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Ancient philosophy (Essay Sample)


ancient philosophy

The Pre-Socratic period was the very important time in the development of philosophy especially the problem of the nature of reality. They discussed the problem of change as an illusion. The later pre-Socratic philosophers accepted change of reality and others denied the possibility of change in the universe. The argument there fore led the statement of, ‘change is an illusion.’ Change means motion/becoming/evolving or passing from one state to another. Change is the opposite of permanent being. Illusion is false idea or belief especially about some situation or some thing that seemed to exist but in fact does not. Those later pre Socratic philosophers who says change is an illusion, their thought relay much on permanent as the reality. Still change of permanent to some later pre Socrates seemed to be possible in one sense and impossible in another sense, like Atomists.
This group came after the group of early Pre Socrates (Thales, Anaximander and Anaximenes) the group which the origin of philosophy came into existence. It was the year between 600-400 when the development of the art of philosophical enquiry started by wonder. This group of later pre Socrates developed the problem started by the early ancient philosophers. The problem of change of permanent made them to seek the basic elements of reality? Also the problem of change led them into the following argumentations, "if every thing changes, as it seemed to be, then how anything can be permanent? But also if there are permanent elements in the world, as they seemed to be; how can they be part of the world which seemed to be changing?" Their attempt in solving such problem led them into three positions: (1) reality is ever changing and nothing remains permanent. (2) Reality is permanent and change is an illusion. (3) Both change and permanents are the reality because reality is made up of both change and permanent.
These later pre Socratic philosophers were: Heracritus whose ideal was that change is universe and real. All things are in constant flux. Zeno of Elea who said that change is not possible in the world which is one, complete and invisible. Mellisus who said that universe is unchanging but permanent and uncreated. Empedocles also said that change is impossible. Like wise Anaxagoras said that the universe is made of the infinite seed called spermata which is unchangeable. Then the Atomists who were Leuippus and Democritus said that reality is both unchanging and changing.
Heraclitus (530—470 BC)
He believes the change in every thing. He does not accept the point of illusion. According to him fire is as the basic element of reality. He saw fire that has been both substance and process which depends on transformation. Fire need to be fed then it produce heat, smoke and ashes which lead to substances. He says every thing is in perpetual flux, Heraclitus offer himself in tackling this issue, criticizing his contemporaries for investigating the external nature. His stand was that, "Ears and eyes are bad witness if the soul is without understanding," But the senses usually shows the different world to each man. Truth can not be obtained by the means of the senses but by the way of introspections (by looking within one self, he/she can discover the reality). In his philosophical stand, he got strong oppositions from other philosophers like Parmenides who denied change. More over, Heraclitus contribution tries to relate it with flux by saying that, "all things are in the state of flux, you can not step on the same river twice." For him reality is all and ever a flux like a cease less change. To him changes is like an upward and down ward path, the cosmos comes from this movement. Fire is condensed into moist, moist into water and water is congealed into the Earth (this is the downward path). Then when the Earth is liquid field into water, water evaporates; when it evaporates it makes everything to grow (the up ward path). In fact he played a great role on the development of philosophy from his point of view that change is in everything in the universe, he denies illusion.
Parmenides of Elea (515-440 BC)
Parmenides tried to prove that change was impossible. He affirms change as an illusion. For him the whole of reality consisted by the single, motion less and the unchanging substances. So the basic or fundamental principles of his philosophy were that, being is, and that becoming/change is an illusion. He provided the following argument; ‘if any thing comes to be, then it comes either out of being or out of not being’. Being is one, no plurality. His thought contributed much too philosophical maturity. According to his arguments in his principles of Monism, he gives the fact that, "what is, is" and "what is not is not" because the idea of change is not clear. Why the doctrine of change for Parmenides is still an illusion? It is because of the sense that, being is one, unchanging, permanent. Every thing that is, has always been and will ever be, for it can always be thought and spoken of. The essence of this arguments is that; if you speak or think some thing, the words or thoughts relates to some thing that actually exists, thus there is no change, for any thing which exists can be thought of all the time. So Parmenides strengthens his philosophical thought by saying that, things are permanent and change is an illusion.
Zeno of Elea (490-430 BC)
Zeno was the follower of Parmenides; he became a leader of Eleatic school after Parmenides. He agrees with Parmenides that change is an illusion; he sees change as the appearance and not reality. He is against the plurality, to him the reality is not many (all is not many).
He strongly defended his position through giving various argumentations about the impossibility of change. He came up with paradoxes which support Parmenides views on change, his evidence based on monistic position to prove that change is an illusion, he said as follows: 1. The race course: before one can move and arrive at any where at a given length. For example, from chair to the door; one must first cover lap of a distance between a chair and a door. But before covering a lap one must cover half of a distance of the half; this half distance is infinite in number and one ends up not making any movement and there fore will never reach the door. One may tray to do this and believe that he has a success, and you will be only a victim of sense deception. Zeno holds that, each unity of distance can be divided into smaller distances; ½ foot, ¼ foot, 1/8 foot and so on, until at last we have an infinite number of distances.
2. Race between the Achilles and the Tortoise: Achilles will never overtake the tortoise. Because Achilles is a sportsman he gives a tortoise a head start. While the tortoise has already moved towards the goal, Achilles starts and pursues the tortoise. In a few seconds he reaches exactly the point, where the tortoise has been, when Achilles started. However this time the tortoise has moved forward and it takes Achilles to take a certain amount of time to make up his distances. Like wise, the tortoise has moved on in that time and Achilles needs another smaller amount of time to make up for it. The distance between Achilles and the tortoise will always be divisible and as in the case of race course, no point can be reached before the previous point has been reached. So Achilles can never overtake the tortoise.
3. An arrow in a flight: A question which one can be asked is that; can the arrow move when the archer shoots it at the target? It shows that the arrows have no movement. If there had been a reality of space, the arrow could at all times occupy a particular position in space in its space to the target. But an arrow to hold position in space that is equal to its length is precisely what is meant when one says that an arrow is at rest. Since the arrow must occupy that position on its trajectory which is equal to its length, the arrows must always be at rest. Due to that motion is illusion.
So according to Zeno paradoxes of moving things to be not possible, for it must be moving in a place in which it is (for a place in which it is at any moment is of the same size as it self and hence arrows no room to move), and it can not move in a place in which it is not. Thus the half of the halves of distance becomes indefinite.
More over, Zeno argues that an arrow in flight is real stationary at any given time in space. Simply reality is changeless or being in motion less or illusion.
Mellisus of Samos
He was born after Zeno (year not known), from Samos, Ionia. He is one among those who agrees that change is an illusion. To him change is impossible to the reality/universe. What was his thought about change? According to him reality is permanent and uncreated, unchangeable, immovable, undifferentiated, unity and is full. It came into being not from nothing,or through changes or becoming, rather than it is (reality), infinite and does not come to be (changes).
Mellisus like Parmenides, his doctrine in clear explanation, says that, ‘What comes into existence has a beginning, and what does not come into existence has no beginning. But what exists has not come into being, there fore, it has no beginning. Like wise, he explains that, what is destroyed has an end and if something is indestructible it has no end. That means, what exist has neither beginning nor end, it is infinite, unique, has no limit with one another. Thus, what exist is one, has no plurality in it, no change in it/ reality, but permanent because it lack a starting principle.
Empedocles (549-430 BC)
He was the pluralist. He was a son of Maton, born at Akragas in Agrigento in the island of Sisily. What was his thought, about change as an illusion? He opposes change. In fact, he affirms the statement that change is an illusion. To him there is no chan...
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