Seven Ancient Greek Sages
SCOD Philosophy is based on many thinkers,
but we begin with Seven Ancient Greek Philosopher Sages:
Thales, Pythagoras, Empedocles, Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, and Epicurus
The ‘Classical’ philosophies of ancient Greeks are the first on historic record to start asking the most basic yet profound questions of Life, the Universe, and everything. Modern philosophies tend to ask more complex questions about our experiences in Existence, and many of the basic questions are redefined by scientific theories. It is wise to know past examples of thought, although we are capable of coming to many of the same conclusions without having read them, or may have already formulated some similar theories independently.
(The original Seven Sages of Greece were: Thales, Pittacus, Periander, Cleobulus, Solon, Bias, Chilon)
The SCOD list of 7 Sages is: Thales, Pythagoras, Empedocles, Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, and Epicurus
Thales is considered the father of Philosophy. He lived in Miletus in Eastern Greece across the Aegean Sea, in Ionia (now Western Turkey). Together with his contemporary philosophers, Anaximander and Anaximenes, around 600 BC he founded the first school of philosophy. Before them all things were explained only through the Religion of Greek Gods, which were anthropomorphic spirits of nature and ancestors. Religions survived of course, but so did other ways of thought and reasoning, now called Philosophies.
Thales believed the essence of the World was Water, and combined astronomy, logic and mathematics to find answers. Anaximander thought that all things came from apeiron, which were unlimited invisible atomic elements, which then made the four basic elements of nature (air, fire, water, and earth). Anaximenes then believed that the ultimate expression of apeiron was Air. Heraclitus believed that Fire was the prime element. This was not just the birth of Philosophy, but also Science and Psychology.
Pythagoras was from Samos, Ionia circa 500 BC. He was a spiritual mathematician and philosopher (lover of wisdom). He made mystical world travels, and used music and math together as a language to understand the Universe. The Tetractys Triangle was his sacred symbol. He believed in reincarnation and inter-connected transmigration.
Empedocles of Sicily circa 450 BC is considered a pluralist because he believed that all things were inter-connected, even seemingly opposing philosophies. His open-minded theories embraced the Four Elements (Roots), Reincarnation, Magnetism, and Mixture and Separation (Love and Strife). He wrote in hexameter verse, based on Parmenides and the ancient oral tradition of Homeric Bards. He was from a family of democratic social leaders, but humbly refused political power himself. He had mystical powers over nature, and public powers of oration.
His beliefs were eclectic ranging from mystical traditions of Orphism, to progressive observations that influenced Aristotle and led to modern science. Love and Strife, or attraction and repulsion, was very similar to Asian Yen / Yang. The Genesis Sphere was what the 2 powers and 4 roots came from, and what they would eventually reform into. Knowledge is known because of Love (attraction). Elements within us recognize like elements in the outside world.
We may feel we know things when viewing them from one perspective, but senses alone do not give truth without thought and reasoning. He compromised between the 2 opposing philosophies of Parmenides and Heraclitus. Static monism vs changing flux led Empedocles to develop a theory of constant dynamic plurality using Philia and Neikos (Love and Strife / She and He). Everything changes by re-mingling, but all the basic elements are ‘gods’ that never change.
Empedocles believed our immortal souls fell from paradise, to perpetually be reincarnated into various animal bodies, until eventually returning to bliss. Birth and Death were mixing and separating the four roots, plus a human soul. All things were a re-mingling of what was already mingled and separated before. There is nothing new in reality, only changes in mixtures between basic elements. All living things contain spirits, but being a vegetarian is better than eating meat because animal souls are so similar. Empedocles committed suicide by jumping into the volcano of Mt. Etna. Thus he immortally changed to his next form of existence.
The next 3 philosophers (Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle) are as famous as their 3 Renaissance counter-parts (DaVince, Michelangelo, and Raphael). It was the last artist, Raphael that painted all of them eventually in his master-piece “The School of Athens”.
Socrates was from Athens, Greece circa 400 BC. He was a philosopher, stone mason, soldier, and mentor. He was considered a public gadfly because he would stand around the stoa and engage random people in his pedagogy by a ‘method of dialogue’ (elenchus) which involved asking questions to arrive at truths. Socratic dialogue uses deductive reasoning to advance epistemology. Although the Delphi Oracle said that “None was wiser than Socrates”, Socrates believed this was only because he was more aware of his own ignorance. He annoyed prominent Athenians so greatly that they put him on trial and sentenced him to death, which he accepted despite his suggestion that they pay him for his public services instead.
His ‘dialectic method of inquiry’ supported his assertions that knowledge equals virtue, questions lead to excellence, and knowledge of self, friendships, and community was more important than pursuit of material wealth. He refused to be a career political leader because he did not feel comfortable telling others how to live, when he himself was not sure. He called his intuition on matters of courage and honesty his ‘inner daemon’.
“I only know that I know nothing.”
“As the Delphi Oracle says: Know thyself.”
“The unexamined life is not worth living.”
“Do not do to others, what angers you if done to you by others.”
“Be kind to everyone, as though they are fighting a hard battle.”
Plato was a student and biographer of Socrates, circa 380 BC. He developed his own theories of reality (metaphysics), mathematics, logic, ethics, and epistemology. The material world is an illusion based on the real world of archetypal forms. He describes the State like a human: appetite = workers, heart = warriors, head = government. Plato believed that Philosopher Kings who love Truth should govern republics, not ignorant democratic masses. Plato seems to be what we consider now to be a conservative right-winger politically, as he advocated republican rule by an aristocracy above all, and preferred tyranny to democracy. Plato also held contempt for astronomers, artisans, and art in general.
The allegory of the Cave
“We are chained inside, and think that reality is a shadow on the wall.”
Aristotle circa 340 BC was a student of Plato, and a mentor to Alexander the Great. Aristotle studied all subjects and advocated learning from analyzing experiences and observations in existence. His empirical theories was unparalleled for over 2,000 years, and laid the basis for Existentialism. He believed in the four basic elements, and a fifth Aether (heavenly spirit). He determined 4 Causalities, 2 Modes of Causation, Substance is unified matter and form, and Universal ideas are not more real than physical objects, because the idea of an object comes from particular objects. Ethics were practical and follow Logic (Organon).
He also collected Aesop fables, riddles, proverbs, and folklore (which accounts for some of his hypocritical errors in sciences). Hypocrisy is found in some of his incorrect observations such as: “men have more teeth than women”, “heavier objects fall faster than light weight objects”…
“Friend to all is friend to none”
“All paid jobs absorb and degrade the mind”
“Virtue is justice”
“Happiness is the meaning of life”
“Common danger unites enemies”
Plato may have been more popular in Ancient Rome, but Aristotelian philosophy was dominant among scholars from the Middle Ages to the Renaissance, and was only later replaced by Newtonian Theories and the Transcendentalism of Kant.
Epicurus of Samos circa 300 BC, believed in happiness, tranquility, peace, comfort, and communal and individual contentment. He believed we have only one life to live, and therefore we should strive to be happy now. He formulated the Ethic of Reciprocity, Religious Free Will, Atomic Chaos (from Democritus), and his communal home school of friends that he called “The Garden”, which invited strangers to share in their ‘pleasure’. The Roman Epicureans may have indulged the pleasure aspect of his philosophy to the point of gluttony, rather than the original Greek ‘moderation’.
“Eat, drink, and be merry; for tomorrow we may die.”
“The highest good is pleasure”
“Freedom has few possessions, for property makes us subject to mobs and monarchs”
“Do not fear death, it is not here now, but when it comes it will not matter anymore”
“Happiness has no desires”
“It is not what we have, but what we enjoy that constitutes abundance”
“Nothing is enough for the man to whom enough is too little”