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The Axial Period. The Hellenistic Age and Beyond. Plato revisited. The Problem of Knowledge and the Knowable The Forms and Reason, truth is possessed within and is ‘remembered’ Senses will not lead to truth Nativistic and fatalistic

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The Axial Period

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The Axial Period

The Hellenistic Age and Beyond

Plato revisited

  • The Problem of Knowledge and the Knowable

    • The Forms and Reason, truth is possessed within and is ‘remembered’

    • Senses will not lead to truth

    • Nativistic and fatalistic

      • Compare to modern theories of cognition and genetic underpinnings of intelligence etc.

  • The Problem of Conduct

    • Reason controls the appetites, passion in aid of reason strengthens resolve (harmonic existence)

      • The unjust are not happier any more than the sick are relative to the healthy

  • The Problem of Governance

    • The polis is the extension of man and has the same ‘components’ of the soul: rational, appetitive, sensing


  • ~384 BC – 322 BCE

  • Student of Plato, eventually set up the Lyceum as a rival to Plato’s Academy

  • Categorized and catalogued a large number of observations made of physical and biological phenomena

  • Treated many topics relevant to psychology

    • Plato – truths in the forms that exist independent of nature, known only by using reason (rationalism)

    • Aristotle – essences could be known only by studying nature through individual observation of phenomena (empiricism)

  • Aristotle embraced both rationalism and empiricism.

    • Mind must be employed to gain knowledge (rationalism), object of rational thought was information from sensory experience.

  • Contrasting views of Plato and Aristotle set stage for epistemological arguments throughout history

Aristotle’s logic

  • The founder of formal logic

    • Deduction, syllogisms

      • An argument consisting of three parts, a major premise, a minor premise, and a conclusion

  • Interested in determining what combinations of premises in which all, some, none lead to which valid conclusions using the same terms

  • Examined categorical claims as well as hypothetical, such as if p then q but p is impossible so q is

Aristotle’s Science

  • Science as it would eventually progress to could be said to have started with Aristotle

  • Although not providing a quantitative description as today’s scientists would, he was a keen observer (well, usually) that sought to understand the world around him based on what could be perceived physically

  • For him it was an investigation of the forms which nature takes

Aristotle’s Science

  • Some observations of the natural world

    • Thinking occurred in the heart

    • Guys have more teeth than gals

      • For some reason he didn’t actually check this

    • Falling bodies fall at steady speeds

    • Dolphins give birth to live young and were classified as ‘beasts of the field’ rather than sea

    • Hierarchy of species – the beginnings of an evolutionary theory

Aristotle: Actuality vs. Potentiality

  • Form is something that nature approximates to, but is not separate from nature

    • Kind of like a prototype

    • Distinguishes Potential vs. Actual

      • Matter – potentiality

      • Form - Actuality

      • Matter is responsible for the deviations from the norm

  • The form sets in place restrictions on what can be, and the task of the scientist is to discover the form in the variations for which matter is responsible

  • Discovery of the form is to understand what applies to all things of a certain type

  • God is pure form without matter or potentiality

Aristotle and the problem of universals

  • One can see in his science the method of induction, observing the particulars to come to some generality

  • Anything will do as a premise, it just must be agreed upon

    • Operational definition

  • The study of nature is the study of change, and for Aristotle that change had to begin somewhere

    • The Prime, or Unmoved Mover

      • A final cause

Aristotle: Cause

  • To understand object or phenomenon we must know its causes

  • Four answers to the question ‘For what reason?’

  • Material cause

    • Matter of which it is made

  • Formal cause

    • Form or pattern of the object

  • Efficient cause

    • Force that transforms the matter

  • Final cause

    • Purpose – why it exists

Aristotle: Purpose

  • Everything has a purpose –

    • Teleology

      • Everything has a function built into it (entelechy)

  • Entelechy keeps an object moving and developing in its prescribed direction to full potential

  • What gave everything in nature its purpose (entelechy) was the unmoved mover - caused everything in nature but was not caused by anything itself.

    • It set nature in motion and little else – it was a logical necessity

    • Compare these views to later pragmatism/functionalism, Peirce’s chance as the root cause?

Aristotle’s Metaphysics

  • Metaphysics: ‘after Physics’

    • Science of what is

  • Beings can be divided into ten distinct categories

    • Substance, quality, quantity, place etc.

  • Substance

    • The primary kind of thing

    • All others depend on substance

      • E.g. color in some object that is

  • What is substance?

  • Essence, universal, genus, and subject?

    • the essence of x, or some universal predicated of x, or a genus that x belongs to, or a subject of which x is predicated.

  • Substance for Aristotle is equated to subject

    • “The substance of each thing is that which is peculiar to it, which does not belong to anything else”.

    • The form

Aristotle’s Ethics

  • Conduct

  • Every action aims toward some good

  • For man it is eudaimonia, the activity of the soul in accordance with excellence

  • Man fulfilling his potential leading to happiness in living the good life

  • Doctrine of the Mean

    • Virtue as the mean

      • Every ethical virtue is a condition intermediate between two other states, excess and deficiency

Aristotle on the Soul

  • The soul

  • Inseparable from the body (its form), necessary for life

    • No soul surviving after death?

    • “It is not necessary to ask whether soul and body are one, just as it is not necessary to ask whether the wax and its shape are one, nor generally whether the matter of each thing and that of which it is the matter are one. For even if one and being are spoken of in several ways, what is properly so spoken of is the actuality”

  • Hierarchy of the soul, each necessary for the next, more advanced species will possess the other parts of the soul, up to humans with a mind

  • Vegetative (nutritive) soul – provides growth, assimilation of food, and reproduction.

    • Possessed by plants.

  • Sensitive soul – functions of vegetative soul plus the ability to sense and respond to the environment, experience pleasure and pain, and use memory.

    • Possessed by animals.

  • Rational soul – functions of vegetative and sensitive souls plus ability of thinking and rational thought.

    • Only humans have the capacity for a rational soul

Aristotle on the Soul

  • Functions of the soul

    • Nutritive

    • Appetitive

    • Sensory

    • Locomotive

    • Thinking

  • Livings things differ with respect to which functions of the soul they possess, the latter alone is linked with man

Aristotle’s Psychology

  • Aristotle is perhaps our first true psychologist (or at least physiological psychologist)

  • Was not materialistic per se*, but did try to understand psychological problems with an eye to the underlying physiology

  • Concept of mind (nous) is distinct from soul (anima), though may be a type of soul along with others; does not die with the body

*Trying to ‘categorize’ Aristotle’s views is a bit problematic

Aristotle: Sensation and Perception

  • Sensation and Perception – information about the environment is provided by from the five senses

  • Perception explained by motion of objects that stimulate a particular sensory system

    • Senses as motion detectors

    • E.g. seeing results from movement of light, touch from movement of flesh

  • We can trust our senses to yield at least a somewhat accurate representation of the real world environment

Aristotle: Imagery

  • Imagination and dreaming

  • Imagination lies between perception and reason

  • Depends on sensory experience but uses thought also

  • Dreaming

    • Images from past experience which are stimulated by events inside or outside the body

Aristotle: Perception and Thinking

  • General cognition

  • Mind (intellect or reason) as the part of the soul by which it knows and understands

    • Has the potential for thought, but must impacted from without in order for this to be actualized

  • Common sense, distinct from the typical 5 senses, passive and active reason

  • Sensory information is only first step in gaining knowledge – necessary but not sufficient element in obtaining knowledge

  • Information from multiple sensory systems must be combined

  • Common sense coordinates, synthesizes information from all of the senses for more meaningful and effective experience

    • Perceptual organization

Aristotle: Thinking

  • Passive reason

    • Uses synthesized experience to function in everyday life.

  • Active reason (epistemonikon)

    • Uses synthesized experience to abstract principles and essences

    • Highest form of thinking

  • Active reason provides humans with their entelechy – purpose is to engage in active reason, source of greatest pleasure.

Aristotle: Learning and Memory

  • Memory, recall, and laws of association

  • Remembering

    • Spontaneous recollection of a previous experience

  • Recall

    • An active mental search for a previous experience

  • Practice of recall affected by laws of association

    • law of contiguity – associate things that occurred close in time and/or in same situations

    • law of similarity - similar things are associated

    • law of contrast – opposite things are associated

    • law of frequency – more often events occur together, the stronger the association

  • Laws of association are basis for most theories of learning and association

Aristotle: Emotion and Motivation

  • Motivation and happiness

    • Happiness is doing what is natural – fulfills one’s purpose

      • Purpose for humans is to think rationally.

    • Humans, being biological organisms, are motivated by appetites

    • Humans however can use rational powers to inhibit our appetites

    • Conflicts arise between immediate satisfaction and biological drives and more remote rational goals.

  • Aristotle, like most Greeks, held self-control and moderation as a high ideal – the best life was one lived in moderation and control.

    • Doctrine of the mean

  • Emotions and attention

    • Emotions function to amplify any existing tendency (behavior)

    • Emotions also influence person’s perception to be more selective

Greek Physiology

  • Early medicine – temple medicine, healing rituals practiced by priests (kept secret and guarded), accompanied by much ritual and ceremony by patients.

  • Alcmaeon ~6th century BCE?

    • Naturalized medicine

  • Proposed a balance of physical qualities needed for health

    • “Alcmaeon said that the equality (isonomia) of the powers (wet, dry, cold, hot, bitter, sweet, etc.) maintains health but that monarchy among them produces disease.”

  • The physician’s job was to help the patient regain equilibrium, the idea of balance and harmony for health has continued to present time

  • Through research concluded that sensation, perception, memory, thinking, and understanding occurred in the brain.

    • “All the senses are connected in some way with the brain. As a result, they are incapacitated when it is disturbed or changes its place, for it then stops the channels, through which the senses operate.”

  • Although thought by many to be among the first to do so, actually probably did not practice dissection

Greek Physiology

  • Hippocrates ~460 - 377 BCE

    • “Father of Medicine”

  • Hippocrates proposed that all disorders (mental and physical) are caused by natural factors such as inherited susceptibility, organic injury, and by imbalances in bodily fluids

  • Humans are made of four humors which need to stay in balance for health

    • Phlegm

    • Blood

    • Yellow bile

    • Black bile

  • The body has the ability to heal itself – physician’s job was to facilitate through natural healing – treat the whole patient, not just the disease

    • What happened to that idea?

Galen (much later, 129-200 CE) associated the four humors of Hippocrates with four temperaments and produced a rudimentary theory of personality

If one of the humors dominates, the person displays characteristics associated with that humor

Greek Physiology

Importance of Greek thought

  • In Popper’s view, science began when humans began to question the prevailing stories about themselves and the world

  • The Greek cosmologists broke loose from the accepted traditions and speculated about the nature of man and the universe, also engaged in critical discussion

  • After Aristotle’s death, philosophers either relied on teachings of past authorities, particularly Aristotle, or turned attention from descriptions of the universe to models of human conduct

  • The critical, questioning tradition of the Greeks was subdued until revived in the Renaissance

Post-Aristotelian Philosophy


  • Cynicism

    • back-to-nature philosophy

  • Antisthenes ~445-365 BCE

    • Pupil of Socrates

  • Diogenes ~412-323

  • Largely thought themselves Socratic while preaching an austere view of the conduct of life

    • Contrast with the Cyrenaics who advocated the pursuit of pleasure

Diogenes by John William Waterhouse, 1882


  • Life free of wants, pleasures, and conventions of society, true happiness depends on self-sufficiency, quest for simple, independent natural life.

    • Seek virtue

    • What is practical, efficient?

  • Cynics argued that animals provide the best model for human behavior

    • The dog as symbol of the school

    • Needs are natural, as are the satisfaction of

      • “Nothing natural can be bad”

        • ~ Diogenes (who would fart loudly in crowded places, urinate, masturbate etc. in public)

    • No religion

  • Primary message was that nature should guide human behavior, social conventions, including religion, were human inventions and cause shame, guilt, hypocrisy, greed, envy, and hate.


  • Epicureanism

    • philosophy of materialism, free will, no supernatural influences in the world, and no after-life

  • Epicurus ~341-270 BCE

  • Lucretius ~96-55


  • Epicurus took physics almost entirely from Democritus’ atomism

  • Atoms fall through the void, as they do, they swerve, collide and combine to form the matter we see

  • Lucretius extended the idea to the topic of free will, suggesting it is the swerve among the atoms of which the soul is made up

    • Free will as the product of randomness (indeterminism)


  • The ‘quadruple remedy’

    • Do not fear the gods

      • The gods have no concern for us

      • Are separate from humans, in another realm of the void

    • Do not fear death

      • Death is nothing to us

      • Simply the dissolution of atoms

    • Do not fear pain

      • Pain does not last long

      • Pleasure and pain as arising from the interaction of atoms with those of the body and soul

      • Pleasure is natural, pain short relative to pleasure, pleasure as the removal of pain

    • Pleasure is easy to obtain


  • Pleasure of three kinds

    • Natural and necessary

      • E.g. the simple removal of pain

    • Natural but not necessary

    • That which is not natural

  • Pursuit of the first is ideal

    • In other words, not hedonistic

    • Strive for tranquility that comes from balance between lack of or an excess of anything, life of moderation.

  • The good life is thus realizable and should be our goal

    • The good life was free, simple, rational, and moderate.


  • Epistemology

  • All perceptions true

  • All we have as a source of knowledge is sense perception

    • The action of atoms on the sense organs and soul

  • Thought not independent of sensory knowledge

    • Thus a completely empiricist approach


  • Zeno ~335-263 BCE

  • Chrysippus of Soli ~280-207 BCE

  • Everything happens for a reason


  • All things outside of objects of thought are corporeal (including soul)

    • Materialistic view

  • Believed in a soul of the world (pneuma)

    • World seen as organic

  • World ruled by a divine plan (the form of its matter) and everything in nature is there for a reason

  • Everything happens for a reason, no accidents, all must simply be accepted as part of the plan

    • Principal vs Proximate causes

    • Soft determinism- approximate cause reacting to sense perception but there has to be someone there first, the person and their nature which is the primary cause


  • The good life involves accepting one’s fate with indifference

  • Only personal freedom was in choosing whether to act in accordance with nature’s plan

  • Perfect duty

    • Adhering to the highest good: being totally in accord with reason

    • Free from passions which distort truth

  • Imperfect duty

    • Getting by with the obligations of everyday life

    • Live without the insight of the sage


  • Epistemology

  • Emphasis on knowledge through sense-perception

  • An analogy:

    • Stimulus as the open hand

    • Bending of fingers assent to it (attention)

    • Clenched fist as apprehension

    • The fist enclosed by the other hand true knowledge

  • Thus truth is to be arrived at by reason about experience


  • Skepticism

    • suspension of belief

  • Pyrrho ~360-270 BCE

  • The ‘New’ Academy

  • Sextus Empiricus ~2nd century CE

    • Chronicler of skeptical thought

  • Lucian 120-200

    • The Sale of Philosophers


  • Pyrrho claimed that nothing could be known with certainty and that this understanding was the key to happiness, free from care

    • Even lived as such

  • Skepticism proposed that arguments for and against any philosophical doctrine are equally compelling

  • Noted that whatever one believed, it could turn out to be false, thus, one could avoid frustration of being wrong by not believing in anything

  • Two guides for living, appearances and convention

    • Sensation/Feeling

    • Adherence to custom without formal beliefs

  • Arcesilaus later introduced the skeptical doctrine to the Academy and began the attacks on the dogmatists, or those philosophers who claimed some things could be known as true


  • Carneades(~214–129 B.C.E.) followed, introducing the notion of probability as a substitution for truth

    • No final criterion of truth

  • Three grades of probability

    • The merely probable

    • The probable and confirmed

    • The probable, confirmed and tested

  • Such a view of the ideas of Carneades places him as an important figure in the philosophy of science

    • Theory

    • Falsification/confirmation

    • Probability


  • Later (formal) Skepticism

  • Aenesidemus

    • Skepticism as inquiry

  • All we have are appearances, which conflict

    • 10 modes or types of differences that suggest perceptual relativity

    • Differences in animals, humans, senses, perception, frequencies etc.

  • So much out there that truth in absolute sense is not possible

  • Suspend belief

  • Suspension of belief leads to tranquility of the mind

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