Notebook, 1993-


Ancient Greek Philosophy

Aristotle describes the thinkers of the [p. 182] pre-Socratic period as 'ancient naturalists', with this wishing to say that they were all natural philosophers. Plato also characterizes their thought in a singular manner. The common name he gives for their philosophic concepts is 'the study of nature'. He thus indicates that in his opinion, the initial attempts of the Greeks was first to understand the world of nature, a knowledge which in the view of the pre-Socratics was not only feasible but desirable.

Such daring notions had never before been made in the intellectual story of man. The original and unheard of was in fact this, that reason had sought to penetrate the mysteries of nature. This would indicate, however, that human reason and therefore man himself of that period had acquired sufficient self-confidence to undertake such a venture. And the Greeks of the age had every reason to be self-confident and assured. Their city-states were flourishing both in the material sense and intellectually. Traveling widely they soon realized that they were a superior race to the others, and with their minds and their bountiful energy they could accomplish many things.

All the pre-Socratic philosophical systems faced the same and identical question of 'principle', all sought to find the beginning of natural beings. The fact that this principle was formulated in different ways in each system is not significant. The important thing is that they all sought the primary principle of the universe, of creation. All advanced from the notion of 'appearing' to 'being'. They sought the single and the immutable which existed in the many and changing natural things and phenomena. No matter how much they differ in their corollaries or the conclusions they reach, they still concur on the one basic point, that the primary principle of the universe must be one, a single animate element that is changed into the many and different things. Also they shared a common passion for search and the tendency to interpret the phenomena by causality. They wished to demolish the existing mythical explanations and to investigate the miracle, not the mystery, of the universe with their reasoning, without any ulterior motivation, simply and only to learn, to enjoy investigation. Aristotle's phrase is very apt what he said about all men, that 'All men naturally desire knowledge'. This certainly could apply to all the pre-Socratics. This love of knowledge and the joy of investigation we meet for the first time in all its freshness among these early Greek thinkers.

[Kyriazis, Constantine D. Eternal Greece. Translated by Harry T. Hionides. A Chat Publication.]



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