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The Philosophy BookDK, Will Buckingham, Douglas Burnham, Peter J. King, Clive Hill, Marcus Weeks, John Marenbon
To the complete novice, learning about philosophy can be a cause for dread. The Philosophy Book uses innovative graphics and creative typography to help demystify hard-to-grasp concepts for those new to philosophy, cutting through the haze of misunderstanding, untangling knotty theories, and shedding light on abstract concepts. Aimed at anyone with a general interest in how our social, political, and ethical ideas are formed, as well as students of philosophy and politics, The Philosophy Book breathes new life to a subject that is often regarded as esoteric and academic
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MIND HAS NO GENDER WE ONLY THINK WHEN WE ARE CONFRONTED WITH PROBLEMS I THINK THEREFORE I AM MAN IS THE MEASURE OF ALL THINGS IMAGINATION DECIDES EVERYTHING THE UNIVERSE HAS NOT ALWAYS EXISTED TO BE IS TO BE MAN IS PERCEIVED MAN WAS BORN FREE, YET EVERYWHERE HE IS IN CHAINS THE AN ANIMAL THAT MAKES BARGAINS PHILOSOPHY BOOK BIG IDEAS SIMPLY EXPLAINED HAPPY IS HE WHO HAS OVERCOME HIS EGO THERE IS NOTHING OUTSIDE OF THE TEXT MAN IS A MACHINE MAN IS AN INVENTION OF RECENT DATE THE END JUSTIFIES THE MEANS ACT AS IF WHAT YOU DO MAKES A DIFFERENCE LIFE WILL BE LIVED ALL THE BETTER IF IT HAS NO MEANING OVER HIS OWN BODY AND MIND, THE INDIVIDUAL IS SOVEREIGN THE PHILOSOPHY BOOK THE PHILOSOPHY BOOK LONDON, NEW YORK, MELBOURNE, MUNICH, AND DELHI DK LONDON DK DELHI First American Edition 2011 PROJECT ART EDITOR Anna Hall PROJECT ART EDITOR Neerja Rawat SENIOR EDITOR Sam Atkinson ART EDITOR Shriya Parameswaran Published in the United States by DK Publishing 375 Hudson Street New York, New York 10014 EDITORS Cecile Landau, Andrew Szudek, Sarah Tomley ASSISTANT ART EDITORS Showmik Chakraborty, Devan Das, Niyati Gosain, Neha Sharma EDITORIAL ASSISTANT Manisha Majithia MANAGING ART EDITOR Arunesh Talapatra US EDITORS Liza Kaplan, Rebecca Warren MANAGING ART EDITOR Karen Self MANAGING EDITOR Camilla Hallinan ART DIRECTOR Philip Ormerod ASSOCIATE PUBLISHER Liz Wheeler PUBLISHER Jonathan Metcalf PRODUCTION EDITOR Luca Frassinetti PRODUCTION CONTROLLER Sophie Argyris 001–176426–Feb/2011 Copyright © 2011 Dorling Kindersley Limited All rights reserved PRODUCTION MANAGER Pankaj Sharma DTP MANAGER/CTS Balwant Singh DTP DESIGNERS Bimlesh Tiwary, Mohammad Usman DTP OPERATOR Neeraj Bhatia styling by STUDIO8 DESIGN ILLUSTRATIONS James Graham PICTURE RESEARCH Ria Jones, Myriam Megharbi 11 12 13 14 15 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise), without the prior written permission of both the copyright owner and the above publisher of this book. Published in Great Britain by Dorling Kindersley Limited. A catalog record for this book is available from the Library of Congress. DK books are available at special discounts when purchased in bulk for sales promotions, premiums, fund-raising, or educational use. For details, contact: DK Publishing Special Markets, 375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014 or SpecialSales@dk.com. ISBN 978-0-7566-6861-7 Printed and bound in Singapore by Star Standard Discover more at www.dk.com CONTRIBUTORS WILL BUCKINGHAM JOHN MARENBON A philosopher, novelist, and lecturer, Will Buckingham is particularly interested in the interplay of philosophy and narrative. He currently teaches at De Montfort University, Leicester, UK, and has written several books, including Finding our Sea-Legs: Ethics, Experience and the Ocean of Stories. A Fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge, UK, John Marenbon studies and writes on medieval philosophy. His books include Early Medieval Philosophy 480–1150: An Introduction. MARCUS WEEKS DOUGLAS BURNHAM A professor of philosophy at Staffordshire University, UK, Douglas Burnham is the author of many books and articles on modern and European philosophy. CLIVE HILL A lecturer in political theory and British history, Clive Hill has a particular interest in the role of the intellectual in the modern world. PETER J. KING A doctor of philosophy who lectures at Pembroke College, University of Oxford, UK, Peter J. King is the author of the recent book One Hundred Philosophers: A Guide to the World’s Greatest Thinkers. A writer and musician, Marcus Weeks studied philosophy and worked as a teacher before embarking on a career as an author. He has contributed to many books on the arts and popular sciences. OTHER CONTRIBUTORS The publishers would also like to thank Richard Osborne, lecturer of philosophy and critical theory at Camberwell College of Arts, UK, for his enthusiasm and assistance in planning this book, and Stephanie Chilman for her help putting the Directory together. CONTENTS 10 INTRODUCTION 46 The life which is unexamined is not worth living Socrates 50 Earthly knowledge is but shadow Plato 56 Truth resides in the world around us Aristotle 64 Death is nothing to us Epicurus The Dao that can be told is not the eternal Dao Laozi 66 He has the most who is most content with the least Diogenes of Sinope Number is the ruler of forms and ideas Pythagoras 67 THE ANCIENT WORLD 700 BCE–250 CE 22 24 26 30 34 250–1500 72 God is not the parent of evils St. Augustine of Hippo 74 God foresees our free thoughts and actions Boethius 76 The soul is distinct from the body Avicenna 80 Just by thinking about God we can know he exists St. Anselm Happy is he who has overcome his ego Siddhartha Gautama 82 Philosophy and religion are not incompatible Averroes Hold faithfulness and sincerity as ﬁrst principles Confucius 84 God has no attributes Moses Maimonides 86 Don’t grieve. Anything you lose comes round in another form Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Rumi 88 The universe has not always existed Thomas Aquinas 96 God is the not-other Nikolaus von Kues 97 To know nothing is the happiest life Desiderius Erasmus Everything is made of water Thales of Miletus 40 Everything is ﬂux Heraclitus 41 All is one Parmenides 42 Man is the measure of all things Protagoras 44 When one throws to me a peach, I return to him a plum Mozi 45 THE MEDIEVAL WORLD Nothing exists except atoms and empty space Democritus and Leucippus The goal of life is living in agreement with nature Zeno of Citium RENAISSANCE AND THE AGE OF REASON 1500–1750 102 The end justiﬁes the means THE AGE OF REVOLUTION 1750–1900 146 Doubt is not a pleasant condition, but certainty is absurd Voltaire Niccolò Machiavelli 108 Fame and tranquillity can never be bedfellows Michel de Montaigne 110 Knowledge is power 148 Custom is the great guide of human life David Hume 154 Man was born free yet everywhere he is in chains Jean-Jacques Rousseau Francis Bacon 112 Man is a machine Thomas Hobbes 160 Man is an animal that makes bargains Adam Smith 186 Every man takes the limits of his own ﬁeld of vision for the limits of the world Arthur Schopenhauer 189 Theology is anthropology Ludwig Andreas Feuerbach 116 I think therefore I am René Descartes 124 Imagination decides 164 There are two worlds: our bodies and the external world Immanuel Kant everything Blaise Pascal 126 God is the cause of all things, which are in him Benedictus Spinoza 130 No man’s knowledge here can go beyond his experience John Locke 172 Society is indeed a contract Edmund Burke 174 The greatest happiness for the greatest number Jeremy Bentham 175 Mind has no gender Mary Wollstonecraft 134 There are two kinds of truths: truths of reasoning and truths of fact Gottfried Leibniz 138 To be is to be perceived George Berkeley 176 What sort of philosophy one chooses depends on what sort of person one is Johann Gottlieb Fichte 177 About no subject is there less philosophizing than about philosophy Friedrich Schlegel 178 Reality is a historical process Georg Hegel 190 Over his own body and mind, the individual is sovereign John Stuart Mill 194 Anxiety is the dizziness of freedom Søren Kierkegaard 196 The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles Karl Marx 204 Must the citizen ever resign his conscience to the legislator? Henry David Thoreau 205 Consider what effects things have Charles Sanders Peirce 206 Act as if what you do makes a difference William James THE MODERN WORLD 1900–1950 214 Man is something to be surpassed Friedrich Nietzsche 222 Men with self-conﬁdence come and see and conquer Ahad Ha’am 223 Every message is made of signs Ferdinand de Saussure 224 Experience by itself is not science Edmund Husserl 226 Intuition goes in the very direction of life Henri Bergson 228 We only think when we are confronted with problems John Dewey 232 Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it George Santayana 233 It is only suffering that makes us persons Miguel de Unamuno 234 Believe in life William du Bois 236 The road to happiness lies in an organized diminution of work Bertrand Russell 240 Love is a bridge from poorer to richer knowledge Max Scheler 241 Only as an individual can man become a philosopher Karl Jaspers 242 Life is a series of collisions with the future José Ortega y Gasset 244 To philosophize, ﬁrst one must confess Hajime Tanabe 246 The limits of my language are the limits of my world Ludwig Wittgenstein 252 We are ourselves the entities to be analyzed Martin Heidegger 256 The individual’s only true moral choice is through self-sacriﬁce for the community Tetsuro Watsuji 257 Logic is the last scientiﬁc ingredient of philosophy Rudolf Carnap 258 The only way of knowing a person is to love them without hope Walter Benjamin 259 That which is cannot be true Herbert Marcuse 268 Existence precedes essence Jean-Paul Sartre 272 The banality of evil Hannah Arendt 273 Reason lives in language Emmanuel Levinas 274 In order to see the world we must break with our familiar acceptance of it Maurice Merleau-Ponty 276 Man is deﬁned as a human being and woman as a female Simone de Beauvoir 278 Language is a social art Willard Van Orman Quine 260 History does not belong to us but we belong to it Hans-Georg Gadamer 262 In so far as a scientiﬁc statement speaks about reality, it must be falsiﬁable Karl Popper 266 Intelligence is a moral category Theodor Adorno 280 The fundamental sense of freedom is freedom from chains Isaiah Berlin 282 Think like a mountain Arne Naess 284 Life will be lived all the better if it has no meaning Albert Camus 322 Thought has always CONTEMPORARY PHILOSOPHY worked by opposition Hélène Cixous 1950–PRESENT 323 Who plays God in present- day feminism? Julia Kristeva 290 Language is a skin 324 Philosophy is not only Roland Barthes a written enterprise Henry Odera Oruka 292 How would we manage without a culture? Mary Midgley 325 In suffering, the animals are our equals Peter Singer 293 Normal science does not aim at novelties of fact or theory Thomas Kuhn 294 The principles of justice are chosen behind a veil of ignorance John Rawls 296 Art is a form of life 300 For the black man, there is only one destiny and it is white Frantz Fanon Paul Feyerabend 298 Knowledge is produced to be sold Jean-François Lyotard analyses are always analyses of a failure Slavoj Žižek 302 Man is an invention of recent date Michel Foucault Richard Wollheim 297 Anything goes 326 All the best Marxist 304 If we choose, we can live in a world of comforting illusion Noam Chomsky 306 Society is dependent upon a criticism of its own traditions Jürgen Habermas 308 There is nothing outside of the text Jacques Derrida 314 There is nothing deep down inside us except what we have put there ourselves Richard Rorty 320 Every desire has a relation to madness Luce Irigaray 321 Every empire tells itself and the world that it is unlike all other empires Edward Said 330 DIRECTORY 340 GLOSSARY 344 INDEX 351 ACKNOWLEDGMENTS INTRODU CTION 12 INTRODUCTION P hilosophy is not just the preserve of brilliant but eccentric thinkers that it is popularly supposed to be. It is what everyone does when they’re not busy dealing with their everyday business and get a chance simply to wonder what life and the universe are all about. We human beings are naturally inquisitive creatures, and can’t help wondering about the world around us and our place in it. We’re also equipped with a powerful intellectual capability, which allows us to reason as well as just wonder. Although we may not realize it, whenever we reason, we’re thinking philosophically. Philosophy is not so much about coming up with the answers to fundamental questions as it is about the process of trying to ﬁnd these answers, using reasoning rather than accepting without question conventional views or traditional authority. The very ﬁrst philosophers, in ancient Greece and China, were thinkers who were not satisﬁed with the established explanations provided by religion and custom, and sought answers which had rational justiﬁcations. And, just as we might share our views with friends and colleagues, they discussed their ideas with one another, and even set up “schools” to teach not just the conclusions they had come to, but the way they had come to them. They encouraged their students to disagree and criticize ideas as a means of reﬁning them and coming up with new and different ones. A popular misconception is that of the solitary philosopher arriving at his conclusions in isolation, but this is actually seldom the case. New ideas emerge through discussion and the examination, analysis, and criticism of other people’s ideas. Debate and dialogue The archetypical philosopher in this respect was Socrates. He didn’t leave any writings, or even Wonder is very much the affection of a philosopher; for there is no other beginning of philosophy than this. Plato any big ideas as the conclusions of his thinking. Indeed, he prided himself on being the wisest of men because he knew he didn’t know anything. His legacy lay in the tradition he established of debate and discussion, of questioning the assumptions of other people to gain deeper understanding and elicit fundamental truths. The writings of Socrates’ pupil, Plato, are almost invariably in the form of dialogues, with Socrates as a major character. Many later philosophers also adopted the device of dialogues to present their ideas, giving arguments and counterarguments rather than a simple statement of their reasoning and conclusions. The philosopher who presents his ideas to the world is liable to be met with comments beginning “Yes, but ...” or “What if ...” rather than wholehearted acceptance. In fact, philosophers have ﬁercely disagreed with one another about almost every aspect of philosophy. Plato and his pupil Aristotle, for example, held diametrically opposed views on fundamental philosophical questions, and their different approaches have divided opinions among philosophers ever since. This has, in turn, provoked more discussion and prompted yet more fresh ideas. INTRODUCTION 13 But how can it be that these philosophical questions are still being discussed and debated? Why haven’t thinkers come up with deﬁnitive answers? What are these “fundamental questions” that philosophers through the ages have wrestled with? Existence and knowledge When the ﬁrst true philosophers appeared in ancient Greece some 2,500 years ago, it was the world around them that inspired their sense of wonder. They saw the Earth and all the different forms of life inhabiting it; the sun, moon, planets, and stars; and natural phenomena such as the weather, earthquakes, and eclipses. They sought explanations for all these things—not the traditional myths and legends about the gods, but something that would satisfy their curiosity and their intellect. The ﬁrst question that occupied these early philosophers was “What is the universe made of?”, which was soon expanded to become the wider question of “What is the nature of whatever it is that exists?” This is the branch of philosophy we now call metaphysics. Although much of the original question has since been explained by modern science, related questions of metaphysics such as “Why is there something rather than nothing?” are not so simply answered. Because we, too, exist as a part of the universe, metaphysics also considers the nature of human existence and what it means to be a conscious being. How do we perceive the world around us, and do things exist independently of our perception? What is the relationship between our mind and body, and is there such a thing as an immortal soul? The area of metaphysics concerned with questions of existence, ontology, is a huge one and forms the basis for much of Western philosophy. Once philosophers had started to put received wisdom to the test of rational examination, another fundamental question became obvious: “How can we know?” The study of the nature and limits of knowledge forms a second main branch of philosophy, epistemology. At its heart is the question of how we acquire knowledge, how we come to know what we know; is some (or even all) knowledge innate, or do we learn everything from experience? Can we know something from reasoning alone? These questions are vital to philosophical thinking, as we need to be able to rely on our knowledge in order to reason correctly. We also need to determine the scope and limits of our knowledge. Otherwise we cannot be sure that we actually do know what we think we know, and haven’t somehow been “tricked” into believing it by our senses. Logic and language Reasoning relies on establishing the truth of statements, which can then be used to build up a train of thought leading to a conclusion. This might seem obvious to us now, but the idea of constructing a rational argument distinguished philosophy from the superstitious and religious explanations that had existed before the first philosophers. These thinkers had to devise a way of ensuring their ideas had validity. ❯❯ Superstition sets the whole world in ﬂames; philosophy quenches them. Voltaire 14 INTRODUCTION What emerged from their thinking was logic, a technique of reasoning that was gradually reﬁned over time. At ﬁrst simply a useful tool for analyzing whether an argument held water, logic developed rules and conventions, and soon became a ﬁeld of study in its own right, another branch of the expanding subject of philosophy. Like so much of philosophy, logic has intimate connections with science, and mathematics in particular. The basic structure of a logical argument, starting from a premise and working through a series of steps to a conclusion, is the same as that of a mathematical proof. It’s not surprising then that philosophers have often turned to mathematics for examples of selfevident, incontrovertible truths, nor that many of the greatest thinkers, from Pythagoras to René Descartes and Gottfried Leibniz, were also accomplished mathematicians. Although logic might seem to be the most exact and “scientiﬁc” branch of philosophy, a ﬁeld where things are either right or wrong, a closer look at the subject shows that it is not so simple. Advances in mathematics in the 19th century called into question the rules of logic that had been laid down by Aristotle, but even in ancient times Zeno of Elea’s famous paradoxes reached absurd conclusions from apparently faultless arguments. A large part of the problem is that philosophical logic, unlike mathematics, is expressed in words rather than numbers or symbols, and is subject to all the ambiguities and subtleties inherent in language. Constructing a reasoned argument involves using language carefully and accurately, examining our statements and arguments to make sure they mean what we think they mean; and when we study other people’s arguments, we have to analyze not only the logical steps they take, but also the language they use, to see if their conclusions hold water. Out of this process came yet another ﬁeld of philosophy that ﬂourished in the 20th century, the philosophy of language, which examined terms and their meanings. Morality, art, and politics Because our language is imprecise, philosophers have attempted to clarify meanings in their search for answers to philosophical questions. The sort of questions that Socrates asked the citizens of Athens tried to get to the bottom of what they actually believed certain concepts to be. He would ask seemingly simple questions such as “What is justice?” or “What is beauty?” not only to elicit meanings, but also to explore the concepts themselves. In discussions of this sort, Socrates challenged assumptions about the way we live our lives and the things we consider to be important. The examination of what it means to lead a “good” life, what concepts such as justice and happiness actually mean and how we can achieve them, and how we should behave, forms the basis for the branch of philosophy known as ethics (or moral philosophy); and the related branch stemming from the question of what constitutes beauty and art is known as aesthetics. O philosophy, life’s guide! O searcher-out of virtue and expeller of vices! What could we and every age of men have been without thee? Cicero INTRODUCTION 15 From considering ethical questions about our individual lives, it is a natural step to start thinking about the sort of society we would like to live in—how it should be governed, the rights and responsibilities of its citizens, and so on. Political philosophy, the last of the major branches of philosophy, deals with these ideas, and philosophers have come up with models of how they believe society should be organized, ranging from Plato’s Republic to Karl Marx’s Communist Manifesto. Religion: East and West The various branches of philosophy are not only interlinked, but overlap considerably, and it is sometimes difﬁcult to say in which area a particular idea falls. Philosophy also encroaches on many completely different subjects, including the sciences, history, and the arts. With its beginnings in questioning the dogmas of religion and superstition, philosophy also examines religion itself, speciﬁcally asking questions such as “Does god exist?” and “Do we have an immortal soul?” These are questions that have their roots in metaphysics, but they have implications in ethics too. For example, some philosophers have asked whether our morality comes from god or whether it is a purely human construct—and this in turn has raised the whole debate as to what extent humanity has free will. In the Eastern philosophies that evolved in China and India (particularly Daoism and Buddhism) the lines between philosophy and religion are less clear, at least to Western ways of thinking. This marks one of the major differences between Western and Eastern philosophies. Although Eastern philosophies are not generally a result of divine revelation or religious dogma, they are often intricately linked with what we would consider matters of faith. Even though philosophical reasoning is frequently used to justify faith in the Judeo-Christian and Islamic world, faith and belief There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so. William Shakespeare form an integral part of Eastern philosophy that has no parallel in the West. Eastern and Western philosophy also differ in their starting points. Where the ancient Greeks posed metaphysical questions, the ﬁrst Chinese philosophers considered these adequately dealt with by religion, and instead concerned themselves with moral and political philosophy. Following the reasoning Philosophy has provided us with some of the most important and inﬂuential ideas in history. What this book presents is a collection of ideas from the best-known philosophers, encapsulated in well known quotes and pithy summaries of their ideas. Perhaps the bestknown quotation in philosophy is Descartes’ “cogito, ergo sum” (often translated from the Latin as “I think, therefore I am”). It ranks as one of the most important ideas in the history of philosophy, and is widely considered a turning point in thinking, leading us into the modern era. On its own however, the quotation doesn’t mean much. It is the conclusion of a line of argument about the nature of certainty, and only when we examine the reasoning leading to it does the idea begin to make sense. And ❯❯ 16 INTRODUCTION it’s only when we see where Descartes took the idea—what the consequences of that conclusion are—that we see its importance. Many of the ideas in this book may seem puzzling at ﬁrst glance. Some may appear self-evident, others paradoxical or ﬂying in the face of common sense. They might even appear to prove Bertrand Russell’s ﬂippant remark that “the point of philosophy is to start with something so simple as not to seem worth stating, and to end with something so paradoxical that no one will believe it.” So why are these ideas important? Systems of thought Sometimes the theories presented in this book were the ﬁrst of their kind to appear in the history of thought. While their conclusions may seem obvious to us now, in hindsight, they were startlingly new in their time, and despite their apparent simplicity, they may make us reexamine things that we take for granted. The theories presented here that seem to be paradoxes and counter-intuitive statements are the ideas that really call into question our assumptions about ourselves and the world—and they also make us think in new ways about how we see things. There are many ideas here that raise issues that philosophers still puzzle over. Some ideas may relate to other thoughts and theories in different ﬁelds of the same philosopher’s thinking, or have come from an analysis or criticism of another philosopher’s work. These latter ideas form part of a line of reasoning that may extend over several generations or even centuries, or be the central idea of a particular “school” of philosophy. Many of the great philosophers formed integrated “systems” of philosophy with interconnecting ideas. For example, their opinions about how we acquire knowledge led to a particular metaphysical view of the universe and man’s soul. This in turn has implications for what kind of life the philosopher believes we should lead and what type of society would be ideal. And in turn, this entire system of ideas has been the starting point for subsequent philosophers. We must remember too that these ideas never quite become outdated. They still have much to tell us, even when their conclusions have been proved wrong by subsequent philosophers and scientists. In fact, many ideas that had been dismissed for centuries were later to be proved startlingly prescient—the theories of the ancient Greek atomists for example. More importantly, these thinkers established the processes of philosophy, ways of thinking and organizing our thoughts. We must remember that these ideas are only a small part of a philosopher’s thinking—usually the conclusion to a longer line of reasoning. Science and society These ideas spread their inﬂuence beyond philosophy too. Some have spawned mainstream scientiﬁc, political, or artistic movements. Often the relationship between science and philosophy is a backand-forth affair, with ideas from one informing the other. Indeed, there is a whole branch of philosophy that studies the thinking behind Scepticism is the ﬁrst step towards truth. Denis Diderot INTRODUCTION 17 scientiﬁc methods and practices. The development of logical thinking affected how math evolved and became the basis for the scientiﬁc method, which relies on systematic observation to explain the world. Ideas about the nature of the self and consciousness have developed into the science of psychology. The same is true of philosophy’s relationship with society. Ethics of all sorts found adherents in political leaders throughout history, shaping the societies we live in today, and even prompting revolutions. The ethical decisions made in all kinds of professions have moral dimensions that are informed by the ideas of the great thinkers of philosophy. Behind the ideas The ideas in this book have come from people living in societies and cultures which have shaped those ideas. As we examine the ideas, we get a picture of certain national and regional characteristics, as well as a ﬂavor of the times they lived in. The philosophers presented here emerge as distinct personalities— some thinkers are optimistic, others pessimistic; some are meticulous and painstaking, others think in broad sweeps; some express themselves in clear, precise language, others in a poetic way, and still more in dense, abstract language that takes time to unpick. If you read these ideas in the original texts, you will not only agree or disagree with the what they say, and follow the reasoning by which they reached their conclusions, but also get a feeling of what kind of person is behind it. You might, for example, warm to the witty and charming Hume, appreciating his beautifully clear prose, while not altogether feeling at home with what he has to say; or ﬁnd Schopenhauer both persuasive and a delight to read, while getting the distinct feeling that he was not a particularly likeable man. Above all these thinkers were (and still are) interesting and stimulating. The best were also great writers too, and reading their original writings can be as rewarding as reading literature; we can appreciate not just their literary style, but also their philosophical style, the way they present their arguments. As well as being thought-provoking, it can be as uplifting as great art, as elegant as a mathematical proof, and as witty as an after-dinner speaker. Philosophy is not simply about ideas—it’s a way of thinking. There are frequently no right or wrong answers, and different philosophers often come to radically different conclusions in their investigations into questions that science cannot —and religion does not—explain. Enjoying philosophy If wonder and curiosity are human attributes, so too are the thrill of exploration and the joy of discovery. We can gain the same sort of “buzz” from philosophy that we might get from physical activity, and the same pleasure that we enjoy from an appreciating the arts. Above all, we gain the satisfaction of arriving at beliefs and ideas that are not handed down or forced upon us by society, teachers, religion, or even philosophers, but through our own individual reasoning. ■ The beginning of thought is in disagreement—not only with others but also with ourselves. Eric Hoffer THE ANC WORLD 700 –250 BCE CE IENT 20 INTRODUCTION Thales of Miletus, the ﬁrst known Greek philosopher, seeks rational answers to questions about the world we live in. Traditional date of birth of Kong Fuzi (Confucius), whose philosophy is centered on respect and tradition. Death of Siddhartha Gautama, the Buddha, founder of the religion and philosophy of Buddhism. Empedocles proposes his theory of the four Classical elements; he is the last Greek philosopher to record his ideas in verse. 624–546 BCE 551 BCE 480 BCE C.460 BCE F 569 BCE 508 BCE 469 BCE 404 BCE Birth of Pythagoras, the Greek thinker who combined philosophy and mathematics. The powerful Greek city-state of Athens adopts a democratic constitution. Birth of Socrates, whose methods of questioning in Athens formed the basis for much of later Western philosophy. Defeat in the Peloponnesian War leads to the decline of Athens’ political power. rom the beginning of human history, people have asked questions about the world and their place within it. For early societies, the answers to the most fundamental questions were found in religion: the actions of the gods explained the workings of the universe, and provided a framework for human civilizations. Some people, however, found the traditional religious explanations inadequate, and they began to search for answers based on reason rather than convention or religion. This shift marked the birth of philosophy, and the ﬁrst of the great thinkers that we know of was Thales of Miletus—Miletus was a Greek settlement in modern-day Turkey. Thales used reason to inquire into the nature of the universe, and encouraged others to do likewise. He passed on to his followers not only his answers, but the process of thinking rationally, together with an idea of what kind of explanations could be considered satisfactory. For this reason Thales is generally regarded as the ﬁrst philosopher. The main concern of the early philosophers centered around Thales’ basic question: “What is the world made of?” Their answers form the foundations of scientiﬁc thought, and forged a relationship between science and philosophy that still exists today. The work of Pythagoras marked a key turning point, as he sought to explain the world not in terms of primal matter, but in terms of mathematics. He and his followers described the structure of the cosmos in numbers and geometry. Although some of these mathematical relationships acquired mystical signiﬁcance for Pythagoras and his followers, their numerical explanation of the cosmos had a profound inﬂuence on the beginnings of scientiﬁc thought. Classical Greek philosophy As the Greek city-states grew in stature, philosophy spread across the Greek world from Ionia, and in particular to Athens, which was rapidly becoming the cultural center of Greece. It was here that philosophers broadened the scope of philosophy to include new questions, such as “How do we know what we know?” and “How should we live our lives?” It was an Athenian, Socrates, who ushered in the short but hugely inﬂuential period of Classical Greek philosophy. Although he left no writings, his ideas were so important that they steered the THE ANCIENT WORLD 21 Plato founds his hugely inﬂuential Academy in Athens. Zeno of Citium formulates his stoic philosophy, which goes on to ﬁnd favor in the Roman Empire. Ptolemy, a Roman citizen of Egypt, proposes the idea that Earth is at the center of the universe and does not move. Galen of Pergamum produces extraordinary medical research that remains unsurpassed until the work of Vesalius in 1543. C.385 BCE C.332–265 BCE C.100–178 CE C.150 BCE 335 BCE 323 BCE 122 CE 220 CE Aristotle, Plato’s student, opens his own school in Athens—the Lyceum. The death of Alexander the Great signals the end of the cultural and political dominance of Greece in the ancient world. Construction begins on Hadrian’s Wall in Britain, marking the northernmost border of the Roman Empire. The collapse of the Han Dynasty marks the end of a uniﬁed China. The Period of Disunity begins. future course of philosophy, and all philosophers before him became known as the pre-socratics. His pupil Plato founded a philosophical school in Athens called the Academy (from which the word “academic” derives) where he taught and developed his master’s ideas, passing them on to students such as Aristotle, who was a pupil and teacher there for 20 years. The contrasting ideas and methods of these great thinkers—Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle—form the basis of Western philosophy as we know it today, and their differences of opinion have continued to divide philosophers throughout history. The Classical period of ancient Greece effectively came to an end with the death of Alexander the Great in 323 BCE. This great leader had uniﬁed Greece, and Greek citystates that had worked together once again became rivals. Following the death of Aristotle in 322 BCE, philosophy also divided into very different schools of thought, as the cynics, sceptics, epicureans, and stoics argued their positions. Over the next couple of centuries, Greek culture waned as the Roman Empire grew. The Romans had little time for Greek philosophy apart from stoicism, but Greek ideas persisted, mainly because they were preserved in the manuscripts and translations of the Arab world. They resurfaced later, during medieval times, with the rise of Christianity and Islam. Eastern philosophies Thinkers throughout Asia were also questioning conventional wisdom. Political upheaval in China from 771 to 481 BCE led to a collection of philosophies that were less concerned with the nature of the universe than with how best to organize a just society and provide moral guidelines for the individuals within it; in the process examining what constitutes a “good” life. The so-called “Hundred Schools of Thought” ﬂourished in this period, and the most signiﬁcant of these were Confucianism and Daoism, both of which continued to dominate Chinese philosophy until the 20th century. To the south of China an equally inﬂuential philosopher appeared: Siddhartha Gautama, later known as the Buddha. From his teaching in northern India around 500 BCE, his philosophy spread across the subcontinent and over most of southern Asia, where it is still widely practiced. ■ 22 EVERYTHING IS MADE OF WATER THALES OF MILETUS (C.624–546 BCE) IN CONTEXT BRANCH Metaphysics APPROACH Monism BEFORE 2500–900 BCE The Minoan civilization in Crete and the later Mycenaean civilization in Greece rely on religion to explain physical phenomena. c.1100 BCE The Babylonian creation myth, Enûma Eliš, describes the primal state of the world as a watery mass. c.700 BCE Theogony by the Greek poet Hesiod relates how the gods created the universe. AFTER Early 5th century BCE Empedocles proposes the four basic elements of the cosmos: earth, water, air, and ﬁre. c.400 BCE Leucippus and Democritus conclude that the cosmos is made up solely of atoms and empty space. From observation, Thales deduced that speciﬁc weather conditions, not appeals to the gods, led to a good harvest. Predicting a high yield of olives one year, he is said to have bought up all the local olive presses, then proﬁted by renting them out to meet increased demand. D uring the Archaic period (mid-8th–6th century BCE), the peoples of the Greek peninsula gradually settled into a group of city-states. They developed an alphabetical system of writing, as well as the beginnings of what is now recognized as Western philosophy. Previous civilizations had relied on religion to explain phenomena in the world around them; now a new breed of thinkers emerged, who attempted to ﬁnd natural, rational explanations. The ﬁrst of these new scientiﬁc thinkers that we are aware of was Thales of Miletus. Nothing survives of his writings, but we know that he had a good grasp of geometry and astronomy, and is reputed to have predicted the total eclipse of the sun in 585 BCE. This practical turn of mind led him to believe that events in the world were not due to supernatural intervention, but had natural causes that reason and observation would reveal. Fundamental substance Thales needed to establish a ﬁrst principle from which to work, so he posed the question, “What is the basic material of the cosmos?” The idea that everything in the universe can be ultimately reduced to a single substance is the theory of monism, and Thales and his followers were the ﬁrst to propose it within Western philosophy. Thales reasons that the fundamental THE ANCIENT WORLD 23 See also: Anaximander 330 ■ Anaximenes of Miletus 330 ■ Pythagoras 26–29 Empedocles 330 ■ Democritus and Leucippus 45 ■ Aristotle 56–63 ■ What is the basic material of the cosmos? It must be… Thales of Miletus …something from which everything can be formed. …essential to life. …capable of motion. …capable of change. Everything is made of water. material of the universe had to be something out of which everything else could be formed, as well as being essential to life, and capable of motion and therefore of change. He observes that water is clearly necessary to sustain all forms of life, and that it moves and changes, assuming different forms – from liquid to solid ice and vaporous mist. So Thales concludes that all matter, regardless of its apparent properties, must be water in some stage of transformation. Thales also notes that every landmass appears to come to an end at the water’s edge. From this he deduces that the whole of the earth must be ﬂoating on a bed of water, from which it has emerged. When anything occurs to cause ripples or tremors in this water, Thales states, we experience them as earthquakes. However, as interesting as the details of Thales’ theories are, they are not the main reason why he is considered a major ﬁgure in the history of philosophy. His true importance lies in the fact that he was the ﬁrst known thinker to seek naturalistic, rational answers to fundamental questions, rather than to ascribe objects and events to the whims of capricious gods. By doing so, he and the later philosophers of the Milesian School laid the foundations for future scientiﬁc and philosophical thought across the Western world. ■ Although we know that Thales was born and lived in Miletus, on the coast of what is now Turkey, we know very little about his life. None of his writings, if indeed he left any, have survived. However, his reputation as one of the key early Greek thinkers seems deserved, and he is referred to in some detail by both Aristotle and Diogenes Laertius, the 3rd-century biographer of the ancient Greek philosophers. Anecdotal evidence suggests that as well as being a philosopher, Thales was actively involved in politics and was a very successful businessman. He is thought to have traveled widely around the eastern Mediterranean, and while visiting Egypt, to have learned the practical geometry that was to become the basis of his deductive reasoning. However, Thales was above all a teacher, the ﬁrst of the so-called Milesian School of philosophers. Anaximander, his pupil, expanded his scientiﬁc theories, and in turn became a mentor to Anaximenes, who is believed to have taught the young mathematician Pythagoras. 24 THE DAO THAT CAN BE TOLD IS NOT THE ETERNAL DAO LAOZI ( .6TH CENTURY ) C IN CONTEXT TRADITION Chinese philosophy APPROACH Daoism BEFORE 1600–1046 BCE During the Shang Dynasty, people believe fate is controlled by deities and practice ancestor worship. 1045–256 BCE Under the Zhou Dynasty, the Mandate of Heaven (god-given authority) justiﬁes political decisions. AFTER 5th century BCE Confucius (Kong Fuzi) sets out his rules for personal development and for ethical government. 4th century BCE Philosopher Zhuangzi moves the focus of Daoist teaching more toward the actions of the individual, rather than those of the state. 3rd century CE Scholars Wang Bi and Guo Xiang create a Neo-Daoist school. I BCE n the 6th century BCE, China moved toward a state of internal warfare as the ruling Zhou Dynasty disintegrated. This change bred a new social class of administrators and magistrates within the courts, who occupied themselves with the business of devising strategies for ruling more effectively. The large body of ideas The source of all existence. that was produced by these ofﬁcials became known as the Hundred Schools of Thought. All this coincided with the emergence of philosophy in Greece, and shared some of its concerns, such as seeking stability in a constantly changing world, and alternatives to what had previously been prescribed by religion. But Dao (the Way)… The root of all things, seen and unseen. …is achieved through… Acting thoughtfully, not impulsively. A solitary life of meditation and reﬂection. …wu wei (non-action). Living in peace, simplicity, and tranquility. Acting in harmony with nature. THE ANCIENT WORLD 25 See also: Siddhartha Gautama 30–33 Chinese philosophy evolved from practical politics and was therefore concerned with morality and ethics rather than the nature of the cosmos. One of the most important ideas to appear at this time came from the Daode jing (The Way and its Power), which has been attributed to Laozi (Lao Tzu). It was one of the ﬁrst attempts to propose a theory of just rule, based on de (virtue), Living in harmony with nature is one path the Daode jing prescribes for a well-balanced life. For this man that could mean respecting the ecological balance of the lake and not over-ﬁshing. Laozi ■ Confucius 34–39 ■ Mozi 44 ■ Wang Bi 331 ■ Hajime Tanabe 244–45 which could be found by following dao (the Way), and forms the basis of the philosophy known as Daoism. Cycles of change In order to understand the concept of dao, it is necessary to know how the ancient Chinese viewed the ever-changing world. For them, the changes are cyclical, continually moving from one state to another, such as from night to day, summer to winter, and so on. They saw the different states not as opposites, but as related, one arising from the other. These states also possess complementary properties that together make up a whole. The process of change is seen as an expression of dao, and leads to the 10,000 manifestations that make up the world. Laozi, in the Daode jing, says that humans are merely one of these 10,000 manifestations and have no special status. But because of our desire and free will, we can stray from the dao, and disturb the world’s harmonious balance. To live a virtuous life means acting in accordance with the dao. So little is known for certain about the author of the Daode jing, who is traditionally assumed to be Laozi (Lao Tzu). He has become an almost mythical ﬁgure; it has even been suggested that the book was not by Laozi, but is in fact a compilation of sayings by a number of scholars. What we do know is that there was a scholar born in the state of Chu, with the name Li Er or Lao Tan, during the Zhou dynasty, who became known as Laozi (the Old Master). Several texts indicate that he was an archivist at the Zhou court, and that Confucius consulted him on Knowing others is intelligence; knowing yourself is true wisdom. Laozi Following the dao, however, is not a simple matter, as the Daode jing acknowledges. Philosophizing about dao is pointless, as it is beyond anything that humans can conceive of. It is characterized by wu (“not-being”), so we can only live according to the dao by wu wei, literally “non-action.” By this Laozi does not mean “not doing”, but acting in accordance with nature—spontaneously and intuitively. That in turn entails acting without desire, ambition, or recourse to social conventions. ■ rituals and ceremonies. Legend states that Laozi left the court as the Zhou dynasty declined, and journeyed west in search of solitude. As he was about to cross the border, one of the guards recognized him and asked for a record of his wisdom. Laozi wrote the Daode jing for him, and then continued on his way, never to be seen again. Key works c.6th century BCE Daode jing (also known as the Laozi) 26 NUMBER IS THE RULER OF FORMS AND IDEAS PYTHAGORAS (C.570–495 BCE) IN CONTEXT BRANCH Metaphysics APPROACH Pythagoreanism BEFORE 6th century BCE Thales proposes a non-religious explanation of the cosmos. AFTER c.535–c.475 BCE Heraclitus dismisses Pythagoreanism and says that the cosmos is governed by change. c.428 BCE Plato introduces his concept of perfect Forms, which are revealed to the intellect and not the senses. c.300 BCE Euclid, a Greek mathematician, establishes the principles of geometry. 1619 German mathematician Johannes Kepler describes the relationship between geometry and physical phenomena. W estern philosophy was in its infancy when Pythagoras was born. In Miletus, Greece, a group of philosophers known collectively as the Milesian School had started to seek rational explanations for natural phenomena only a generation or so earlier, marking the beginning of the Western philosophical tradition. Pythagoras spent his childhood not far from Miletus, so it is very likely that he knew of them, and may even have studied in their academy. Like Thales, the founder of the Milesian School, Pythagoras is said to have learnt the rudiments of geometry during a trip to Egypt. With this background, it is not THE ANCIENT WORLD 27 See also: Thales of Miletus 22–23 Everything in the universe conforms to mathematical rules and ratios. ■ Siddhartha Gautama 30–33 So if we understand number and mathematical relationships... Number is the ruler of forms. surprising that he should approach philosophical thinking in a scientiﬁc and mathematical way. The Pythagorean academy Pythagoras was also, however, a deeply religious and superstitious man. He believed in reincarnation and the transmigration of souls, and he established a religious cult, with himself cast as a virtual messiah, in Croton, southern Italy. His disciples lived in a collective commune, Pythagoras ■ Heraclitus 40 ■ Plato 50–55 ...we come to understand the structure of the cosmos. ■ René Descartes 116–23 Mathematics is the key model for philosophical thought. Number is the ruler of ideas. following strict behavioral and dietary rules, while studying his religious and philosophical theories. The Pythagoreans, as his disciples were known, saw his ideas as mystical revelations, to the extent that some of the discoveries attributed to him as “revelations” may in fact have come from others in the community. His ideas were recorded by his students, who included his wife, Theano of Crotona, and daughters. The two sides of Pythagoras’s beliefs—the mystical and the scientiﬁc—seem to be irreconcilable, but Pythagoras himself does not see them as contradictory. For him, the goal of life is freedom from the cycle of reincarnation, which can be gained by adhering to a strict set of behavioral rules, and by contemplation, or what we would call objective scientiﬁc thinking. In geometry and mathematics he found truths that he regarded ❯❯ Little is known about Pythagoras’s life. He left no writings himself, and unfortunately, as the Greek philosopher Porphyry noted in his Vita Pythagorae, “No one knows for certain what Pythagoras told his associates, since they observed an unusual silence.” However, modern scholars believe that Pythagoras was probably born on the island of Samos, off the coast of modern-day Turkey. As a young man, he travelled widely, perhaps studying at the Milesian School, and probably visiting Egypt, which was a centrer of learning. At the age of about 40, he set up a community of around 300 people in Croton, southern Italy. Its members studied a mixture of mystical and academic studies, and despite its collective nature, Pythagoras was clearly the community’s leader. At the age of 60, he is said to have married a young girl, Theano of Crotona. Growing hostility toward the Pythagorean cult eventually forced him to leave Croton, and he ﬂed to Metapontum, also in southern Italy, where he died soon after. His community had virtually disappeared by the end of the 4th century BCE. 28 PYTHAGORAS Pythagoras’s Theorem showed that shapes and ratios are governed by principles that can be discovered. This suggested that it might be possible, in time, to work out the structure of the entire cosmos. c2 b2 There is geometry in the humming of the strings, there is music in the spacing of the spheres. Pythagoras b c a a2 a2 + 2 b as self-evident, as if god-given, and worked out mathematical proofs that had the impact of divine revelation. Because these mathematical discoveries were a product of pure reasoning, Pythagoras believes they are more valuable than mere observations. For example, the Egyptians had discovered that a triangle whose sides have ratios of 3:4:5 always has a right angle, and this was useful in practice, such as in architecture. But Pythagoras uncovered the underlying principle behind all right-angled triangles (that the square of the hypotenuse equals the sum of the squares of the other two sides) and found it to be universally true. This discovery was so extraordinary, and held such potential, that the Pythagoreans took it to be divine revelation. Pythagoras concludes that the whole cosmos must be governed by mathematical rules. He says = c2 that number (numerical ratios and mathematical axioms) can be used to explain the very structure of the cosmos. He does not totally dismiss the Milesian idea that the universe is made up of one fundamental substance, but he shifts the enquiry from substance to form. This was such a profound change in the way of looking at the world, that we should probably forgive Pythagoras and his disciples for getting somewhat carried away, and giving numbers a mystical signiﬁcance. Through exploring the relationship between numbers and geometry, they discoved the square numbers and cube numbers that we speak of today, but they also attributed characteristics to them, such as “good” to the even numbers and “evil” to the odd ones, and even speciﬁcs such as “justice” to the number four, and so on. The number ten, in the form of the tetractys (a triangular shape made up of rows of dots) had a particular signiﬁcance in Pythagorean ritual. Less contentiously, they saw the number one as a single point, a unity, from which other things could be derived. The number two, in this way of thinking, was a line, number three a surface or plane, and four a solid; the correspondence with our modern concept of dimensions is obvious. The Pythagorean explanation of the creation of the universe followed a mathematical pattern: on the Unlimited (the inﬁnite that existed before the universe), God imposed a Limit, so that all that exists came to have an actual size. In this way God created a measurable unity from which everything else was formed. Numerical harmonies Pythagoras’s most important discovery was the relationships between numbers: the ratios and proportions. This was reinforced by his investigations into music, and in particular into the relationships between notes that sounded pleasant together. The story goes that he ﬁrst stumbled onto this idea when listening to blacksmiths at work. One had an anvil half the size of the other, and the sounds they made when THE ANCIENT WORLD 29 hit with a hammer were exactly an octave (eight notes) apart. While this may be true, it was probably by experimenting with a plucked string that Pythagoras determined the ratios of the consonant intervals (the number of notes between two notes that determines whether they will sound harmonious if struck together). What he discovered was that these intervals were harmonious because the relationship between them was a precise and simple mathematical ratio. This series, which we now know as the harmonic series, conﬁrmed for him that the elegance of the mathematics he had found in abstract geometry also existed in the natural world. The stars and elements Pythagoras had now proved not only that the structure of the universe can be explained in mathemathical terms—“number is the ruler of forms”—but also that acoustics is an exact science, and number governs harmonious proportions. He then started to apply his theories to the whole cosmos, demonstrating the harmonic relationship of the stars, planets, and elements. His idea of harmonic relationships between the stars was eagerly taken up by medieval and Renaissance astronomers, who developed whole theories around the idea of the music of the spheres, and his suggestion that the elements were arranged harmoniously was revisited over 2,000 years after his death. In 1865 English chemist John Newlands discovered that when the chemical elements are arranged according to Classical architecture follows Pythagorean mathematical ratios. Harmonious shapes and ratios are used throughout, scaled down in the smaller parts, and up for the overall structure. atomic weight, those with similar properties occur at every eighth element, like notes of music. This discovery became known as the Law of Octaves, and it helped lead to the development of the Periodic Law of chemical elements still used today. Pythagoras also established the principle of deductive reasoning, which is the step-by-step process of starting with self-evident axioms (such as “2 + 2 = 4”) to build toward a new conclusion or fact. Deductive reasoning was later reﬁned by Euclid, and it formed the basis of mathematical thinking into medieval times and beyond. One of Pythagoras’s most important contributions to the development of philosophy was the idea that abstract thinking is superior to the evidence of the senses. This was taken up by Plato in his theory of Forms, and resurfaced in the philosophical method of the rationalists in the 17th century. The Pythagorean attempt to combine the rational with the religious was the ﬁrst Reason is immortal, all else mortal. Pythagoras attempt to grapple with a problem that has dogged philosophy and religion in some ways ever since. Almost everything we know about Pythagoras comes to us from others; even the bare facts of his life are largely conjecture. Yet he has achieved a near-legendary status (which he apparently encouraged) for the ideas attributed to him. Whether or not he was in fact the originator of these ideas does not really matter; what is important is their profound effect on philosophical thought. ■ 30 HAPPY IS HE WHO HAS OVERCOME HIS EGO SIDDHARTHA GAUTAMA (C.563–483 BCE) IN CONTEXT TRADITION Eastern philosophy APPROACH Buddhism BEFORE c.1500 BCE Vedism reaches the Indian subcontinent. c.10th–5th centuries BCE Brahmanism replaces Vedic beliefs. AFTER 3rd century BCE Buddhism spreads from the Ganges valley westward across India. 1st century BCE The teachings of Siddhartha Gautama are written down for the ﬁrst time. 1st century CE Buddhism starts to spread to China and Southeast Asia. Different schools of Buddhism begin to evolve in different areas. S iddhartha Gautama, later known as the Buddha, “the enlightened one”, lived in India during a period when religious and mythological accounts of the world were being questioned. In Greece, thinkers such as Pythagoras were examining the cosmos using reason, and in China, Laozi and Confucius were detaching ethics from religious dogma. Brahmanism, a religion that had evolved from Vedism—an ancient belief based on the sacred Veda texts—was the dominant faith in the Indian subcontinent in the 6th century BCE, and Siddhartha Gautama was the ﬁrst to challenge its teachings with philosophical reasoning. THE ANCIENT WORLD 31 See also: Laozi 24–25 ■ Pythagoras 26–29 ■ Confucius 34–39 ■ David Hume 148–53 ■ Arthur Schopenhauer 186–188 ■ Hajime Tanabe 244–45 The Four Noble Truths inherent part off existence from birth, through sickness and old age, to death. The truth of suffering (Dukkha) The cause of suffering is desire: craving for sensual pleasures and attachment to worldly possessions and power. The truth of the origin of suffering (Samudaya) Suffering can be ended by detaching oneself from craving and attachment. The truth of the ending of suffering (Nirodha) The Eightfold Path is the means to eliminate desire and overcome the ego. The truth of the path to the ending of suffering (Magga) Gautama, although revered by Buddhists for his wisdom, was neither a messiah nor a prophet, and he did not act as a medium between God and Man. His ideas were arrived at through reasoning, not divine revelation, and it is this that marks Buddhism out as a philosophy as much as (perhaps even more than) a religion. His quest was philosophical—to discover truths—and he maintained that these truths are available to all of us through the power of reason. Like most Eastern philosophers, he was not interested in the unanswerable questions of metaphysics that preoccupied the Greeks. Dealing with entities beyond our experience, this kind of enquiry was senseless speculation. Instead, he concerned himself with the question of the goal of life, which in turn involved examining the concepts of happiness, virtue, and the “good” life. The middle way In his early life, Gautama enjoyed luxury and, we are told, all the sensual pleasures. However, he realized that these were not enough on their own to bring him true happiness. He was acutely aware of the suffering in the world, and saw that it was largely due to sickness, old age, and death, and the fact that people lack what ❯❯ Siddhartha Gautama Almost all we know of Siddhartha Gautama’s life comes from biographies written by his followers centuries after his death, and which differ widely in many details. What is certain is that he was born in Lumbini, modern-day Nepal, some time around 560 BCE. His father was an ofﬁcial, possibly the leader of a clan, and Siddhartha led a privileged life of luxury and high status. Dissatisﬁed with this, Siddhartha left his wife and son to ﬁnd a spiritual path, and discovered the “middle way” between sensual indulgence and asceticism. He experienced enlightenment while thinking in the shade of a bodhi tree, and devoted the rest of his life to traveling throughout India, preaching. After his death, his teachings were passed down orally for some 400 years before being written down in the Tipitaka (Three Baskets). Key works 1st century CE Tipitaka (recounted by his followers), comprising: Vinaya-pitaka, Sutta-pitaka, Abhidhamma-pitaka 32 SIDDHARTHA GAUTAMA may bring short-term gratiﬁcation, but not happiness in the sense of contentment and peace of mind. The “not-self” The Buddha cut off his hair as part of his renunciation of the material world. According to Buddhist teaching, the temptations of the world are the source of all suffering, and must be resisted. they need. He also recognized that the sensual pleasure we indulge in to relieve suffering is rarely satisfying, and that when it is, the effects are transitory. He found the experience of extreme asceticism (austerity and abstinence) equally dissatisfying, bringing him no nearer to an understanding of how to achieve happiness. Gautama came to the conclusion that there must be a “middle way” between self-indulgence and selfmortiﬁcation. This middle way, he believed, should lead to true happiness, or “enlightenment”, and to ﬁnd it he applied reason to his own experiences. Suffering, he realized, is universal. It is an integral part of existence, and the root cause of our suffering is the frustration of our desires and expectations. These desires he calls “attachments”, and they include not only our sensual desires and worldly ambitions, but our most basic instinct for self-preservation. Satisfying these attachments, he argues, The next step in Gautama’s reasoning is that the elimination of attachments will prevent any disappointment, and so avoid suffering. To achieve this, he suggests a root cause of our attachments—our selﬁshness, and by selﬁshness he means more than just our tendency to seek gratiﬁcation. For Gautama, selﬁshness is self-centeredness and self-attachment—the domain of what today we would call the “ego.” So, to free ourselves from attachments that cause us pain, it is not enough merely to renounce the things we desire—we must overcome our attachment to that which desires—the “self.” But how can this be done? Desire, ambition, and expectation are part of our nature, and for most of us constitute our very reasons for living. The answer, for Gautama, is that the ego’s world is illusory—as he shows, again, by a process of reasoning. He argues that nothing in the universe is self-caused, for everything is the result of some previous action, and each of us is only a transitory part of this eternal process—ultimately impermanent and without substance. So, in reality, there is no “self” that is not part of the greater whole—or the “not-self”—and suffering results from our failure to recognize this. This does not mean that we should deny our existence or personal identity, rather that we should understand them for what they are—transient and insubstantial. Grasping the concept of being a constituent part of an eternal “notself”, rather than clinging to the Believe nothing, no matter where you read it, or who said it, unless it agrees with your own reason. Siddhartha Gautama notion of being a unique “self”, is the key to losing that attachment, and ﬁnding a release from suffering. The Eightfold Path Gautama’s reasoning from the causes of suffering to the way to achieve happiness is codiﬁed in Buddhist teachings in the Four Noble Truths: that suffering is universal; that desire is the cause of suffering; that suffering can be avoided by eliminating desire; that following the Eightfold Path will eliminate desire. This last Truth refers to what amounts to a practical guide to the “middle way” that Gautama laid out for his followers to achieve enlightenment. Peace comes from within. Do not seek it without. Siddhartha Gautama THE ANCIENT WORLD 33 The Eightfold Path (right action, right intention, right livelihood, right effort, right concentration, right speech, right understanding, and right mindfulness) is in effect a code of ethics—a prescription for a good life and the happiness that Gautama ﬁrst set out to ﬁnd. Nirvana Gautama sees the ultimate goal of life on Earth to be the ending of the cycle of suffering (birth, death, and rebirth) into which we are born. By following the Eightfold Path, a man can overcome his ego and live a life free from suffering, and through his enlightenment he can avoid the pain of rebirth into another life of suffering. He has realized his place in the “not-self”, and become at one with the eternal. He has attained the state of Nirvana—which is variously translated as “nonattachment”, “not-being”, or literally “blowing out” (as of a candle). In the Brahmanism of Gautama’s time, and the Hindu religion that followed, Nirvana was seen as becoming one with god, but Gautama carefully avoids any mention of a deity or of an ultimate purpose to life. He merely describes Nirvana as “unborn, unoriginated, uncreated, and unformed”, and transcending any sensory experience. It is an eternal and unchanging state of not-being, and so the ultimate freedom from the suffering of existence. Gautama spent many years after his enlightenment traveling around India, preaching and teaching. During his lifetime, he gained a considerable following, and Buddhism became established as a major religion as well as a philosophy. His teachings were passed down orally from generation to generation by his followers, until the 1st century CE, when they were written down for the ﬁrst time. Various schools began to appear as Buddhism spread across India, and later spread eastward into China and Southeast Asia, where it rivalled Confucianism and Daoism in its popularity. Gautama’s teachings spread as far as the Greek empire by the 3rd century BCE, but had little inﬂuence on Western philosophy. However, there were similarities between Gautama’s approach to philosophy and that of the Greeks, not least Gautama’s emphasis on reasoning as a means of ﬁnding happiness, and his disciples’ use of philosophical dialogues to elucidate his teachings. His thoughts also ﬁnd echoes in the ideas of later Western philosophers, such as in Hume’s concept of the self and Schopenhauer’s view of the human condition. But it was not until the 20th century that Buddhism was to have any direct inﬂuence on Western thinking. Since then, more and more Westerners have turned to it for guidance on how to live. ■ The dharma wheel, one of the oldest Buddhist symbols, represents the Eightfold Path to Nirvana. In Buddhism, the word “dharma” refers to the teachings of the Buddha. Right Mindfulness Right Action Right Understanding Right Speech The Eightfold Path Right Intention The mind is everything. What you think, you become. Siddhartha Gautama Right Concentration Right Livelihood Right Effort HOLD FAITHFULNESS AND SINCERITY AS FIRST PRINCIPLES CONFUCIUS (551–479 ) BCE 36 CONFUCIUS IN CONTEXT TRADITION Chinese philosophy APPROACH Confucianism BEFORE 7th century BCE The Hundred Schools of Thought emerge. 6th century BCE Laozi proposes acting in accordance with the dao (the Way). AFTER c.470–c.380 BCE Chinese philosopher Mozi argues against Confucian ideas. 372–289 BCE Chinese thinker Meng Zi revives Confucianism. 221–202 BCE Confucianism is suppressed by the Qin Dynasty. 136 BCE The Han Dynasty introduces civil service examinations modelled on Confucian texts. 9th century CE Confucianism is reborn as Neo-Confucianism. Confucius F rom 770 to 220 BCE, China enjoyed an era of great cultural development, and the philosophies that emerged at this time were known as the Hundred Schools of Thought. By the 6th century BCE, the Zhou Dynasty was in decline—moving from the stability of the Spring and Autumn Period to the aptly named Warring States Period— and it was during this time that Kong Fuzi, the Master Kong, or Confucius, was born. Like other philosophers of the age—such as Thales, Pythagoras, and Heraclitus of Greece—Confucius sought constants in a world of change, and for him this meant a search for moral values that could enable rulers to govern justly. The Analects Unlike many of the early Chinese philosophers, Confucius looked to the past for his inspiration. He was conservative by nature, and had a great respect for ritual and ancestor worship—both of which were maintained by the Zhou Dynasty, whose rulers received authority from the gods via the so-called Heavenly Mandate. According to tradition, Confucius was born in 551 BCE in Qufu, in the state of Lu, China. His name was originally Kong Qiu, and only later did he earn the title Kong Fuzi, or “Master Kong.” Little is known about his life, except that he was from a well-to-do family, and that as a young man he worked as a servant to support his family after his father died. He nevertheless managed to ﬁnd time to study, and became an administrator in the Zhou court, but when his suggestions to the rulers were ignored he left to concentrate on teaching. The superior man does what is proper to the station in which he is; he does not desire to go beyond this. Confucius A rigid social hierarchy existed in China, but Confucius was part of a new class of scholars who acted as advisors to the courts—in effect a class of civil servants—and they achieved their status not through inheritance, but by merit. It was Confucius’s integration of the old ideals with the emerging meritocracy that produced his unique new moral philosophy. The main source we have for the teachings of Confucius is the Analects, a collection of fragments of his writings and sayings compiled by his disciples. It is primarily a political treatise, made up of As a teacher he traveled throughout the empire, and at the end of his life he returned to Qufu, where he died in 479 BCE. His teaching survives in fragments and sayings passed down orally to his disciples, and collected in the Analects and anthologies compiled by Confucian scholars. Key works 5th century BCE Analects Doctrine of the Mean Great Learning THE ANCIENT WORLD 37 See also: Thales of Miletus 22–23 Hajime Tanabe 244–45 ■ Laozi 24–25 aphorisms and anecdotes that form a sort of rule book for good government—but his use of the word junzi (literally “gentleman”) to denote a superior, virtuous man, indicates that his concerns were as much social as political. Indeed, many passages of the Analects read like a book of etiquette. But to see the Analects as merely a social or political treatise is to miss its central point. At its heart lies a comprehensive ethical system. The virtuous life Before the appearance of the Hundred Schools of Thought, the world had been explained by mythology and religion, and power and moral authority were generally accepted to be god-given. Confucius is pointedly silent about the gods, but he often refers to tian, or ■ Pythagoras 26–29 ■ Siddhartha Gautama 30–33 Heaven, as the source of moral order. According to the Analects, we humans are the agents that Heaven has chosen to embody its will and to unite the world with the moral order—an idea that was in line with traditional Chinese thinking. What breaks with tradition, however, is Confucius’s belief that de—virtue—is not something Heaven-sent for the ruling classes, but something that can be cultivated—and cultivated by anyone. Having himself risen to be a minister of the Zhou court, he believed that it was a duty of the middle classes, as well as the rulers, to strive to act with virtue and benevolence (ren) to achieve a just and stable society. To reconcile the fact that society was a rigid class system with his belief that all men can receive the ■ Heraclitus 40 ■ blessing of the Heavenly Mandate, Confucius argues that the virtuous man is not simply one who stands at the top of the social hierarchy, but one who understands his place within that hierarchy and embraces it to the full. And to deﬁne the various means of acting in accordance with de—virtue—he turns to traditional Chinese values: zhong, loyalty; xiao, ﬁlial piety; li, ritual propriety; and shu, reciprocity. The person who sincerely observes these values Confucius called junzi, the gentleman or superior man, by which he means a man of virtue, learning, and good manners. The values of de had evolved within the ruling classes but had become little more than empty gestures in the disintegrating world of the Zhou Dynasty. Confucius is attempting to ❯❯ Faithfulness and sincerity... ...are shown in traditional rituals and ceremonies. These qualities in these settings allow virtue to become visible. Others are transformed by virtue. Virtue can then be seen by others. Virtue is then made manifest in the world. Faithfulness and sincerity hold the power of transformation. 38 CONFUCIUS The Five Constant Relationships Sovereign—Subject Rulers should be benevolent, and subjects loyal. Father—Son A parent is to be loving, a child obedient. Husband—Wife Husbands are to be good and fair, and wives understanding. Elder Br B otthe h r— Younger Brother An elder sibling is to be gentle, and younger siblings respectful. Friend—Friend Older friends are to be considerate, younger friends reverential. persuade the rulers to return to these ideals and to restore a just government, but he also believes in the power of benevolence—arguing that ruling by example rather than by fear would inspire the people to follow a similarly virtuous life. The same principle, he believes, should govern personal relationships. Loyalty and ritual In his analysis of relationships, Confucius uses zhong—the virtue of loyalty—as a guiding principle. To begin with, he stresses the importance of the loyalty of a minister to his sovereign, then shows that a similar relation holds between father and son, husband and wife, elder brother and younger brother, and between friends. The order in which he arranges these is signiﬁcant—political loyalty ﬁrst, then family and clan loyalties, then loyalties to friends and strangers. For Confucius, this hierarchy reﬂects the fact that each person should know his station in society as a whole, as well his place in the family and the clan. This aspect of “knowing one’s station” is exempliﬁed by xiao— ﬁlial piety—which for Confucius was much more than just respect for one’s parents or elders. In fact, this is the closest he gets to religious ideas in the Analects, for xiao is connected to the traditional practice of ancestor worship. Above all, xiao reinforced the relationship of inferior to superior, which was central to his thinking. It is in his insistence on li— ritual propriety—that Confucius is at his most conservative. Li did not simply refer to rituals such as ancestor worship, but also to the social norms that underpinned every aspect of contemporary Chinese life. These ranged from ceremonies such as marriages, Ritual and tradition, for Confucius, are vital for binding an individual to his community. By knowing his place in society, the individual is free to become junzi, a man of virtue. funerals, and sacriﬁces to the etiquette of receiving guests, presenting gifts, and the simple, everyday gestures of politeness, such as bowing and using the correct mode of address. These are, according to Confucius, the outward signs of an inner de—but only when they are performed with sincerity, which he considers to be the way of Heaven. Through the outward show of loyalty with inner sincerity, the superior man can transform society. Sincerity For Confucius, society can be changed by example. As he writes: “Sincerity becomes apparent. From being apparent, it becomes manifest. From being manifest, it becomes brilliant. Brilliant, it affects others. Affecting others, they are changed by it. Changed by it, they are transformed. Only he who is possessed of the most complete sincerity that can exist under Heaven, can transform.” Here, Confucius is at his least conservative, and he explains that the process of transformation can work both ways. The concept of zhong (faithfulness) also has an THE ANCIENT WORLD 39 What you know, you know; what you don’t know, you don’t know. This is true wisdom. Confucius implication of “regard for others.” He took the view that one can learn to become a superior man by ﬁrst recognizing what one does not know (an idea echoed a century later by the Greek philosopher Socrates, who claimed that his wisdom lay in accepting that he knew nothing), and then by watching other people: if they show virtue, try to become their equal; if they are inferior, be their guide. Self-reﬂection This notion of zhong as a regard for others is also tied to the last of the Confucian values of de: shu, reciprocity, or “self-reﬂection”, which should govern our actions toward others. The so-called Golden Rule, “do as you would be done by”, appears in Confucianism as a negative: “what you do not desire for yourself, do not do to others.” The difference is subtle but crucial: Confucius does not prescribe what to do, only what not to do, emphasizing restraint rather than Confucius’s devotion to the idea of establishing a humane society led him to travel the Chinese empire for 12 years, teaching the virtues of faithfulness and sincerity. action. This implies modesty and humility—values traditionally held in high regard in Chinese society, and which for Confucius express our true nature. Fostering these values is a form of loyalty to oneself, and another kind of sincerity. Confucianism Confucius had little success in persuading contemporary rulers to adopt his ideas in government, and turned his attention to teaching. His disciples, including Meng Zi (Mencius), continued to anthologize and expand on his writings, which survived the repressive Qin Dynasty, and inspired a revival of Confucianism in the Han Dynasty of the early Common Era. From then on, the impact of Confucius’s ideas was profound, inspiring almost every aspect of Chinese society, from administration to politics and philosophy. The major religions of Daoism and Buddhism had also been ﬂourishing in Confucius’s time, replacing traditional beliefs, and although Confucius offered no opinion on them, remaining silent about the gods, he nevertheless inﬂuenced aspects of both new faiths. A Neo-Confucian school revitalized the movement in the 9th century, and reached its peak in the 12th century, when its inﬂuence was felt across Southeast Asia into Korea and Japan. Although Jesuit missionaries brought back Kong Fuzi’s ideas to Europe (and Latinized his name to Confucius) in the 16th century, Confucianism was alien to European thought and had limited inﬂuence until translations of his work appeared in the late 17th century. Despite the fall of imperial China in 1911, Confucian ideas continued to form the basis of many Chinese moral and social conventions, even if they were ofﬁcially frowned upon. In recent years the People’s Republic of China has shown a renewed interest in Confucius, integrating his ideas with both modern Chinese thought and Western philosophy, creating a hybrid philosophy known as “New Confucianism.” ■ 40 EVERYTHING IS FLUX HERACLITUS (C.535–475 BCE) IN CONTEXT BRANCH Metaphysics APPROACH Monism BEFORE 6th century BCE The Milesian philosophers claim that the cosmos is made up of a single speciﬁc substance. 6th century BCE Pythagoras states that the universe has an underlying structure that can be deﬁned mathematically. AFTER Early 5th century BCE Parmenides uses logical deduction to prove change is impossible. Late 4th century BCE Plato describes the world as being in a state of ﬂux, but dismisses Heraclitus as contradictory. Early 19th century Georg Hegel bases his dialectic system of philosophy on the integration of opposites. W here other early Greek philosophers seek to uncover scientiﬁc explanations for the physical nature of the cosmos, Heraclitus sees it as being governed by a divine logos. Sometimes interpreted to mean “reason” or “argument”, Heraclitus considers the logos to be a universal, cosmic law, according to which all things come into being, and by which all the material elements of the universe are held in balance. It is the balancing of opposites, such as day and night and hot and cold, which Heraclitus believes The road up and the road down are one and the same. Heraclitus leads to the unity of the universe, or the idea everything is part of a single fundamental process or substance—the central tenet of monism. But he also states that tension is constantly generated between these pairs of opposites, and he therefore concludes that everything must be in a permanent state of ﬂux, or change. Day, for instance, changes into night, which in turn changes back again to day. Heraclitus offers the example of a river to illustrate his theory: “You can never step into the same river twice.” By this, he means that at the very moment you step into a river, fresh waters will immediately replace those into which you initially placed your foot, and yet the river itself is always described as one ﬁxed and unchanging thing. Heraclitus’s belief that every object in the universe is in a state of constant ﬂux runs counter to the thinking of the philosophers of the Milesian school, such as Thales and Anaximenes, who deﬁne all things by their quintessentially unchanging essence. ■ See also: Thales of Miletus 22–23 ■ Anaximenes of Miletus 330 ■ Pythagoras 26–29 ■ Parmenides 41 ■ Plato 50–55 ■ Georg Hegel 178–85 THE ANCIENT WORLD 41 ALL IS ONE PARMENIDES (C.515–445 BCE) IN CONTEXT BRANCH Metaphysics APPROACH Monism BEFORE 6th century BCE Pythagoras sees mathematical structure, rather than a substance, as the foundation of the cosmos. c.500 BCE Heraclitus says that everything is in a state of ﬂux. AFTER Late 5th century BCE Zeno of Elea presents his paradoxes to demonstrate the illusory nature of our experience. c.400 BCE Democritus and Leucippus say the cosmos is composed of atoms in a void. Late 4th century BCE Plato presents his theory of Forms, claiming that abstract ideas are the highest form of reality. 1927 Martin Heidegger writes Being and Time, reviving the question of the sense of being. T he ideas put forward by Parmenides mark a key turning point in Greek philosophy. Inﬂuenced by the logical, scientiﬁc thinking of Pythagoras, Parmenides employs deductive reasoning in an attempt to uncover the true physical nature of the world. His investigations lead him to take the opposite view to that of Heraclitus. From the premise that something exists (“It is”), Parmenides deduces that it cannot also not exist (“It is not”), as this would involve a logical contradiction. It follows therefore that a state of nothing existing is impossible—there can be no void. Something cannot then come from nothing, and so must always have existed in some form. This permanent form cannot change, because something that is permanent cannot change into something else without it ceasing to be permanent. Fundamental change is therefore impossible. Parmenides concludes from this pattern of thought that everything that is real must be eternal and Understanding the cosmos is one of the oldest philosophical quests. In the 20th century, evidence from quantum physics emerged to support ideas that Parmenides reached by reason alone. unchanging, and must have an indivisible unity—“all is one.” More importantly for subsequent philosophers, Parmenides shows by his process of reasoning that our perception of the world is faulty and full of contradictions. We seem to experience change, and yet our reason tells us that change is impossible. The only conclusion we can come to is that we can never rely on the experience that is delivered to us by our senses. ■ See also: Pythagoras 26–29 ■ Heraclitus 40 ■ Democritus and Leucippus 45 Zeno of Elea 331 ■ Plato 50–55 ■ Martin Heidegger 252–255 ■ 42 MAN IS THE MEASURE OF ALL THINGS PROTAGORAS (C.490–420 BCE) IN CONTEXT It is a spring day in Athens. BRANCH Ethics APPROACH Relativism A visitor from Sweden says the weather is warm. BEFORE Early 5th century BCE Parmenides argues that we can rely more on reason than the evidence of our senses. AFTER Early 4th century BCE Plato’s theory of Forms states that there are “absolutes” or ideal forms of everything. 1580 French writer Michel de Montaigne espouses a form of relativism to describe human behavior in his Essays. 1967–72 Jacques Derrida uses his technique of deconstruction to show that any text contains irreconcilable contradictions. 2005 Benedict XVI warns “we are moving towards a dictatorship of relativism” in his ﬁrst public address as pope. A visitor from Egypt says the weather is cold. Both people are speaking the truth. The truth depends on perspective and is therefore relative. D uring the 5th century BCE, Athens evolved into an important and prosperous city-state, and under the leadership of Pericles (445–429 BCE) it entered a “Golden Age” of scholarship and culture. This attracted people from all parts of Greece, and for those who knew and could interpret the law, there were rich pickings to be had. The city was run on broadly democratic principles, with an established legal system. Anyone Man is the measure of all things. taken to court was required to plead his own case; there were no advocates, but a recognized class of advisors soon evolved. Among this group was Protagoras. Everything is relative Protagoras lectured in law and rhetoric to anybody who could afford him. His teachings were essentially about practical matters, arguing to win a civil case rather than to prove a point, but he could THE ANCIENT WORLD 43 See also: Parmenides 41 ■ Socrates 46–49 Many things prevent knowledge, including the obscurity of the subject and the brevity of human life. Protagoras see the philosophical implications of what he taught. For Protagoras, every argument has two sides, and both may be equally valid. He claims that he can “make the worse case the better”, proving not the worth of the argument, but the persuasiveness of its proponent. In this way, he recognizes that belief is subjective, and it is the man holding the view or opinion that is the measure of its worth. This style of reasoning, common in law and Protagoras ■ Plato 50–55 ■ Michel de Montaigne 108–09 ■ Jacques Derrida 308–13 politics at that time, was new to philosophy. By placing human beings at its center, it continued a tradition of taking religion out of philosophical argument, and it also shifted the focus of philosophy away from an understanding of the nature of the universe to an examination of human behavior. Protagoras is mainly interested in practical questions. Philosophical speculations on the substance of the cosmos or about the existence of the gods seem pointless to him, as he considers such things to be ultimately unknowable. The main implication of “man is the measure of all things” is that belief is subjective and relative. This leads Protagoras to reject the existence of absolute deﬁnitions of truth, justice, or virtue. What is true for one person may be false for another, he claims. This relativism also applies to moral values, such as what is right and what is wrong. To Protagoras, nothing is inherently good in itself. Something is ethical, or right, only because a person or society judges it to be so. Protagoras was the most inﬂuential of a group of itinerant teachers of law and rhetoric that became known as the Sophists (from the Greek sophia, meaning wisdom). Socrates and Plato derided the Sophists as mere rhetoricians, but with Protagoras there was a signiﬁcant step in ethics toward the view that there are no absolutes and that all judgements, including moral judgements, are subjective. ■ Protagoras was born in Abdera, in northeast Greece, but traveled widely as an itinerant teacher. At some stage, he moved to Athens, where he became advisor to the ruler of the city-state, Pericles, who commissioned him to write the constitution for the colony of Thurii in 444 BCE. Protagoras was a proponent of agnosticism, and legend has it that he was later tried for impiety, and that his books were publicly burned. Only fragments of his writings survive, although Plato discusses the views of Protagoras at length in his dialogues. Protagoras is believed to have lived to the age of 70, but his exact date and place of death are unknown. According to Protagoras, any “truth” uncovered by these two philosophers, depicted on a 5th-century BCE Greek drinking vessel, will depend on their use of rhetoric and their debating skill. Key works 5th century BCE On the Gods Truth On Being The Art of Controversy On Mathematics On the State On Ambition On Virtues On the Original State of Things 44 WHEN ONE THROWS TO ME A PEACH, I RETURN TO HIM AMOZIPLUM ( .470–391 ) C IN CONTEXT TRADITION Chinese philosophy APPROACH Mohism BEFORE 6th century BCE Laozi states that to live according to the dao means acting intuitively and in accordance with nature. Late 6th century BCE Confucius’s moral philosophy stresses the importance of family ties and traditions. AFTER Mid-4th century BCE The Confucian philosophy of Mencius stresses man’s innate goodness. Mid-4th century BCE Daoist philosopher Zhuangzi criticizes Confucianism and Mohism. 3rd century BCE Legalism is adopted by the Qin dynasty. It opposes Mohism, advocating strong laws to keep man’s essentially evil nature in check. BCE orn in 479 BCE, shortly after the death of Confucius, Mozi had a traditional Chinese education based on the classic texts. Later, however, he came to dislike the emphasis on clan relationships that runs through Confucianism, and this led him to set up his own school of thought, advocating universal love or jian ai. By jian ai, Mozi means that we should care for all people equally, regardless of their status or their relationship to us. He regards this philosophy, which became known as Mohism and which “nourishes and sustains all life”, as being fundamentally benevolent and in accordance with the way of heaven. Mozi believes that there is always reciprocity in our actions. By treating others as we would wish to be treated ourselves, we will receive similar treatment in return. This is the meaning behind “when one throws to me a peach, I return to him a plum.” When this principle of caring for everyone impartially is applied by rulers, Mozi states that it avoids conﬂict B Mao Zedong regarded Mozi as the true philosopher of the people, because of his humble origins. Mozi’s view that everyone should be treated equally has been encouraged in modern China. and war; when the same principle is practiced by everyone, it leads to a more harmonious and therefore more productive society. This idea is similar in spirit to that of the Utilitarianism proposed by Western philosophers of the 19th century. ■ See also: Laozi 24–25 ■ Siddhartha Gautama 30–33 ■ Confucius 34–39 Wang Bi 331 ■ Jeremy Bentham 174 ■ Hajime Tanabe 244–45 ■ THE ANCIENT WORLD 45 NOTHING EXISTS EXCEPT ATOMS AND EMPTY SPACE DEMOCRITUS ( . 460–371 ) C BCE AND LEUCIPPUS (EARLY 5TH CENTURY BCE) IN CONTEXT BRANCH Metaphysics APPROACH Atomism BEFORE Early 6th century BCE Thales says that the cosmos is made of one fundamental substance. c.500 BCE Heraclitus declares that everything is in a state of constant ﬂux, or change. AFTER c.300 BCE The Epicurians conclude that there is no afterlife, as the body’s atoms disperse after death. 1805 British chemist John Dalton proposes that all pure substances contain atoms of a single type that combine to form compounds. 1897 The British physicist J.J. Thomson discovers that atoms can be divided into even smaller particles. F rom the 6th century BCE onward, philosophers began to consider whether the universe was made from a single fundamental substance. During the 5th century BCE, two philosophers from Abderra in Greece, named Democritus and Leucippus, suggested that everything was made up of tiny, indivisible, and unchangeable particles, which they called atoms (atomos is Greek for uncuttable). First atomic theory Democritus and Leucippus also claim that a void or empty space separates atoms, allowing them to move around freely. As the atoms move, they may collide with each other to form new arrangements of atoms, so that objects in the world will appear to change. The two thinkers consider that there are an inﬁnite number of these eternal atoms, but that the number of different combinations they can arrange themselves into is ﬁnite. This explains the apparent ﬁxed number of different substances that See also: Thales of Miletus 22–23 ■ exist. The atoms that make up our bodies, for example, do not decay and disappear when we die, but are dispersed and can be reconstituted. Known as atomism, the theory that Democritus and Leucippus devised offered the ﬁrst complete mechanistic view of the universe, without any recourse to the notion of a god or gods. It also identiﬁed fundamental properties of matter that have proved critical to the development of the physical sciences, particularly from the 17th century onward, right up to the atomic theories that revolutionized science in the 20th century.■ Man is a microcosm of the universe. Democritus Heraclitus 40 ■ Epicurus 64–65 46 THE LIFE WHICH IS UNEXAMINED IS NOT WORTH LIVING SOCRATES (469–399 BCE) IN CONTEXT BRANCH Epistemology APPROACH Dialectical method BEFORE c.600–450 BCE Pre-Socratic philosophers in Ionia and Italy attempt to explain the nature of the cosmos. Early 5th century BCE Parmenides states that we can only understand the universe through reasoning. c.450 BCE Protagoras and the Sophists apply rhetoric to philosophical questions. AFTER c.399–355 BCE Plato portrays the character of Socrates in the Apology and numerous other dialogues. 4th century BCE Aristotle acknowledges his debt to Socrates’ method. S ocrates is often referred to as one of the founders of Western philosophy, and yet he wrote nothing, established no school, and held no particular theories of his own. What he did do, however, was persistently ask the questions that interested him, and in doing so evolved a new way of thinking, or a new way of examining what we think. This has been called the Socratic, or dialectical, method (“dialectical” because it proceeds as a dialogue between opposing views), and it earned him many enemies in Athens, where he lived. He was viliﬁed as a Sophist (someone who argues for the sake of deception), and was sentenced to THE ANCIENT WORLD 47 See also: Thales of Miletus 22–23 Parmenides 41 ■ Protagoras 42–43 ■ ■ Pythagoras 26–29 ■ Heraclitus 40 Plato 50–55 ■ Aristotle 56–63 ■ The only life worth living is a good life. I can only live a good life if I really know what “good” and “evil” are. An unquestioning life is one of ignorance, without morality. “Good” and “evil” are not relative; they are absolutes that can only be found by a process of questioning and reasoning. In this way, morality and knowledge are bound together. The life which is unexamined is not worth living. death on charges of corrupting the young with ideas that undermined tradition. But he also had many followers, and among them was Plato, who recorded Socrates’ ideas in a series of written works, called dialogues, in which Socrates sets about examining various ideas. It is largely thanks to these dialogues— which include the Apology, Phaedo, and the Symposium—that Socrates’ thought survived at all, and that it went on to guide the course of Western philosophy. The purpose of life Socrates lived in Athens in the second half of the 5th century BCE. As a young man he is believed to have studied natural philosophy, looking at the various explanations of the nature of the universe, but then became involved in the politics of the city-state and concerned with more down-to-earth ethical issues, such as the nature of justice. However, he was not interested in winning arguments, or arguing for the sake of making money—a charge that was leveled at many of his contemporaries. Nor was he seeking answers or explanations— he was simply examining the basis of the concepts we apply to ourselves (such as “good”, “bad”, and “just”), for he believed that understanding what we are is the ﬁrst task of philosophy. ❯❯ Socrates Born in Athens in 469 BCE, Socrates was the son of a stonemason and a midwife. It is likely that he pursued his father’s profession, and had the opportunity to study philosophy, before he was called up for military service. After distinguishing himself during the Peloponnesian War, he returned to Athens, and for a while involved himself in politics. However, when his father died he inherited enough money to live with his wife Xanthippe without having to work. From then on, Socrates became a familiar sight around Athens, involving himself in philosophical discussions with fellow citizens and gaining a following of young students. He was eventually accused of corrupting the minds of young Athenians, and was sentenced to death. Although he was offered the choice of exile, he accepted the guilty verdict and was given a fatal dose of hemlock in 399 BCE. Key works 4th–3rd century BCE Plato’s record of Socrates’ life and philosophy in the Apology and numerous dialogues. 48 SOCRATES I am a citizen of the world. Socrates Q. So you think that the gods know everything? Socrates’ central concern, then, was the examination of life, and it was his ruthless questioning of people’s most cherished beliefs (largely about themselves) that earned him his enemies—but he remained committed to his task until the very end. According to the account of his defence at his trial, recorded by Plato, Socrates chose death rather than face a life of ignorance: “The life which is unexamined is not worth living.” Socrates’ dialectical method was a simple method of questioning that brought to light the often false assumptions on which particular claims to knowledge are based. A. Yes, because they are gods. Q. Do some gods disagree with others? Q. So gods disagree about what is true and right? A. Yes, of course they do. They are always ﬁghting. A. I suppose they must do. Q. So some gods can be wrong sometimes? A. I suppose that is true. Therefore the gods cannot know everything! But what exactly is involved in this examination of life? For Socrates it was a process of questioning the meaning of essential concepts that we use every day but have never really thought about, thereby revealing their real meaning and our own knowledge or ignorance. Socrates was one of the ﬁrst philosophers to consider what it was that constituted a “good” life; for him it meant achieving peace of mind as a result of doing the right thing, rather than living according to the moral codes of society. And the “right thing” can only be determined through rigorous examination. Socrates rejected the notion that concepts such as virtue were relative, insisting instead that they were absolutes, applicable not just to citizens of Athens, or Greece, but to all people in the world. He believed that virtue (areté in Greek, which at the time implied excellence and fulﬁlment) was “the most valuable of possessions”, and that no-one actually desires to do evil. Anyone performing evil actions would be acting against their conscience and would therefore feel uncomfortable; and as we all strive for peace of mind it is not something we would do willingly. Evil, he thought, was done because of lack of wisdom and knowledge. From this he concluded that “there is only one good: knowledge; and one evil: ignorance.” Knowledge is inextricably bound to morality—it is the “only one good”—and for this reason we must continually “examine” our lives. Care of the soul For Socrates, knowledge may also play a part in life after death. In the Apology, Plato’s Socrates prefaces his famous quote about the unexamined life by saying: “I tell you that to let no day pass without discussing goodness and all the THE ANCIENT WORLD 49 other subjects about which you hear me talking, and that examining both myself and others is really the very best thing a man can do.” This gaining of knowledge, rather than wealth or high status, is the ultimate goal of life. It is not a matter of entertainment or curiosity—it is the reason why we exist. Moreover, all knowledge is ultimately selfknowledge, for it creates the person you are within this world, and fosters the care of the immortal soul. In Phaedo, Socrates says that an unexamined life leads the soul to be “confused and dizzy, as if it were drunk”, while the wise soul achieves stability, its straying ﬁnally brought to an end. Dialectical method Socrates quickly became a wellknown ﬁgure in Athens, with