The Pythagoreans attempted to solve the problem raised by Heraclitus and Parmenides by postulating two worlds: one in constant ﬂux, this world; and one eternal and immutable, the world of number. The Atomists attempted a very different reconciliation. In the process, they made possible the birth of modern science. They also caused the destruction of the mind.
SUMMARY: Agriculture has led to property, to inequality, to slavery, to industry, to class struggle, to the State; that is, to “civilization.”
So, Parmenides created a problem. The world was made of one single stuff but it appeared to change, while Logic asserted that was impossible. How to reconcile this in one single world? Well, you don’t. There are two worlds: the “world of appearances” here below, always changing and apprehended by the senses; the “real world” high above, immutable and hidden. And the real one, believe it or not, is made of numbers.
SUMMARY: Beginning with the discovery of fire, man starts to build tools and produce more and more material goods and food, thus improving his living conditions. Initially, such improvement is given by the direct use of the goods; later, by the accumulation of wealth through the sale of surplus.
SUMMARY: The discovery of agriculture by women frees man from hunting by providing a dependable supply of food, while the domestication of animals improves his life — man learns the concept of time and, with it, meets anxiety and begins to be human.
Heraclitus said “Change is obvious, therefore, to hell with logic.” Parmenides said, “Logic is obvious, therefore, to hell with change.” Still using Peikoff’s own words, Parmenides’ philosophy can be summarized by the principle “What is, is, and what is not, is not, and what is not can neither be, nor be thought about.” Hard to deny that logic.
SUMMARY: Every civilization has economic, political, moral and social elements, and depends on geological and geographical conditions for its existence. But what preserves civilization is its transmission to our children — and the technique of such transmission is education.
I “met” Will Durant when looking for a book that presented the history of philosophy in a concise and not-too-complex way. His first book (and big bestseller), “The Story of Philosophy“, gave me just that. “Reading” it from a masterfully narrated audiobook by Grover Gardner greatly boosted my enthusiasm. So much so that it was looking for other narrations by Grover – not books by Durant – that I came across his “The Story of Civilization“, and I was simply flabbergasted.
Thales gave rise to philosophy by relying on sensory experience and reason. The next philosopher in line — Heraclitus — not only trailed a different path, but ignited a chain-reaction that ran through history toppling like dominos all that man tried to erect with his reason. It all began with the problem of change and multiplicity; it all ended with my thirteen-year-old niece asking petulantly: “Why can’t I simply decide I am a boy?”
Philosophy is asking the big questions. But if they are already answered by the State or by the nearest priest, why the effort? From the great dynasties of Sumer and Egypt, the explanation of the world had been given by the king-gods. Life was inexorably hard and painful, and man should rather turn his attention to the other world, to the afterlife. This greatest of all evasions of man was not an invention of Christianity – just remember the pyramids, those gigantic tombs. Better to bow, pray and beg than to try to understand and explain the world. It was in 6th century B.C. Greece that it all changed, and that began with Thales.