Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘Heraclitus

Aristotle’s empiricism (-384-322): Got to experiment for facts

Three centuries before Aristotle, scholars studying sciences, also called philosophy, were mainly settled in coastal city in the Near-East such as Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, and Palestine.

You have  cities as Millet, Ephesus, Tyr, Sidon, in Sicily…Scholars have been questioning mythology and investigating into cosmology, natural physics, and rational logic.

Pythagoras (magical proportion of numbers corresponding to natural laws), Thales (cosmology), Heraclitus (living things are constantly in movement and changing), Parmenides (what we sense are moving illusions), and Empedocles.

Democritus had written: “Who commits injustice should be the most unhappy person:  We are ashamed for behaving badly.” Xenon is the master of rhetoric:  We can master the art of arguing on anything.

Platon moved from Athens to Megara where Euclid was settled, as many of Socrates’ disciples after Socrates opted to drink poison rather than go into exile.

Aristotle spent 20 years in Platon’s school in Athens, “Platon’s Academia“,  which hanged the directive: “You cannot be admitted If you don’t know geometry”.  Aristotle studied rhetoric and dialectic for a year in Isocrates’ school.

As Aristotle was born, Macedonia was expanding its territory under Amyntas III, grandfather of Alexander.

Aristotle lived in his native town of Stagira while his father Nicomac was the official physician of Amyntas in the Capital Pella

A few years later, Aristotle is playing with Philip (heir to the kingdom) and Antipater (later the regent of Macedonia and Greece while Alexander is pursuing his expansion in Asia).

Aristotle lost simultaneously, his father, mother, and Amyntas III of an epidemic.  He would write: “How come natural phenomenon return, after a cycle, to their original nature (for example clouds) while living creatures don’t?  Man must not be as necessary to the equilibrium of the universe and he just appears by pure hazard:  Your father’s birth does not necessarily engender your birth.”

One of his sisters, married to Proxenos adopts him and settles in Turkey facing the island of Lesbos.  Later, Aristotle would adopt Proxenos’ son Cleisthenes.

Cleisthenes would become a famous disciple and historian “History of the sacred war” in 10 volumes.  Alexander would torture and assassinate Cleisthenes:  he started mocking Alexander’s antics of considering himself a divinity.

It is a great loss to mankind because Cleisthenes would have left accurate eye-witness account of Alexander vast campaign.

At Alexander reached 13 of age, his father Philip demanded from Aristotle to be the preceptor of his son.  Three years later, Alexander felt that he has no patience for further study:  He wanted to join the military campaigns of his father.

One of the assignment of Alexander was to tame revolts in the other provinces in Greece; the ancient and illustrious city of Thebes was raised from the map; Thebes was built by the Phoenicians several centuries before Athens existed.

When Alexander became king, Aristotle visited the new monarch who didn’t care for his teacher’s counsels.  Mankind is lucky that Aristotle stayed in Greece instead of wasting time tending to Alexander’s caprices.

Aristotle developed a new mode for reasoning by syllogism; for example, all members of B are in A, or all members of C are in B, then, all members of C are in A.  He gathered 14 kinds of syllogisms; sort of modern math concept.

Only when observations through experiments contradict a conclusion can we revised one of the erroneous premises. Aristotle demanded from his disciple to list references of books and documents on every known subject of study.

He observed jointly with his disciples and experimented on phenomena.  He was interested in natural physics, cosmology, political constitutions and structures, animals (especially horses), botany, logic, ethics, poetics.

His disciple Theophrastus will become one of the first renowned botanist.

Aristotle believe in a general or collective providence, the “intellectual agent”, and not an individual providence that is the cause for running the universe but not the creator of the universe.

Aristotle opened a school in Athens, with additional funding coming from Antipater the regent of Macedonia, on a sanctuary called Lycian, thus the French name of Lycee for schools.

He used to teach while walking in the alleys between the arcade, called Peripatus, thus, the name given to his disciples the “peripatecians”.  The school lasted as Alexander was alive.

When the Athenians got the news of the death of Alexander, they forced Aristotle out.  Aristotle dies a year after Alexander and leaves a detailed testament.

The story goes that Aristotle’s disciple Theophrastus was in charge of preserving all the manuscripts.  The king of Pergamus intended for his library to rival Alexandria; thus, the son of Theophrastus hid the manuscripts in Scepsis so that the king of Pergamus won’t take them.

Apellicon of Teos sold the manuscripts to the Roman consul Sylla in 82 BC.   In 60 BC, Andronicos of Rhodes recopied the manuscripts and classify them in two major categories: Physics and after physics (meta physics).

Note 1:  There is this mania of opposing Aristotle’s positions with Plato’s, as if the two philosophers were foreign to one another and did not complement one another.

Plato’s school lasted 900 centuries:  The official Christian Church in Constantinople decided to close this “pagan” school around 550 AC.

Note 2:  Maimonides (12 years younger than Averroes and from the same city Cordoba) relied on Ibn Rushd’s works to perpetuate the rational and scientific trend.

Maimonides wrote: “We may dispense of Plato’s works:  Aristotle’s works suffice since they are the foundations and roots of scientific rational methods.  Aristotle’s works are difficult and many propositions cannot be comprehended without the commentaries and interpretations of Ibn Rushd.”

Note 3: This topic was mainly extracted fro the French book “Lighthouses” by Jacques Attali

“Sophie’s World” on Hellenism; (Dec. 11, 2009)

After Alexander of Macedonia defeated the Persian Empire around 335 BC, the entire region in the Middle East and Egypt became Hellenistic; which means the elite and public servants learned to speak and write in the Greek language and to study Greek philosophies.

Athens got a new life as center of philosophical schools, and the newly built city of Alexandria in Egypt flourished as the center of sciences and medicine.

Four major philosophical schools captured the interest of the people and had repercussions in Rome till the year 400 AC, as the Christian Church got established as the State religion after the defeat of the last Germanic Emperor in Rome.

1. The Cynics school was founded in Athens by Antisthenes, a disciple of Socrates in 400 BC. The frugality of Socrates was the guiding idea as he wondered before a stall: “So many things that I never used or needs”.

The dogma of this school is that happiness is learning to feel independent (detached) from external advantages such as material luxuries or political power.

Happiness is in the reach of everyone if he so desired, and it can be lasting. Suffering and death should not be disturbing events. Feeling concerns for other people should be overcome.

Diogenes is the best representative of the Cynics; he lived in a barrel and carried no belonging but a stick. It is reported that he asked Alexander to step aside for he was blocking the sun rays as he was asking him what he can do for him.

The Church of Rome coined the pejorative term “cynical” referring to individual who exhibits a sneering disbelief in human sincerity, with penchant insensitivity to people’s plights: The Church was competing with all the Hellenistic schools of philosophy and religions.

2. The Stoics school was founded by Zeno in Athens around 300 BC. Zeno was not Greek by origin but from the Phoenician city of Sidon, and he studied in Alexandria before he landed in Greece following a shipwreck. Socrates and Heraclitus were his favorite philosophers and he used to teach under a portico (stoa).

Zeno dogma was that each individual is a complete microcosms reflected in the macrocosms.

First, there was a universal rightness or natural law based on human and universal reason that didn’t alter with time or place.

Second, there is no conflict between spirit (ideas) and matter; this concept was coined “monism” in contrast to Plato dualism of the two worlds of ideas and matter.

Third, sickness and death are within the natural law phenomena and must be accepted since everything happens out of necessity.

Fourth, happy events and moments should be received in natural composure with no undue exhilaration.

Stoics got involved in politics and social problems.

Cicero, the Emperor Marcus Aurelius, and Seneca were staunch stoics. Seneca wrote “mankind is holy”; thus, considering individual dignity and well being as goal for improvement and care.

The Roman Christian Church coined the connotation stoic for individuals who do not let their feeling take over.

3. The Epicurean school was established by Aristippus, another disciple of Socrates. Epicurus founded this school around 300 BC in Athens. He developed the pleasure ethic of Aristippus and adopted the “atom soul” theory of Democritus which says that after death the soul disperses in all directions.

The story goes that Epicureans lived in gardens (safe-harbors): a notice hanged at the entrance said: “Stranger, here you will live well. Here pleasure is the highest good

The dogma of the Epicureans was:

First, pleasurable results of an action is always counterbalanced with side effects that we need to mind of;

Second, short-term pleasurable results should be analyzed compared to the potential longer-term alternative pleasures if we control our actions;

Third, pleasure is appreciation of values in friendship, art, and self control in sensual tendencies.  Epicurus summed up his doctrine in 4 “medicinal” treatments: first, the gods are not to be feared; second, Death is nothing to worry about since when we die then we no longer exist; third, Good is easy to attain; and fourth, the fearful is easy to endure.

Epicurus advice was to learn to live in seclusion.  Epicureans had little concern for politics and community services.  The roman Church coined a bad connotation such as “Indulge in or enjoy the moment

4. The Neo-Platonist school was founded by Plotinus (205-270 BC) and he was from the Near East and studied in Alexandria and settled in Rome.  Plotinus doctrine was influenced by Plato.

The world span two poles:

The One that constantly shines and the World that does not receive the light.  The immortal soul (concept of salvation) is the world of ideas that is illuminated by the One (or God), it is “a spark from the fire”.  The material world has no real existence until the light reaches it. Plotinus experienced mystical moments of fusion with the world of spirit.

The Roman Christian Church had a hard struggle with this powerfully competing school of Neo-Platonism and ended up adopting most of its concepts.


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adonis49

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