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Calicut university P.O, Malappuram Kerala, India 673 635.
School of Distance Education
Core Course
V Semester
Prepared by:
Dr.Babu M N,
Asst. Professor,
Dept of Philosophy,
S S U S Kalady,
Scrutinized by:
Dr.V.Prabhakaran (Co-ordinator),
Sree Visakh,
Thekkegramam Road,
Sastha Nagar,
Chittur, Palakkad,
PIN - 678 101.
Computer Section, SDE
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The earliest Western philosophers were Greeks. They spoke dialects of the Greek
language. They were familiar with the Greek poems of Homer and Hesiod, and
worshiped Greek Gods like Zeus, Apollo, and Aphrodite. They lived not on the mainland
of Greece, but in outlying centers of Greek culture, on the southern coasts of Italy or on
the western coast of what is now Turkey. They flourished in the sixth-century B.C, the
century which began with the deportation of the Jews to Babylon. These early
philosophers were also early scientists, and several of them were also religious leaders. In
the beginning wisdom covered all branches of human knowledge and there was no
distinction between philosophy and science, between theoretical sciences and practical
sciences, between human science and natural sciences.
The earliest thinkers in the Western philosophy were the pre-Socratic philosophers
and they lived before Socrates (469–399B.C.). These pioneering thinkers posed several
questions and they wanted to know what holds everything together so that Earth and
everything in it does not fly apart. The Pre-Socratic philosopher’s central concerns were
what is the nature of ultimate reality or the world?. What is the is relationship between
the one and many? What is the nature of change? How did the universe begin? . The PreSocratic thinkers rejected mythology and poetry of Homer (the famous Greek poet
Homer, author of the Iliad and the Odyssey, put many myths into writing) and Hesiod (a
Greek poet who lived about 700 B.C.,). They avoided the pseudo-science of divination,
where one tries to know the minds of gods. The early philosophers used reason, logic,
evidence, argument, and sense experience. The pre-Socratics questioned Homer’s poetic
accounts of the gods. They also questioned Hesiod’s contention that heaven and Earth
consisted of a god and goddess locked in an embrace until their son forced them apart
Pre-Socratic philosophy and the philosophy of nature
The pre-Socratics are of much importance to the development of philosophic
thinking not only when considered as the forerunners of the goldern era of Greek
philosophy. Their central problem was the material universe ,the nature/physis. They
understood nature to be the sum total of all existing things with a principle/arch.
The aim of the first philosophers was to find natural, or scientific, explanations
instead of supernatural, or divine, explanations for the world and its processes. The
original Western philosophers lived in Miletus, a Greek town in Ionia located Athens,
Greece, in 600 B.C. The Milesian philosophers were known as natural philosophers
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because their aim was to find natural instead of supernatural explanations for the world
and the way it works. They were also known as the first materialists. They wanted to find
out if there was a source from which all things came and to which all things returned. The
Milesians wanted to understand the laws of nature. These pre-Socratic philosophers
discovered that change is possible only if there is some permanent source or substance
that causes the world to exist. Without this permanent substance, each change would
completely replace another, and nothing could be held together. These natural
philosophers wanted to understand change and permanence by studying nature itself, not
by reading or listening to stories about the gods. They speculated that all things arise from
the same substance, take different forms at different times, and then return again to the
same substance. This pre-Socratic reasoning shows a major shift from the mythical
explanation for the origins of the cosmos. Only fragments of what these natural
philosophers said and wrote have survived. In fact, most of our information about the
pre-Socratics comes from the writings of Aristotle, who lived two centuries later.
According to him, the first philosopher in the Western world was Thales.
Thales (624–546 B.C.)
Thales is known as the father of Western philosophy. Thales of Miletus was the first
known Greek philosopher, scientist and mathematician. Thales was the first to ask the
questions, out of what substance is the world made? And, is there anything permanent
that underlies all change? He said that water is the basic substance of everything in
nature. All things have moisture, so water also must be the permanent substance that
holds everything together. Thales says that life originated from water and life returned to
water again, just as water turns to ice or vapor and then turns back into water again.
Thales attempted to find naturalistic explanations of the world, without reference
to the supernatural. He explained earthquakes by imagining that the Earth floats on water
and those earthquakes occur when the Earth is rocked by waves. Herodotus cites him as
having predicted the solar eclipse of 585 BC. Thales had a profound influence on other
Greek thinkers. He is unanimously ascribed to have introduced the mathematical and
astronomical sciences into Greece. He is unanimously regarded as unusually clever and
first of the Seven Wise Men .He is also said to have used his knowledge of geometry to
measure the Egyptian pyramids. He brought this knowledge back from his studies in
Thales believed that the Earth is a flat disk that floats on an endless expanse of
water and all things come to be from water. This comes to us from Aristotle who
suggested that Thales was the first to suggest a single material substratum for the
universe. This is the first recorded monism, or monistic cosmology in history. Thales is
also said to have discovered a method of measuring the distance to a ship at sea.
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Anaximander (612–545 B C.)
Anaximander is the second of the physical philosophers of Ionia, belonged like his
predecessor Thales, to the city of Miletus,
agreed with his teacher that there is some
permanent substance that underlies all change, but he disagreed that this substance was
water. Anaximander said that the boundless (apeiron) was a basic principle of the world,
the parts of which may be changing but itself as a whole remaining the same, eternally.
This the boundless he gave no element or other significant character, instead clearly
stating it to be something else.
Anaximander said that unlimited boundless is defined as eternal motion. The
motion is not created by anything. Because of its eternal motion, water and other elements
in the boundless separate and come into existence. For example, hot and cold separated
and became moisture. From moisture came air and then earth. The boundless,
Anaximander argued, produces everything. Anaximander was the first Western
philosopher to propose the idea of evolution. Although the word evolution had yet to be
invented, he reasoned that humans developed from fish. Man himself and the animals
had come into being by like transmutations. Mankind was supposed by Anaximander to
have sprung from some other species of animals, probably aquatic.
The sea Anaximander regarded as remaining first moisture, not dried up by the fire
of the world formation. He seemed to believe that the sun continues to dry up the seas, so
that in the future the earth will be barren. The primeval moisture also figures in his view
that animals at first arose from moisture, later to move toward drier land, changing shape
in the process - as did man. In the beginning man was similar to a different animal,
namely, a fish.
Anaximenes (585–525 B.C.)
Anaximenes is the third and last well-known philosopher from the Milesian school.
He thought the substance that holds everything together was not water or the boundless,
but air. He said that air is everywhere, and it is a tangible material substance. He believed
that. As a mathematician, he reasoned that water is condensed air, earth is condensed
water, and fire is rarefied air. Thus, air is the origin of earth, water, and fire, and air holds
everything together.
The Milesian philosophers were the first to raise the question about the ultimate
nature of things. Considered the first scientists as well as the first philosophers, they
believed that a single basic substance is the source of all things. Because they identified
this single substance as water, the boundless, and air, we call their philosophy monistic
materialism, or theories about the universe based on one material. As natural
philosophers, the Milesians were interested in the physical world. They did not inquire
into the nature of human knowledge, nor did they ask about the relation between spirit
and body. They did not follow traditional Greek religious rituals.
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Pythagoras (570– 490 B.C.)
Pythagoras was the first pre-Socratic philosopher and gives mathematical structure
of the universe. He was born the island of Samos in the Aegean Sea just off the coast of
Miletus. He was unhappy with the tyrannical rulers and moved to southern Italy. There
he founded a society that combined science, religion, music, and mathematics into a
philosophy that went beyond the naturalistic outlook of the Milesians. Pythagoras was the
first to distinguish triangular numbers, square numbers, rectangular numbers, and
spherical numbers as odd and even. Pythagoras also explained opposites such as one and
many, straight and curved, rest and motion, and light and dark. He also discovered a
critical geometrical formula called the Pythagorean Theorem. It states that in a right
triangle, the square of the hypotenuse is equal to the squares of the other two sides.
Pythagoras said that things are number. He combined mathematics and music.
Pythagoras also believed that music is food for the soul. Music is the best medicine to help
the diseased person regain harmony. According to Pythagoras, people tend to fall into
three classes:
(1) lovers of gain; (2) lovers of honor and (3) lovers of knowledge or wisdom. Pythagoras
compared these types of people with those who attended the ancient Olympic Games. The
lovers of gain are people who set up booths to sell souvenirs and make money. The lovers
of honor are the athletes who compete in the games for honor and fame. The lovers of
knowledge are the spectators who show little interest in either money or fame. The third
class of people consists of philosophers who seek knowledge through music and
mathematics to help purify and develop harmony of the soul.
Three interests can be attributed to Pythagoras himself, and these were important
in early philosophy. The first is in the development of mathematics. The details of the
famous Pythagorean proof that the square on the hypotenuse of a right-angled triangle is
equal to the sum of the squares on the adjacent sides is probably later from the
mathematician Euclid. But the principle was known, and led to the discovery of irrational
numbers. This created difficulties for arithmetic, and resulted in more attention being
given to geometry (the study of plane figures), stereometry (the study of solid figures)
and astronomy (the study of bodies in movement). The second interest was in music and
harmonic theory. When it was discovered that something as beautiful and abstract as a
melody depended on the exact mathematical ratios of the lengths of vibrating strings on
the lyre, it was suggested that the planets, moving at proportionate speeds, might also
produce different notes of the octave as they circled the heavens, resulting in the harmony
of the spheres. And, if mathematical ratios were essential in these different contexts,
perhaps the principle should be extended, and everything might have a numerical basis.
The third interest was in the soul in two particular contexts: it was thought that music
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could be used as therapy to calm souls in an emotional state and so bring individuals into
harmony with their surroundings, and the idea of transmigration of the soul on the death
of one body to another of the same or a different species was adopted. The evidence for
this is from Pythagoras' near contemporary, Xenophanes of Colophon.
Anaxagoras (500-428 B.C.)
Anaxagoras was born in Clazomenae, Ionia,on the coast of Asia Minor. He was the
first philosopher to make a distinction between mind, or nous/intellect, and matter.
Anaxagoras agreed with Empedocles that everything is a mixture of earth, air, fire, and
water, but he rejected love and strife as the forces that combine and separate things.
Furthermore, he did not agree with the Milesians that one single substance could be the
basic substance made into everything we see in nature. Anaxagoras believed there are an
infinite number of tiny, invisible particles that are the building blocks of nature. He called
these extremely small particles that carry the blueprint of everything else seeds.
For Anaxagoras, the mind, or intelligence, produces the orderly structure of the
world. Love and strife do not combine or separate things in an orderly pattern. It is the
nous/intellect that allows for the structure of the world. And nous had power over the
whole revolution, so that it began to revolve in the beginning. Mind animates everything
in nature and is present in all living things i.e., the sun, stars, earth, plants, and humans.
Mind does not create matter because matter is eternal. Yet, Mind does bring order to
matter, because mind has all knowledge about everything. Anaxagoras claimed that mind
is the finest of all things and the purest. By distinguishing Mind from matter, he did not
necessarily separating mind from matter.
Anaxagoras said that the sun is not a god. But a red-hot stone, bigger than Greece’s
Peloponnesian peninsula. Studies on astronomy, he found that all heavenly bodies are
made of the same materials as earth and that the Moon produces no light of its own .Its
light comes from earth. These statements of Anaxagoras upset the Athenians that they
accused him of being an atheist and forced him to leave the city. He sailed across the
Aegean Sea to the city of Lampsacus where he became a schoolteacher. For centuries after
his death, Lampsacus celebrated his birthday as a school holiday.
The Atomists: Leucippus and Democritus
They are contemporary with Socrates. The atomists belong here with the PreSocratic group because they produced a physical theory that brought to a natural end the
investigation of the composition and structure of the cosmos initiated by the Milesians.
Probably Leucippus initiated the theory, using a rather exotic vocabulary, and further
details and supporting arguments were provided by Democritus, but the two are usually
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taken together and referred to as the (early) atomists. They were both from Abdera, on
the north-east coast of Greece; Democritus later visited Athens and perhaps settled there,
where he was disappointed to find that no one had heard of him.
Like Empedocles and Anaxagoras, the atomists accepted the Eleatic denial of
absolute generation and destruction. Pluralism has to be understood in the strict sense
that, since many cannot come from one, the many things always exist, and these were
called atoms. Such atoms were described as solid, eternal, immutable minimal units, too
small to be seen, of different shapes and sizes but having no qualitative differences,. To be
able to move and initiate change they require room for movement. Leucippus and
Democritus supposed that the present world order arose as a result of a rotation of a
group of atoms in the void, and there was a consequent sifting of the heavier atom
clusters to the centre of the grouping and the lighter outwards, with the whole held
Leucippus is considered as the founder of the atomistic school. Democritus is believed to
be a disciple of Leucippus . The atomists are the last pre-Socratics who gave their answers
to Thales’s question of fundamental principle of the universe. These philosophers
formulated a theory about the nature of things that has a similarity to some of today’s
scientific views. The atomists agreed with their predecessors that there must be something
permanent in nature, something that underlies all change and holds everything together.
The atomists say that all things consist of a single kind of matter broken into
diverse combination. Atom means uncuttable and indivisible parts which cannot be
broken down further. They claimed that atoms are principles of all things. Atoms are alike
in quality, differing only in size, shape and weight. Each atom is endowed with
movement. All bodies are formed by the union of atoms and are destroyed by the
separation of atoms. Democritus believed that our thoughts also result from atoms. In
other words, when you see a monkey, it is because monkey atoms enter your eyes.
Monkey atoms make an impact upon your soul atoms, and a thought is born. For
Democritus, the soul is made up of round, smooth soul atoms. At death, the soul atoms
will scatter and could, like body atoms, become part of a new soul formation. This idea
suggests there is no personal, immortal soul. For Democritus, the soul, including thought,
connects to the brain. Once the brain dies, we cannot have any form of consciousness
The sophistic Philosophy
The Sophists were skeptical of the pre-Socratic findings of universal substance.
They questioned the ability to know the truth about things such as substance,
permanence, and change. As part of the findings Thales said the basic substance was
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water, Anaximander said it was the boundless, Anaximenes said air, Pythagoras said
number, Heraclitus said fire, Parmenides and Zeno said Being, Empedocles said the four
root elements, Anaxagoras said mind, and the atomists said atoms. Consequently, the
Sophists turned their attention away from physical elements of nature to the human side
of life. Socrates was a student of the Sophists. But he never agreed with their skepticism.
Socrates believed the human soul has the capacity to know eternal, unchanging elements
such as truth, beauty, and goodness. Socrates believed that to gain knowledge of these
things is the most important goal of our lives. For Socrates, ‘the unexamined life is not
worth living.’
The term Sophists from a Greek word that means wise/learned, and they made
their living charging fees for teaching. The most outstanding Sophists in Athens were
Protagoras and Gorgias. These thinkers believed that absolutes such as Truth, Beauty, and
Goodness do not exist in this world. Because right and wrong are relative to a culture.
They claimed that they are able to instruct on philosophy, political administration, speech
making, law and other such theoretical and practical science. But in 5th century B.C., a
different kind of Sophists appeared in Greece. They were notorious for their clever and
crooked arguments. They claimed to teach people art of successes in life.
Protagoras (481- 411 B.C.)
Protagoras, native of Abdera in northeast Greece, was the most famous and
probably also the first of the professional Sophists (educators who taught the art of clever
speaking). Well known in Athens, he was asked by Pericles to draft a constitution for the
new colony of Thurii . Protagoras wrote two books, Truth and On the Gods.
He is discussed extensively in Plato’s Protagoras and Theaetetus and in Aristotle’s
Metaphysics. It is difficult to determine definitively the authentic details of Protagoras's
own thought. The Sophists in general are important to the history of philosophy because
they are reasonably considered to be, along with Socrates, the founders of systematic
moral philosophy. While many pre-Socratics as well as epic and lyric poets make ethical
claims, before the Sophists there are not explicit ethical positions delineated and defended
in a systematic way. The dialogue by Plato states that Protagoras himself seems to have
claimed not only to teach rhetoric, but also to teach excellence (arete) itself. In the fifth
century, the question of whether excellence is teachable was hotly debated. Traditionally,
excellence was thought to be conferred by some combination of one's birth and resulting
social status, nature, and divine grace. Protagoras, in claiming to be an expert who
possessed the skill or craft (techne) of virtue, advocated the democratic-sounding idea that
excellence was teachable (the sophists taught only the sons of the wealthy who could
afford to pay their fees).
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The most famous Sophist Protagoras stated that ‘man is the measure of all things’.
The principle means that each man’s experience is a criterion of what is true for himself.
He rejected everything the pre-Socratic philosophers thought was true. He denied any
ultimate principle or truth that we can know. For Protagoras, truth is relative. According
to Protagoras, all opinions would be equally true and therefore worthy of equal respect. It
follows that knowledge is relative to the one who knows knowledge is nothing but a mere
adjustment between the knower and the object known.
Protagorean relativism held for epistemology and ontology in addition to ethics.
Relativism maintains that there is no truth, but that truth really is as it appears to each
person. Democritus holds that the perception of what we would call secondary qualities is
mere convention, he still maintains the existence of an objective nature, namely atoms and
void. By contrast, relativism appears to deny the existence of any objective nature
whatsoever. Locke and other moderns, more in line with Democritus, would argue that
the same water's appearing hot to A and cold to B is evidence that heat and coldness are
not properties of the object itself. Protagorean relativism insists that the water really is hot
for A and really is cold for B. This perhaps explains why, in Plato's and Aristotle's
discussions, PR is conjoined with an ontological theory of Heracleitean flux, which
maintains that the object is actually changing its properties in accord with the truth in
each person's perception; but there is no independent evidence that Protagoras himself
elaborated his views in this way. The Theaetetus also poses the famous objection against
Protagorean relativism that if it applies to all things then it applies to relativism of
Protagoras itself and so it is true only for those who believe it is. Protagoras was also
apparently an agnostic about the existence of the gods.
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Socrates (469–399 B.C.)
Socrates mentor of Plato and founder of moral philosophy, was the son of
Sophroniscus and Phaenarete (a midwife). According to a late doxographical tradition, he
followed for a time in his father’s footsteps a claim regarded as apocryphal by most
scholars. He also describes himself as an intellectual midwife who, although himself
barren, delivers young men of ideas with which they are pregnant. It is generally believed
to be Plato's middle-period description of Socrates rather than Socrates’ description of
himself. Socrates was uncommonly ugly, flat-nosed with protruding eyes, thick and lips.
He dined simply, bathed infrequently, always wore the same clothes, and went about
barefoot even in the dead of winter. Possessed of remarkable powers of endurance, he
could go without sleep for days.
He was intimately acquainted with Athenian intellectual and cultural life, he was
mightily unimpressed with both. He had little interest in the philosophical ideas of his
predecessors. He disputed the alleged wisdom and moral authority of the poets. He
expressed deep misgivings about the truth of Homeric theology. He lamented the lack of
virtue in public and private life, and he had a low opinion of the Sophists who professed
to teach it. He had an even lower opinion of the politicians, whom he denounced as
panderers to public taste more interested in beautifying the city than in improving the
Socrates had initially tried to refute the oracle by interrogating numerous people
with a reputation for wisdom including the politicians, the poets, and the craftsmen in
hopes of finding someone wiser than himself. But he had failed. This disappointing
venture had convinced him that the god was right: no one is wiser than Socrates. He
concluded that he had been given a divine mission to spend his life philosophizing,
examining himself and others, convicting them of moral ignorance, and persuading them
that they are in the same deplorable epistemic condition as he. At the age of seventy, he
was accused of not believing in the gods of the city, of introducing new gods, and of
corrupting the youth. Found guilty, he was sentenced to death by hemlock. Having
declined the chance to escape from prison, he was executed in 399. Since Socrates wrote
nothing, our knowledge of him is based wholly on the testimony of others such as
Aristophanes, Xenophon, and Plato.
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Theory of Knowledge and Ethics
Aristotle in his Metaphysics says that there are two things may be fairly ascribed to
Socrates- inductive arguments and universal definitions. By inductive arguments it does
not mean that Socrates was occupying with problem of logic, but Socratic Method of
question and answer. Socratic Method includes two processes, called ironic and maieutic
(one who act like a midwife). In the ironic stage Socrates attempted to make the people to
realize their own ignorance. He believed that the worst evil of man is the ignorance of his
own ignorance. The first step to be wise is to admit that on is not wise. The admission of
ignorance demands a rigorous self examination. Pretending himself to be ignorant, he
asks questions and from the answers he draws material for further questions until one
comes to the realization of one’s own ignorance of real nature of things. This Socratic
irony is the way for drawing the truth out of the mind of the listeners.
The second stage is called midwifery/ maieutic method is the art of delivering truth.
Socrates stated that conversations and arguments help to discover the universal ideas
lying hidden in the human mind. Socrates was influenced by his parent’s profession of
midwifery. He does this all by going to the streets and market places asking questions to
the cobblers, works, leaders, the young and old by asking questions. Socrates did not
believe we are born with blank minds that our teachers, parents, and peers fill with
information. He believed souls have the hidden knowledge of Truth, Beauty, and
Goodness. Just as a midwife aids a pregnant mother in giving birth, Socrates helped
pregnant souls give birth to the knowledge hidden within them.
Socrates ethics is just the opposite of Sophists dictum that man is the measure of all
things. The core of Socratic ethics is the concept of virtue.
According to Socrates knowledge is virtue and ignorance is vice. He again says that
as virtue is knowledge, virtue can be taught and virtue is one. Knowledge and virtue are
one in the sense that the wise man who knows what is right and will always do what is
right. In other words no one does evil knowingly.
Socrates’ appearance on the fifth-century Athenian scene marked a radical turning
point in the development of Greek philosophy. According to Aristotle(Metaphysics),
Socrates searched for general and universal definitions of ethical terms. He asked
questions such as what is piety? (Euthyphro), what is temperance? (Charmides), what is
courage? (Laches). He objected to elucidating moral concepts by appeal to particular cases
or commonly held opinions and insisted on exact definitions. According to him, any
adequate definition of piety must state the common character (eidos) possessed by all
pious actions by which they are pious. The same is true of all the other virtues. Insofar as
such a definition constitutes the necessary and sufficient conditions governing the
application of the term under investigation. Only such definitions enable their possessor
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to escape from the epistemically unstable and morally precarious state of mind called
belief or opinion (doxa) and to attain knowledge (episteme). Aristotle adds that, unlike
Plato, Socrates did not ascribe separate existence to these universals a remark which has
prompted many scholars to conclude that the historical Socrates did not subscribe to the
full-blown Theory of Forms set forth in the Phaedo and the middle books of the Republic.
Plato's early dialogues reflect the Socratic conception of philosophy as a
collaborative enterprise a joint search for moral truth. Socrates has no system. On the
contrary, he disavows all knowledge. Yet although devoid of wisdom, he is a lover of it a
searcher in search not only of truth, but also of other searchers. Unlike other philosophers
who employ the dialogue form, Socrates does not refute his interlocutors' false beliefs in
hopes of replacing them with true ones, but in hopes of replacing them with a desire for
true ones. His primary task is to convict his interlocutors of moral ignorance and thereby
render them fit dialectical partners. The proximate end of philosophizing is not the
discovery of truth, but the realization that one does not have it. As a lover of wisdom,
Socrates is distinguished from all who claim to be wise. Philosophy is search. According
to Socrates, this is not only the best life, it is the only life. The unexamined life is not worth
living (Apology). It is in living the examined life, rather than in enjoying the epistemic
benefits which result from living it, that the highest human happiness is to be found. The
activity of philosophizing is not a means to happiness, understood as an end distinct from
philosophizing and contingently connected to it as a causal consequence.
Socrates would be complete without a brief discussion of his views. They are (1) the
soul is more important than the body. By the soul, Socrates does not mean some metaphysical
entity distinct from the body and capable of existing independently of it. The soul is ‘that
in us, whatever it is, which is concerned with justice and injustice’, it is our most priceless
possession and its care our most important task. (2) One ought never to requite evil with evil.
Since the soul is benefited by acting justly and harmed by acting unjustly one ought never
to act unjustly not even if one has been treated unjustly oneself(3) It is better to suffer than to
commit injustice. Since acting unjustly harms the soul of the wrongdoer, thereby damaging
that in him which is concerned with justice and injustice, it is psychologically and morally
preferable to endure any amount of unjust treatment than to be unjust oneself. (4) No one
does wrong knowingly. (5) The doctrine of the unity of the virtues. Socrates believed that the
virtues constitute a unity not in the sense that each is identical with the others, but in the
sense that they are inter-entailing in such a way that one cannot have any single virtue
without having all the others, e.g. one cannot be courageous without being wise.
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Plato (428-347 B.C)
Plato, Greek philosopher, one of the most creative and influential thinkers in
Western philosophy was born at Athens in an aristocratic family. His father, Ariston, was
believed to have descended from the early kings of Athens. Perictione, his mother, was
distantly related to the 6th-centuryB.C., lawmaker Solon. When Plato was a child, his
father died, and his mother married Pyrilampes, who was an associate of the statesman
Pericles. He is one of the greatest philosophers of all times. Plato was the pupil of Socrates.
Plato became committed to philosophy as a result of the execution of Socrates. In 387 Plato
founded the Academy in Athens, the institution often described as the first European
university. It provided a comprehensive curriculum. Besides philosophy the studies
extended over a wide range of subjects like astronomy, biology, mathematics, political
theory, and philosophy. Aristotle was the Academy's most prominent student. Plato's
writings were in dialogue form; philosophical ideas were advanced, discussed, and
criticized in the context of a conversation involving two or more persons.
Dialectic is introduced in the Republic as having a special bearing on first principles
a feature it continues to possess in Aristotle particularly on those of the mathematical
sciences. The importance of these sciences in Plato's thought is twofold. First, they
provided a compelling example of a rich body of precise knowledge organized into a
deductive system of axioms, definitions, and theorems a model of what philosophy itself
might be. Second, the brilliant mathematical treatment of harmony developed by
Pythagoras of Samos and his followers. The problem Plato found with mathematical
science lay in its first principles. Scientists treat these as absolute starting points, and
either provide conceptually inadequate accounts or definitions of them or simply leave
them undefined. Yet if they are false, the entire system collapses. It is here that dialectic
comes in. Dialectic defends these starting points it renders them unhypothetical not by
deriving them from something yet more primitive In the process, they undergo
conceptual revamping, so that their consistency with one another. This enables the
dialectician to knit them all together into a single unified theory of everything and so to
see things as a whole. It is this unified, holistic theory, and not recollection, that is now
supposed to provide the philosopher with genuine knowledge.
The earliest collection of Plato's work includes 35 dialogues and 13 letters. The
authenticity of a few of the dialogues and most of the letters has been disputed. The
dialogues may be divided into early, middle, and later periods of composition. The
earliest represent Plato's attempt to communicate the philosophy and dialectical style of
Socrates. In the earliest period the dialogues are Charmides (on temperance), Lysis (on
friendship), Protagoras (virtue is knowledge and can be taught), Euthyphro (on piety), and
Book I of the Republic (on justice).The dialogues of the middle and later periods of Plato's
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life reflect his own philosophical development. The ideas in these works are attributed by
most scholars to Plato himself, although Socrates continues to be the main figure. The
works of the middle period include Gorgias (ethical questions), Meno (nature of
knowledge), the Apology (Socrates' defense of himself at his trial against the charges of
atheism and corrupting Athenian youth), Crito (Socrates' defense of obedience to the laws
of the state), Phaedo (discusses the theory of Forms, the soul, and immortality), the
Symposium (on beauty and love), the Republic (the nature of justice).The works of the later
period include the Theaetetus (denial of knowledge with sense perception), Parmenides (a
critical evaluation of the theory of Forms), Sophist (theory of Ideas/Forms) and the Laws
(analysis of political and social issues).
Theory of knowledge:- Theory of Ideas
Socrates has developed a definite intellectual attitude through his maieutic method.
Plato has transformed this method into a dialectic one and he saw the contrast between
the phenomenon and its true reality. Dialectical method as a philosophical method is the
effort of human mind to rise from the contemplation of phenomena of the Idea to the true
knowledge (episteme). Plato's philosophy is his theory of Forms /Ideas. His view of
knowledge, his ethical theory, his psychology, his concept of the state, and his perspective
on art must be understood in terms of this theory. It is by means of the dialectic method
that the knowledge of Idea is attained.
According to Plato,(Theaetetus) there are two general realms of knowledge. First is
the non-natural realm of eternal/ideal/forms (ideos) that are transcendent, unchanging,
perfect, and intelligible with certainty.Secondly,the natural realm of ordinary sensations
and particular things that are temporal,changing,unstable, unintelligible, and uncertain.
The first is the realm of true because it being grasped by intellect. The second is realm of
becoming grasped by our fallible senses. The everyday world of our senses does not give
us knowledge since sense knowledge is uncertain imperfect, illusory and relative. Plato
says that knowledge to be true knowledge must be certain, perfect precise absolute. Plato
held that true knowledge as opposed to the illusory knowledge of the sense, is derived
from an awareness of the eternal Forms.
The philosophy of Plato is known as theory of Forms/Ideas. According to Plato,
over and above the world of sense perception, there is a transcendent world of
ideas/forms. The transcendent world is more real than our everyday world. Plato’s theory
of ideas is based on realism. Plato is searching for true knowledge in contrast to mere
opinion. His dialectical method includes both epistemological and ontological method.
Against the Sophists Plato stresses the distinction between knowledge and opinion.
Socrates has already developed the doctrine of concepts. Plato says that knowledge
(episteme) which is different from opinion (doxa) is the knowledge of true reality. In order
to know a thing, it is necessary and sufficient to have the concept of that thing. One of the
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feature of the concept is that it is universal. For Plato, the universal concepts such as
green, beauty, humanity are not merely subjective concepts but they express objective
essence. They are not made by us, but we discover them. Each group of things having a
common name or a common nature has a corresponding objective essence which Plato
called Forms/Idea.
The theory of Ideas as presented in Plato’s dialogues is a multifaceted doctrine.
Many critics say that Plato’s dialogues are not scientific treatises. But Plato gives several
theories to prove his theory of Ideas. They are (a) the theory of ideas as a logical
theory,(b)Theory of ideas as psychology and epistemology and (c) theory of ideas as
metaphysics. Plato did not stop at the logico-semantic and psychologico-epistemological
assumptions. Plato is hailed as an idealist and the following are the summary of the
Platonic metaphysics.
(a) Ideas are unchangeable and eternal
(b) Ideas do not exist in space and time
(c) Ideas are ideal models of which particular things are imperfect copies.
(d) Ideas are in one way or another causes of what happens in the material world.
(e) Ideas are more valuable than the things of the sensible world.
Plato’s ‘Allegory of the Cave’ shows us the journey we must all make from the
physical world that is ignorance, to the realm of eternal Truth, Beauty, and Goodness that
is reality. Plato says that as they are ignorant, the people inside the cave are satisfied to
live among the shadows, and they do not give much thought to what is causing the
shadows. As the cave dweller had to turn completely around to see the light, the entire
soul must turn away from believing that the physical world of the senses is as important
as the knowledge of Truth, Beauty, and Goodness.
Plato’s ethics is known as eudemonism, an ethical doctrine that characterizes the value
of life in terms of happiness. Plato’s philosophic thinking is an inquiry about the good and
beautiful. He says that the highest good (summum bonum) is happiness. Plato’s ethics is
eudemonistic in sense that it is directed towards the attainment of man’s highest good.
This highest good of man may be said to be true development of man’s personality as a
rational and moral being, the right cultivation of his soul, the general harmonious
wellbeing of life. Plato held that happiness is the result of the pursuit of virtue which is
seen as a harmony and order of the soul. He seems to follow the Socratic identification of
virtue with knowledge.
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In the Republic Plato considers four cardinal virtues- wisdom, courage, temperance
and justice. Wisdom is the virtue of the rational part of the soul, courage of the spirited
part, while temperance consists in the union of reason. Justice is a general virtue
consisting of every part of soul. In the Gorgias Plato argues against the identification of
good and evil with pleasure and pain.
Aristotle (384–322 B.C.)
Aristotle was born in Stagira. His father, Nicomachus, was a doctor at the court of
Macedonia. The profession of medicine may well have influenced Aristotle's interests, and
his association with Macedon was lifelong. He became tutor to Alexander the Great. After
Alexander's death in 323, the political climate in Athens turned anti-Macedonian, and
Aristotle went into voluntary exile. He died shortly thereafter, in 322. At the age of 17
Aristotle went to Athens and studied at Plato's Academy for twenty years, until the death
of Plato in 348. There is no solid reason for supposing that Aristotle was disaffected with
the Academy, or ever expected to become its head;. It was during this period that Aristotle
acted as tutor to Alexander; Aristotle returned to Athens in 335 and founded his own
school, the Lyceum. Plato’s genius and noble character had a deep influence on Aristotle.
A master of many subjects, Aristotle invented logic, or laws of thought, and wrote
treatises on physics, biology, ethics, meteorology, metaphysics, political science, and
poetics. Aristotle's Poetics may be one of the most influential documents ever produced on
the art of the drama. Aristotle’s other works are treatises on logic, called Organon , works
on natural science include Physics, which gives a vast amount of information on
astronomy, meteorology, plants, and animals. His writings on the nature, scope, and
properties of being, which Aristotle called First Philosophy, were given the title
Metaphysics. To his son Nicomachus he dedicated his work on ethics, called the
Nicomachean Ethics. Other essential works include his Rhetoric, his Poetics etc.
The first several books of the Aristotelian corpus Categories, interpretation, Prior
Analytics, Posterior Analytics, Topics (are commonly referred to as the Organon or
instrument of philosophizing. Aristotle's categories are variously types of predication and
kinds of being: the predicate term in "S is P" may indicate what S is, its substance (ousia) it
is a man, a horse or how much of it there is in one or another dimension, or one way or
another in which it is qualified, or something to which it is related, where it is, when it is,
and so on. Alternatively, these terms give us different types of being: substances,
quantities, qualities, relatives, places, times, and so on. So construed, substances form the
bottom level, and so-called primary substances the rock-bottom of that level. In the
Categories, the primary substances are individuals: men, horses, etc. Aristotle's fullest list
of these categories (Categories 4, Topics I 9) enumerates ten. Elsewhere fewer are listed: the
enumeration is not fixed. If we conceive "logic" more narrowly, as the analysis of the
structure of argument or the study of validity, only the Prior Analytics and the Topics
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qualify for the label. The former gives us Aristotle's formal analysis of argument, in which
all arguments are said to reduce to "syllogisms": arguments having three terms in two
premises employing one of the four quantified predicational patterns "every B is an A,"
''some B is an A," "no B is an A," and "some B is not an A." Aristotle's treatment of these
arguments is awesome, as is his formulation of a completeness theorem for his logic: the
claim that all arguments can be so analyzed.
Aristotle attempts to extend his syllogistic to include modal syllogisms (premises
such as those above modified by necessarily and possibly). This is some of the most
difficult material in Aristotle, and there appears to be some confusion in his treatment of
it. In the Topics, Aristotle gives rules of thumb for dialectical argument: argument that
takes place between two individuals in dialogue. This work goes back to the Academy,
where such dialectical arguments were used as training techniques.
Form and Matter (eidos and hyle) / (substance)
The most famous developed mentalist Aristotle started as a follower of Plato and
gradually drifted in a more empirical direction. This has been challenged on the ground
that the fragmentary material from the early lost works already shows Aristotle objecting
to Plato's views; on more than one point, one might see Aristotle as later approaching
rather than receding from Platonism. But many continue to find this approach
Like Plato and the philosophers before him, Aristotle also wanted to know what is
real. The pre-Socratics had searched for reality in the material universe. Plato, the
metaphysician, had found reality in the Forms, the eternal and perfect ideas. As a scientist,
Aristotle took a different view. He agreed with Plato that the form of horse is eternal, but
he said we could not know the form horse if it existed in a realm beyond the physical
world because we cannot know that realm. To know the form horse, we must see an
actual physical horse, because the form, or characteristics, of a horse are in the horse itself.
The same is true of matter. To know the substance matter, we must see an actual physical
object, such as the horse. For Aristotle, form and matter must come together
Aristotle says that Forms/ideas do not exist in the abstract/isolated from
individual objects. He made a distinction between substance and universal. To Aristotle a
substance is an individual object e.g. a human being, a horse, a house, a tree, a dog etc. He
defined that a substance is something that we can point out as “this”. A substance can
change its properties without losing its identity. Only a substance exists in primary sense.
If substance did not exist nothing at all would exist. He held that universals are extremely
real but are not separate from their particulars. They are real entities existing in
particulars. The mind becomes aware of universals by intuitive induction. Universals are
concepts (thoughts/ideas) that are constructed by the mind after experiencing particular
and recognizing the common quality the share.
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The Categories
Aristotle’s theory of categories is a part of his Metaphysics. Aristotle defined
Metaphysics/First Philosophy as “a science which investigates being as being.” It is the
science that studies being qua being. It means metaphysics has for its object the totality of
things. It never studies particular being/substance. Metaphysics considers being as such
in a universal manner in its highest and most general, and seeking the ultimate causes.
According to Aristotle, substance is the first category. By category Aristotle means the
most fundamental and universal predicate. He gives ten supreme categories of thought. It
includes one substance and nine accidents (property).Aristotle classified things as genus
(class), species (sub-class) differentia and property. Science deals with the category of
substance which is the most important. The categories are substance, quantity,quality,
relation,place,time,position, state,action,and passion.
The Four Causes
Aristotle discovered four causes and it governs change in everything from art to
nature because they develop from their potentiality to their actuality. The four causes are:
1) the formal cause; or form; 2) the material cause, or matter; 3) the efficient cause, or
motion; and 4) the final cause, or end. For example in carving a marble statue, the formal
cause is the plan the sculptor has in mind, the material cause is the marble, the efficient
cause is the sculptor shaping the statue, and the final cause is the end, or purpose of the
statue, which would be as a decoration. Aristotle says that everything in nature contains
these four causes and the potential to grow into its actuality. Everything in nature is
always in motion, eternally moving, changing and keeps everything in motion is the
Unmoved Mover. Pure actuality to Aristotle is eternal, immaterial, and perfect as it has no
potentiality. He called pure actuality the Unmoved Mover, another term for God or the
principle of eternal motion. As motion is eternal, there never was a time when the world
did not exist. Therefore, the Unmoved Mover is not a creator god. Being pure actuality, it
has no physical body, and, lacking nothing, it has no emotional desires. The activity of the
Unmoved Mover consists of pure thought. Because the highest human faculty is reason,
we find our perfection in contemplating the Unmoved Mover.
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Characteristics of Medieval Philosophy
During the decline of Greco-Roman civilization, Western philosophers turned their
attention from the scientific investigation to the problem of salvation in another and better
world. In 3rd century A D, Christianity had spread to the more educated classes of the
Roman Empire. The religious teachings of the Gospels were combined by the
metaphysical ideas of Aristotle and Plotinus to establish important Christian doctrines
about the divinity of Jesus and the nature of the Trinity. During the late 4th and early 5th
centuries the process of reconciling the Greek emphasis on reason with the emphasis on
religious emotion in the teachings of Christ and the apostles found expression in the
writings of Saint Augustine. He developed a system of thought with amendments and
became the authoritative doctrine of Christianity. With his influence Christian thought
was Platonic in spirit until the 13th century, when Aristotelian philosophy became
dominant. Augustine argued that religious faith and philosophical understanding are
complementary. He considered that the soul a higher form of existence than the body.
The Platonic philosophy was combined with the Christian concept of a personal
God who created the world and decided in advance. Augustine attempted a rational
understanding of the relation between divine predestination and human freedom, the
existence of evil, a perfect and all-powerful God, and the nature of the Trinity. Augustine
also came to a pessimistic view about original sin, grace, and predestination: the ultimate
fates of humans. Augustine conceived of history as a dramatic struggle between the good
in humanity, as expressed in loyalty to God. He believed that without the religious virtues
of faith, hope, and charity, which require divine grace to be attained, a person cannot
develop the natural virtues of courage, justice, temperance, and wisdom. His analyses of
time, memory, and inner religious experience have been a source of inspiration for
metaphysical and mystical thought
In the 9th century the Irish monk John Erigena developed a pantheistic
interpretation of Christianity, identifying the divine Trinity with the one, logos, and World
Soul of Neo-Platonism and maintaining that both faith and reason are necessary to
achieve the ecstatic union with God. The most important medieval philosopher was Saint
Thomas Aquinas, a Dominican monk who was born in Italy in 1225 and later studied
under Albertus Magnus in Germany. Aquinas combined Aristotelian science and
Augustinian theology into a comprehensive system of thought that later became the
authoritative philosophy of the Roman Catholic Church. He wrote on philosophy and
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science, and his major works, Summa Theologica and Summa Contra Gentiles, in which he
presents a persuasive and systematic structure of ideas, still constitute a powerful
influence on Western thought. His writings reflect the renewed interest of his time in
reason, nature, and worldly happiness, together with its religious faith and concern for
Aquinas made many important investigations into the philosophy of religion. The
study includes the attributes of God, such as omnipotence, omniscience, eternity, and
benevolence. He also provided a new account of the relationship between faith and reason
.The truths of natural science and philosophy are based on facts of experience. The tenets
of revealed religion, the doctrine of the Trinity, the creation of the world, and other
Christian dogma are beyond rational investigation and not consistent with reason, But
accepted only on faith. The metaphysics, theory of knowledge, ethics, and politics of
Aquinas were derived from Aristotle.
The important critics of Thomistic philosophy were the 13th-century Scottish
theologian Duns Scotus and 14th-century English Scholastic William of Ockham. Duns
Scotus developed a highly technical system of logic and metaphysics and rejected the
attempt of Aquinas to reconcile rational philosophy with revealed religion. William of
Ockham criticized the Scholastic belief in intangible, invisible things such as forms,
essences, and universals. He states that such abstract entities are merely references of
words to other words rather than to actual things. His famous doctrine of Ockham’s razor
says that one should not assume the existence of more things than are logically necessary
became a fundamental principle of modern science and philosophy.
We can find many Christian theologians fought the use of Greek philosophy in
religion, and see the influence of Greece and Hellenism in the Gospel of John. Theology, in
fact, is not only a Greek word but also an enterprise that is wholly Greek in origin. But the
debate between faith and reason continued throughout the medieval era. St. Augustine
and St. Thomas Aquinas, the dominant philosophers and theologians of that time,
addressed this question. Augustine based his philosophy and theology on the teachings of
Plato and Plotinus. Centuries later, Aquinas looked to Aristotle for the basis of his
philosophy. The popular saying is that Augustine baptized Plato into Christianity, and
Aquinas Christianized Aristotle’s philosophy.
Saint Augustine (354–4 30 A.D),
St.Augustine was born in North Africa. He was converted to Christianity in his
thirties. In 396 he became bishop of Hippo. His philosophical interests were theological
and he strongly influenced medieval thought. He attempted to work out the nature of
man in a Christian framework and studied problems concerning the universe and its
creation. He discussed ethical and political problems. He generally started from Platonic
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and Neo-Platonism base. His important works are The Confessions, The City of God, and
Summa Theologiae . Augustine, a Latin Church father, is one of the most important figures
in the development of Western Christianity. He established a new the ancient faith. After
his conversion to Christianity and baptism, Augustine developed his own approach to
philosophy and theology, accommodating a variety of methods and different
perspectives. He believed that the grace of Christ was indispensable to human freedom
and framed the concepts of original sin and just war.
The lowest level of knowledge according to Augustine is sense knowledge,
dependent on sensation, and sensation being regarded by Augustine, in accordance with
his Platonic psychology, as an act of the soul using the organs of sense as its instruments.
From this theory it would seem to follow that any deficiency in sense-knowledge must
proceed from the mutability both of the instrument of sensation, the sense-organ, and of
the object of sensation, and this is indeed what Augustine thought. The rational soul of
man exercises true knowledge and attains true certainty when it contemplates eternal
truths in and through itself: when it turns towards the material world and uses corporeal
instruments it cannot attain true knowledge. Augustine assumed with Plato that the
objects of true knowledge are unchanging. It follows that knowledge of changing objects
is not true knowledge. It is a type of knowledge or grade of knowledge which is
indispensable for practical life.
Man is able to make rational judgments concerning corporeal things and to
perceive them as approximations to eternal standards. For instance, if a man judges that
one object is more beautiful than another, his comparative judgments. Augustine means
lowest level of knowledge, so far as it can be called knowledge, is sensation, which is
common to men and brutes; and the highest level of knowledge, peculiar to man, is the
contemplation of eternal things (wisdom) by the mind alone, without the intervention of
This level of knowledge is a rational level, so that it is peculiar to man and is not
shared by brutes; but it involves the use of the senses and concerns sensible objects, so that
it is a lower level than that of direct contemplation of eternal and incorporeal objects.
Moreover, this lower use of reason is directed towards action, whereas wisdom is
contemplative not practical. The action by which we make good use of temporal things
differs from the contemplation of eternal things, and the former is classed as knowledge,
the latter as wisdom. Augustine's interest is always first and foremost that of the
attainment of man's supernatural end, beatitude, in the possession and vision of God, and
in spite of the intellectualist way of speaking which he sometimes uses and which he
adopted from the Platonic tradition. We cannot gain such knowledge simply from senseexperience, since corporeal objects are contingent, changeable and temporal. We cannot
produce the truths from our minds, which are also contingent and changeable. Moreover,
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such truths rule and dominate our minds, impose themselves upon our minds, and they
would not do this if they depended on us. It follows that we are enabled to perceive such
truths under the action of the Being who alone is necessary, changeless and eternal, God.
God is like a sun which illumines our minds or a master who teaches us.
Augustine believed that God created the world out of nothing and that before God
created the world nothing existed. He rejected the Greek idea that the world or matter
always existed. Matter is not eternal as the Greeks believed, he said. Augustine believed
that before God created the world, Plato’s Forms were ideas in the mind of God. In
epistemology, he says that knowledge of god and self is the end all and be all. The
knowledge of the Divine and His tripartite nature is the highest knowledge. He believed
that even the empirical knowledge and other reality can be fully understood and justified
on the basis of this divine knowledge. Logic, ethics and metaphysics according to
Augustine, are valuable only if these contribute to the Divine knowledge. The knowledge
of divine is to through the insight of soul which reveals the knowledge of God. We must
believe sometimes without reason for divine knowledge.
According to Augustine, faith and reason are neither mutually exclusive nor
contradictory but are mutually complementary. He believes in two levels of knowledge.
They are insight/wisdom and scientific intelligence. He says that the insight is the highest
function of reason and it reveals the divine creative principle, and we gain the knowledge
of Divine Trinity of existence. The self knowledge is the stepping stone for the knowledge
of God. He compared his mystical experience with his sensuous desires. He realized that
eternal truths gave him an inner peace that his sensual desires could not. He came to the
conclusion that such knowledge must come from a source greater than himself. That
source is God. Without God, who is the source of truth, we could never understand
eternal truths. So God must be present within human beings as well as transcending them.
Augustine concluded that such a relation between humans and God could only mean that
those who know most about God would come closest to understanding the true nature of
the world.
Augustine believed that God created the world out of nothing. Greek and Roman
philosophers who believed that you could not get something from nothing. How could
God create a world out of nothing? Augustine rejected Plotinus’s theory that all things
seek to unify with their source, God. For Augustine, God is utterly distinct from his
creation. God created the world from nothing, and before God created the world, nothing
existed. Augustine argued that God is good and created the world out of his infinite love.
The Creation is an expression of God’s goodness. God did not create evil. Evil is not a
power in itself but an absence of the good. Good is possible without evil, but because evil
is not a power in itself. According to Augustine, evil cannot exist without the good. Evil
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doesn’t spoil the beauty of God’s creation because evil is the absence of beauty. Augustine
believed that God could have eliminated evil from the scheme of things, but he saw that it
served the good. God gave man free will. Yet, God also knew that human beings, by using
their free will, would turn away from the good to evil. Augustine said that no human
really deserves salvation. God has graciously chosen to save some people, but not all,
Only God’s grace can lead a person to salvation. Our destiny is entirely at God’s mercy.
Augustine agreed with Aristotle that all humans seek happiness. He did not agree with
Aristotle that we could find happiness by satisfying our natural functions. Augustine said
that God created humans and therefore, we have to go beyond the natural to the
supernatural to find happiness. God is love and he created humans to love. In this world,
all things are worthy of love.
Jesus said that love your neighbor as yourself. Loving ourselves is important. But
the wrong kind of self-love such as I am a better baseball player than anyone else on the
team, or I’m the smartest person in my class, leads to pride. According to Augustine,
pride is the root of all sin, including the fall of Adam and Eve. For Augustine, love of God
is not temporary, nor does it lead to sin. In order to love physical objects, other people,
and ourselves properly, we must love God first. In the work, The City of God, Augustine
divided humanity into two groups: those who love God and those who turn away from
God to love themselves and the world. Those who belong to the City of God realize that
the only eternal good is in God. Saintly Christians who live in the City of the World are
actually citizens of the City of God.
St. Anselm (1033-1109)
Anselm of Canterbury is an important figure in the history of medieval philosophy.
His work primarily on rational theology and it is evident in the traditional identification
of him as the creator of the ontological argument for the existence of God. There can be no
doubt, however, that Anselm was also a successor to the legacy of monasticism as well as
to a certain mysticism that is characteristic of medieval thought. contemplation of God.
Born in Aosta, Italy, he found his way as a wandering scholar to the Benedictine
monastery at Bec, which he entered at the age of 27. Three years later he was made prior,
and the writings from this period, from 1063 to1078, reflect that responsibility. These
works, which include his Monologion (1076) and famous Proslogion(1077), are intensely
contemplative, as are the prayers and meditations that he wrote at this time. When
Anselm became abbot, his writings shift their orientation, taking on a more pedagogical
character. These works include the De grammatico, a kind of medieval introduction to
logic, and the dialogues OnTruth and On Free Will (1080) as well as the later On the Fall of
the Devil (1085).
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The transition in Anselm's own thought not only anticipated but aided the change
that took place in medieval philosophy as it moved from the monastery to the university.
The key to understanding Anselm's work as historically transitional lies in appreciating
the way in which his own argumentative rigor can lend legitimacy to a certain rationalistic
strain in medieval religious thinking precisely because it was grounded in the visionary
forms of thought that were authoritative at his time.
This appreciation is required most of all in approaching his famous ontological
argument for the existence of God. Properly interpreted, the Proslogion proof must be
shown to combine logical rigor with mystical insight, as it depends upon a specific vision
of God that is founded upon the practice of rational meditation. His main contribution
was in the area of philosophical theology and he has been called the father of
Scholasticism. Anselm’s best-known contributions are the argument for God’s existence
based on the notion ‘something than which a greater cannot be thought’ taken to be the
earliest formulation of the ontological argument. Anselm was convinced like Augustine
that we have two sources of knowledge: faith and reason. Faith must be the starting point
in the search for truth. He upholds the primacy of faith and refuses to subordinate
Scripture to reason. Anselm says once a Christian is firmly established in faith, he can
legitimately try to understand what he believes. Anselm does not think that he can
comprehend them in this life. He thinks that it is possible to prove the necessity of the
Trinity and the Incarnation. He thus combines a humble attitude of belief in Scripture
with an almost unbounded optimism in the ability of reason to demonstrate its truths.
Proofs for the existence of god
Anselm is best known in the history of philosophy for his so-called ontological
argument for the existence of God. The Monologion was written at the request of the
monks of Bee, His monks asked him to write a model meditation on God, in which
everything would be proved by reason, with absolutely nothing depending on the
authority of Scripture. This is surely a strange meditation for monks, but the request
reflects the extraordinary interest at the time in rational speculation. In reply to monks'
demand Anselm sets out to give a rational proof of God's existence. Our senses and our
reason make us aware of a great number of good things. It is absolutely certain that if a
number of things are said to possess an attribute in greater, less, or equal degree. They are
said to possess it through some one thing that is understood to be the same in all. So
things called just in any degree, whether greater, less, or equal, can be understood to be
just only through justice, which is the same in all. Therefore, all true goods have the
character of goodness through the same being, through which all goods exist. This being
is not good through something else. It is good through itself. Hence it alone is supremely
good, surpassing all others. It is the most excellent of all beings in a word, it is God. Using
the same method, Anselm offers two more proofs for the existence of God. He shows that
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all beings exist through one being which exists in virtue of itself, and that all perfect
beings are more or less perfect insofar as they participate in a supreme perfection.
Supreme goodness, being, and perfection are but three names for the same reality and this
is God. We find in these proofs a typical instance of what can be called Christian
Platonism. In the preface to the Proslogion, It is clear from Anselm that like Augustine he
is seeking God in love and faith. Anselm begins with a lively faith in God's existence. The
demonstration raises his mind with the aid of divine illumination and an understanding
of it.
In the Proslogium St. Anselm develops the so-called ontological argument, which
proceeds from the idea of God to God as a reality, as existent. He tells us that the requests
of his brethren and consideration of the complex and various arguments of the
Monologium led him to inquire whether he could not find an argument which would be
sufficient, by itself alone, to prove all that we believe concerning the Divine Substance. So
that one argument would fulfill the function of the many complementary arguments of his
former opusculum. At length he thought that he had discovered such an argument, which
for convenience sake may be put into syllogistic form, though St. Anselm himself
develops it under the form of an address to God. He says that
God is that than which no greater can be thought:
But that than which no greater can be thought must exist, not only
mentally, in idea, but also extra mentally:
Therefore God exists, not only in idea, mentally, but also extra mentally.
The Major Premiss simply gives the idea of God, the idea which
a man has of God, even if he denies His existence.
The Minor Premiss is clear, since if that than which no greater can
be thought existed only in the mind, it would not be that than
which no greater can be thought. A greater could be thought,
i.e. a being that existed in extra mental reality as well as in idea.
This proof starts from the idea of God as that than which no greater can be
conceived, i.e. as absolutely perfect: that is what is meant by God.
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St. Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274)
Thomas Aquinas was born in Aquino, near Naples in southern Italy. Aquinas
sometimes called the Angelic Doctor and the Prince of Scholastics Italian philosopher and
theologian. His works have made him the most important figure in Scholastic philosophy
and one of the leading Roman Catholic theologians. He joined the Dominican order while
an undergraduate. He studied under the German Scholastic philosopher Albertus
Magnus. His first major work was Scripta Super Libros Sententiarum which consisted of
commentaries on an influential work concerning the sacraments of the church. St. Thomas
was an extremely prolific author, and about 80 works are ascribed to him. The two most
important are Summa Contra Gentiles,Summa Theologica , Summa Contra Gentiles, and
Summa Theologica, which has been republished frequently in Latin and vernacular
editions under its Latin title, was written in three parts (on God, on the moral life, and on
Christ) and was intended to set forth Christian doctrine for beginners.
Theory of knowledge
Problem of knowledge for St. Thomas is to safeguard and justify metaphysics in
face of the Aristotelian psychology than to justify the objectivity of our knowledge of the
extra mental world in face of a subjective idealism. Augustine thought that corporeal
objects act upon the organs of sense, and sensation is an act of the compositum, of soul and
body, not of the soul alone using a body. The senses are naturally determined to the
apprehension of particulars. They cannot apprehenduniversals. Brutes have sensation, but
they have no grasp of general ideas.
Augustine states that human intellectual cognition is of the universal. The human
being in his intellectual operations apprehends the form of the material object in
abstraction; he apprehends a universal. Through sensation we can apprehend only
particular images or of trees are always particular. Even if we have a composite image of
man, not representing any one actual man distinctly but representing many confusedly, it
is still particular, since the images or parts of the images of particular actual men coalesce
to form an image which may be generic in respect of actual particular men but which is
itself none the less particular, the image of a particular imagined man. The mind,
however, can and does conceive the general idea of man as such, which includes all men
in its extension. An image of man certainly will not apply to all men, but the intellectual
idea of man, even though conceived in dependence on the sensitive apprehension of
particular men, applies to all men. The image of a man must be either of a man who has or
of a man who has not some hair on his head. If the former, it does not in that respect
represent bald men; if the latter, it does not in that respect represent men who are not
bald; but if we form the concept of man as a rational animal, this idea covers all men,
whether they are bald or not, white or black, tall or short, because it is the idea of the
essence of man.
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The transition from sensitive and particular knowledge to intellectual cognition is
possible. Although sensation is an activity of soul and body together, the rational and
spiritual soul cannot be affected directly by a material thing. Therefore, an activity on the
part of the soul, since the concept cannot be formed simply passively. This activity is the
activity of the active intellect which illumines the phantasm and abstracts from it the
universal or 'intelligible species'. St.Thomas thus speaks of illumination, but he does not
use the word in the full Augustinian sense. He means that the active intellect by its natural
power and without any special illumination from God renders visible the intelligible
aspect of the phantasm, reveals the formal and potentially universal element contained
implicitly in the phantasm.
The soul the form of the body has as its natural object of knowledge the essences of
material objects. The rational soul knows itself only by means of its acts, apprehending
itself, not directly in its essence but in the act by which it abstracts intelligible species from
sensible objects. The soul's knowledge of itself is not, therefore, an exception to the general
rule that all our knowledge begins with sense-perception and is dependent on senseperceptions embodied intellect, as a tabula rasa. The natural object of which is the material
essence, the intellect does not and cannot by its own power apprehend God directly; but
sensible objects, as finite and contingent, reveal their relation to God, so that the intellect
can know that God exists.
Aquinas never saw conflict between philosophical reasoning and faith based on
Christian revelation. He agreed that we cannot know God through reason alone, but
through faith and reason together we could reach natural theological truth. Theology
always begins with faith in God. Reason begins with sense experience and proceeds stepby step toward God. Faith is based on direct revelation that comes directly from God.
Faith and reason use different methods and they don’t contradict each other. To make his
point, Aquinas set out to prove God’s existence by the use of reason.
Aquinas gives proofs to demonstrate the truth of God’s existence by pointing out
that knowledge begins with our experience of sense objects. Reason innately knows that
each object we experience has a cause or an origin. Reason also knows that every effect
must have a cause, and so there must ultimately be a ‘First Cause’ of everything. Aquinas
called this First Cause God. He came to this conclusion by reason, not by faith. The main
proofs are proof from motion. We find that all things in the world are moving. It follows
that something must have put everything in motion, namely, a first mover of all motion.
That first mover is God.
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Proof from efficient cause. In our world nothing causes itself Everything is the
effect of some cause other than itself. There had to be a first cause of everything. Like
Aristotle’s efficient cause theory that First Cause is God.
Proof from necessary versus possible being. In nature it is possible for some things
not to exist. Before all were born, we did not exist. Now we exist and then we will die.
Hence there must be something that not just possibly exists but necessarily exists as the
cause of all possible beings. That necessary being is God.
Proof from the degrees of perfection. In the world we find some things as better
than others. Some people are less good and less truthful than others. There are various
degrees of beauty. Thus, we must have some standard ideal of the highest Goodness,
Truth, and Beauty. We also compare lesser and higher beings. A monkey is a higher being
than a rock, and a human is a higher being than a monkey. From this, Aquinas concluded
there must be something perfect to cause all the degrees of perfection. That perfect being
is God.
Proof from the order and design of the universe. Everything in nature has a
purpose and seeks certain ends. The girl becomes a woman and never a fish. Every year
we have autumn, winter, spring, and summer. Where there is order and design, there is
an intelligent mind responsible for that order and design. That intelligent mind is God.
Aquinas says God is all-good, all-knowing, and all-powerful. He held that God
created the universe to communicate his love and God is not responsible for evil. Aquinas
believed evil is not a force in itself but the absence of good. He believed that evil is a
product of our free will. He agreed with Socrates that no one would intentionally choose
to do evil just because it is evil.
Short questions carrying 1 weightage
1 What is atomism?
Ans The atomists claim that there are two fundamental types of elements: atoms and
void. Atoms are the numerically unlimited indivisible building blocks of all things, and
are called full, solid, 'what is, and being. All atoms are composed of the same stuff and
differ only in shape and size.
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Describe the philosophy of Anaxagoras
The world as we know it comes to be when seeds for the opposites hot dry, cold wet
separate off from the original mixture. This process is the effect of Mind, which causes a
vortex within the mixture, sending the lighter seeds to the periphery and the heavier to
the center. Thus, the heavens, consisting of mist and air, are formed, and the earth.
Explain the types of causation in Aristotle
According to Aristotle the famous four causes known now by their scholastic are the
"material," "formal,"'efficient," and "final" causes.
4 Water is principle arch of everything ,explain
Thales said that source of everything is water.. Thales stated that everything comes
from water as its source, not that everything consists of water. In that case, he may
have had natural reproduction in mind when he said that water is the source of all
5 Explain apeiron in Anaximander
Anaximander held that the principle and element of existing things is the
Indefinite the apeiron. The Indefinite is indefinite in extent i.e. without spatial bounds and
qualitatively undifferentiated. Anaximander did not identify this source with any of the
natural substances, such as water, air, fire, or earth,
Short questions carrying 2 weightages
1 Explain the Socratic Method
Ans: Socratic Method includes two processes, called ironic and maieutic (one who act like a
midwife). In the ironic stage Socrates attempted to make the people to realize their own
ignorance. He believed that the worst evil of man is the ignorance of his own ignorance.
The first step to be wise is to admit that on is not wise. The admission of ignorance
demands a rigorous self examination. Pretending himself to be ignorant, he asks questions
and from the answers he draws material for further questions until one comes to the
realization of one’s own ignorance of real nature of things. This Socratic irony is the way
for drawing the truth out of the mind of the listeners.
Explain the Theory of ideas in Plato
Ans: The theory of Ideas as presented in Plato’s dialogues is a multifaceted doctrine.
Many critics say that Plato’s dialogues are not scientific treatises. But Plato gives several
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theories to prove his theory of Ideas. They are (a) the theory of ideas as a logical
theory,(b)Theory of ideas as psychology and epistemology and (c) theory of ideas as
metaphysics. Plato did not stop at the logico-semantic and psychologico-epistemological
assumptions. Plato is hailed as an idealist and states that Ideas are unchangeable and
eternal. Ideas do not exist in space and time. Ideas are ideal models of which particular
things are imperfect copies. Ideas are in one way or another causes of what happens in the
material world,and Ideas are more valuable than the things of the sensible world.
3 Explain substance according to Aristotle.
Ans: Aristotle says that Forms/ideas do not exist in the abstract/isolated from individual
objects. He made a distinction between substance and universal. To Aristotle a substance
is an individual object e.g. a human being, a horse, a house, a tree, a dog etc. He defined
that a substance is something that we can point out as “this”. A substance can change its
properties without losing its identity. Only a substance exists in primary sense. If
substance did not exist nothing at all would exist. He held that universals are extremely
real but are not separate from their particulars. They are real entities existing in
particulars. The mind becomes aware of universals by intuitive induction. Universals are
concepts (thoughts/ideas) that are constructed by the mind after experiencing particular
and recognizing the common quality the share.
Discuss the Sophist philosophy
The most famous Sophist Protagoras stated that ‘man is the measure of all things’.
The principle means that each man’s experience is a criterion of what is true for himself.
He rejected everything the pre-Socratic philosophers thought was true. He denied any
ultimate principle or truth that we can know. For Protagoras, truth is relative. According
to Protagoras, all opinions would be equally true and therefore worthy of equal respect. It
follows that knowledge is relative to the one who knows knowledge is nothing but a mere
adjustment between the knower and the object known. Protagorean relativism held for
epistemology and ontology in addition to ethics. Relativism maintains that there is no
truth, but that truth really is as it appears to each person. Democritus holds that the
perception of what we would call secondary qualities is mere convention, he still
maintains the existence of an objective nature, namely atoms and void. By contrast,
relativism appears to deny the existence of any objective nature whatsoever.
Essay Questions carrying 4 weightages.
What was the place of Socrates in Greek philosophy?
Explain the philosophy of Thales, Anaximander and
natural philosophers.
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Discuss Platos’ theory of ideas
Explain the philosophy of St. Thomas Aquinas
How does Aristotle explain substance?
Explain St. Anselm’s proofs for the existence of God .
Explain the theology of Saint Augustine.
Text Book
Frank Thilly, A History of Philosophy
Central Book Depot, Allahabad
Reference Books
(1) W.T. Stace, A Critical History of Greek Philosophy
(2) Bertrand Russell, History of Western Philosophy
(3) F. Copleston,
A History of Philosophy
(4) D.J.O. Connor, A Critical History of Western Philosophy
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