Good single volume history of philosophy?
(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).

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Re: Good single volume history of philosophy? - by Antonius Block - 08-04-2009, 05:57 PM

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