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A History of Philosophy
Transcript of A History of Philosophy
The Garden of Eden
... at some point something must have come from nothing ...
The Sophists & Socrates
Around 400BC, Athens became the center of Philosophy. A Paradigm shift in the question of philosophy occured; it now shifted to the concern of "how one is ought to live?" (Ethics)
Plato resolved the problem of change & permanence in his theory of forms. There exists according to Plato two separate realities (dualism) - the [material world] where we observe change, and the eternal world of forms that does not involve change.
The Alphabet of Ben-Sira
Question: Who is the first wife of Adam?
Who are the Sophists?
The [Sophists] are itinerant philosophers/educators who taught the sons of Athenian statesmen Rhetoric i.e. the art of persuasion for their political careers. They instruct they youth with false knowledge in exchange for money.
Socrates remains an enigmatic figure for he did not write any of his teachings. Instead, his followers or those who claim to know what he said wrote about him. He is oftentimes seen in the marketplace where he is engaged in discussion [Discourse] with the youth of Athenian society.
Sophie was bewildered by two questions:
who are you? Where does the world come from?
It isn't right to live in the world without at least inquiring where it came from.
... the only thing we require to be good philosophers is the faculty of wonder ...
[PHILOSOPHY] ... to figure out who we are & why we are here.
How is philosophy similar to the magic trick?
Before the Greek philosophers, people explained life through myths—stories about the gods. But the early Greek philosophers questioned the myths and began looking for other explanations for why the world is the way it is. Sophie thinks about this and realizes that making up stories to explain the workings of nature is not so far-fetched, for she would do the same if she did not already have other explanations.
something untrue but it is a matter of faith.
Myth serves as a narrative of any tradition on how and why the world works the way it does. Human 'imagination' enabled the construction of reality and gave life a sense of meaning & a foundation to build civilization.
Ancient Greece is populated with the stories of the gods & goddesses. These stories were handed down from generation to generation. Around 700 BC, much of Greek mythology was written down by Homer & Hesiod. This however created a new situation; now that the myths existed in written form, it became possible for people to discuss them.
The Greek philosophers criticized Homer's mythology because they gradually gained consciousness that the gods are nothing else but human notions. The gods resemble mortals with their deeds of treachery and egoism.
... the 'fortune teller' is trying to foresee something that is really quite unforeseeable ...
What counts as superstition & belief ?
Fatalism is the belief that whatever happens is predestined. The Oracle of Delphi is a famous shrine in Ancient Greece dedicated to the god 'Apollo' (god of sun/light/order/control/self-control/distance). Over the entrance to the temple at Delphi was a famous inscription: KNOW THYSELF! This serves as a reminder that man must never believe to be mortal - and no man can escape his destiny.
As time progresses, the early philosophers became unsatisfied with mythological explanations & began to explain reality in a natural fashion. History (Herodotus/Thucydides) & Medicine (Hippocrates) also sought to explain human history and sickness in the same way.
The early philosophers from Miletus were known as monists (belief in one substance). The Milesians inquired about the basic substance where everything came from.
Pluralists believe that reality came from many substances.
Earth, Air, Water, Fire
"Change is an illusion. Reason (not the senses) tells us that everything is permanent."
"Everything flows - reality is in constant flux. You cannot step on the same river twice."
What 'process' governs reality?
Democritus' [Atom] - "only material reality exists."
"Reality is composed of numbers."
Relativism - there is no absolute/objective values.
Agnosticism - the view that god cannot be known to exist or does not exist.
"Justice is in the advantage of the stronger."
[Might makes right]
"wisest is she who knows that she does not know."
He is more fond of discussing matters together with people rather than instruct like a typical Sophist. And unlike most Sophists, he believed in a universal/absolute/objective truth which is grasped by our faculty of reason.
The Socratic Irony means that a true philosopher knows in reality that he knows very little. That is why he constantly strives to achieve true insight.Like Socrates, a philosopher is someone who does not give up but tirelessly pursue his quest for truth.
The Allegory of the Cave
Represents the difference between 'appearance' & reality
"Reason" allows us to see things as they really 'are'
By this he meant that the right insight leads to the right action. And only he who does right can be a "virtuous man." When we do wrong it is because we don't know any better. That is why it is so important to go on learning. Socrates was concerned with finding clear and universally valid definitions of right and wrong. Unlike the Sophists, he believed that the ability to distinguish between right and wrong lies in people's reason and not in society.
"He who knows what good is will do good."
Plato believed that everything tangible in nature "flows." So there are no "substances" that do not dissolve. Absolutely everything that belongs to the "material world" is made of a material that time can erode, but everything is made after a timeless "mold" or "form" that is eternal and immutable.
Plato also pointed that we can never have true knowledge of anything that is in a constant state of change. We can only have opinions about things that belong to the world of the senses, tangible things. We can only have true knowledge of things that can be understood with our reason.
The faculty of vision can vary from person to person. On the other hand, we can rely on what our reason tells us because that is the same for everyone.
An Immortal Soul
Plato believed that reality is divided into two regions. One region is the world of the senses, about which we can only have approximate or incomplete knowledge by using our five senses. In this sensory world, "everything flows" and nothing is permanent.
The other region is the world of ideas, about which we can have true knowledge by using our reason. This world of ideas cannot be perceived by the senses, but the ideas (or forms) are eternal and immutable.
According to Plato, man is a dual creature. We have a body that "flows," is inseparably bound to the world of the senses. All our senses are based in the body and are consequently unreliable. But we also have an immortal soul--and this soul is the realm of reason. And not being physical, the soul can survey the world of ideas.
Plato also believed that the soul existed before it inhabited the body. But as soon as the soul wakes up in a human body, it has forgotten all the perfect ideas.As the human being discovers the various forms in the natural world, a vague recollection stirs his soul. The soul yearms to return to its true realm. Plato calls this yearning eras--which means love. The soul, then, expe-riences a "longing to return to its true origin."The soul yearns to fly home on the wings of love to the world of ideas. It longs to be freed from the chains of the body.
The Myth of the Cave is found in Plato's dialogue the Republic. In this dialogue Plato also presents a picture of the "ideal state".
According to Plato, the human body is composed of three parts: the head, the chest, and the abdomen. For each of these three parts there is a corresponding faculty of the soul. Reason belongs to the head, will belongs to the chest, and appetite belongs to the abdomen. Each of these soul faculties also has an ideal, or "virtue."
Reason aspires for wisdom, Will aspires to courage, and Appetite must be curbed so that temperance can be exercised. Only when the three parts of the body function together as a unity do we get a harmonious or "virtuous" individual. At school, a child must first learn to curb its appetites, then it must develop courage, and finally reason leads to wisdom.
Would you do what is 'good'?
from the Pre-Socratics to Plato
Prof. Philip James S. Miñoza
College of Arts & Sciences/
College of International Relations