Notes from “Medieval Thought – The Western Intellectual Tradition from Antiquity to 13th Century” by Michael Harren. (MacMillan). Pages: 8-9
Plato’s philosophical background:
1) Pythagoras (530 BC): doctrine of the permanence of soul in terms of transmigration.
2) Universe reduced to mathematical formulae. (Pythagoras)
3) Timaeus: description of composition of bodies.
4) Earlier speculations on the nature of reality (Metaphysics) – problem of interpreting change.
5) Heraclitus (500 B.C.):
i) Change was the natural condition of reality and had emphasized the relativity of things as we experience them.
ii) Divergences were aspects of same reality & that accordingly reality was one.
6) Parmenides (475 B.C.)- founder of Eleatic School.
To notice change and plurality was to be deceived by appearances; reality as perceived by reason was one- constant Being. Such a monolithic concept of Being forbade change. If a thing does not exist (was not already Being) it could not change and if it did exist it was Being before and after ‘change’. One’s impression of change, derived from sense experience, must therefore be corrected by an intellectual judgment which dismissed it. The solution was more logical than satisfying.
“Behind the façade of impermanence lay a continuity”-development of
a) Materialism- Atomists (Eg: Democritus).
b) Idealism – Plato’s thoughts.
7) SOCRATES (470-399 B.C.):
· “man”- philosophy of man è sophism ; (no more cosmology).
· Sophism è spirit of abstract inquiry
· Practical pursuits è Rhetoric.
· Connection between ‘speculation’ and ‘ethics’ derived from his identification of virtue with knowledge of Good, knowledge being understood in this context as conviction rather than simple recognition of fact.
“On the supposition that all men act in pursuit of an object which they consider beneficial, the fact that they do evil may be attributed to their imperfect understanding of what they seek to obtain”.-Socrates’ disciplined search for Good thru criticism of the various interpretations which may be offered of it.