Peter's Science and Religion Pages

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Science & Religion

Some Early Greek Philosophers

Socrates (470 - 399 BCE)

Socrates is famous for his question-and-answer method for discovering truth.

He believed all wrongdoing is due to a lack of knowledge or understanding.

He said "no one misses the mark voluntarily" and "virtue is knowledge".



Plato (428 - 347 BCE)

Plato thought that there was ambiguity about virtue.

For example, justice should be clear. However there could be different viewpoints about what was just in a given situation.

He believed that there must be an unambiguous example of justice somewhere.

As it wasn't in the physical world around him he decided it was in the world of the intellect.

The real/unchanging world that could be reached through the intellect contained forms that were universals and perfect paradigms.

The physical/(empirical) was unimportant.

The soul (which was immortal) has three parts, reason (logos), emotion (pathos) and body desire.



Aristotle (384 - 322 BCE)

Aristotle laid out the ideas of deductive inference (logic).

What determines a things nature is achieving what is good for it to achieve (goals).

A person's nature is to think rationally.

He believed virtuous action comes from virtuous character which comes from practical wisdom which comes from rational thinking.

He maintained the relevance of material goods as well as virtue because some virtues require considerable resources.

Both rational and empirical information were useful.



Stoicism (Zeno of Citium)

Moral virtue is the only good.

A wise person who saw his child in danger of drowning would try to save it, but if they failed it would be accepted without distress or diminished happiness.

Since everything is governed by divine providence, this failure must have been for the best even if you can't understand why.

This apathos (non emotion) makes a person free.

God is present as "spirit" materially in everything.

In animals spirit is "psyche", in plants as "nature", in inanimate things as "taste".



Epicurus (341 - 270 BCE)

Accepted Democritus atomism, the universe is only randomly moving atoms and vacuum.

The gods are inactive and far off. We have nothing to hope or fear from them.

There is nothing to fear from death.

The good life is kindness and friendship.

The goal is a mind free from disturbance in a body free from pain.

Lucretius accepted this philosophy and wrote about it in his book titled The Nature of Things.

In the 17th century it became the basis for modern science.




(i) Psychological Hedonism: pleasure is the only possible object of desire.

(ii) Evaluative Hedonism: pleasure is what we rationally ought to desire.

Short term vs Long term pleasure

how do you measure pleasure?

utilitarians -> for the greater good of the majority



NeoPlatonism (Plotinus)

God is the one, the good, the unchanging, the unapproachable.

 To get to changing multitudinous matter there are emanations (each a little inferior to the last).

God -> nous -> psyche -> bios -> matter.

The ascent of the soul demands personal "good".




Contact: Peter Eyland