Thales and other Pre-Socratics
Thales of Melitus
May 28, 585: Western philosophy is born.
Thales, a very capable scientist and founder of Greek philosophy, used his knowledge of Babylonian astronomy to predict a solar eclipse.
How to pronounce “Thales.” (36.0K)
Eclipse Track Plot:
We see that the shadow of the Moon, at maximum eclipse, is over the Atlantic ocean.
Thales is the first of a category of philosophers known as the pre-socratics.
The most ancient question of all: The question of the one and the many.
What is the relationship between unity and diversity?
UNIVERSE: Unity and diversity.
Is the universe cosmos or chaos?
Thales was looking for ultimate reality:
Metaphysics: The attempt by the philosopher to go above and beyond the seeing world that we deal with every day and go to that ultimate thing that holds everything together.
Telos: End or Goal or Purpose
The question was not merely what is everything, but WHY are things the way that they are? Is there any purpose for anything and everything? What is the GOAL or the END?
What is man’s chief end?
Westminster Shorter Catechism: Man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever.
Question One: What is this ultimate reality?
The ARCHEI: the ultimate essence (substance or stuff)
How to pronounce “Archei.” (36.0K)
For Thales, the archei is WATER.
That in which we LIVE and MOVE and HAVE OUR BEING.
Why water? BEING. Everything he saw was either solid, liquid, or gas. He observed that everything can be reduced to these forms. What substance has the ability to exist in any of these three forms? Water.
Life requires water.
Motion: There must be something that is hylozoistic. In other words, there is something that can move itself. Water appears to qualify as hylozoistic.
How to pronounce “Hylozoistic” (24.0K)
Thales sees water as the one unifying substance.
There was a progression of thinkers between Thales and Socrates.
Anaximenes challenged Thales, arguing that AIR is the ultimate substance.
Others thought EARTH. Others thought FIRE.
Others thought that it must be all four together (water, air, earth, fire).
The four basic elements of reality.
Others remembered that they were looking for the ONE ultimate essence, not the four.x
So, the quest was for the FIFTH ESSENCE.
The QUINTESSENCE (fifth element). That which is above and beyond the four elements.
Anaxamander said that ultimate reality was the APEIRON - that which is boundless and ageless.
Boundless = INFINITE
Ageless = ETERNAL
That which is ultimate must be infinite and eternal.
Those who argue that ultimate reality is a single essence are called MONISTS.
Monism: All reality is one.
Monism ultimately leads to pantheism. Pantheism is the idea that everything is god.
For monists, diversity is merely an outward manifestation of the ultimate reality.
Those who argue that reality cannot be reduced to one single essence are called PLURALISTS.
Pluralism: The notion that ultimate reality is two or more things.
Democritus said that there is a multiplicity of particular bits called atoms.
The struggle in ancient philosophy was between monists and pluralists.
What is the nature of these units of reality (whether singular or plural)? Physical (CORPOREAL) or noncorporeal?
Thales was a physical monist.
Others were incorporeal monists (like those who say everything is energy).
(The ancients included things like air and gas in the category or spirit (incorporeal), in other words, anything that wasn’t solid was considered in corporeal).
Pluralists could also hold that ultimate reality was corporeal or incorporeal.
For more information on Presocratics: http://www.thebigview.com/greeks/
Back to site: http://www.foothill.edu/bss/people/peterson-david/Intro2007