This is the only blog site where you will get a comprehensive and integrated perspective on how Greek philosophy and Jewish revelation came together to form the Christian Church and thus Western Civilization.
Due to our present circumstances in regards to cancel culture, I am taking a small detour from writing on the Presocratic philosophers in order to write an article about about the nature of truth.
I remember that, as children playing in the pool, we liked to see who could hold a beach ball under water the longest. It was not an easy task. We tried to push the beach ball further down thinking that it would be less likely to pop back up. Of course, we discovered that the more we tried to keep the ball under water, the more difficult it became to hold it there. It always popped back up after only a few seconds.
Pythagoras was a demigod who went around performing miracles. He talked to the animals and they listened to him.1 Once, he convinced a bear to stop harassing the townspeople and the bear gave its word that it would. He also was renowned for having a “golden thigh.”
These are just some of the legends that surround this historical figure.2 In addition to all of that, he did not invent the Pythagorean theorem. Consequently, when we deal with Pythagoras, we are dealing with an enigmatic figure who is partly mythical and partly real. Like Socrates, he did not leave any writings, but also like Socrates, his followers attributed their ideas to him.3 And unlike Socrates, who practiced his philosophy publicly, Pythagoras and his followers lived in a highly secretive community.
Anaximander, a student of Thales, was known for wearing ostentatious clothes.1 Like Thales, he was a multifaceted character. He was the first person to make a map of the world and thus was the first geographer. He also speculated that the earth was free-floating in space and not suspended by anything, whereas Thales said that it rested on water. He is said to have predicted an earthquake, something that modern science still cannot do.2
As the story goes, Thales of Miletus, an astronomer among many other things, was walking along, gazing at the stars, not watching where he was going, when he fell into a well.1 A story like that is stereotypical of a philosopher who has his mind so set on lofty ideas, he loses touch with earthly things. With Thales, nothing could be further from the truth.
The Greek Dark Ages commenced with the fall of Troy in the 12th century.1 It continued for several centuries until a ray of light finally dawned in the region of Ionia in western Asia Minor in the eighth and seven centuries BC.2 This flourishing of art and culture is known as the Ionian Enlightenment or the Ionian Renaissance. The Dark Ages continued in the rest of the Greek territories for a while longer. Why was Ionia different?
“Chaos was first of all, but next appeared Broad-Bosomed Earth.”
-Hesiod from Theogony
Hesiod’s Theogony was monumental in advancing Greek thinking because its subject matter was no less than the origin of the universe.1 It is the most complete surviving Greek account of the creation of the universe. Hesiod described not only how the universe came into being, but he also gave an account of the birth of the gods. His gods were not transcendent – they were a part of the universe. They were anthropomorphic, having all of the characteristics of humans, except for one important factor – they were immortal. Like Homer, Hesiod represents the transition from myth to metaphysics.2
“My mother Thetis tells me that there are two ways in which I may meet my end. If I stay and fight, I shall not return alive, but my name will live forever; whereas if I go home my name will die, but it will be long ere death shall take me.”1
-The Iliad, Achilles talking to Odysseus
Homer’s mythology, like much mythology of the ancient world, was an attempt to explain reality through the interaction between the gods and between the gods and men. But unlike other mythologies, say, of the ancient Egyptians and Mesopotamians, Homer takes a less superstitious approach. Rather, his mythology is more human than divine – his gods are all too human, complete with human weaknesses and shortcomings.2 Also, his gods have less control since they, too are subject to fate just like humans. With Homer, we see the cosmological myth is starting to fade. For even thought TheIliad is full of gods, Homer presents a more psychological rather than cosmological explanation of things. As E. Michael Jones states in Logos Rising, “There is nothing divine about the gods of The Iliad.”3 In this respect, with Homer, we start to see the beginning of the transition from myth to metaphysics.4