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Bernarda Franco

December 22 2017

Philosophy of Science

Prof. Michael Izady

Midterm Exam Revised

Discuss how the world of chaos and disorder becomes the world of order
and harmony in the universe of the pre-Socratic, Milesian thinkers.

The beginning of Ionian Philosophy started in the city of Miletus which today is
part of the republic of Turkey. In the Sixth century Miletus and other cities were in
disarray due to the immigration and invasion of the Lydians and the Persians; cities
were in chaos and had lost their freedom. During this time is when the Hellenic culture,
the Ionian Enlightenment or Ionic revolution, started to rise in Asia Minor and continued
on to the early years of the Greek classical period. This revolution encouraged
creativeness and discovery giving origin to Miletian Poets, Artists, Historians,
Geographers, Architects, City planners and the first Philosophers of nature: Thales,
Anaximander and Anaximenes whose Ideas were questioned and refined by
Xenophanes, Pythagoras, Heraclitus and Anaxagoras. Once the Persians had ruled
over the Ionic colonies including Miletus, Pythagoras and Xenophanes moved to other
Greek colonies in Italy bringing with them the Hellenic Culture which was later carried
on in the greek colonies by Parmenides, Zeno and Empedocles. Anaxagoras was the
last of the Ionian Philosophers who moved to Athens, Greece during the beginning of
the classical era and introduced his interpretations of the ideas of Thales and his

Due to the fact that the Ionian Enlightenment was the consequence of a chaotic
era, nature philosophers questioned not only about the politics and law at the time but
also started to question about the nature of humanity and the cosmos and about
enhancing their wisdom about the universe. Aristotle referred to these early greek
philosophers as physicists since the word in Greek means ‘Physikoi’ which means
‘natural philosopher’. The reason why they were called physicists or natural
philosophers was because they were the first who tried to explain the reason for
phenomena by correlating it to natural causes instead of supernatural causes as it was
thought to be in the past by associating everything with mythology of gods and

There is not much information about the early Ionian philosophers; only phrases
or quotes that were later interpreted by other people. Because of this, there exists a lot
of different perspectives on who these early Philosophers were and what they did and
actually thought and meant. Thales acquired a lot of notoriety and was numbered
among the seven sages of Ancient Greece. He was accredited for many acts and
discoveries and supposedly, he was the first person to prove geometric theorems and
find the relation between geometry and the pyramids in Egypt and the distances of
ships on the ocean. All of the discoveries and knowledge of these milesian
philosophers, gave the theory that there exists an “Arche” which means origin or
“Fundamental substance” that although it may vary in appearance, it will still remain the
same always.

For ​Thales​, the Arche or fundamental substance was water; his theory was that
everything is water and that is why the earth sits on water. Thales believed that because
the earth floated on water, water was the basis of everything but today, a physicist
would say that Thales thought water as the ‘Arche’ because it can turn into any of the
three forms: Liquid, gas or solid and although it looks different in every phase, it is the
same thing.

Unlike Thales, ​Anaximander​ thought of the ‘Arche’ as limitless and boundless,

something he called Apeiron; he said that Thales theory was not correct because water
or any other elements already have its properties and boundaries; therefore the Arche
must be something limitless that creates the entire universe. Anaximander also says
that the earth is the center of everything, because there is “no reason” for it to move one
way or another. The reason for this is because there is lack of evidence and no one can
prove him wrong until someone proves him otherwise. This became the boundary that
separated mythology and science as science always needs physical evidence to prove
something. This principle, was the origin for scientific reasoning which we still use to this
day. Anaximander also made astronomical discoveries about solstices, times, seasons
and equinoxes and created theories of human and animal existence; he was the first
one to give logical reasoning to what used to be mythological phenomena such as wind
and thunder and lightning.

Anaximenes​ was a younger follower of Anaximander and like him and Thales,
he believed that everything was made of one substance (Monism). For Anaximander,
the ‘Arche’ was Air and the air changed in appearance which is defined by its density.
“Rarified, it becomes fire; condensed it becomes first wind, then cloud, then water and
then earth and stones” ​For Anaximander, everything was made from Air and its various
changes of density.

Pythagoras​ was born on Samos, northwest of Miletus and decided to leave due
to the political corruption and go to Babylon and Egypt to enlarge his knowledge; when
he went back to Samos he realized the corruption was still there and decided to move to
southern Italy to the city of Croton where he formed a secret religious society or cult and
gained so many followers called the Pythagoreans who for a time, had control over
Croton. Because of an issue with a resident of Croton, the cult was broken and
Pythagoras had to move to Metapontum. Although after Pythagoras died, there were
still followers that kept the original pythagorean ways and practiced their science and
philosophy as Pythagoras, eventually the cult died out. Pythagoras was very admired
and loved by his followers and in later years in the first century, there was a new
movement called Neo Pythagoreanism which began in Rome and included a leader
mathematician who presented Pythagoras as the founder of greek mathematics and a
great philosopher. Because the society was secret, there is not a lot of information
about what was talked about between the pythagoreans but it is said that Pythagoras
gave the most completely “ethical and logical philosophy” about Physics, sciences,
various disciplines and everything that the human kind knows of.

Pythagoras believed that the soul was infinite or immortal and never died or
disappeared; once a person died, the soul would go into another animal. He also said
that past events repeat themselves and it is all in a loop and nothing is new. The
relationship of all living things pertains to a Pythagorean belief in the word “Cosmos”,
which means an “orderly, harmonious and systematic universe” where everyone and
everything is bonded and it is all organized and in order. The Pythagoreans were
divided into categories and the main category were the ​Mathematici, ​who had mastered
all of Pythagoras’s mathematical philosophy and believed that numbers were the basis
of everything since everything in the world had some sort of relationship with numbers.
It is said that Pythagoras discovered the relationship between music and numbers by
using a string and dividing it proportionally which created the same sounds at different
tones. Music is a harmony, meaning that it is a balance and integration of things that all
relate to one another and compose a final result, which for the Pythagoreans, the
universe was a harmony of numbers that compose all things.

Parmenides​ views on the that everything was permanent and there was
absolutely no change or movement. Parmenides thought that something either is or it is
not, something cannot become something else because nothing comes from nothing
and that creation or destruction is impossible. He believed that all apparent change
including motion, was an illusion, this was based on the unreliability of the human
senses. His perception of the universe was that everything was a motionless, endless,
indestructible uncreated sphere of being and everything that proved the contrary was an

Zeno​ was Parmenides follower and he supported Parmenides thoughts by

presenting texts talking about paradoxes that like Parmenides, endorsed the argument
that plurality and motion were an illusion; the only difference was that Zeno presented
his argument in a different manner with paradoxes and making the audience believe
that his argument was a different one than Parmenides, but it was the same.

Empedocles​ was the one who questioned Parmenides’ beliefs; he agreed with
Parmenides beliefs that the senses were unreliable, but he disagreed with the concept
that motion and plurality was an illusion. He suggested that there were four Arches
which were the elements that made up the universe and will make everything else:
Earth, Fire, Water and Earth. Empedocles also was the first one to say that light was not
instantaneous, but it took time to travel.

Anaxagoras​ had written one book in which he stated that “All things were
together, then mind (Nous) came and set them in order”. By the word nous, he referred
to the intelligence or mind of the cosmos. Anaxagoras became famous for his
philosophy of nature and his nickname became “Nous”. Anaxagoras “was the first to
enthrone in the universe not Chance, nor yet Necessity but mind (Nous), pure and
simple, which distinguishes and sets apart in the midst of an otherwise chaotic mass the
substances which have like elements.” Anaxagoras believed in what he called the seed
theory which consisted of everything which was composed from a variety of elements
and everything had a part of everything else and that everything was a mixture of many
different things so that there is fragment of everything in everything else. One of the
elements mentioned by Anaxagoras, is the ​Aither ​which is wrongly associated with fire.
He believed that all stars including the sun and the moon were fire stones and rotated
according to the Aither. Anaxagoras came up with his philosophy by mixing his three
concepts of the Seed theory, the Aither and Nous; Anaxagoras believed that mind was
something endless and independent and was the most powerful, finest and purest tool.
For Anaxagoras, Mind meant control and order; “Mind set everything in order, what was
to be, what was but it is not now, and all that now is and shall be…”

Leucippus​ and ​Democritus​ worked together in developing their Atomic theory

which essentially implied that the entire universe is made up of an infinite number of
small particles which are constantly moving inside an infinite void and when these
collide, they create compounds which makes up everything that exists in the universe.
This theory challenged Parmenides’ theory about the cosmos by saying that
nothingness does exist which they call the void, everything is not static but in motion,
Something can be created and destroyed and that there exists Plurality in things. The
Atomic theory, just like previous theories, is also based in the Arche, a single substance
from where everything in the universe is formed; this substance hold all the atoms which
are invisible and vary in different sizes and shapes. While inside the infinite void, the
atoms move and converge with other atoms of different properties to form compounds
which are the matter in the natural world; the appearance of the compounds in the
natural world such as that of a human, animal, plant, etc; is dictated by the configuration
of compounds that are made from atoms that have infinite range of properties which
allows for the creation of limitless types of compounds, thus, creating all the diversity in
the universe and giving the possibility that there are other worlds out there that vary in
sizes as well and that these worlds could be similar to ours or completely different.

The ending of the pre socratic speculation came when the theory of Atoms was
proposed by Leucippus of Miletus and his learner Democritus of Abdera. Leucippus and
Democritus, just like Anaximander believed that the world was of cylindrical shape.
Although, Democritus believed that the top surface was concave instead of flat and
Leucippus believed on the theory that the earth was at the center of a vortex which was
created through the collision of Atoms inside of a void of stronger magnitude than the
infinite void and that once the atoms collided to form the vortex, there was a system that
sorted out where each atom went; the atoms that went to the center unified and formed
the compound that is Earth and the ones outside the center of the vortex, make up the
compounds that surround earth such as the moon, sun, stars, etc. The vortex is infinite
and always in motion and can still become larger by making physical contact with other

Leucippus and Democritus view on the soul (Psyche), was that the soul
distinguished living from non-living objects was a special substance created by small
round atoms that allowed the substance to be flexible in order to enter different bodies.
According to them, the soul is mortal and it will perish along with the body when its
atoms break apart.

‘Nothing occurs at random, but everything for a reason and by necessity’

According to Aristotle, this statement was said by Leucippus. This statement was very
important for their Atomic theory because it gave it realism and connected everything.
Before this, there was a lot confusion as to what produced the atoms to move and be in
infinite motion. As to what the statement implies, that the atoms existed in motion
because it was necessary for them to move, meaning that the atoms follow the laws of
nature which require them to move. This statement was the piece that connected all the
parts of their Atomic theory and made it logical.

It is clear the way the mindset of the early philosophers and their philosophy
developed and advanced over time. In the beginning, before the rise of the Ionian
Enlightenment, there was no one who understood the cause of natural phenomena and
tried to understand the reasoning behind everything which they assumed was an act of
the gods and goddesses. Overtime After the ionian revolution gave birth to the first
nature philosophers, people started to question the meaning and the reason behind
things by enhancing their knowledge about the world, the relationship between things,
the cosmos and the mind. These philosophers intended to understand how the universe
worked and tried to understand the universe which before them, was not in chaos and
disorder and it did not make any sense. Before them all the causes for everything in the
universe, had to do with mythology which was illogical and then when the Ionian
revolution happened and the philosophers started to think about logical and simpler
reasons for the making of the universe they started to in a way organize the world by
providing theories and logical reasons for everything by trying to find the ​Arche ​which
would connect everything as well as make everything about the cosmos make sense,
thus, providing the notion of order and harmony to their minds.