Manual Believe: Metaphysics for a New Generation

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Presumably, one could not even begin a journey at all. Achilles must first reach the place where the slow runner began. This means that the slow runner will already be a bit beyond where he began.


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Once Achilles progresses to the next place, the slow runner is already beyond that point, too. Thus, motion seems absurd.

CHAPTER VII

Anaxagoras of Clazomenae c. Closely predating Plato Anaxagoras died around the time that Plato was born , Anaxagoras left his impression upon Plato and Aristotle, although they were both ultimately dissatisfied with his cosmology Graham He seems to have been almost exclusively concerned with cosmology and the true nature of all that is around us. Before the cosmos was as it is now, it was nothing but a great mixture—everything was in everything.

The mixture was so thoroughgoing that no part of it was recognizable due to the smallness of each thing, and not even colors were perceptible. He considered matter to be infinitely divisible. That is, because it is impossible for being not to be, there is never a smallest part, but there is always a smaller part. If the parts of the great mixture were not infinitely divisible, then we would be left with a smallest part.

Since the smallest part could not become smaller, any attempt at dividing it again would presumably obliterate it. The most important player in this continuous play of being is mind nous.

Although mind can be in some things, nothing else can be in it—mind is unmixed. We recall that, for Anaxagoras, everything is mixed with everything. There is some portion of everything in anything that we identify. Thus, if anything at all were mixed with mind, then everything would be mixed with mind. Mind is in control, and it is responsible for the great mixture of being. Everlasting mind—the most pure of all things—is responsible for ordering the world. Anaxagoras left his mark on the thought of both Plato and Aristotle, whose critiques of Anaxagoras are similar. He was most excited about mind as an ultimate cause of all.

Yet, Socrates complains, Anaxagoras made very little use of mind to explain what was best for each of the heavenly bodies in their motions, or the good of anything else.

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That is, Socrates seems to have wanted some explanation as to why it is good for all things to be as they are Graham Aristotle, too, complains that Anaxagoras makes only minimal use of his principle of mind. It becomes, as it were, a deus ex machina, that is, whenever Anaxagoras was unable to give any other explanation for the cause of a given event, he fell back upon mind Graham It is possible, as always, that both Plato and Aristotle resort here to a straw man of sorts in order to advance their own positions.

Indeed, we have seen that Mind set the great mixture into motion, and then ordered the cosmos as we know it. This is no insignificant feat. Ancient atomism began a legacy in philosophical and scientific thought, and this legacy was revived and significantly evolved in modern philosophy. In contemporary times, the atom is not the smallest particle.

Etymologically, however, atomos is that which is uncut or indivisible. The ancient atomists, Leucippus and Democritus c. They were to some degree responding to Parmenides and Zeno by indicating atoms as indivisible sources of motion. Atoms—the most compact and the only indivisible bodies in nature—are infinite in number, and they constantly move through an infinite void. In fact, motion would be impossible, says Democritus, without the void.

If there were no void, the atoms would have nothing through which to move. Atoms take on a variety, perhaps an infinite variety, of shapes. Some are round, others are hooked, and yet others are jagged. They often collide with one another, and often bounce off of one another. Sometimes, though, the shapes of the colliding atoms are amenable to one another, and they come together to form the matter that we identify as the sensible world F5.

This combination, too, would be impossible without the void. Atoms need a background emptiness out of which they are able to combine Graham Atoms then stay together until some larger environmental force breaks them apart, at which point they resume their constant motion F5. Why certain atoms come together to form a world seems up to chance, and yet many worlds have been, are, and will be formed by atomic collision and coalescence Graham Once a world is formed, however, all things happen by necessity—the causal laws of nature dictate the course of the natural world Graham Much of what is transmitted to us about the Sophists comes from Plato.

Thus, the Sophists had no small influence on fifth century Greece and Greek thought. Broadly, the Sophists were a group of itinerant teachers who charged fees to teach on a variety of subjects, with rhetoric as the preeminent subject in their curriculum. A common characteristic among many, but perhaps not all, Sophists seems to have been an emphasis upon arguing for each of the opposing sides of a case.

Metaphysical poets

Thus, these argumentative and rhetorical skills could be useful in law courts and political contexts. However, these sorts of skills also tended to earn many Sophists their reputation as moral and epistemological relativists, which for some was tantamount to intellectual fraud. One of the earliest and most famous Sophists was Protagoras c. Plato, at least for the purposes of the Protagoras , reads individual relativism out of this statement. For example, if the pool of water feels cold to Henry, then it is in fact cold for Henry, while it might appear warm, and therefore be warm for Jennifer.

The idea of communication is then rendered incoherent since each person has his or her own private meaning. That is, the question of whether and how things are, and whether and how things are not, is a question that has meaning ostensibly only for human beings. Thus, all knowledge is relative to us as human beings, and therefore limited by our being and our capabilities.

It is implied here that knowledge is possible, but that it is difficult to attain, and that it is impossible to attain when the question is whether or not the gods exist. We can also see here that human finitude is a limit not only upon human life but also upon knowledge. Thus, if there is knowledge, it is for human beings, but it is obscure and fragile. Along with Protagoras was Gorgias c.

Perhaps flashier than Protagoras when it came to rhetoric and speech making, Gorgias is known for his sophisticated and poetic style. He is known also for extemporaneous speeches, taking audience suggestions for possible topics upon which he would speak at length. His most well-known work is On Nature , Or On What-Is-Not wherein he, contrary to Eleatic philosophy, sets out to show that neither being nor non-being is, and that even if there were anything, it could be neither known nor spoken.

It is unclear whether this work was in jest or in earnest. If it was in jest, then it was likely an exercise in argumentation as much as it was a gibe at the Eleatics. If it was in earnest, then Gorgias could be seen as an advocate for extreme skepticism, relativism, or perhaps even nihilism Graham Socrates B. We cannot be sure if or when Xenophon or Plato is reporting about Socrates with historical accuracy.

Xenophon, in his Memorobilia , wrote some biographical information about Socrates, but we cannot know how much is fabricated or embellished. Socrates was the son of a sculptor, Sophroniscus, and grew up an Athenian citizen. Similarly, Aristophanes presents Socrates as an impoverished sophist whose head was in the clouds to the detriment of his daily, practical life.

While Xenophon and Plato both recognize this rhetorical Socrates, they both present him as a virtuous man who used his skills in argumentation for truth, or at least to help remove himself and his interlocutors from error. He did so by asking them questions, often demanding yes-or-no answers, and then reduced their positions to absurdity. He was, in short, aiming for his interlocutor to admit his own ignorance, especially where the interlocutor thought that he knew what he did not in fact know.

Thus, many Platonic dialogues end in aporia, an impasse in thought—a place of perplexity about the topic originally under discussion Brickhouse and Smith This is presumably the place from which a thoughtful person can then make a fresh start on the way to seeking truth. Socrates practiced philosophy openly, did not charge fees for doing so and allowed anyone who wanted to engage with him to do so.

Xenophon says:. Socrates lived ever in the open; for early in the morning he went to the public promenades and training-grounds; in the forenoon he was seen in the market; and the rest of the day he passed just where most people were to be met: he was generally talking, and anyone might listen.

Memorabilia , Book I, i.

Aristotle’s Metaphysics (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)

Often his discussions had to do with topics of virtue—justice, courage, temperance, and wisdom Memorabilia , Book I, i. This sort of open practice made Socrates well known but also unpopular, which eventually led to his execution. Lycon about whom little is known , Anytus an influential politician in Athens , and Meletus, a poet, accused Socrates of not worshipping the gods mandated by Athens impiety and of corrupting the youth through his persuasive power of speech.

In his Meno , Plato hints that Anytus was already personally angry with Socrates. This is not surprising, if indeed Socrates practiced philosophy in the way that both Xenophon and Plato report that he did by exposing the ignorance of his interlocutors.

Socrates claims to have ventured down the path of philosophy because of a proclamation from the Oracle at Delphi. The god replied that no one was wiser than Socrates. Socrates, who claims never to have been wise, wondered what this meant. As a result of showing so many people their own ignorance, or at least trying to, Socrates became unpopular 23a. This unpopularity is eventually what killed him. Both Xenophon and Plato 40b claim that it was this daimon who prevented Socrates from making such a defense as would exonerate him.

That is, the daimon did not dissuade Socrates from his sentence of death. At any rate, Xenophon has Socrates recognize his own unpopularity. Socrates practiced philosophy, in an effort to know himself, daily and even in the face of his own death. He and Crito first establish that doing wrong willingly is always bad, and this includes returning wrong for wrong 49b-c. Then, personifying Athenian law, Socrates establishes that escaping prison would be wrong.

In it, he famously claims that philosophy is practice for dying and death 64a. Indeed, he spends his final hours with his friends discussing a very relevant and pressing philosophical issue, that is the immortality of the soul. Socrates is presented to us as a man who, even in his final hours, wanted nothing more than to pursue wisdom. Euthyphro, a priest, claims that what he is doing—prosecuting a wrongdoer—is pious.

Socrates then uses his elenchos to show that Euthyphro does not actually know what piety is. Socrates, we are told, continued this practice even in the final hours of his life. Plato B. He grew up in a time of upheaval in Athens, especially at the conclusion of the Peloponnesian war, when Athens was conquered by Sparta.