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Jul 15, 2015

READER: The Philosophy Book - PART I

THE HISTORY OF PHILOSOPHY 
INTRODUCTION - Ancient and Medieval World
I have been reading various books on Philosophy, trying to get the big picture out of the multitudes of volumes I have had come across. After decades of trying to catch up with Philosophy, now I feel that I have a little idea of what is the history, back ground, ideas of Philosophy and its progress through the history of mankind. So I thought of sharing the same here. But as I sat down to write the relevant information, in the right chronological order, which will make sense to some one with a little bit of interest, it proved to be difficult task. After months of working around the concept, I decided to make my life easier and looked around for some books that has the same idea.  Fortunately I came across "THE PHILOSOPHY BOOKby the Publishers - DK London, in their series, 'Big Idea Simply Explained'. 
The Philosophy Book
"The Philosophy Book' is probably one of the most simple volume on the subject, which made it easier for me to share the ideas and thoughts of philosophy in coherent way. In the end a write up that makes some sense about the history of Philosophy and it's development over ages. But let me advise you that this four part series of posts provides you only the glimpse of the history of Philosophy. In order to get in-depth knowledge you must read the book.

This series of post on Philosophy is divided in four sections:


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ANCIENT WORLD 700BCE – 250 CE
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Every thing is made of water – Thales of Miletus c.624-546 BCE
His true importance lies in the fact that he was the first known thinker to seek naturalistic, rational answer to fundamental questions, rather than to ascribe objects and events to the whims of capricious Gods.

The Dao That can be told is not the eternal Dao – Laozi c6th century BCE
One of the most important ideas to appear at this time came from the Daode Jing (The way and its Power) It was one of the first attempts to propose a theory of just rule, based on de (virtual), which could be found by following Dao (the way), and forms the basis of the philosophy known as Daoism.

HAPPY IS HE WHO HAS OVERCOME HIS EGO – SIDDHARTHA GAUTAMA C.563-483
In his early life, Gautama enjoyed luxury and, we are told, all the sensual pleasures. However, he realised that these were not enough on their own to bring him true happiness.
Buddha at Kushinagar, where he attained Nirvana @ Shashi, 2015

Gautama came to conclusion that there must be a ‘middle way’ between self-indulgence and self-mortification. This middle way, he believed should lead to true happiness, or ‘enlightenment’, and to find it he applied reason to his own experience.

His thoughts also find echoes in the ideas of later Western philosophers such as in Hume’s concept of the self and Schopenhauer’s view of the human condition. But it was not until the 20th century that Buddhism was to have any direct influence on Western thinking. Since then more and more westerners have turned to it for guidance on how to life.

HOLD FAITHFULNESS AND SINCERITY AS FIRST PRINCIPLES – CONFUCIUS c.551 – 479 BCE
Confucius sought constants in a world of change, and for him this meant a search for moral values that could enable rulers to govern justly.

EVERYTHING IS FLUX – HERACLITUS c.535 – 475 BCE
It is the balancing of opposites, such as day and night and hot and cold, which Heraclitus believes leads to the unity of the universe, or the idea that everything is a part of a single fundamental process or substance – the central tenet of monism.

ALL IS ONE – PARMENIDES c.515 – 445 BCE
From the premise that something exists (“It is”), Parmenides deduces that it cannot also not exist (“It is not”), as this would involve a logical contradiction. It follows therefore that a state of nothing existing is impossible – there can be no void. Something cannot then come from nothing, and so must always have existed in some form. This permanent form cannot change, because something that is permanent cannot change into something else without it ceasing to be permanent. Fundamental change is therefore impossible.

MAN IS THE MEASURE OF ALL THINGS – PROTAGORAS c.490 – 420 BCE
The main implication of ‘man is the measure of all things’ is that belief is subjective and relative. Tyco Protagoras, nothing is inherently good in itself. Something is ethical or right, only because a person or society judges it to be so.

WHEN ONE THROWS TO ME A PEACH, I RETURN TO HIM A PLUM – MOZI c.470 -391 BCE
After not liking the emphasis on clan relationship that runs through Confucianism, Mozi set up his own school of thought, advocating universal love or jian ai. By jian ai, Mozi means that we should care for all people equally regardless of their status or their relationship-p to us. He regards this philosophy, which became known as Mohism, which ‘nourishes and sustains all love’, as being fundamentally benevolent and in accordance with the way of heaven.

NOTHING EXISTS EXCEPT ATOMS AND EMPTY SPACE – DEMOCRITUS c. 460 – 371; AND LEUCIPPUS early 5TH CENTURY BCE
They suggested that everything is made up of tiny, indivisible and unchangeable particles, which they called atoms (atmos is Greek for un-cuttable)

THE LIFE WHICH IS UNEXAMINED IS NOT WORTH LIVING – SOCRATES c.469 – 399 BCE
This gaining of knowledge, rather than wealth or high status, is the ultimate goal of life. It is not a matter of entertainment or curiosity- it is the reason why we exist.

EARTHLY KNOWLEDGE IS BUT SHODOW – PLATO c. 427 – 347
Like earlier Greek thinkers, Plato questioned the nature and substance of the cosmos, and explored how the immutable and eternal could exist in a seemingly changing world. However, unlike his predecessors, Plato concluded that the ‘unchanging’ nature is the same as the ‘unchanging’ in morals and society.


TRUTH RESIDES IN THE WORLD AROUND US – ARISTOTLE c. 384 – 322 BCE
WHAT ARISTOTLE PROPOSED TURNED Plato’s theory on its head. Far from mistrusting our senses, Aristotle relied on them for the evidence to back up his theories. His own studies confirmed what he already believed – that we are not born with some innate ability to recognize forms, as Plato maintained.

DEATH IS NOTHING TO US – EPICURUS c. 341 -270 BCE
Epicurus, however, found the seeds of a new school of thought in the quests of earlier philosophers, such as Socrates’ examination of the truth of basic human concepts and values. Central to the philosophy that Epicurus developed is the view that peace of mind, or tranquility, is the goal of life. He argues that pleasure and pain are the roots of good and evil, and qualities such as virtue and justice derive from these roots, as ‘it is impossible to live a pleasant life with living wisely, honorably, and justly, and it is impossible to live wisely, honorably, and justly without living pleasantly’.
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1861 John Stuart Mill argues that intellectual and spiritual pleasures have more value than physical pleasures.

HE HAS THE MOST WHO IS MOST CONTENT WITH THE LEAST – DIOGENES OF SINOPE c.404 -323 BCE
(A good life) can be achieved, he states, by being content to live a simple life, governed by reason and natural impulses, rejecting conventions without shame, and renouncing the desire for property and comfort.

Diogenes was the first of a group of thinkers who became known as Cynics, a term taken from the Greek Kunikos, meaning ‘dog-like’.
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1882 Nietzsche refers to Diogenes and his ideas in ‘The Gay Science’

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THE MEDIEVAL WORLD 250 – 1500
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THE GOAL OF LIFE IS LIVING IN AGREEMENT WITH NATURE – ZENO OF CITIUM c.332 -265 BCE
Zeno of Citium
Curtsy Wikipedia
He had little patience with metaphysical speculation and came to believe that the cosmos was governed by natural laws that were ordained by a supreme law giver. Man, he declares, is completely powerless to change this reality and in addition to enjoying its many benefits, man also has to accept its cruelty and injustice.

GOD FORSEES OUR FREE THOUGHTS AND ACTIONS – BOETHIUS c.480 – 525 CE
The Roman philosopher Boethius was famous for his solution to a problem that predates Aristotle: If God already knows what we are doing to do in the future, how can we be said to have free will?

He believed that God knows everything; not only past and present, but also the future. … Boethius solves the problem by arguing that the same things can be known in different ways, depending on the nature of the knower.
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1250-70: Aquinas agrees with Boethius that God exists outside of time…
1300: John Duns Scotus says that human freedom rests on God’s own freedom to act, and that God knows our future, free actions by knowing his own unchanging – but free – will.

THE SOUL IS DISTINCT FROM THE BODY – AVICENNA c.980 – 1037
Also known as IbnSina, is the most important philosopher in the Arabic Tradition, and one the world’s greatest thinkers. He saw himself as a follower of Aristotle, and his main writings are encyclopedias of Aristotelian philosophy. By contrast, Avicenna is one of the most famous ‘dualist’ in the history of philosophy – he thinks that the body and the mind are two distinct substances.

Both Avicenna and Descartes want to demonstrate that the mind or self exists because it knows it exists; and that is distinct from the human body.

JUST BY THINKING ABOUT GOD WE CAN KNOW HE EXISTS – ST ANSELM c.1033 – 1109
The ontological Argument invented by Anselm – 11th century Italian philosopher who worked on the basis of Aristotelian logic, Platonic thinking, and his own genius – is the most famous of all. The argument rests on an acceptance of two things: first, that God is ‘that than which nothing greater can be thought’, and second, that existence is superior to non-existence.

GOD HAS NO ATTRIBUTES – MOSES MAIMONIDES 1135 -1204
God, Maimonides says, has no attributes. This is because an attribute is either accidental (capable of change) or essential.
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1840-50s: Soren Kierkegaard claims that it is impossible to provide any form of external description of God.

DON’T GRIEVE. ANYTHING YOU LOSE COMES ROUND IN ANOTHER FORM – JALAL AD-DIN MUHAMMAD RUMI 1207 – 1273
Rumi curtsy Wikipedia
Central to Rumi’s visionary philosophy is the idea that the universe and everything in it is an endless flow of life, in which God is an eternal presence. Man, as part of the universe is also a part of this continuum, and Rumi seeks to explain our place within it.
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1925: After the founding of a secular Republic of Turkey, the Mawlawi Order is banned in Turkey. It remains illegal until 1954, when it receives the right to perform on certain occasions.

THE UNIVERSE HAS NOT ALWAYS EXISTED – THOMAS AQUINAS 1225 -1274
Like Philoponus and his followers, Aquinas wants to show that the universe had a beginning – but he also wants to show that there is no flaw in Aristotle’s reasoning…  Aquinas set out to prove that in fact Aristotle’s position – that the universe has always existed – could be true; even if it is also true that God created the universe.
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1991: French Philosopher Jean-Luc Marion explores the theme of God as not a being.
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Hope you have liked the First part of the post on the Philosophy - History and its ideas and perspectives. To read the other parts, click below...



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Shashi 
ॐ नमः शिवाय
Om Namah Shivaya


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