid him arm in time to rescue Patroclus’ body (Book 18, 192–210). She seems to have been identified with the rainbow, which many cultures have taken as a sign or message from the gods. (Compare its significance to Noah, for example, after the flood in Genesis 9:12–17.) Xenophanes tells us that rainbows are simply natural phenomena that occur in natural circumstances and have natural explanations. A rainbow, he thinks, is just a peculiar sort of cloud. This idea suggests a theory of how gods are invented. Natural phenomena, especially those that are particularly 16   CHAPTER 2   Philosophy Before Socrates 2Philosophy Before Socrates striking or important to us, are personified and given lives that go beyond what is observable. Like the theory that the gods are invented, this theory has often been held. It may not be stretching things too far to regard Xenophanes as its originator. It is clear that there is a kind of natural unity between nature philosophy and criticism of Homer’s gods. They go together and mutually reinforce one another. Together they are more powerful than either could be alone. We will see that they come to pose a serious threat to the integrity of Greek cultural life. There is one last theme in Xenophanes that we should address. Poets in classical times typically appealed to the Muses for inspiration and seemed often to think that what they spoke or wrote was not their own—that it was literally inspired, breathed into them, by these goddesses. Remember Hesiod’s claim that he was taught to sing the truth by the Muses. Similarly, Homer begins The Iliad by inviting the goddess to sing through him the rage of Achilles.* No doubt this is more than a literary conceit; many writers have experiences of inspiration when they seem to be no more than a mouthpiece for powers greater and truer than themselves. Hesiod and Homer may well have had such experiences. Whether such experiences guarantee the truth of what the writer says in such ecstatic states is, of course, another question. Listen to Xenophanes: The gods have not revealed all things from the beginning to mortals; but, by seeking, men find out, in time, what is better. (DK 21 B 18, IEGP, 56) 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. (DK 21 B 38, IEGP, 56) Let these things, then, be taken as like the truth. (DK 21 B 35, IEGP, 56) This is a very rich set of statements. Let us consider them in six points. 1. Xenophanes is explicitly denying our poets’ claims of inspiration. The gods have not revealed *Look again at these claims to divine inspiration on pp. 2 and 4. to us in this way “from the beginning” what is true, Xenophanes says. If we were to ask him why he is so sure about this, he would no doubt remind us of the unworthy picture of deity painted by the poets and of the natural explanations that can be given for phenomena they ascribe to the gods. Xenophanes’ point is that a poet’s claim of divine revelation is no guarantee of her poem’s truth. 2. How, then, should we form our beliefs? By “seeking,” Xenophanes tells us. This idea is extremely vague. How, exactly, are we to seek? No doubt he has in mind the methods of the Ionian nature philosophers, but we don’t have a very good idea of just what they were, so we don’t get much help at this point. Still, his remarks are not entirely without content. He envisages a process of moving toward the truth. If we want the truth, we should face not the past but the future. It is no good looking back to the tradition, to Homer and Hesiod, as though they had already said the last words. We must look to ourselves and to the results of our seeking. He is confident, perhaps because he values the results of the nature philosophers, that “in time”—not all at once—we will discover “what is better.” We may not succeed in finding the truth, but our opinions will be “better,” or more “like the truth.”* 3. It may be that we know some truth already. Perhaps there is even someone who knows “the whole truth.” But even if he did, that person could not be sure that it is the truth. To use a distinction Plato later emphasizes, Xenophanes is claiming that the person would not be able to distinguish his knowledge of the truth from mere opinion.† (Plato, as we’ll see, does not agree.) There is, Xenophanes means to tell us, no such thing as certainty for limited beings such as ourselves. Here is a theme that later skeptics take up.‡ *In recent philosophy these themes have been taken up by the fallibilists. See C. S. Peirce (p. 601). †See pp. 149–151. ‡See, for instance, the discussions by Sextus E ­ mpiricus (pp. 246–251) and Montaigne (pp. 350–353). ­Similar themes are found in Descartes’ first Meditation and, in the Chinese tradition, in the work of Zhuangzi (pp. 83–87). Heraclitus: Oneness in the Logos 4. This somewhat skeptical conclusion does not mean that all beliefs are equally good. Xenophanes is clear that although we may never be certain we have reached the truth, some beliefs are better or closer to the truth than others. Unfortunately, he does not tell us how we are to tell which are better. Again we have a problem that many later thinkers take up. 5. Until Xenophanes, Greek thought had basically been directed outward—to the gods, to the world of human beings, to nature. Xenophanes directs thought back on itself. His questioning questions itself. How much can we know? How can we know it? Can we reach the truth? Can we reach certainty about the truth? These are the central questions that define the branch of philosophy called epistemology, the theory of knowledge. Xenophanes, it seems, is its father. “I was born not knowing and have only had a little time to change that here and there.” Richard Feynman (1918–1988) 6. If we ask, then, whether there is anyone who can know the truth and know that he knows it, what is the answer? Yes. The one god does, the one who “sees all over, thinks all over, hears all over.” In this answer, Xenophanes carries forward Homer’s emphasis on the gulf between humans and gods. The most important truth about humans is that they are not gods. Xenophanes’ remarks about human knowledge drive that point home once and for all. 1. What are Xenophanes’ criticisms of the Homeric gods? 2. What is his conception of the one god? 3. Can we know the truth about things, according to Xenophanes? If so, how? 4. Relate his sayings about knowing the truth to the idea of hubris and to claims made by Hesiod and Homer.   17 Heraclitus: Oneness in the Logos Heraclitus is said to have been at his peak (probably corresponding to middle age) shortly before 500 B.C. A native of Ephesus (see Map 1), he was, like the others we have considered, an Ionian Greek living on the shores of Asia Minor. We know that he wrote a book, of which about one hundred fragments remain. He had a reputation for writing in riddles and was often referred to in Roman times as “Heraclitus the obscure.” His favored style seems to have been the epigram, the short, pithy saying that condenses a lot of thought into a few words. Despite his reputation, most modern interpreters find that the fragments reveal a powerful and unified view of the world and man’s place in it. Furthermore, Heraclitus is clearly an important influence on subsequent thinkers such as Plato and the Stoics. One characteristic feature of his thought is that reality is a flux. All things come into being through opposition, and all are in flux, like a river. (DK 22 A 1, IEGP, 89) There are two parts to this saying, one about ­opposition and one about flux. Let’s begin with the latter and discuss the part about opposition later. Plato ascribes to Heraclitus the view that “you cannot step twice into the same river.” If you know anything at all about Heraclitus, it is probably in connection with this famous saying. What Heraclitus actually says, however, is slightly different. Upon those who step into the same rivers flow other and yet other waters. (DK 22 B 12, IEGP, 91) You can, he says, step several times into the same river. Yet it is not the same, for the waters into which you step the second time are different waters. So, you both can and cannot. This oneness of things that are different—even sometimes opposite—is a theme Heraclitus plays in many variations: The path traced by the pen is straight and crooked. (DK 22 B 59, IEGP, 93) Sea water is very pure and very impure; drinkable and healthful for fishes, but undrinkable and destructive to men. (DK 22 B 61, IEGP, 93) The way up and the way down are the same. (DK 22 B 60, IEGP, 94) 18   CHAPTER 2   Philosophy Before Socrates 2Philosophy Before Socrates The road from Canterbury to Dover is the road from Dover to Canterbury. They are “the same,” just as the same water is healthful and destructive, the same movement of th...
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Question 1
Plato concurs with first scholar stating that with that object of reason are those objects of
understanding. He is also in agreement with Heraclitus, who thought sensory objects are not
objects of reason. (Melchert & Morrow, 2019, p.152).
According to Plato, the bike's geometry is much more realistic since it does not exclude
any other bike. He further argued that when one thinks of the cycle, they ...

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