Notes on what I'm reading

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

HoPwaG: Presocratics (General)

Milesians (Thales, Anaximander, Anaximenes)

Unifying themes:
  • technological or mathematical cast of mind;
  • want explanation of why and how cosmos is as it is in fully naturalistic terms;
  • note this compatible with their religious beliefs;
  • Xenophanes shares Milesian scientific cast of mind (e.g. shellfish evidence of earth 'drying out'), and possibly wants naturalistic cosmological explanation (e.g. clouds), though question of whether this may be satirical;
  • Xenophanes, though, more directly concerned with theology, first as critique of traditional theology (e.g. the counterfactual critique of anthropomorphized gods).
Eleatics (Parmenides, Zeno, Melissus)
  • Question of how to understand relation of Zeno and Melissus to Parmenides;
  • Question of how the discourse worked--who Heraclitus, Milesians and Eleatics are addressing, whether they're presenting doctrines, provoking arguments, whether they're public figures or not;
Post-Parmenidean Pluralists (Atomists, Anaxagoras, Empedocles)
  • Question of whether can understand each of these as reactions to Parmenides, trying to vindicate pluralism (i.e. that there is more than one thing, that there is change, etc.);
  • But (Schofield claim) have to be careful about this characterization: e.g. Atomists should be understood as presenting a version of Parmenidean monism. They agree that reality is single, homogeneous, and full, i.e. without gaps. Their difference: there is also void, i.e. non-being. So they seem, more correctly, to be dualists rather than pluralists: there is reality and un-reality, and the interchange between reality and non-reality gives us the sensible world;
  • [Note: not sure how it makes sense to say Atomists think reality has no gaps and that there is void; surely the void is just what introduces the possibility of gaps. Maybe the idea is that, just restricted to what there is, there's no gaps. But that seems weird: surely a gap just is a 'bit' of non-being. Also not sure about this dualism/pluralism distinction.]
Socratic difference from the Presocratics

Starting point different, as well as focus on ethics: philosophy as beginning with 'homely' concerns of life.

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