Saturday, May 9, 2009

03 Xenophanes

What we are doing here is not just tell a story about some old Greek, but we are witnessing an amazing development in the history of mankind. To be more specific, in the history of mind.

We are witnessing man in his first attempt to think independently...just as a man on his own and not as immerged in a world of gods and ghosts, where he is completely at the mercy of his gods.

Thales taught us reductionism.....reduce the multitude of things and phenomena to one single origin....that was water in his opinion. The first more scientific look at reality.
Pythagoras went one step further by making the number and the harmony in numerical relations, a greater abstraction, the first principle, a relation between reality and number.
And today we meet Xenophanes. He joined the school of Pythagoras. Pythagoras died about 507 B.C. Xenophanes about 70 years later.
For him the gods of greek mythology were history, created by human imagination. He said:

Yet if cattle or horses or lions had hands and could draw,
And could sculpture like men, then the horses would draw their gods
Like horses, and cattle like cattle; and each they would shape
Bodies of gods in the likeness, each kind, of their own.

We can't know how the gods look like, and we'll never know, was his opinion. Yet he believed in a god. Not one up there on the top of the Olympus or above the clouds. His idea of god was that god and nature are identical. A first step to monotheism in the Greek world, the believe that there is only one god.

So, no theological explanations for the processes in reality. See for yourself and invesitgate. His first principle was water and soil:..just mud.
But he made a more important contribution to the development of mind, scientific thinking. Xenophanes was the first to warn us to claim that we have absolute knowledge about things.
Philosophical certainties were non existent for him. Even when we accidently would run into one, we never have the means to establish the fact that this is absolutely true.

That doesnt mean that philosophical investigations dont make sense. What we can discover are the mistakes in our reasoning and thinking. That means....maybe we cant know what is absolutely true, but we can absolutely be certain what is NOT true.
You wont believe it, but as a principle of scientific methodology, it took more than 2000 years to have this accepted as a principle of a philosophy of science.

One final word....

The meaning of our classes to me is not that I tell you what you can read elsewhere even more extensively. What I want to show you is my fascination with the development of mind, with the fact that we are thinking beings, that our thnking creates our world.

And all these philosophers we meet were experts in thinking and I hope that you may share this fascination with me.

Main Resources:
Philip Stokes, Philosophy: 100 essential thinkers
The Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 2nd edition

The Discussion
[13:21] You: Well..this was Xenophanes..
[13:21] You: A remarkable fellow
[13:21] Osrum Sands: COuld you xepand the pont about knowing for cartain what is not true
[13:21] Osrum Sands: how so
[13:21] Osrum Sands: ?
[13:21] Arthur13 Rimbaud: can someone send me a copy of the lecture
[13:22] You: all texts are on my blog Arthur..
[13:22] Arthur13 Rimbaud: right now?
[13:22] You:
[13:23] Arthur13 Rimbaud: But how can I know that to be a certain truth Herman??....J/k
[13:23] You: text of today isnt yet posted
[13:23] You: Well...there is something fascinating about the greeks
[13:23] Arthur13 Rimbaud: Thank you Osrum
[13:24] Osrum Sands: ok
[13:24] You: They are the first who started to think philosophically
[13:24] You: they free themself from mythological thinking...and Xenphanes is very explicit in this matter
[13:25] You: they try to understand reality and analyze it..asking the question: what does really exit
[13:25] You: we call that reductionism
[13:25] You: reducing the multitude to a few or just one principle, one origin
[13:26] Gray Cardiff: alpologises
[13:26] You: that are remarkable steps in thinking..
[13:27] You: and Xenophanes didnt beleiv ein absolute truth....or better...he doubted that we can know abslolute truth
[13:27] You: see 10 swans..all white...
[13:27] You: then the 11th..the 99th is also white...
[13:28] You: you think youhave found a truth: all swans are white
[13:28] You: but that isnt the only found a probability
[13:28] Sasha Dalgleish is Online
[13:29] You: chance is that thenext swan is white to...but who can tell you ...maybe the next one is black...
[13:29] You: and already these old grek had this insight in the way out thinking works....
[13:30] You: so....tho you can know the absulute truth....when you see tat black swan you know that the statement All swans are whit eis absolutely untrue
[13:30] Osrum Sands: CAN know ?
[13:30] You: karl Popper made it a funadamental issue of the philosophy of science
[13:31] You: cant...sorry
[13:31] Osrum Sands: ok
[13:31] You: but then we are talking about 1920 or so
[13:32] You: it is amzing to see that such fundamental thoughts allready occured to the mind in a completely different word from ours...
[13:32] Wife Stepford is Offline
[13:32] You: it shows that in a way it was the same world as we experience it
[13:33] Rockerduck Bogdanovich: is suggesting that logic depends from words?
[13:33] Rockerduck Bogdanovich: i mean the logic truth?
[13:33] BALDUR Joubert: wel herman.. irs not so amzing.. these fundamental thoughts were transmitted to us directly through the romans .. the arabs .. into our civilization.. so its not a completely different world.. our world is based on those thinkers
[13:34] You: I think we have to turn to Immanuel Kant to understand the concept of truth in relation to logic
[13:34] Rockerduck Bogdanovich: indeed i was thinking t him :)
[13:34] You: yes...
[13:34] Rockerduck Bogdanovich: ok i will have to wait thank you
[13:35] You: yes..I was wondering..should we difg into the apriori and aposteriori already here...
[13:35] You: maybe when we talk about Plato we could make a start on that
[13:36] Rodney Handrick: sure
[13:36] You: What we should learn from the Greek is, that many of our present day philosophical questions were already fromulated in those days
[13:37] You: and that amazes me every day...
[13:37] You: And that is what I want to teach you.....
[13:38] You: not the faacts and can read them vrywhere....lots of info on th eInternet...
[13:39] You: I want to stimulate that feeling....that surprise to see that fundamental questions are almost ageless
[13:39] You: and the wonderful answers man every century a little different
[13:40] Osrum Sands: with you there
[13:40] You: thank you Osrum
[13:40] BALDUR Joubert: let say the wonderful questions..
[13:40] herman Bergson smiles
[13:40] Osrum Sands: just because we hold more knowledge today does not = more wisdom or smarter
[13:40] Rockerduck Bogdanovich: As Quine well said any vocabulary sets an ontology
[13:40] You: How true Baldur
[13:41] Arthur13 Rimbaud: I heard one thinker say that it would be wiser to reduce the fundamentals down to mysteries instead of solututions, because every age seems to come up with solutions that are negated in the following age.
[13:41] Rockerduck Bogdanovich: not true io Arthur
[13:41] Rockerduck Bogdanovich: imo
[13:41] Rockerduck Bogdanovich: just viwed under different perspectives
[13:41] Rockerduck Bogdanovich: viewed*
[13:41] Arthur13 Rimbaud: that is just and interesting statement....not an argument
[13:41] Rockerduck Bogdanovich: because of different dictionary that is a different universe
[13:42] Arthur13 Rimbaud: you can bash it for fun if that is what you enjoy
[13:42] You: I think I get the feeling Arthur...
[13:42] Arthur13 Rimbaud: and do tell me the I will know Mr. Rock
[13:42] Rockerduck Bogdanovich: why are you that aggressive?
[13:42] You: I guess that statement came from someone that knew how hard or impossible it is to find deffinit answers to philosophical questions
[13:42] Rockerduck Bogdanovich: im just dicussing
[13:43] Rodney Handrick: There is stil a base thought...where does that originate?
[13:43] Rodney Handrick: *still
[13:44] You: I think the main point on understanding philosophy is, that knowing the uncertainty you realize that as a human being you still have to make definite choices in life anyway
[13:44] BALDUR Joubert: kfka said( in prometheus): the ledgend tryes to explain the inexplainable. because ther is a grain of truth-- it must end in the inexplainable.. herman could we apply that thought to philosophy? ( sorry for the lousy translation)
[13:45] Osrum Sands: while all knowledge sits on shifting sand !
[13:46] Rockerduck Bogdanovich: what you said before, herman is an interesting jump in the existentialism
[13:46] You: that is that magical word....thruth......a remarkable thing that we are always looking for truth......
[13:46] Rockerduck Bogdanovich: how the choice and responsibility relate in ancient Greek philosophy
[13:46] Rockerduck Bogdanovich: ?
[13:46] Rockerduck Bogdanovich: in general
[13:47] You: You you are right Rockerduck
[13:47] You: Main thing is that you have the feeling you liv ein a situation in which you can / have to choose
[13:48] You: I wonder how the greek eperienced dominated by religin...their numerous gods...
[13:48] BALDUR Joubert: numerous people too those days..
[13:49] BALDUR Joubert: there were no "greeks" so to say
[13:49] Rodney Handrick: well weren't they an agrarian society?
[13:49] You: Just take into account that exsitentialism only emerged when relgion lost its grip on the psyche......
[13:49] Rockerduck Bogdanovich nods
[13:49] Cailleach Shan: I imagine they lived a very fearful life..
[13:49] You: yes...but more...
[13:50] Felinity Christensen is Online
[13:50] You: we make a differnece between psyche and soul
[13:50] Rodney Handrick: I think the wrestled with the same issues we wrestle with today...
[13:50] BALDUR Joubert: cal. they didn't live a fearful life at all. you forget the greeks had the only gods that could laugh
[13:50] You: the greek didnt know that diffenrence...or should I say ..didnt use it in their thinking
[13:51] Rodney Handrick: How our lower instincts relate to our higher mentla functions
[13:51] Rodney Handrick: *mental
[13:51] Rockerduck Bogdanovich: Well low is a matter of value
[13:51] You: Freud is a breaking point in the history of mind
[13:52] You: he seperated the soul (area of religion) from the psyche (area of daily experience)
[13:52] Rodney Handrick: a matter of value? consider when you are truly hungry or thirsty...
[13:53] Osrum Sands: Who separated
[13:53] Rockerduck Bogdanovich: but if i can many of the themes that freud found are interestingly greek myths
[13:53] Rockerduck Bogdanovich: ye Rod i was kidding sorry
[13:54] You: The greek were human being..just like you and me....same brains I suppose.....oonly living in a different material/social/political world
[13:54] Rockerduck Bogdanovich: true
[13:55] You: so in essence they come to the same conclusions, but formulate it witin their own contect....
[13:55] You: Xenophanes didt know about falsificationism and philosophy of science....
[13:56] You: but yet he se t the course for empirism...forget the gods....lok for yourself and scientific theory....try to falsify tyour theories
[13:56] Cailleach Shan: Excuse me Herman... I must leave now..... Bye everyone
[13:56] You: Bye Caileach
[13:57] Arthur13 Rimbaud: bye Calilleach
[13:57] You: SHe is is getting late in Australia..:-)
[13:57] Osrum Sands: only 70 am
[13:57] BALDUR Joubert: herman.. in what way zarathustra could have influenced greek philosophy..
[13:57] Osrum Sands: 7.00am
[13:58] Rodney Handrick: it's 4:58pm here
[13:58] You: I am sorry but I am not that familiar with Nietzsche..:-)
[13:58] Cailleach Shan is Offline
[13:58] Rockerduck Bogdanovich: i think he referred to the Corpus Hermeticum
[13:58] Rockerduck Bogdanovich: Zoroaster
[13:58] You: well...timezones...whatever..:-)
[13:58] Myriam Chaplin is Online
[13:58] BALDUR Joubert: no.. was takling about the spiritual founder of the rligion if one can cal it that..
[13:59] BALDUR Joubert: between 800 and 600 bc
[13:59] You: I am sorry...that is not my specialty...:-)
[13:59] Rodney Handrick: I feel a lot of philosophy came from zoroaster
[13:59] You: but the question is a good assignment....
[13:59] Rockerduck Bogdanovich: these texts are currently dated after Plato
[14:00] BALDUR Joubert: sorry.. german spelling for zoroaster i used
[14:00] Rockerduck Bogdanovich: re Frances Yates
[14:00] Rockerduck Bogdanovich: they are latin texts transated in greek in the Rinascimental age
[14:00] You: if you want to elaborat on this it in our blog...the right place for that
[14:00] Rodney Handrick: The greeks probably had access to writings that have long since been destroyed when aarmies captured various areas in mesopotamia
[14:00] BALDUR Joubert: so we agree on the possibilities of interaction of thoughts throughout the region..
[14:01] You: Oh..there have been many interactions...
[14:01] BALDUR Joubert: lets not forget inthose days all was based -or mostly- on oral traditions..
[14:01] You: Aristotalian logic has relations with old theories from iIndia
[14:02] Woodstock Burleigh is Offline
[14:02] Rodney Handrick: which Indian theories?
[14:02] BALDUR Joubert: persian empire..
[14:03] You: I have to look that up Rodney
[14:03] Rodney Handrick: I would be interested in reading about that...
[14:04] Rockerduck Bogdanovich: anyway being a fact that many cultures crosse din ancient Greek, it seems to me that the true break in the thinking was exactly the ancient greek philophy more than other later thinkrs
[14:04] You: Forgot the author, maybe Nagel, History of Logic...I'll check it for is on my bookshelf
[14:04] Rockerduck Bogdanovich: i read once that soemeone said that the next philosphyi s a comment to Plato
[14:04] Rockerduck Bogdanovich: is it possible?
[14:04] Rodney Handrick: ok
[14:04] Rockerduck Bogdanovich: sorry for my english
[14:05] Rodney Handrick: thanks...
[14:05] You: no....I dont think so....
[14:05] Rosmairta Kilara is Online
[14:05] You: you will learn in the next lectures that the theories are written by Plato and aristoteles...
[14:06] You: after them noone came up with another paradigma
[14:06] You: only modifications
[14:06] Rockerduck Bogdanovich: that is what i said
[14:06] Rodney Handrick: why do you think that is?
[14:06] Rockerduck Bogdanovich: sorry i said it so badly
[14:06] Rockerduck Bogdanovich: :)
[14:07] You: that is how our brain works....
[14:07] Rodney Handrick: hmm...
[14:07] You: this issue will come up time and again..dont worry....
[14:08] Rodney Handrick: Or, is it our present day way of living does not afford us the time to think about life?
[14:08] You: I think that we think about life as much as the greek did
[14:09] Osrum Sands: deffinately
[14:09] Osrum Sands: and more
[14:09] You: just different
[14:09] Osrum Sands: more of us to think ?hah
[14:09] You: It is time....
[14:09] Dennis Albion is Online
[14:10] Rockerduck Bogdanovich: can i ask a question?
[14:10] You: Thank you for your attention
[14:10] Rockerduck Bogdanovich: ops sorry
[14:10] Rodney Handrick: good conversation
[14:10] You: all will be in the you can reread it...
[14:10] Rodney Handrick: ok...thanks
[14:10] You: Yes.....I really had to hold back myself....
[14:10] BALDUR Joubert: ty herma..
[14:10] You: so many interesting issues to address
[14:11] Rodney Handrick: true...
[14:11] anibrm Jung is Offline
[14:11] You: but be patient.....we will run into them eventually
[14:11] Dennis Albion is Offline
[14:11] You: Thank you for coming
Posted by herman_bergson on 2007-10-07 15:34:17

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