Considerations on the early scientific philosophy

The effort of philosophers is to explain the origin of Universe, that means the origin of both mankind’s existence and the individual sense in society. If we succeed in explaining how the world went to be or, at least, we try to demonstrate the principle determining the world itself, we are bounding our position in the cosmos. But our standing is possible in a society, and because of our membership to human beings. So, if we justify the origin of Universe, we justify also our own existence. 

But all these germs of philosophical investigation weren’t already developed in the VII century B.C., when in Ionia an initial endeavor arose in some wise men: that men were the first philosopher in the history. They objected the idea of myth, because of oxes or lions or horses have their own deities, they would represent as oxes, lions and horses, sentenced Xenophanes.  Myths describes deities which don’t exist, which are too similar to ourselves, with their faults and their weaknesses as they had. But if you like to imagine some Olympic Gods who don’t possess the characteristics of mankind, it’s true, anyway, Xenophanes’ sentence about the creation of deities: we create Gods to assure our lives in safety. It’s a psychological wish we have: in front of insecurity which surrounds ourselves, the protection of Gods can produce some peaceful reaction, so we can continue leading our lives without any apprehension.

 

Thales' effigy

Even if it’s important to mark some relations between Xenophanes and Feuerbach, who in 19th century rejected himself the idea of God – God is an illusion and a creation of mankind – we’d like to underline the will to overcome the Myth, because of its irrationalness. As Greek religion was free from any priestly class, it was easy, in a certain way, to oppose to deities and to state some rational principle to explain reality. It would be uneasier in doing so if the tradition given from Religion had been stronger because of a probably opposition would born. Refusing the traditional deities, though, Greeks moved themselves along the path of philosophy, which meant they replaced irrational concepts with some rational hypothesis: it’s not real essential to determine what is the ration principle of the world. It’s fundamental, indeed, that some wise men tried to pass over a mythical way of thinking to a scientific explanation.

 

So, we can argue that philosophy was closely bound up with mathematics and, in general, with science: if myth is unfounded in its constitution, because of the lack of a coherent and rigorous epistemological background, the search of an explication of our world passes to a scientific viewpoint.Both Greek mathematics and  science were influenced by Egypt and Babylon, even if that statement is not the same as saying that Greek mathematics and science in general derive from Egypt and from Babylon. Greek philosophy was from the first thought pursued in the spirit of free science.

Some intuitions can be given to demonstrate how far was going away philosophy in ancient times: these intuitions can prove the scientific spirit moving philosophical speculation. There are some ideas from Thales, Anaximander or Anaximenes, which are astonishing. For Anaximenes, for example, life comes from sea and by means of adaptation to environment the present form of animals were evolved: he gave an evolutionist explication of nature, which is not static and firm in itself, but progresses along the time, with a mechanism of adaptation to environment. Even man evolved from other more ancient species: he got the erectile position because, for his subsistence, he needed long time to wean his children, while other animals quickly find nourishment for themselves.

According to Aristotle, Thales thought the magnet has a soul because it moves iron, even if we are not sure about the originality of this statement. It is possible that this remark represents the lingering-on of a primitive animism: this form of animism is borrowed from Homeric description in his poems, but it can be explained by an extension of the perception we have during our dreams. Indeed, while dreaming, we perceive a duplication of ourselves, but in a shadowy way. Thales extended this phenomenon to sub-human organic life, and even to the forces of the inorganic world, prof. Copleston stated: it is but a relic, as in Thales the transition from myth to science and philosophy is clear. You can notice that here, science and philosophy are the same.

One thought on “Considerations on the early scientific philosophy

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