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Basic concepts of Greek philosophy

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  1. Basic concepts of Greek philosophy • Physis (nature) and zoe (life) • Psyche (soul) and nous (mind) • Taxis (order) and kosmos (world) • To on (being), ousia (essence) and genesis (becoming) • Anthropos (man) • Techne (art) • Polis (city-state) • Arete (virtue) and Eudaimonia (well being, happiness) • Logos (speech/reason)

  2. Nature and Life • Nature/physis = • 1st concept of Greek philosophy • Known by science (episteme) • Nature = • One material world • Form/laws and patterns of being • Reality • Life/zoe = • self-moving • self-replicating reality • Life = • Basic form of nature • Goal-directed • Individual and part of the Whole

  3. Nature Nature (physis) presents itself as emergent reality, one material world in which human persons are embedded, one mysterious whole that may have no overarching meaning, or one that may never be known by man…

  4. Soul and Mind • Soul/psyche= principle of self-movement and consciousness • Body and Soul = • Separate entities ? (dualism) • Different aspects of zoon, living being ? (functionalism) • Soul = offshoot of, dependent on body ? (scientific materialism) • Mind/nous = principle of intellectual life and of knowledge • Mind or Reason = • operates on sense-experience? (empiricists) OR structured by innate concepts ? (Platonists) • directed toward its own end = truth ? (Socratics) OR instrument of desires (Sophists)

  5. Question about “Person” • Greeks do not have the concept “person” as such, but have • Concept of rational agency, responsibility • Concept of first person perspective, self-consciousness • Is the person = the soul? Soul + body? • Platonists: person = embodied immortal soul • Aristotelians: person = embodied mortal soul

  6. Soul (Psyche) Note the wings: the Greek psyche also meant ‘butterfly.’ Psyche, born mortal, was loved by Eros. After she descended into Hades, Zeus made her immortal.

  7. Order and World • Order/taxis = mathematical structure • Basic pattern of rationality • Mathematical, e.g. numerical or geometrical basis • Inherent in some physical things, e.g. musical harmony • World/kosmos = orderly structure of the universe • Rational order, knowable by man • Wholistic structure of beauty and value (kosmos) • Evidence of harmony and possibly of Divine Mind ?

  8. Cosmos The “fixed stars” rotate around the geocenter, where elemental earth gathered, then water, air and fire. Sun, moon and planets circle in other orbits. Earth and Man are in the center, God at the outer limit, moving it all…

  9. Being, Essence, Becoming • Being = ‘what is’ but also and especially ‘what is enduring/permanent’ • Essence = core of ‘being’, what makes a thing what it is • Becoming = phenomena of change, transformation, including qualities and coming-into existence and going-out-of existence Q: Is there an “essential structure” of being, or is reality = ever-changing, ever-becoming?

  10. Concepts of Human-Being • Man (anthropos) = human being, center of Greek kosmos • Art (techne) = human creativeness, source of enduring human world, division between man and nature • City-State (polis) = center of human world, seat of law and stage of action • Virtue (arete) and Happiness (eudaimonia) = principles of Greek ethics • Logos (language, reason) = form of human mind, experience, communication

  11. Logos • Logos = • a given language OR speech OR reason = the intelligible meaning of things • Logos = that through which experience is known by human beings • Logos frames all things, but it is possible for human beings to become aware of that conceptual framework, and its limitations “Men think there are many logoi, but in reality (physis) there is only one.” –Heraclitus “In the beginning was the Logos.” - John

  12. Man • “Man is the measure of all things, both of the things that are and how they are, and of the things that are not and how they are not.” –Protagoras • “Man is the rational political animal (zoon politikos echein logon).” --Aristotle

  13. Techne • Creates the enduring world of human artifacts, including • Temples, warships, homes, monuments • Works of art and music and poetry • Laws and new forms of government • Implies a good to be achieved, and knowledge of how to achieve it • Divides nature into human vs. non-human Q: Is there an ‘art’ of living? Or is living wisely a something beyond ‘craft’ and ‘technique’?

  14. Polis • Polis = civilized community, center of government including military life • Greek city-state = stage of political life, place to win enduring “name/identity” • Linked to democracy, demos (the People), as well as law • Contrast to oikos, private world of family • Praises the “life of action,” citizen rather than the “life of the mind,” philosopher

  15. Arete and Eudaimonia • Virtue/excellence (arete) = key ethical values • Courage (andreia) • Self-restraint/moderation (sophrosyne) • Justice/righteousness (dikaiosyne) • Wisdom/prudence (phronesis) • Well-being or happiness (eudaimonia) = ‘process-goal’ of human life (what everyone seeks to have and be) Q: Is happiness found in having, doing or being? In family or fame, wealth or knowledge?

  16. Two Perspectives • Theory (knowledge) • Views everything ‘objectively’ • Often explanation of ‘underlying’ causes Q: Highest theory = science or philosophy? • Practice (action) • Views things relative to human interests • Often  understanding in terms of goals, values Q: Best way of life = active or contemplative?

  17. Dialogue Philosophers at the Academy. What did they discuss? The concepts of nature, life, soul, mind, order, world, being and becoming, logos, man, art, polis, virtue and happiness…