A History of Ancient Philosophy: From the Beginnings to Augustine

By Karsten Friis Johansen | Go to book overview

6

POST-PARMENIDEAN NATURAL PHILOSOPHY

The major figures in the middle of the fifth century BC-Zeno, Melissus, Empedocles, Anaxagoras, Leucippus-were roughly contemporary and the leading figure among the Atomists, Democritus, only a little younger. All of them react to Parmenides-although their mutual relations cannot be accounted for in detail. There is no chronological succession in which each individual philosopher reacts against his predecessor; all were confronted with the same set of problems and must be thought of as reflecting a wide-ranging contemporary debate. Zeno and Melissus stuck to Parmenides' fundamental position, denying the existence of plurality and hence of the physical world. For the others the task must be to respect Parmenides' logic but at the same time 'to save the phenomena', so that philosophy still could be a reflection about the cosmos; thus doing, they rehabilitated the earlier natural philosophy, but allowed the metaphysical perspective in Parmenides to fade into the background. Empedocles constitutes a direct reaction against Parmenides. Anaxagoras and the Atomists, furthermore, took into account such theoretical-mathematical problems as divisibility and continuity versus discontinuity. So doing they-directly or indirectly-provided 'answers' to Zeno's paradoxes, and it seems natural to imagine a distinction between the thinkers who came before and after the discovery of incommensurables.

To these philosophers the problem must not only have been the saving of the phenomena without conflicting too much with Parmenides. Like Melissus, they must have found it necessary to interpret Parmenides' concept of being, but, unlike him, they interpreted it materially: the physical world was real and corporeal. As previously discussed, Parmenides indirectly occasioned the distinction between material and immaterial, even though being at the same time continued to be conceived of as being in time and space. This had far-reaching consequences. The last Presocratics were not only able to make a few adjustments; a new frame of reference was available, and, for this reason as well, it was impossible simply to continue the old tradition of natural philosophy. The old 'hylozoistic' view gave way to a distinction between stuff and force. Being was understood materially, but something must cause it to change and move.

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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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