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Ancient philosophy

Ancient Philosophy -- Western.

Pre-Socratic Philosophers:

The history of Philosophy in the west begins with the Greeks, and particularly with a group of philosophers commonly called the pre-Socratics. This is not to say that there were not other pre-philosophical rumblings in Egyptian, Semitic, and Babylonian cultures. Certainly there were great thinkers and writers in each of these cultures, and there is evidence that some of the earliest Greek philosophers may have had contact with at least some of the products of Egyptian and Babylonian thought. However, the early Greek thinkers add at least one element which differentiates their thought from all those who came before them. For the first time in history, we discover in their writings something more than dogmatic assertions about the way the world is ordered -- we find reasoned arguments for various beliefs about the world.

As it turns out nearly all of the various cosmologies proposed by the early Greek philosophers are profoundly and demonstrably false, but this does not diminish their importance. For, even if later philosophers summarily rejected the answers they provided, they could not escape their questions.
Where does everything come from?
  • What is it really made out of?
  • How do we explain the plurality things found in nature?
  • And why are we able to describe them with a singular mathematics?

  • And just as important as the questions they asked was the method they followed in forming and transmitting their answers. The pre-Socratic philosophers rejected traditional mythological explanations for the phenomenon they saw around them in favor of more rational explanations. In other words they depended on reason and observation to illuminate the true nature of the would around them, and they used rational argument to advance their views to others. And though there has been a great deal of argument about the relative weights that reason and observation should have, philosophers for two and a half millennia are basically united in the use of the very method first used by the pre-Socratics.
    Pre-Socratic philosophers are often very hard to pin down, and it is sometimes very difficult to determine the actual line of argument they used in supporting their particular views.  This problem arises not from some defect in the men themselves or in their ideas, but is simply the result of their separation from us in history.  While most of these men produced significant texts, we have no complete versions of any of those texts.  All we have is quotations by later philosophers, historians, and the occasional textual fragment.




    Heraclitus of Ephesus

    Xenophanes, Parmenides, and the other Eleatic philosophers

    Leucippus, Democritus and the other Atomists

    Protagoras and the Sophists




    Later Hellenistic Philosophers:


    Zeno of Citium, Epictetus

    Epicurus, Lucretius


    The Neo-Platonists: Ammonius Saccas, Plotinus, Porphyry, Proclus, Iamblichus)

    Marcus Aurelius

    Schools of Thought in Hellenistic Period.







    The spread of Christianity through the Roman world ushers in the end of the Helinistic philosophy and ushered in the beginnings of Mediaeval Philosophy.

    Ancient Philosophy -- Eastern

    Vedic Philosophy

    In the east, Indian philosophy begins with the Vedas where questions related to laws of nature, the origin of the universe and the place of man in it are asked. In the famous Rigvedic Hymn of Creation the poet says:

    "Whence all creation had its origin, he, whether he fashioned it or whether he did not, he, who surveys it all from highest heaven, he knows--or maybe even he does not know."

    In the Vedic view, creation is ascribed to the self-consciousness of the primeval person (Purusha). This leads to the inquiry of the one being that underlies the diversity of empirical phenomena and the origin of all things. Cosmic order is termed rta and causal law by karma. Nature (prakriti) is taken to have three qualities (sattva, rajas, and tamas).




    Classical Indian Philosophy

    In classical times, these inquiries were systemized in six schools of philosophy. The questions asked were:

    What is the ontological nature of consciousness?

    How is cognition itself experienced?

    Is mind (chit) intentional or not?

    Does cognition have its own structure?

    The six schools of Indian philosophy are:







    Chinese philosophy

    In China, less emphasis was laid upon materialism as a basis for reflecting upon the world and more on conduct, manners and social behaviour as is evidence in Taoism and Confucianism.

    Chinese philosophy -- Confucianism, Taoism, Legalism

    Buddhist philosophy arose in India but contributions to it were made in China, Japan, and Korea also.

    Eastern philosophy