FishEaters Traditional Catholic Forums

Full Version: Good single volume history of philosophy?
You're currently viewing a stripped down version of our content. View the full version with proper formatting.
Pages: 1 2
Thanks for the recommendations and the William Turner link!
Did any of the Greek philosophers believe in the mythological gods?
(08-01-2009, 10:23 AM)stvincentferrer Wrote: [ -> ]Did any of the Greek philosophers believe in the mythological gods?
Some did, certainly; but it's difficult to pin down who really believed in the greek gods as they appeared in mythology, and who believed in gods more as spiritual forces (not busy sleeping with all the human girls in sight).  Socrates, in his trial, seems to imply the latter. Aristotle's De Anima surveys much of greek thought on this topic, if you're interested.
(08-01-2009, 10:23 AM)stvincentferrer Wrote: [ -> ]Did any of the Greek philosophers believe in the mythological gods?
Aristotle makes references to the gods in the Nicomachean Ethics, mostly to describe how their virtue is qualitatively different from that of humans. However, in his Metaphysics he argues for monotheism.

Socrates was charged at his trial with disbelief in the gods, but he rejects this charge and, if I remember, recalls his participation in the Athenians public cult-worship. He also makes frequent references throughout Plato's works to a personal "daimon" (a minor deity, not yet the Christian idea of a "demon") that speaks to him solely to tell him NOT to do certain things, like enter politics. Plato, I think, refers to the gods occasionally in his dialogues, but as these are literary works as much as they are philosophical, it's hard or impossible to say whether he himself believed in them.

That's it for the Big 3. The presocratics and the Hellenists all had peculiar views.
(08-01-2009, 12:08 PM)Anastasia Wrote: [ -> ]
(08-01-2009, 10:23 AM)stvincentferrer Wrote: [ -> ]Did any of the Greek philosophers believe in the mythological gods?
Aristotle's De Anima surveys much of greek thought on this topic, if you're interested.

Thanks.
(08-01-2009, 03:59 PM)Antonius Block Wrote: [ -> ]
(08-01-2009, 10:23 AM)stvincentferrer Wrote: [ -> ]Did any of the Greek philosophers believe in the mythological gods?
Aristotle makes references to the gods in the Nicomachean Ethics, mostly to describe how their virtue is qualitatively different from that of humans. However, in his Metaphysics he argues for monotheism.

Socrates was charged at his trial with disbelief in the gods, but he rejects this charge and, if I remember, recalls his participation in the Athenians public cult-worship. He also makes frequent references throughout Plato's works to a personal "daimon" (a minor deity, not yet the Christian idea of a "demon") that speaks to him solely to tell him NOT to do certain things, like enter politics. Plato, I think, refers to the gods occasionally in his dialogues, but as these are literary works as much as they are philosophical, it's hard or impossible to say whether he himself believed in them.

That's it for the Big 3. The presocratics and the Hellenists all had peculiar views.

I'm reading An Illustrated History of Philosophy and Thales believed magnets had souls because they could move iron. He says, "everything is full of gods." Is that what you mean by "peculiar views"?
(08-03-2009, 04:02 AM)stvincentferrer Wrote: [ -> ]
(08-01-2009, 03:59 PM)Antonius Block Wrote: [ -> ]
(08-01-2009, 10:23 AM)stvincentferrer Wrote: [ -> ]Did any of the Greek philosophers believe in the mythological gods?
Aristotle makes references to the gods in the Nicomachean Ethics, mostly to describe how their virtue is qualitatively different from that of humans. However, in his Metaphysics he argues for monotheism.

Socrates was charged at his trial with disbelief in the gods, but he rejects this charge and, if I remember, recalls his participation in the Athenians public cult-worship. He also makes frequent references throughout Plato's works to a personal "daimon" (a minor deity, not yet the Christian idea of a "demon") that speaks to him solely to tell him NOT to do certain things, like enter politics. Plato, I think, refers to the gods occasionally in his dialogues, but as these are literary works as much as they are philosophical, it's hard or impossible to say whether he himself believed in them.

That's it for the Big 3. The presocratics and the Hellenists all had peculiar views.

I'm reading An Illustrated History of Philosophy and Thales believed magnets had souls because they could move iron. He says, "everything is full of gods." Is that what you mean by "peculiar views"?

Well, maybe I should have said "individual" views, but peculiar works, too. With regard to Thales, I think it's likely that his notion that magnets have souls comes from the common Greek view that the soul is the principle of life, and that motion (esp. self-caused motion) is a fundamental characteristic of life. So, the line of argument would seem to be, "magnets move things on their own" "magnets are alive" "magnets have souls." The quote "everything is full of gods" comes from Aristotle's De Anima (sadly, I think there are no extant writings of Thales):
Quote:Some declare that it [the soul] is mixed in the whole [universe], and perhaps this is why Thales thought all things are full of gods. (De Anima 1.5 411a7-8)

But, back to your question: By "peculiar views," I mean that with the presocratics (I don't know as much about the Hellenists) you really start to see the foundations of natural science and a de-mythologizing of the natural world. Thales, one of the first of the bunch, held that all things were formed fundamentally from water, and he had a whole crazy cosmology built on and around this concept. Sure, he believed in the divine, but what's distinctive about him and the later presocratics was that they didn't necessarily believe in the traditional Greek creation myths. Gods and spirits pop up in their theories in rather unusual ways, but generally within a general context of a progression toward a scientific, non-mythological understanding of the world.

For the Greek-less reader, I highly recommend Philosophy Before Socrates: An Introduction with Texts and Commentary by Richard McKirahan. It's a wonderful, if sometimes dry, introduction to their thought. (Disclaimer: McKirahan was my faculty adviser during my undergrad years.) http://www.amazon.com/Philosophy-Before-...0872201759
Did their de-mythologizing of the natural world put them in conflict with the majority of Greeks?
(08-03-2009, 05:46 PM)stvincentferrer Wrote: [ -> ]Did their de-mythologizing of the natural world put them in conflict with the majority of Greeks?

For the most part, I don't think so. Greek religion was very different from any of the monotheistic traditions in that it did not require much subjective belief on the part of its practitioners, much less acceptance of any dogmas. It was primarily public in nature. The different mystery religions are an exception to this (although they didn't expect--rather, they forbade--non-members to share their beliefs or practices), and no doubt the hoi polloi did believe more or less literally in the gods. But, as long as citizens participated in the public cults of their city-states, it didn't really matter what they thought privately. I once heard a professor say that it was difficult for most of his students to understand Greek religion, thoroughly infested with gods and contradictions, but it made perfect sense to most of his students from Hindu backgrounds.

Terminology gets a bit hazy, but to some extent I think it's fair to distinguish the pre-Socratics from the sophists, although there's some overlap (e.g. Protagoras). The Athenians were quite wary of the sophists, but this was more for moral reasons: one big problem was that they taught their students to argue both sides of a debate with equal strength. This practice of "making the weaker argument the stronger" was widely perceived as an offense against truth. Aristophanes, in his comedy "The Clouds," lampoons Socrates, portrayed as a sophist, both for this and for his alleged focus on natural philosophy. But the natural philosophers (those that investigated the natural world) were seen more as ridiculous than blasphemous. A story is told of Thales that, one day, as he was walking about staring at the heavens, deep in thought, he fell into a ditch and was eventually rescued by a slave boy. Definitely the prototype of the absent-minded professor!

That said, Socrates was condemned for encouraging disbelief in the gods. What that means, I'm not precisely sure. He was certainly not an atheist. Most likely it was a false charge, masking the political reasons for his arrest (he deeply opposed democracy, and at least one of his former students had governed in the tyrannical oligarchy that ruled Greek for several years before the restoration of democracy).
Pages: 1 2