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Functions of the philosophy

What is philosophy needed for? What are its functions? They are the following:

n Outlook function: philosophy gives a general picture of the world around, of its laws and peculiarities and the place of man in it, as well as allows to help to elaborate an attitude to it.

n Critical: philosophy gives a critique of different sides of human life, society, culture etc.

n Epistemological: it allows to commit a reflection, a turn of cognition and thinking onto themselves in order to clear up their relevance, ways and possibilities of their further development.

n Prognostic: philosophy helps to make up grounded prognoses for future events and situations.

n Methodological: it gives us means for cognition, investigations, thinking, life etc.

n Humanitarian: it clears up different aspects of the human existence, ways of its improvements, and sense of life and so on.

n Axiologic[2]: philosophy elaborates the systems of values and means of orienting among such approaches as hedonism (the system of values, based on the priority of pleasure), eudemonism (that based on the priority of happiness), utilitarianism (that based on usefulness), evolutionism (the system of values, giving priority to development), metaphysical values systems (exceeding from metaphysical positions) and so on.

As a study subject in the high school the philosophy fulfils also the functions of mental and cultural horizons development and of the mental abilities development.


Control questions and exercises

1. Give a few different definitions of philosophy and its subject matter.

2. Compare materialism, idealism and dualism and put arguments for and/or against each of these trends. What of them, in your opinion, has advantage over the rest?

3. What should be meant under monism, dualism and pluralism in philosophy?

4. Analyze the basic functions of philosophy concerning your future specialty.


Chapter 2. The emergence of philosophy. The Antique philosophy


2.1. Forms of cognitive activity and the emergence of philosophy


What does it mean a cognition and what forms of cognitive activity exist? Cognition may be determined as a reflection by human of the world around, a mental mastering the reality. Usually we bind cognitive activity with science but this view is too superficial to be accepted in philosophy. According to it, many different forms of cognitive activity exist, such as myth, science, philosophy (as a particular science or as quite an independent cognitive activity), religion, art, mystics, occultism and so on. The primary among them is myth. In philosophical dictionaries and encyclopedias it’s determined sometimes as an invented (in some degree) telling of some events, heroes, phenomena etc., in ground of which something really existing lies. This definition is too perfunctory as well, for it doesn’t concern the innermost of myth. A lot of other definitions exist, we shall stop at the following. Myth is a telling based on associations and identifications of some objects with other ones. The pristine, primordial myth is primary to any other knowledge and experience, quite impregnable to outer objective facts and polysemantic. It’s simply an associative form of living in the world and this world reflection.

A primitive man yet knew no logic and could ponder on (i.e. arrange his experience data) not other but only in an associative way. That was the mythical mode of thinking that didn’t discern the inner and outer, the real and imaginable yet and mended them together, creating a specific closed system which united elements of future science, religion, philosophy, literature and other arts in itself. The primitive myths were very contradictory but men who lived in their frame didn’t notice it because the norms of logic were unknown to them yet. These myths almost weren’t told[3] but played. Both the play and the life merged together therein, compounding the reality the primitive people lived in. Gradually with accumulating more experience people discovered the logical norms that allowed them to arrange elements of reality in some other, more objective mode. Man acquired possibility to look at his myths from aside and noticed their contradictions. The necessity of most evident discrepancies arose. The men who had taken up to remove them became future priests. So, as a result of their work, renewed and well-developed mythological systems appeared. Later religions emerged on their ground. Having removed main discrepancies and got these new systems of views, people had a choice either to accept (to believe) or not to accept (not to believe) them. Thus, religion contains a new element absent in the propre myth, this element is belief. The people could easily see that phenomena and entities the renewed mythology being told of, are absent in usual world. Therefore, they should be transported somewhere into another world. So the religious faith means belief in this another transcendent[4] world. And religion is determined as a system providing a link between the usual and transcendent realities. Religion is tied closely with such form of human experience as mysticism. Mysticism is a kind of cognitive activity, supposing an individual experience of the transcendent and ways leading to it. The mystical experience is supposed also inexpressible in words to tell of to those who had it no. For them it stays mysterious (mysticism – from the word mystery). If religion supposes the link with the transcendent for the link or the transcendent itself, so occultism suggests using of the transcendent, its powers and manifestations in usual life for achieving material aims. Occultism is considered as a profanation of the religious or mystical.

The division of the united mythical outlook gives the beginning not only to religion but as well as to philosophy, science, art etc., which shared between themselves the primitive myth’s functions. If religion with mysticism and occultism takes sphere of the inner (spiritual) life, so the science is engaged in the sphere of outer (material world) exploration and art occupies the niche of free creativity and imagination. The first (in time) science was philosophy. It’s the nearest as to myth so to any other form of cognitive activity (very often even a distinct boundary between them and philosophy is absent), than the proper science. If the latter supposes an objective and rational reflection of the outer reality, so the philosophy is simply a free mental activity concerning some or other sides of existence.

Philosophy appears with no necessity and only there where some correspondent conditions are present. Historically it appeared approximately in the same time (7 – 6th centuries B.C.) in three places independently on each other:

n in the ancient Greece;

n in the ancient India;

n in the ancient China.

The ancient Greek (Antique) philosophy gave birth to all future European and partly Asiatic (Muslim) philosophy. Its emergence was conditioned by that the ancient Greeks unlike the ancient Egyptians or Babylonians were the nation of travelers and navigators and constantly encountered other nations representatives with habits different from their own. Probably, that’s why free-thinking necessary for the emergence of philosophy could spread among them. The appearing of philosophy in the ancient Greece, strictly speaking the pre-philosophy that gave beginning to the proper philosophy, was connected with seven wises called the first philosophers still by the ancient Greeks themselves.



2.2. The Antique philosophy. The first Greek philosophers


The ancient Greek philosophy is usually classified into the following stages:

n pre-Socratics (the Greek philosophers before Socrates);

n classic Greek philosophy (Sophists, Socrates, Plato, Aristotle);

n Hellenistic and Roman philosophy.

The works of the pre-Socratic philosophers have come to our time in fragments contained in the works of later philosophers (Aristotle, Diogenes of Laertes, Sextus Empiricus, Plutarch etc.) and, therefore, it’s difficult sometimes to reconstruct their teachings. The pre-Socratic philosophers were interested in the study of the being, which they thought to be an ascending (at Greek phusis, where the word physics comes from). Therefore, they were called physiologists or, at our usual mode, physicists. They saw the being in the world around, that is in nature. In nature they tried to find out a primal source, a cause of all, the so-called arche (beginning). Different ones of them thought arche in different ways. Many of them connected it with one of the four prime elements: water, fire, earth and air [11].

Thus, Thales of Miletus, one of the seven wises, pondered the arche is water. All the things are born out of water; the water is the beginning and the finish of any things. Our earth is a disk swimming by the surface of water, asserted he. All living creatures and even inanimate things have souls; one’s soul is one’s god, all the nature is full of gods, said Thales. It’s known of him also that in his youth he visited Egypt and studied there different secret sciences and arts from Egyptian priests. In connection with it an anecdote is told. Thales’ compatriots the citizens of Miletus mocked at him, that being so wise, he is nevertheless so poor. Then Thales, in order to demonstrate them what the wisdom and knowledge can, having used his knowledge of astronomy got from the Egyptian priests, calculated that a great crop of olives would be next year and beforehand rented all oil-mills in Miletus and vicinities. Having got a monopoly, he could set any price he wanted and earned so a lot of money, having proved thereby that wisdom is worth of something. Thales was also the founder of the Miletus philosophical school , the first known scientific school in the world history.

His disciple Anaximander reconsidered the teaching of his teacher and came to the opinion that arche is no element of the mentioned four but an especial beginning called apeiron (the word means an indefinite, formless, endless, limitless, chaotic). Apeiron is eternal and omnipresent in any possible worlds (our one is only one of them). From apeiron four elements (water, fire, earth, air) emerged; every one of them aspires to widen its own sphere, that engender a struggle (a war) between them that gives origin to all existing things and worlds. There exists a legend that namely Anaximander was the first who invented a geographic map. It’s also known that he pondered that the Sun is 20 or 28 times larger than the Earth.

The third representative of the Miletus school was Anaximenes the disciple of Anaximander. He asserted that the prime substance is air, for the spiritual precedes the material and our soul (the spiritual) is air. The fire is the rarefied air; the water arises by way of the air’s condensing, the further condensing gives the earth and still the further a stone.

The meaning of the Miletus school for the further development of philosophy and science consists in its tradition of treating the predecessors’ teaching. They were studied but not made a dogma or a constant authority. This was the first tradition of critical regarding and investigation so proper to any ancient and modern science.

Another of the ancient Greek philosophy schools was the Pythagorean one founded by Pythagoras the legendary sage, mystic, philosopher and mathematician. This school was some kind of a religious order whose teaching was secret and spread only among the initiated. This teaching and its particular constituents were regarded as not individual but a collective property of the school (what and who invented or discovered was of no matter). The first who opened the Pythagorean teaching for the wide publics was considered Plato.

For us the Pythagorean philosophy presents itself as a whimsical mixture of various elements of mathematics, occultism, imagination and scientific views. For example, the following norms of behavior:

n don’t touch a white cock;

n having got up from the bed in morning, immediately make it (maybe, for nobody to set a spoil upon you through the vestige of your body on the bed);

n don’t eat beans (for they are like a human embryo and eating them is like a cannibalism).

It’s known also that the Pythagoreans shared the faith in the soul reincarnations, Pythagoras himself, as it’s told, remembered many of his past lives. On this occasion a famous ancient comedian Aristophanes jibed in one of his comedies: ‘Don’t beat the puppy, for by its pitiful whimpering I’m recognizing my dear friend’. Body, according to the Pythagorean philosophy, is a prison for soul, the task of philosophy is to show the way to liberation.

There exist different types of people, taught Pythagoras, regarding himself, for instance, a semi-god. Other people may be divided by analogy with onlookers at the Olympic Games. The sellers have come there to sell their wares, i.e. for profit (these people are the most primitive and base among all); athletes have come to compete, i.e. for glory (they are much better but not the best); there are also those who have come simply to look at, i.e. for contemplation (they are the best). So the people of contemplative type are the highest of all and contemplation is the noblest of human occupation. Philosophy is a certain sort of contemplation. Pythagoras even invented a word for this contemplation, the word theory that may be interpreted as a contemplation leading to merging with the deity. Approximately the same is the literal translation of the Sanskrit word Samadhi meaning the highest state of consciousness that just can be attained.

However, the main significance of the Pythagorean school for the further development of philosophy and science consists of its input in the development of mathematics and its philosophic ground. The well known is the famous Pythagoras’ theorem (the sum of the squared legs of a triangle equals to the squared hypotenuse of the triangle). Pythagoras taught also that all consists of numbers which he comprehended as geometrical figures: one as a point, two as a segment, three as a triangle and so forth. That is the Pythagoreans saw the world as being compounded of regular geometrical elements. All things consist of them and therefore, some sorts of mathematical harmony may be found everywhere. The whole Universe is built in accordance with the mathematical harmony’s principles. The task of philosopher is to see them. The Pythagoreans called this harmony the music of Heaven, which is given to see only to the true wises. They also paid attention to the correlation between the length of a string and the pitch of its sounding and tried to create a mathematical theory of music (that’s whence their idea of the music of Heaven comes from). They also investigated possibilities of various diseases cure with music.

The Pythagorean philosophy made a great impact on the philosophy of Plato as well as on the European Renaissance philosophy and science (in particular astronomy of Kepler, Copernicus etc.).

Other considerable philosophers of that time were Heraclitus and Parmenides.

Heraclitus of Ephesus is most famous with his sacramental dictum ‘Panta rei’ ‘All flows and changes’. Or in other words, all the existing goes constantly from one state into another, nothing fixed exists in the world; emergence and disappearance, life and death, birth and decline, being and non-being are interconnected and mutually condition and pass into each other. Heraclitus is known also with his another aphoristic phrase ‘nobody can step twice into the same river’ (Cratylus one of his followers went up even further having said that one cannot step even once into the same river) as well as other sentences of not quite clear context ‘war is the father of any things’, ‘the Sun is new everyday’ etc. He taught also that the Universe descends from fire. I.e. the fire (the cosmic fire) is arche the primary element of existence. In the end the Universe will come back into fire, burning in it and from that final fire a new Universe will appear. On the Earth the gold corresponds to the fire. ‘As well as in the nature all things are exchanged for fire, so in the human world they are exchanged for gold’ said Heraclitus. He also complained constantly of the human nature naughtiness. ‘Citizens of Ephesus [his native town] would be the best to hang each other’. For these complaints he was called ‘the crying philosopher’.

In the connection with the philosophy of Heraclitus the philosophy of another Greek philosopher, of Empedocles is notable. According to Empedocles, the reality is compounded by different combinations of the above elements, every of which tries simultaneously to expand its sphere of spreading and repulse other elements and on the other hand to attract and get mixed with them together. This is the manifestation of two main principles of being: Love and Enmity. The Love makes elements to be intermixed and to create new combinations; the Enmity, on the contrary, repulses them from each other and makes them to be separately. The world is a sphere; we live in the internal part of it. Long ago, in the Golden Age the Love was inside and the Enmity outside the sphere. Later the state has changed: the Enmity got inside, ousting the Love outside the sphere. When all the Love is outside and the Enmity inside, it’s the Iron Age. It isn’t eternal, for the contrary movement begins, until the Golden Age comes again. So the process of the world development is cyclic; nothing eternal exists besides four elements as well as The Love and the Enmity [11].

Parmenides is famous with his teaching of being. According to him, two worlds exist. The first one is the world of the true, eternal, unchangeable, perfect, immovable, indivisible and wonderful being[5]. This being is the only one to be really true. The second world is that of opinions. All people used to perceive and to know belongs to it and isn’t true. All that is no more than people’s opinion. All changes and plurality belong to the world of opinions as well and are nothing else but an illusion. All these views were expounded in the Parmenides’ poem “Of nature”, that has come to our time not completely but in particular passages, from which we also may conclude that among human opinions there are not only quite false but as well as useful opinions (able to lead a man to the truth, i.e. the world of the true, eternal, unchangeable etc. being).

The true being is whole, unchangeable and immovable. What may it mean? Different interpretations may have been given during the centuries.



For instance, let us pretend to have a cube, different sides of which are painted in different colors. If we are standing in front of the cube, we see only a square, the side of it, painted in some one color. The painted square is only a part of the whole cube but without having seen the other sides we may think it’s a whole the only reality we have. But it’s only an opinion of ours, the truth is the cube as the whole. Further if we start going around the cube, we shall see the color of the square is changing. We may think it’s the reality itself changing but in real the cube (the reality) stays unchanged, that’s our point of seeing is changing. If we have gone around the cube, we’ll have got a complete picture of the cube and understood the truth.

In the same way the true being and the world of opinions differ. The first may be interpreted as the Universe on the whole in all its spatial and temporal diversity (the Universe with all its parts in all moments of present, past and future). The change of its states during the time is like the above changing of colors during our going around the cube. All these changes are the only opinions having nothing in common with the true being. There exists, however, a useful opinion, concerning the necessity of going around.

As far as we may conclude from the poem, Parmenides came to his view intuitively (the goddess of truth opened it to him), that allows to suppose that Parmenides described a changed state of consciousness, the so-called Samadhi-state the state of unity with God, the Universe on the whole etc. But it’s only a suggestion, for nobody knows now for sure what Parmenides really meant.

In spite of its vagueness and unclearness the Parmenides’ idea of the true, unchangeable, immovable etc. being made a great impact on all the later European philosophy’s development. In particular it exerted a decisive influence on the philosophy of Plato and through it on other European philosophers. Thus, M. Heidegger the German XX century philosopher even said that the atom bomb exploded at first in the poem of Parmenides [1, p.222-225]. If to juxtapose Heraclitus’ and Parmenides’ views, it may seem up they are quite contrary and exclude each other. However, it isn’t so; they rather supplement and complete one another. All, Heraclitus said of changes, may be referred to the world of opinions; what concerns the true and unchangeable being, Parmenides told about, it may be put into accordance with the logos (some sort of eternal and unchangeable principle ruling the world), of which Heraclitus mentioned. So these two philosophies depict each in its own way two different sides of being.

The disciple of Parmenides was Zeno. In order to develop further the teaching of his teacher, he tried to prove that movement doesn’t exist. For it he elaborated the so-called aporias (paradoxes) of movement. They are as follows:

n A flying arrow moves neither where it’s flying nor where it isn’t flying.

n A movement can’t finish, because to pass some distance it’s necessary to pass the half of it, to pass the half it’s necessary to pass the half of the half and so forth. The movement, therefore, can neither finish nor even begin.

n The quick-legged Achilles can’t overtake a slowly crawling tortoise. For till he reaches it, it’ll crawl away at some distance; till he overcomes this distance too, it’ll crawl away at some distance again and so to infinity.

n Two columns are moving to meet each other. If one of them is standing, the second to go by must pass some extent L. If they both are moving, the extent will be L/2. But it means the unit equals its half (L=L/2) but this is absurd.

That’s why, argued Zeno, movement doesn’t exist. It’s told, however, that after putting such hard arguments he stood up and started going before his listeners, proving thereby the contrary. But when one of them had tried to repeat it, Zeno beat him with a stick, saying that, who uses such sensible arguments, must get back the same counter-arguments. Zeno was famous as well as with a lot of other paradoxes. For example, the throwing down a grain doesn’t make a crash, the throwing two, three,... grains doesn’t either. But if we throw down a sack of grain, we shall get a great crash.

What Zeno himself wished to say with these paradoxes isn’t known for certain. The generally accepted opinion is that the paradoxes of Zeno demonstrate insufficiency of that time terminology concerning the problem of continuity and discontinuity. The latter is even actual for the modern physics and mathematics. For example, segment consists of points. It has a length, point hasn’t, the point’s length equals zero. How much are zeros added, the result’s always the same – a zero. It means some certain non-zero length equals zero. We get a contradiction. Its cause consists in oversimplifying of the certain mathematical grounds. For in fact a segment doesn’t consist of points and in order to come from a point to a segment not the adding but other mathematical operations are needed. In the modern quantum mechanics it’s spoken of the so-called quantum Zeno’s effect. It consists in the fact that, according to the quantum formalism, it turns out, if we observe a radioactive atom (that may disintegrate in a second according to the law of half-disintegration) continuously (without breaks and discontinuity), it’ll never disintegrate. Whether it’s only a mathematical effect or something more we cannot say. The same is with the classical Zeno’s effects. As for an outer appearance they are conditioned with that time mathematical or conceptual deficiency but beyond from the deeper background the problem of the discontinuity into continuity transition comes to light.

The problem of, what the true being is, together with the above continuity and discontinuity problem give birth to the Antique atomism. Its founders were the ancient Greek philosophers Leucippes and Democritus (the second was a disciple of the first). Their way of reasoning, according to a legend, borrowed from the Indian sage Canada was approximately the following. If an apple was cut in half and then every half again and again in half, in the end we would get only nothingness (zeros). It means that something (the apple) consists of nothing (sum of zeros) and it’s an absurd. Hence, a limit to dividing (something indivisible) must be. Leucippes called it with the word atom (literally indivisible). This atom is an absolute, self-sufficient, unchangeable being. Any other being (any existing thing) consists of atoms, i.e. the indivisible elements. There are only atoms and emptiness in the world. According to Democritus, atoms move in emptiness in compliance with strict deterministic laws. Because of this point of view Democritus is called often the founder of the modern determinism. But unlike the modern physics’ atoms those of Leucippes and Democritus shouldn’t be understood merely as usual material particles. Each of them is, first of all, a being (indivisible, invariable and self-sufficient). Democritus even mentioned the atoms with the size of the whole Universe [11].



2.3. Sophists and Socrates. Socrates as a turning point in the development of the Antique philosophy


In 5th century B.C. a lot of men, educated enough and ready to use their knowledge for earning their living, appeared in Greece. They earned their living, compounding and keeping speeches in courts or before audience, by teaching and so forth. For a certain payment they took up to prove anything they were asked. As a matter of fact these men were the first professionals in the intellectual sphere but the popular opinion treated them negatively, they were perceived as rogues and crooks, who fooled simple honest people. These men were called sophists (the word meant primarily ‘the wises’ but later, because of this opinion, acquired another meaning, some as ‘a dodger’ or ‘a wiseacre’). From the sophists originates also the word sophism (dodge or a dishonest trick in reasoning)[6]. For example, a sophism originating as early as from that time:

Say us, please. Do you have a dog?

Yes, I do. I have a very fierce he-dog.

Does your dog have puppies?

Yes, he does.

Are you sure these puppies are his?

Yes, I am. I saw myself his copulating with their mother.

Does it mean, he’s a father to the puppies?

It does, of course.

He is yours, isn’t he?

Yes, he’s mine.

He’s yours and he’s a father. That means he’s your father, you are a son of the dog and a puppies’ brother [9, p. 79].

Not all the antique sophisms are the only tricks (the matter is, the ancient Greeks didn’t differentiate tricks from paradoxes) and not all the antique sophists were merely dodgers ready for anything for money. Many of them were the real philosophers looking sincerely for truth but the better education, they got, made them less naive in comparison with other philosophers. Therefore, the sophists saw quite clear the conditional character of all truths existing at that time and were inclined to relativizing (accentuating the relative character of) any truth and knowledge. Thus, Protagorus the most famous philosopher-sophist expressed this common for all sophists view in the next dictum: Man is a measure for any things as the existing ones in their existence so the non-existing in their non-existence. Or in other words, any knowledge is relative and subjective and depends on human opinions, representing a set of these opinions’ projections.

Approximately at the same time there lived such famous Greek philosopher as Socrates who preached views similar in many points to those of sophists. Socrates didn’t write books and taught exclusively in oral form. We know about him and his teaching from the books of two of his disciples Plato and Xenophontes. Their descriptions not only coincide but even more sometimes contradict each other. And so, we even don’t know either we know enough of Socrates or nothing at all. Plato, being a great philosopher himself, ascribed (as it’s recognized by all modern scholars) his own thoughts to his teacher (some sort of a topsy-turvy plagiarism); Xenophontes, having become not a philosopher but a military man, is suspected now of being a complete ignoramus in the subject and, therefore, also may not be a reliable source on Socrates’ philosophy. It’s known of Socrates that he was accused in atheism and corrupting the youth, sentenced to death and executed.

It’s known of him for sure also that he was the first who had turned the ancient Greek philosophy attention from the study of nature onto the study of human. Nothing reliable and trustworthy can be said of physics (nature), asserted Socrates, and all that remains for a philosopher is to study himself (to practice a self-cognition) and to investigate the human nature. He said: Cognize yourself and you will cognize the world (i.e. all the rest around). This was the chief maxim of his philosophy [1, p. 141 – 143].

What may it mean? It may mean the following:

n all the existing teachings of the outer world are not reliable, because of that human doesn’t see the reality by itself but does it through a prism of its own ideas, notions, desires etc. ;

n we cognize not a reality but our own ideas’ and passions’ projections;

n therefore, before cognizing the nature we need to cognize our projections’ modes, i.e. to cognize ourselves and only after it we can cognize something else.

Some other sentences are ascribed to Socrates. For example: Either you have or haven’t married, you will be sorry of in any case. (Maybe this is because he himself did it twice and got no happiness. It should be mentioned that Socrates wasn’t occupied in any handicraft, kept no business and wanted to do nothing except going by Athens’ streets and importuning his compatriots with his sayings. That’s why probably he was grudged by both his wives). Another well-known dictum of Socrates is: I know that I know nothing (others don’t know even that). This latter characterizes as a matter of fact all Socrates’ philosophy. It may be interpreted as that being wise means discerning the boundaries of one’s own knowledge and that the more one knows so more he doesn’t know (for the boundary of one’s knowledge widens with the growing of his knowledge). Any knowledge is nothing in comparison with the ocean of unknown.

Let the circles depicted in the picture symbolize our knowledge and their circumferences the boundaries of this knowledge. That’s evident from the picture that the less the knowledge is so the less is the boundary of it (what remains to learn); than the more we know so the more we see how much we don’t know.







According to Plato, Socrates tried also to realize what the good is and how to teach people to be good. The conclusion, Socrates came to, was that the good is something absolute for anyone and men do bad because they don’t know this absolute good. If they knew it, they wouldn’t do bad but only good. An evil man is punished already by that he’s evil; a good one is rewarded at least by that he’s good. That is the good is a reward as itself and anyone who knows of it will aspire to it. It may be interpreted through the inner states of mind. The inner state of a good man is serene and calm with no remorse, unlike that of an evil one. The good man will wish to lose it is not for the world. If an evil man knew what this inner state is, he would refuse from his wicked behavior to attain it.

The next result of the Socrates’ philosophy is his dialectic method. It consisted in leading an interlocutor to his own answer at the question. Socrates put a question, the interlocutor answered it, Socrates put new ones and so until the interlocutor got confused in his own answers (having come to a contradiction). He looked perplexedly at Socrates and asked ‘What is the correct answer?’, Socrates said ‘I myself don’t know’. Therewith (with help of these conversations) he tried to demonstrate the conventional character of a problem to make his interlocutor to come to his own answer. Not all the people, Socrates dealt with, liked similar style of talking. Namely they, being annoyed with it, became a cause of Socrates’ execution.

Thus, the dialectic method (going from Socrates) is the method of teaching or reasoning by leading a conversation, that allows to take into consideration different points of view and making therewith a result more overall and thorough. Socrates was an antagonist to sophists in spite of his own relativism and proximity of their views. The cause, he blamed them for, was that they took money for their service. He compared them with whores for it, asserting that they sold their wisdom for money as well as the whores sold their body for it.



2.4. The philosophy of Plato


The disciple of Socrates was Plato. With Aristotle together they are the most important and famous Greek (or even European) thinkers. Thus A. Whitehead the English 20th c philosopher in this connection remarked that all the European philosophy is the only commentaries and additions to Plato and Aristotle. So decisive was their influence.

What concretely does it consist of?

Concerning Plato the importance of his philosophy can be reduced to the three moments. They are: dialectics, theory of ideas and theory of ideal state. About Plato's dialectics the following should be said. As for Socrates his dialectic method consists in the leading of teaching or reasoning by means of conversation then Plato turns it into a special approach merely using the form of conversation (all works of Plato except one single 'The Apology of Socrates' were written in a form of dialogues) but consisting in real in taking into consideration of different opposite points of view that allows to make analysis more profound and all-round (overall, thorough). In his dialogues Plato very often gives no final conclusion but only represents possible variants leaving to the readers possibility for finding out a conclusion by themselves. Reading of Plato's dialogues leaves a fresh impression of living discussion and playing with different colors and facets of being.

The Plato's theory of ideas can be regarded as a straight continuation of the Parmenides's conception of true, eternal, unchangeable, unmovable being. Plato like Parmenides asserts that two realms or worlds exist: the one of ideas and the other of material things [9, p. 486 – 491].

The ideas according to Plato are wonderful, perfect, eternal images abiding in their own world (the so-called ideas' realm). The material things are ugly and imperfect incarnations of the ideas which are primal to them. The things are like their reflection in rough amorphous matter. For example there exist material terrestrial horses. They all are reflections of one single ideal horse abiding beyond our usual world in the realm of ideas and embodying in itself all the perfect and essential inherent to material horses. About the latter Aristophanes the ancient Greek comedian jested “I can see a horse but no ‘horseness’”. There also exist geometric and mathematical and other abstract ideas in this realm.

Soul of a man is the idea of his. Before its incarnation in body it lived in the ideas world communicating with all other ideas and therefore has knowledge of them. Having incarnated it loses this knowledge and any cognition being a cognition of ideas is the process of the soul's recollection of that that it knew abiding the world’s ideas. As a proof for it Plato put a case of a slave-boy who with help of according questions Plato with his friend Meno had put had been able to infer some basic laws of geometry about which he had had no notion before. According to Plato the slave-boy's soul could recall these laws because it had known them abiding in the world’s ideas [9, p.174– 190].

The philosophy on Plato's view being cognition of ideas begins from a wonder of discovery of eternal and wonderful ideas exceeding all existing on the earth. Plato depicts it with the help of the image of a cave. Let us imagine a cave within unhappy prisoners chained at their necks to its wall and living there from their births. At the entrance the fire burns throwing shadows onto the walls. The prisoners can see only these shadows thinking they are all the reality that only exists. Let us pretend somebody of them could tear himself out into the external world. At first he would be perplexed by the picture and could realize nothing. Then however gradually he will accustom himself to the new discovered world and having realized all will never wish to come back. He'll not even be able to live there again. If a bad luck brings him back into the cave he'll die there. And if before he tries to tell his comrades of the seen beyond the cave they won't understand him or even having understood won't believe. In the same way the ideas cognition, i.e. philosophy goes [9, p. 388– 390].

The ideas theory made the decisive imprint on all the further European philosophy. It isn't clear what exactly Plato himself meant with ideas (maybe it was only some sort of metaphor) but the further took ideas as pure mental constructions in the frame of which reality may be represented. The ideas theory has however a row of weak moments. For example if a soul is the idea of a human and there exist ideas of different organs of body (for every sort of organs one single idea, one idea for all according organs belonged to different people) how these ideas correlate with each other. Plato as it can be concluded from his works was aware of these problems but gave no answer to them.

The theory of the ideal state follows from the ideas theory. The ideas are eternal, perfect, unchangeable and the same ought to be the ideal state. Here ought to be noticed that the real states the ancient Greeks lived were very unstable: plots, wars, rebellions were quite usual affairs for them. Therefore many Greeks felt some sort of nostalgia for political calmness and stability. That is the ideal state conception origins from. The inner structure of the ideal state is inferred from the structure of human soul. According to Plato there exist three kinds of a soul: reasoning, strong-willed and desiring souls. Accordingly three estates – governors-philosophers, warriors or watchers and handicraftsmen with peasants – are supposed in the ideal state. To every estate its own characteristic prevailing sort of soul corresponds. Existing states are unstable because of abuses and the cause of these latter is avarice, aspiration for accumulating welfares at any rate. Accordingly in order to remove them it's necessary to do so that the governors and watchers have no properties. Even more they ought to have no families, wives and children should be common for them. For people with prevailing reasoning or strong-willed parts of souls such disposition is quite natural, especially if they are brought up in proper way. Therefore the system of education, up-bringing and ideology is very important in the ideal state. All children are brought in compliance with their future occupation (and estate position accordingly). It doesn't mean however that the estate position is ensured by birth. No, on the contrary all children are distributed to their classes according to their capacities and inclinations. The children singled out for being governors and warriors pass various tests that elicit either they are apt to occupy their future positions. And on the contrary the children from the lower estate who display appropriate abilities may be transmitted into the higher estate.

All system of education is thought through. Mothers may tell children only canonic tales checked by censure. The poems by Homer and Hesiod, e. g. must be forbidden because they can evoke a disrespect to gods. Theater also ought to be forbidden because in the ideal state all people would be good and a good man would not want to play a bad hero in a play but if all heroes are good nobody will want to see the play. The Handicraftsmen, artisans and peasants are allowed to have property and family. The conjugal pairs are selected by a lot, but governors counterfeit the results of lot-throwing choosing pairs so that the best posterity be guaranteed. For it e.g. thin men are connected with fat stout women and so on. The future spouses do not know of it, they are told that this all is determined by gods' will and nobody may stand against it. Luxury is forbidden in the ideal state as well. It ensures allies to it because all will be glad to come in alliance with this state in aspiration for more part of prey [9, p. 295 – 441]. In short Plato created the first conception of totalitarian state. That was noticed by neither his contemporaries nor later adherents and his utopia called a lot of followers and imitators from Thomas More to Karl Marx.



2.5. Aristotle’s philosophy


Aristotle was a pupil of Plato and the first scientist and scholar in the modern viewpoint. He was the first who had collected and generalized the existing in his time knowledge dividing it into separate spheres and gave them names used till now. They are logic, physics, metaphysics, zoology, politics, poetic, psychology and so on [1, 151 – 157].

He is also a founder of logic, of logic as a science. His logic is deductive (i.e. its reasoning goes from the general to a particular). It's the logic of syllogisms, for instance:

All people are mortal.

Socrates is a man.

Hence Socrates is mortal also.

After Aristotle the logic remained with no changes during more than two thousand years (so it was perfect). Only in XVII c. Leibniz tried to complete it with the sufficient ground law (this law however has no common form till now) and in XIX c. John St. Mill elaborated the new chapter of logic, the inductive logic (the reasoning goes from a particular to the general) and in XX c. other non-formal and multi-meaning sorts of it appeared.

Concerning the philosophy as itself Aristotle's main input into it is his metaphysics. The term was also introduced by him and meant – beyond physics (the teaching about something beyond physics' boundaries, beyond perceptible). This is a definition of metaphysics the most accepted in the philosophical spheres. That is metaphysics is a science about something that's beyond physics, beyond observable and perceptible i.e. about the most general properties and laws.

In his metaphysics Aristotle did not go after his teacher Plato but revised Plato's conception. Instead of his theory of ideas and things he introduced a conception of matter and form. The matter is a potential ability which comes into reality only in combination with a form. Joining together they give a thing. The form is not only a spatial form but an essence of the thing making it itself. For example the form of a pot is its space form enabling its use (to restore liquid or friable substances) and its matter is a clay of which it's made. About Aristotle's disagreement with Plato some sort of anecdote is told. It's told (antique sources however gave no confirmation of it) that Aristotle said on its account: 'Plato is dear to me but dearer still is truth'.

In order to come into existence every thing ought to have a cause (or even a whole set of causes). Aristotle discerned 4 kinds of causes: – formal; – material; – acting and – of aim. For instance if we take the above-mentioned pot its formal cause will be its space form, its material cause – the clay, its doing one – the potter who made it, its aim cause will be what it's made and used for. Every thing ought to have some or other cause of its emergence, that cause needs its own cause and so far until we shall come to that it ought to be the primal cause, the cause of all causes. This cause is God. According to Aristotle God is a pure actuality i.e. the pure reality by itself. This is so-called causal proof of God's existence. Later it was used in the medieval philosophy and used till now in the modern Christian thought.

This is Aristotle's metaphysics that means the proper philosophy by itself. Further his physics follows there, which isn't a proper physics in the modern comprehension but also should be considered as a philosophy. In his treatise "Physics" Aristotle described his nature ideas such as that the nature avoids emptiness and consists of matter which in connection with forms gives material things. The things in nature are always in the state of motion (change). Aristotle pointed out 4 kinds of motion: 1) rise and destruction;

2) quality changes; 3) quantity ones; 4) changes of place (movements in space).

Matter is a combination of 4 elements: air, fire, earth, water. There are absolute up and down. All things aspire to the earth center (the absolute down) but with different speeds that creates various combinations of elements. The space is limited with the sky vault; the Earth is in the center, around which all other heaven bodies move. Space is a place of world. Time is a number of motions relating to past and future. Numbers don't exist in absence of somebody who accounts whence there must be a sort of a world mind who is God in another way. This is another Aristotle's argument in proof of God.

In the treatise "Of soul" Aristotle reasoned about the nature of psyche or soul and pointed out three kinds of it: 1) vegetable, 2) animal and

3) intellectual souls. The vegetable soul is responsible for nourishment and reproduction. All living creatures (plants, animals, men) have it. The animal soul is responsible for motion, perception and desires. Men and animals have it. The third or intellectual soul is possessed only by human creatures. It thinks that it answers for mental activities. The vegetable and animal souls are mortal, they die with the physical body together. The intellectual soul is deathless but it isn't individual, but super-individual. It belongs to the whole mankind. The latter means it's a set of all ideas, concepts, thoughts, theories elaborated by mankind during the human history.

Aristotle's ethics is grounded on the robust sense which prescribes to man to avoid extremities, because they are defaults and vices carrying harm. The virtue consists of evading them and finding a way through between them. Every existing virtue is a golden mean between two vices. For instance courage is the golden mean between cowardice and recklessness, generosity is the golden mean between stinginess and wastefulness, sincerity is the golden mean between insolence and reticence and so on [1, p. 155 – 157].

The political theory of Aristotle is also founded on the robust sense. He did not ponder on the ideal state problem but simply pointed out three good and three bad forms of the state power. The good forms are monarchy, aristocracy and the so-called politia. The bad ones are tyranny, oligarchy and democracy. The best among the good forms is the monarchy because it ensures the most order and law; accordingly the worst among the bad ones is tyranny because it serves to the one single man's interests. Correspondingly the worst among the good forms is the politia, the best among the bad ones is democracy. In our time we should call the Aristotelean politia with the word 'democracy' and his democracy with 'anarchy'.



2.6. The Hellenistic and Roman philosophy


After Alexander the Great (Macedonenian’s) conquests on the great territory from Greece to India a lot of so-called Hellenistic states arose. In those states the ruling estate consisted of the Hellenic culture bearers and the official language and culture were Greek. This culture including the philosophy fluently flowed into the Roman one. The philosophy of the Hellenistic and Roman periods was characterized by the great variety of schools and trends. There appeared such schools as academics, Peripatetics, Epicurists, Stoicists, Eclectics, Cynics, Neo-Platonists.

The schools of Plato's and Aristotle's followers were called academics and Peripatetics correspondently from Aristotle took their outsets also other schools. One of them is cynics' one. The name of cynics (as well as words 'cynical, cynicism') went from the word 'canine' (of dog). Cynics rejected welfares of civilization and said that a sage should keep autarchy (autonomy or independence on society). They turned down social norms concerning decency, social life, welfare etc. Many cynics became tramps and paupers living from alms. The most famous of cynics was Diogenes of Sinoppes who lived in a barrel and flabbergasted his compatriots with shocking (sometimes indecent) pranks. When Alexander the Great having wanted to visit him had come to and asked him what he (Alexander) could do for him Diogenes replied 'Go away, don't hide the sun'. Sceptics were another school leading its outset from Aristotle's analytical philosophy. They affirmed a complete agnosticism pointing out particular discrepancies in that time scientific knowledge. Eclectics were mainly representatives of the Roman philosophy. They endeavored to pick out all the best that was in different systems of that time and on the base of it to elaborate their own philosophy. The most famous representatives of Eclectism were Cicero and Plutarch.

Between the Hellenistic and Roman schools Epicurists, Stoicists and Neo-Platonists ought to be pointed out especially. Epicurists represented that time atomism. As well as Leucippes and Democritus they asserted that all consists of atoms. There exist merely atoms and emptiness in the world. But unlike Democritus they deemed that atoms could spontaneously oblique (move aside) from their straightforward motion trajectories. Thanks to this obliquity capacity they create eddies giving beginning to all things. The founder of the Epicurean school the ancient Greek philosopher Epicurus said that the human soul also consists of atoms. These atoms are subtler than others and therefore can move through their accumulations. After death the soul decomposes into atoms it's compounded of as well as the body. There is nothing left after death. There is no post mortal existence and all talking about post mortal rewards or punishments are simply lie. The human is free to do what he wants without fear before post mortal renderings. All that's worth to think of is the present life existing and obtaining happiness. The latter doesn't consist however at all in pursue of pleasures but in calmness and light-heartedness. It's a rest and sufferings absence. Epicurus didn't deny gods' existence. Gods exist but being more perfect than men they are in the full calmness condition and don't intrude in human affairs. That is why all prayers and sacrifices are useless.

Ought the human because of the post mortal existence absence to fear the death? No, he ought not. He ought not to do so because till he's alive there is no death for him and when the death has come there is no him. The human and the death never meet each other and therefore the human ought not to be afraid of death. Epicurus wrote about 300 books from which to our time only three letters came up. All others were lost or annihilated by Plato's or other philosophers' followers considering them as harmful and corrupting. We can judge on Epicurus' teaching thanks to a poem of one of his followers. This is the poem "Of things' nature" by Titus Lucrethius Carus.

Stoicists or stoics are famous with their teaching of the non-ability to avoid destiny and of the necessity to surrender to it. The founder of stoicism is Zeno (ought not to be confused with another Zeno, the author of the motion paradoxes). He taught that the Universe originated from fire and in a future would come back into it (burn in it), in the Universe the strict order in face of the implacable fate reigns. A man can not change his destiny but ought to accept and to follow it with the light heart. A sage follows his fate voluntarily; the fool is dragged by it at the rope. There is no sense to obstinate but it's better to go on of the own will with the high-lifted head. The most famous are the Roman stoics such as Seneca, Epictetus and Marcus Aurelius. The first was a Roman senator, the second – a slave, the latter – the roman emperor. They are famous not only with their conceptions but in most thanks to their lives which corresponded to their teachings. Seneca being a senator accumulated a great fortune but sentenced to death by Nero, he without hesitation opened his veins having ordered to slaves to read him a piece of poetry. He taught that a man was always free and always had the ability of choice. Take, for example, slaves. They are themselves guilty of their slavery because they have had no courage to die. Look into an abyss, there is a freedom hiding down; look at the tree, a freedom is hanging down from its branches as Seneca wrote.

Epictetus being a slave in his youth accompanied his master onto lectures of the visit-stoic-philosopher. These lectures turned with no use for his master but made another man from the slave. Eventually his master having found no control over him was compelled to give him freedom. 'I must die but ought I to cry of it? I must suffer an exile but who hinder me to go thither with the high-lifted head, with a smile and a peace in my soul? You say 'I'll throw you into a dungeon' but could you make me less happy through it? You say 'I'll cut off your head' but I did not say I'm deathless' – said Epictetus.

The emperor Marcus Aurelius always followed his duty during his reign. After his death a roll in which he wrote up his thoughts was found. Later it was entitled "Self-cognition" or "With Self Sub-rosa". "The time of human life is instant. Its essence is the eternal flow. The perception is dim, the body structure's frail, the soul's unstable, the destiny's enigmatic, the glory's unreliable. In short all concerning the body is similar to a flux, concerning the soul is similar to dream and haze. Life is a struggle and wandering by a strange land, the postmortem fame is oblivion. But what can lead out onto the way? Nothing but philosophy” – wrote Marcus Aurelius there. He represented the world as some city likeness. All in this city has its place and intend. The duty of everybody is to follow his intend. Personally he did it during his life.

Neo-Platonism is the last trend in the antique philosophy history. Therein the philosophy is smoothly transiting into mystic. The founder of Neo-Platonism is Plotinus living in 3d c A.D. In compliance with his biographers he visited India namely whence he had brought his wisdom. He practiced contemplation often falling into ecstasy (the word of the Greek origin, its meaning is being out of body). From these mystic experiences he did work out his philosophic ideas. His philosophy and in particular his conception of trinity made a great imprint on the later Christian theology and philosophy. His trinity consists of the One, the Nous (Cosmic Mind or Spirit) and the World Soul. The One is something indivisible, indefinite; about that it can't even be said whether it exists, it's higher than being, it isn't all and it’s higher than all. Further the Nous follows, it's a cosmic rational outset. It's born of the One because the One had a vision of itself and this vision is the Nous (image of the One). The Nous has no parts because it's the One who sees itself. The Nous is overflowed with its own bliss and thereby emanates the World Soul. The latter has two sides: inner and outer. The inner is turned to the Nous and the One, the outer bore the matter and material things, i.e. the material world which being only its image does not exist without it. The human soul is immortal and passes over into another body after death (reincarnates). It does its thanks to desires. Having cleaned of them it comes back to the World Soul, the Nous and the One because it's also but a manifestation of them.

The later Neo-Platonists added a teaching about mediators between the human soul and the trinity. They are necessary because the soul by itself isn't able to ascend the Heaven and only with their help can do it, as mediators stood different antique gods and goddesses embodying different qualities of soul which should be worked over.

Control questions and exercises

1. What is the difference between philosophy, myth, religion and science?

2. Why the philosophy of Socrates is regarded as a turning point of the antique philosophy?

3. Try to give a few different explanations of Parmenides' conception of the eternal, wonderful, whole, unmoved and unchangeable being.

4. Try to find out some rational ground of Zeno's aporias and possibilities of their applications in modern natural sciences.

5. Point out strong and weak sides of the Plato's theory of ideas.

6. Would you like to live in the ideal state of Plato? Why?

7. Give a brief comparative analysis of the movement and causality conceptions of Aristotle, Zeno and modern natural sciences.


Date: 2014-12-21; view: 3403

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