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Episode 3 – Socrates and the Sophists

Protagoras
Protagoras

Presocratic_graph

On this episode of the podcast, we discussed the Sophists and the man who inspired the term ‘Presocratic’, Socrates himself. We first discussed the ‘golden age’ of culture and philosophy that took place in Athens around 500 BC. During this time, language and critical thinking skills were highly desired, but rarely possessed–a demand which gave rise to a group called the Sophists. The Sophists were philosopher-teachers who charged Athenians an arm and a leg to learn how to win arguments in court, regardless of whether their argument had any validity or not. As we learned, the Sophists aren’t held in very high regard in philosophy circles, but they’re an important part of philosophy’s history nonetheless.

Next, we discussed the ways that some of the philosophers we’ve discussed previously are categorized. The first distinction made is between the monists and the pluralists. Monists believed that the universe is made up of one fundamental substance, and this category includes three schools of thought: the Milesian school, the Pythagorean school, and the Eleatic school. The pluralists believed that the universe is made up of several fundamental substances, and this category includes the Pluralist school, the Atomic Pluralist school, and the Sophists. Check out the graph above for more information on the philosophers that belonged to each school!

Socrates
Socrates

Finally, we got around to talking about a philosopher who learned from all the various schools of philosophy, and used that knowledge to create his own entirely new way of thinking–a way of thinking that made him one of the most important philosophical figures in history. His name was Socrates, and what he lacked in personal hygiene, he made up for in his ability to ask thought-provoking questions. Socrates is famously quoted as saying “the unexamined life is not worth living,” which reflected his belief that pursuing knowledge was the ultimate goal of life. Because Socrates didn’t write anything down, much of what we know about him comes from Plato’s “The Apology”, an account of the trial that ultimately led to Socrates being sentenced to death. One of the most important insights we gain from the story of Socrates’ trial is the fact that he was willing to die rather than sacrifice his beliefs.

Philosophize this! Is there anything you believe in so strongly you would be willing to die in support of it?

Make sure to download Philosophize This! on iTunes for the full story behind Socrates and the Sophists!

See the full transcript of this episode here.

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Episode 2 – Italian Pre-Socratic Philosophy

220px-Sanzio_01_Pythagoras.jpg
Pythagoras, probably ordering more bubble wrap jumpsuits for his cult followers…

On this episode of the podcast, we continued our discussion about pre-socratic western philosophy, this time focusing on the Italian style of thinking.

We first addressed the meaning of the word ‘philosophy’. ‘Phil’ and ‘soph’ are greek roots which mean ‘love’ and ‘wisdom’ respectively. So, ‘philosophy’ literally means ‘the love of wisdom’. This term was first coined by Pythagoras, the first of three Italian philosophers we discussed on this episode.

Most people have heard of the Pythagorean Theorem, which one might assume belongs to Pythagoras himself. However, as we learned, not much at all is known about Pythagoras. Because he had no writings and was the leader of what can only described as a cult dedicated to the study of math, music, and astronomy, it’s unclear which ideas came directly from Pythagoras and which came from his followers, the Pythagoreans.

The next philosopher we talked about was Parmenides, whose most notable contribution to philosophy was his use of deductive reasoning to arrive at conclusions. Parmenides’ ideas were a complete departure from the ideas of those who had come before him; rather than trying to explain how the world around him had come into existence, he concluded through deductive reasoning that it was impossible for it to have come into existence at all. Parmenides also believed that change was impossible and that our deceptive senses are the cause of our belief that anything begins, ends, or changes. 

Parmenides. Long before the advent of pupils...
Parmenides. Long before the advent of pupils…

The last philosopher we discussed in this episode was Empedocles, or as I like to think of him, Captain Planet. Empedocles believed that everything was made up of four elements — air, water, fire, and earth. He also believed that these elements were controlled by the competing forces of love and strife, and that these forces were responsible for the changing world we see.

Philosophize this! We learned many philosophers devoted their entire lives to explaining the world around them, solely because of their love of wisdom. What do you do without expectation of reward? Is there anything you love so much, you would do it for free indefinitely?

Make sure to download Philosophize This! on iTunes for the full story behind Pythagoras, Parmenides and Empedocles and the Italian style of thinking!

See the full transcript of this episode here.
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Episode 1 – Ionian Pre-Socratic Philosophy

Hey guys! Today was the first of a two part synopsis of Pre-Socratic Western Philosophy. Today we focused on the Ionian, or Greek, style of thinking. But before we got into that, we talked about the terrible adversity that faced the early human colonizers of the world. I can’t imagine being one of these people. I never would’ve had the courage to just march into the unknown wilderness, just HOPING that greener pastures were over the next sand dune. But I guess it’s not that hard to find greener pastures when you’re right in the middle of the desert. =].

Here’s a map of the migratory paths the early humans took. You can definitely see how they reached an obvious fork in the road right around the fertile crescent. Which direction would you have gone? lol

Hmm...what do you do if NEITHER road is less traveled?
Hmm… what do you do if NEITHER road is less traveled?
Well, I guess zombie husbandry would've worked too...
Well, I guess zombie husbandry would’ve worked too…

The early humans were actually a lot like Rick and his ever-fledgling group of friends in the show “The Walking Dead”. They have no permanent home, they have no idea where their next meal is going to come from and much like the animal predators the early humans dealt with, zombies are always a constant threat. But soon they decided to group together and use their teamwork and numbers against the existential threats, much like the inhabitants of Woodbury do in the show.

Thales, just try to not accept this rose...
Thales, just try to not accept this rose…

The first guy we talked about was Thales. Handsome, brilliant guy. What do you think? Could he be the bachelor? The next guy we talked about was Heraclitus, the meanest and most antisocial guy ever to bury himself up to his neck in cow manure and lay in the sun. True story… He was the first person to recognize that some things that we perceive to be permanent and unchanging can actually be full of change.

Wow Heraclitus…you WOULD have the emo painting of you WRINGING YOUR HANDS over the globe…
Wow Heraclitus… you WOULD have the emo painting of you WRINGING YOUR HANDS over the globe…
He's known as "the laughing philosopher" because he got the last laugh with his theory of atomism...
Democritus is known as “the laughing philosopher” because he got the last laugh with his theory of atomism…

Then we talked about Democritus, he and his teacher Leucippus came up with what is no doubt the crowning acheivement of all Pre-Socratic thought. The theory of atomism. But atomism was, by no means, an instant success. Yeah these early thinkers ended up being wrong about everything they had to say, but the only reason we don’t believe what they did is because we have the luxury of going to the library and reading about them suggesting it thousands of years before.

So Philosophize This!, What do you take to be absolutely true that one day may prove to be completely false? Answer in the comments below. 

For the full story of all of these great thinkers, download the Philosophize This! podcast:

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See the full transcript of this episode here.