A History of Ancient Philosophy: From the Beginnings to Augustine

By Karsten Friis Johansen | Go to book overview

2

IONIAN NATURAL PHILOSOPHY

The birthplace of philosophy, Miletus, was from the beginning of historical times a Greek settlement on the south-western coast of Asia Minor (Ionia). In about 600 BC it was one of the most flourishing trading cities of the Greek world, the mother city of a number of colonies and with trade relations with the Near East, the Black Sea, Egypt, and southern Italy. It was a wealthy and cosmopolitan city, politically independent and unencumbered by rigid traditions. Nevertheless, the city was forced in the middle of the sixth century to acknowledge the formal sovereignty of first the Lydians and later the Persians. But until the revolt against the Persians and the destruction of Miletus in 494 (the beginning of the Persian wars), the city occupied a privileged position. Prosperity and political independence do not, of course, automatically lead to cultural flowering, but it is clear that liberty and the close connections with other cultural spheres were necessary preconditions. It is no accident that Miletus was also the home of the first historians and geographers. A typical 'scholar' from Miletus wrote in prose, which means that he imparted information or presented theories without obligation to religious authorities or literary conventions. He was practical and engaged in politics, but he was above all curious-without an aim to gather riches and without visions of mastering nature with technical means. His curiosity was directed at the world around him-from the minutest to the largest. He was naturalistically inclined, and other religions were only of ethnographic interest to him-expressions of the strange customs of other peoples. What was most remarkable about a philosopher from Miletus was that he sought causal explanations.

In the two major cultural regions with which Miletus had relations, Egypt and Babylonia, no philosophy ever arose, even though they had evolved a fairly advanced practical mathematics-in both cases due to the requirements of their societies. Egyptian mathematics came about owing to the need for technical rules for surveying, accounting, stock taking, etc., and accordingly Egyptian mathematics had a clearly empirical character. A famous mathematical document, Papyrus Rhind (c.1600 BC), is apparently a sort of instruction book with concrete problems and presupposed procedures for solutions. After the middle of the second millennium, it does not seem as if Egyptian mathematics developed much further. In contrast to the Egyptian, somewhat cumbersome, additive decimal system, the

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A History of Ancient Philosophy: From the Beginnings to Augustine
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Preface xi
  • Introduction 1
  • Part I - Presocratic Philosophy 9
  • 1 - Myth, Poetry and Philosophy 11
  • 2 - Ionian Natural Philosophy 20
  • 3 - Heraclitus 29
  • 4 - The Pythagoreans 36
  • 5 - The Eleatics 45
  • 6 - Post-Parmenidean Natural Philosophy 59
  • 7 - Medical Science 79
  • Part II - The Great Century of Athens 83
  • 8 - Pericles' Athens 85
  • 9 - Tragedy and View of History 88
  • 10 - The Sophists 99
  • 11 - Socrates 118
  • Part III - Plato 137
  • 12 - Life, Works and Position 139
  • 13 - What is Virtue? Can Virtue Be Taught? 160
  • 14 - Idea and Man 173
  • 15 - The Good Constitution of State and Man 198
  • 16 - The Late Dialogues: Knowledge and Being 213
  • 17 - The Late Dialogues: Nature, Man and Society 236
  • 18 - Plato and the Early Academy 254
  • Part IV - Aristotle 267
  • 19 - Life, Works and Position 269
  • 20 - Logic and Theory of Science 293
  • 21 - Natural Philosophy and Psychology 316
  • 22 - Metaphysics and Theology 343
  • 23 - Ethics and Politics 366
  • 24 - Rhetoric and Poetics 392
  • 25 - The Early Peripatetics 400
  • Part V - Hellenistic Philosophy 405
  • 26 - Science and Philosophy 407
  • 27 - Epicurus 423
  • 28 - Early Stoicism 442
  • 29 - Scepticism 471
  • 30 - Greece and Rome 484
  • Part VI - Late Antiquity 499
  • 31 - Imperial Rome 501
  • 32 - Plotinus 532
  • 33 - Late Neoplatonism 556
  • 34 - Early Christian Thought 569
  • 35 - Augustine 588
  • Abbreviations General 625
  • Bibliography 639
  • Index 663
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