Philosophy in slave society icon

Philosophy in slave society

НазваниеPhilosophy in slave society
Дата конвертации26.08.2012
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Read text 1.

Philosophy is one of the most ancient forms of social consciousness. It arose in slave society as a science combining the sum total of man’s knowledge of the world around him and of himself. The rise of Greek civilization was a striking period in history of mankind. What ancient Greeks achieved in art and literature is familiar to everybody, but what they did in the purely intellectual realm is even more exceptional. They invented mathematics and science and philosophy; they first wrote history as opposed to mere annals; they speculated freely about the nature of the world and the ends of life.

Ancient Greek philosophy has exerted a tremendous impact on all subsequent philosophy up to our days. The struggle of materialism and idealism in antiquity was not consistent because the materialism of the ancient Greeks, naive and spontaneous, was not and could not be sufficiently backed by data of science. Nor should we forget that the proponents of both philosophical trends represented the exploiting part of society which had common interests in suppressing the slaves. These common basic interests could not but affect the philosophical doctrines themselves.

Answer the following questions to the text:

  1. What is philosophy?

  2. What place does ancient Greek philosophy occupy in the history of philosophy?

  3. Why was the struggle between idealism and materialism not consistent?

Read text 2.

The legacy of the peoples that created the oldest seats culture in Asia, Africa and Southern Europe was of great importance for the development of philosophy. Historical documents in which the rudiments of spontaneous materialist views are recorded date back to the end of the third and beginning of the second millenium B.C. That was the period that the first slave societies, namely Egypt and Babylon, reached their apex. Interesting views on life were expressed in the “Song of a Harp Player”, “Conversation of a Disappointed Man with His Soul” and “Conversation of a Master with His Slave”. Along with a strikingly expressed anti-religious trend, there are general rudiments of materialist ideas. In writings of ancient Oriental thinkers we find the idea that water is the primary element of everything existing, that all life, all things originate from water. The first materialist doctrines appeared with the birth of philosophy in slave societies of ancient India, China and Greece in the first millenium B.C.

The materialist doctrine in Indian philosophy that appeared about the 8th century B.C. was called Lokayata.
^ This teaching explained the world on the basis of real concepts of sensory things, denying any supernatural force whatsoever. Brihaspati, according to mythological sources, was the founder of Lokayata. The well-known materialist school of the Charvacas particularly stood among the proponents of the Lokayata doctrine. They held that the world consists of four elements: earth, water, air and fire. The material world was regarded as eternal; the philosophy of the Charvacas was thus directed against religion, against an idealist world outlook. The Charvacas also opposed dualism of the philosophical school of the Sankhya which held that the prime cause of the world was both a material and a spiritual element. The philosophy of the Charvaces played an important role in the subsequent development of philosophy in general.

In China the first materialist views appeared about the same time. Somewhat later these views were arranged as Taoism by Lao-tse. According to this teaching, all things came into being and change in their own way, Tao. The conversion of Tao into the absolute subsequently brought about the religious sect of Taoists who believed that Tao is the spiritual substance of everything existing.

Philosophy developed in various cities of Ancient Greece beginning in the 7th century B.C.. The slave system, which had gained strength by that time, at first promoted the economic cultural development of the city-states where trade was highly developed. Owing to commercial contacts the philosophy of ancient Greeks was influenced by the philosophy of African and Asian peoples with whom the elements of natural science and philosophy has arisen earlier.

Answer the following questions:

  1. What are the sources of our knowledge of the first philosophical conceptions in the history of civilization?

  2. Can we find general materialist ideas in the writings of ancient oriental thinkers?

  3. When did the first materialist doctrines appear?

  4. What did the materialist doctrine in Indian philosophy, Lokayata, teach?

  5. What is the essence of the materialist views that existed in the ancient Chinese philosophy?

  6. What influence did the philosophy of ancient Greece suffer?

Read text 3.

The founders of ancient Greek philosophy Thales, Anaximander and Anaximenus belonged to the Milesian philosophical school (Miletus was a large trade, shipping and cultural center). These thinkers were outstanding scientists of their time. The development of ancient society dictated the need for gaining better knowledge of the world, since the religious mythology prevailing at the time gave a distorted view of the world and did not promote the development of the productive forces. The Milesian thinkers came to profound philosophical generalizations important for the subsequent progress of philosophy. They made some significant discoveries in astronomy, geography and mathematics. Looking for an explanation of the world in the world itself, they sought the primary source of the world in something material.

These naive spontaneous materialist doctrines of the Milesians were diametrically opposed to the no less naive but unscientific world outlook based on mythology which prevailed at that time. The first materialists did not raise the problem of relationship of being and thinking. To them the soul was one of the forms of matter. The Milesian was under the influence of mythological views of the world. Spirits and gods filled nature. But the ancient Greek materialists regarded those gods as natural as any other phenomenon of the world, seeing nothing supernatural in them.

The Milesian school is important, not for what is achieved, but for what it attempted. It was brought into existence by the contact of the Greek mind with Babylon and Egypt. Melitus was a rich commercial city, in which primitive prejudices and superstitions were softened by intercourse with many nations.

The speculations of Thales, Anaximander, and Anaximenes are to be regarded as scientific hypotheses. The questions they asked were good questions, and their vigour inspired subsequent investigators.

Answer the following questions to the text:

  1. Which of the ancient Greek philosophers were the founders of the Milesian philosophical school?

  2. What were the achievements of the Milesian thinkers in science?

  3. How did the philosophers of Miletus treat the soul?

  4. What was the part played by the Milesian school in the history of philosophy?


(Greek philosopher. Born: Miletus, about 624 B.C. Died: Miletus, 547 B.C.)

The later Greeks considered Thales the founder of Greek science, mathematics, and philosophy and they credited to him the origin of almost every branch of knowledge.

He is supposed to have been born of a Phoenician mother. He was educated in Eastern science. Thales is said to have traveled in Egypt, and to have thence brought to the Greeks the science of geometry. But here he made a fundamental advance. He converted it into an abstract study, being the first man we know of to consider it as dealing with imaginary lines. Thales seems also to have been the first to prove mathematical statements by a regular series of arguments. In other worlds he invented deductive mathematics.

He held that water as something real, tangible and visible was the single elementary matter of the world. He thought that water is the original substance, out of which all others are formed; and he maintained that the earth rests on water. In the physical sciences, he was the first to study magnetism. He said the magnet has a soul in it, because it moves the iron.

The statement that everything is made of water is to be regarded as a scientific hypothesis. The question itself “Of what is the Universe made?” was far more important than the answer, for it inspired later philosophers who flourished in the same region, near Miletus, among them Anaximander, Anaximenes, Heraclitus, to speculate on the same subject. It was the line of thought that led eventually, after two thousand years of painful intellectual struggle, to modern chemistry.

Thales in addition to being a philosopher was a practical man of affairs. In politics he shrewdly urged political union of various Greek cities. This, the following centuries demonstrated, was the only way the Greeks could defend themselves against the surrounding nations.

The speculations of Thales, Anaximander, and Anaximenes are to be regarded as scientific hypotheses. The questions they asked were good questions, and their vigour inspired subsequent investigators.

In valuing philosophical speculations over practical applications of science, Thales set the tone for the later Greek thinking.

In later centuries, when the Greeks made up lists of the “Seven Wise Men of Greece”, Thales was invariably placed first.

Answer the following questions to the text:

  1. What are Thales' s dates of life?

  2. Was Thales considered the founder of Greek science in ancient Greece?

  3. What kind of education did he get?

  4. Did he travel much?

  5. Thales brought to the Greeks the science of geometry, didn't he?

  6. What was new in his treatment of geometry?

  7. What was Thales's contribution to mathematics?

  8. According to Thales water is the original substance, isn't it?

  9. What phenomenon did he study in physical sciences??

  10. What school did Thales and his followers belong to?

  11. Who were his followers in philosophy?

  12. Was he interested id politics?

  13. Where was Thales usually put in the list of the Seven Wise Men of Greece?


(Greek philosopher, born about 582 B.C. in Samos (an Aegean island), died about 497 B.C. in Metaponum (Southern Italy)

Pythagoras, like the other early sages of Greece, was reputed to have traveled widely in Egypt and the East. He is also reported to have studied under Anaximander or even under Thales himself. However the first event in his life that seems reasonably certain is his departure from Samos in 529 B.C. in protest to the tyranny of the ruler. (By that time the coasts of Southern Italy and Eastern Sicily had been colonized by the Greeks and the region remained Greek in culture well into the Middle Ages).

In his forties Pythagoras settled in Croton, a place in Southern Italy. There he broke with rationalism of the east-Greek tradition and founded the Pythagorean brotherhood which sought the moral reformation of the society, practicing temperance and abstinence from fleshly food. The cult of the brotherhood was marked by secrecy, asceticism and mysticism. The cult achieved important political power in Pythagoras later years and was usually to be found on the side of aristocrats. Even during the life-time of Pythagoras, however, the democrats had started to take the upper hand in Southern Italy and the cult began to suffer persecution. Pythagoras was exiled from Croton about ten years before his death.

According to Pythagoras the world was a living fire-breathing spherical body. Being engaged in mathematics, Pythagoras converted into an absolute the abstraction of numbers and divorced them from material objects, arriving at the conclusion that numbers were the essence of all things. He, as everyone knows, said that "all things are numbers". This might have led Pythagoras to the belief that the whole universe rested on numbers and their relationships, for he and his followers proceeded to invest the number with all sorts of mystic value. Today these notions seem foolish, but they did encourage the investigation of the mathematical properties of the numbers. Pythagoras is most famous, perhaps, for having been the first to work out the proposition known as the Pythagorean theorem. Subsequently this served as the basis for Pythagorean mathematical symbolism which grew over into the mysticism of numbers. Ultimately idealist and mystic tendencies prevailed in the Pythagorean school. It should be noted that rudiments of idealistic dialectics were present in the theories of the Pythagoreans.

Another doctrine attributed to Pythagoras is that of transmigration of souls and of harmony of the spheres.

Pythagoras was the first Greek to recognize that the morning star (Phosphorus) and the evening star (Hesperus) were in fact one star. After this time it was called Aphrodite, and we know it now as the planet Venus.

He was the first man who taught that the earth was spherical. He was also the first Greek philosopher to point out that the sun, moon and various planets did not partake of the uniform motion of the stars, but that each had a path of its own and a motion independent of their daily rotation. Pythagoras seems to have held that the universe was earth-centered.

As to his political views, Pythagoras was a supporter of the aristocracy and waged a bitter struggle against Athenian democracy.

Answer the following questions to the text:

  1. What are Pythagoras's dates of life?

  2. What countries did he travel to?

  3. Who was his instructor in philosophy?

  4. When did he leave Samos and why?

  5. What were the essential features of the cult founded by Pythagoras?

  6. Did Pythagoras's doctrine influence the political life of the country?

  7. What conclusion did he arrive at dealing with numbers?

  8. What is the famous saying by Pythagoras concerning numbers?

  9. What were the drawbacks of the Pythagorean school?

  10. What is Pythagoras most famous for?

  11. Pythagoras was the first man who taught that the earth is spherical, wasn't he?

  12. What were his political views?

  13. How can you treat the doctrine of transmigration of souls?


(Greek philosopher, born about 540 B.C. in Ephesus (about 30 miles north of Miletus), died about 475 B.C.)

Heraclitus is a philosopher who formulated some dialectical principles of being and cognition. He wrote the treatise "On Nature", which has survived only in fragments in writings of some later authors. His style of writing is marked by poetical imagination. He belonged to the Ionic school of Greek philosophy. We can discern in his doctrine an approach to explaining the world, although in a naive form. Heraclitus considered the fire the material source of everything existing. It made sense to him that fire, ever-changing and capable of bringing about change in other things, should be the fundamental element of the universe. When condensed, fire produces all things and when rarified, these things again turn into fire. Heraclitus held that everything was in a state of constant change and development. To him the most permanent thing about the universe seemed to be impermanence, and the one fact that was unchangeable was that change was certain. For instance, he thought so little of the unchangeability of even so glorious an object as the sun, as to suggest it was made fresh each morning, so that every day saw a different sun.

His pessimistic view of life and the universe led to his being called "the weeping philosopher"

In the history of philosophy the most disputable was the doctrine of Heraclitus of "logos" that was treated as "law", "god", "fate", "eternity", "wisdom", and understood as conformity with the law of necessity. In the theory of cognition the senses of the external world were of primary importance for Heraclitus. But only thinking which is common for everybody and reproduces the nature of everything leads to knowledge of everything in all.

Heraclitus is well-known for the statement that "this one order of all things was created by none of the gods, nor yet by any mankind, but it ever was, and is, and shall be - eternal fire - egnited by measure and extinguished by measure."

Answer the following questions to the text:

  1. What are Heraclitus's dates of life?

  2. Where was he born?

  3. What was his approach to the fundamental question of philosophy?

  4. What treaties did he write?

  5. What was the source of everything existing according to him?

  6. What changes does the fire undergo in his doctrine?

  7. Heraclitus held that everything was in the state of constant change and development, didn't he?

  8. What was the most permanent thing about the universe, according to Heraclitus?

  9. Was Heraclitus an optimistic-minded philosopher? What name was he given?

  10. What is "logos", according to Heraclitus?


(Greek philosopher, born about 500 B.C. in Clazomenea (Asia Minor, 75 miles north of Miletus), died about 428 B.C. in Bapseki, Turkey)

As in the case for almost all the early Greek philosophers, tradition states that Anaxagoras traveled widely during his youth. About 462 B.C. he migrated to Athens from his homeland in Asia Minor. At the time Athens was at the height of its Golden Age and the pinnacle of Greek culture. By this move Anaxagoras took to Athens the scientific tradition of Thales.

Anaxagoras was a rationalist. He explained the phases of the moon and eclipses of both the moon and the sun in terms of the movements of those bodies. To him the universe did not originate through a creative act of any deity, but through the action of an abstract mind, "nous", upon an infinite number of elements "seeds". This "nous" was the moving principle of the universal order. These seeds were a form of atoms. Under the influence of "nous" these "seeds"" are set into motion and form everything around us. The result, according to Anaxagoras, was that the heavenly bodies were brought into existence by the same processes that formed the earth, and therefore heavens and earth were composed of the same materials. His doctrine was upheld in his life-time by Empidocles and atomists. Anaxagoras got interested in mathematics and astronomy as well. Anaxagoras taught in Athens for thirty years, and his school was the beginning of the philosophic pre-eminence of Athens in the Greek world, a pre-eminence that was to be maintained for for nearly a thousand years.

Anaxagoras was not, however, let to pursue his studies and teaching in peace. The Athens of his days was not yet ready to accept his rationalism. Anaxagoras was accused of impiety and atheism and brought to trial as the first scientist (as we know) to have had this kind of legal conflict with a state religion. Anaxagoras was a friend of the most respected Athenian citizens, including Euripides - a great playwright and even Pericles - the uncrowned king of the city. Pericles faced the court in his friend's defense and managed to secure his acquitial. Anaxagoras believed the atmosphere of the city to be unsafe, however, and in 434 B.C. he retired to Lampsacus on the Hellespont where he founded his philosophic school. He died six years later.

Answer the following questions to the text:

  1. What place does Anaxagoras occupy among the ancient Greek philosophers?

  2. What are the dates of his life? What's his homeland?

  3. What can be said about the Athens of the time of Anaxagoras?

  4. In which way did the universe originate according to Anaxagoras?

  5. What was the moving principle of the universal order, according to him?

  6. Where and how long did Anaxagoras teach philosophy?

  7. What part did the school play in the philosophy of the Greek world?

  8. How was Anaxagoras treated in Athens?

  9. Who can you name among his friends?

  10. Which philosophers upheld his views in his life-time?


(Greek philosopher, born in 470 B.C. in Athens, died in 399 B.C. in Athens)

The celebrated Athenian philosopher was born in 469 B.C. His father was a statuary, and in his youth Socrates followed the profession of his father, of the circumstances of his life we are almost totally ignorant. In politics he took no part, knowing that office would mean compromise with his principles. It seemed that he never took any political office until 406, in which year he was a member of the Senate of Five Hundred.

All the middle and later part of his life was devoted to the task of teaching, neglecting all other business, public or private. But he neither opened a school, nor delivered public lectures, like the sophists of his time. Turning aside from the physical speculations of the earlier philosophers, he devoted himself to the investigation of virtue, that which makes a good citizen. He frequented public places, conversing with all, interrogating those who had a reputation for wisdom, and refuting them. He was an enemy of democracy and exerted influence of his numerous disciples, most of whom imitated their teacher in the fight against democracy. Finally in 399 B.C. on charges of atheism, treason and corrupting the young he was brought to trial and sentenced to death (by drinking hemlock). He died at the age of 70.

All that is known of Socrates is through the words of others, for he left no writings of his own. The man pictured in those reports was ugly in personal appearance, but he won over nearly everyone with his good humor, his wit and the fascination of his conversation. Socrates in his discussion pretended a disarming ignorance (Socratic irony). And then by shrewd questioning forced his listeners, disciples and opponents to admit their own ignorance and the wrongness if their intuitions.

The oracle at Delphi proclaimed him the wisest of the Greeks (to which Socrates replied that if he were the wisest it was only because he alone knew that he knew nothing).

Like other educated men of his age, he regarded mythology as a mere invention of the poets. God's existence is shown, he said, not only by the providential order of nature and the belief in him, but by warnings and revelations given in dreams, signs, oracles. Socrates had a strong belief in the immortality of the soul of man.

Socrates was one of the greatest philosophers who founded objective idealism. He understood philosophy as a doctrine of right life. He did not recognize natural philosophy and was far more interested in questions of ethics, in the right code of behavior. He wished to understand the working of virtue rather than that of heavenly bodies.

The essence of knowledge, according to Socrates consists in discovering the common in a number of things. He called on concentrating on self-knowledge. Know thyself is the central point of Socrates' philosophy. In his theory of knowledge he attached little importance to the sense organs. He stated that every term (such as "good", "beautiful" or "man") named a single object of a kind inaccessible to sense perception and apprehensive only by thought. Such objects Socrates called an Idea, Form.

Socrates along with Pythagoras actually initiated the turn towards idealism in ancient Greek philosophy.

Answer the following questions to the text:

  1. What are the dates of Socrates' life?

  2. What kind of family was he born into?

  3. Do we know much about his life?

  4. Did the philosopher take part in the political life of the country? Was he elected to any governmental body?

  5. What was his life mostly devoted to?

  6. In which way did Socrates teach his doctrines?

  7. What is known of the circumstances of Socrates' death?

  8. Are there any known works of Socrates?

  9. What kind of philosopher was he?

  10. How did he treat mythology?

  11. Did Socrates believe in the immortality of the soul?

  12. In which way did he treat natural philosophy?

  13. What is the essence of knowledge according to Socrates?

  14. What is his contribution to the history of philosophy?


(Greek philosopher, born about 460 B.C., died about 370 B.C.)

The materialist theories of the ancient Greeks were summed up in the philosophy of Democritus, the most notable proponent of materialism in antiquity. Democritus was a versatile scientist who contributed more than 70 works on philosophy, physics, mathematics, medicine, physiology, music, etc. Marx called Democritus "the first encyclopedic mind among the Greeks". Almost none of Democritus's works, around 72 books, has survived, and we know about him entirely as a result of references in the works of others.

Democritus was indeed the most successful of Greek natural philosophers. Like all the early rationalists he had some startingly modern-sounding notions. For example, he maintained that the Milky Way was a vast conglomeration of tiny stars. But he lived in a shadow of his contemporary Socratis, whose disciples rejected Democritus' notion of the universe.

Democritus was widely known as the "Laughing Philosopher", either because his philosophy was an essentially cheerful one or because he was viewed as laughing at the follies of mankind.

Democritus is best known for his atomic theory. He believed that all matter consisted of tiny particles, so small, that nothing smaller is conceivable. Hence, they were indivisible, the very word "atom" means "indivisible". The atoms, he held, were eternal, unchangeable, indestructible. They are sim­ple in their quality and yield to no outside influence. Besides themselves, only the void - that is, the space between the atoms - existed. Even the human mind and the gods (if any) were made of atom combination.

The atom, said Democritus, differed from each other physically, and. in this difference was to be found an explanation for the properties of various substances. Apparent changes in the na­ture of substances consisted merely of joined atoms and their rejoining in a new pattern.

Recognizing the atoms as the primary source of everything existing Democritus for the first time in the history of philosophy invested them with motion. The motions and behaviour of the atoms are imposed upon them by definite and unbreakable laws of nature. Democritus was thus one of the earliest of the thorough­going mechanists. By his attempt to explain all the phenomena of the world on the basis of intrinsic necessity, Democritus played a big part in the development of natural science. The conclusi­ons of Democritus were born of introspection and intuition.

Although Democritus, like all ancient materialists, offered no reason for the motion of the atoms, he nevertheless expressed the supposition about the immanence of motion and denied the need for a source of motion external in relation to matter.

According to Democritus, the external world is cognized with the help of man’s sense and reason. He was the first to pose the question of the relationship between the sensory and the rational in knowledge. He held that sense-perception, although it is the basis of knowledge, produces only "obscure" knowledge. The essence of everything in the external world can be learned by "clear" knowledge only through reason.

The philosophy of Democritus was closely bound up with his progressive, democratic views. It exerted a great im­pact not only on the philosophy of ancient Greece and Rome, but also on the philosophy of later times. Many eminent scientists were under the influence of his atomic theory.

Answer the following questions to the text:

1. What are the dates of life of Democritus?

2. Did he make a notable contribution to the philosophy only?

3. From what sources do we know of the philosophy of Democritus?

4. Can you give any examples of his ideas that seem modern now?

5. What famous Greek philosopher was a contemporary of Democritus?

6. What are the sources of our knowledge by Democritus?

8. What is the essence of the atomic theory of Democritus?

9. How did Democritus explain the variety of properties of various substances in his doctrine?

10. Did Democritus play a big part in the development of natu­ral science?

11. Is the external world cognizable according to Democritus?

12. What is the basis of sense-perception to Democritus?

  1. What was his impact on the development of philosophy?


(Greek philosopher, born in Athens in 427 B.C., died in Athens in 347 B.C.)

Plato, the philosopher, was born in Athens in 427 B.C. He was instructed in grammar, music and gymnastics by the most distinguished teachers of that time. In his 20th year he became a devoted follower of Socrates. After the execution of Socratis he left Athens. He visited the Greek cities of Africa and Italy through his eagerness for knowledge. During his stay in Sicily he became acquainted with the elder Dionysius, but soon fell out with the tyrant. According to the commonly accepted story he was sold as a slave by the tyrant, but was set at liberty by his friend. In 387 he returned to Athens.

In the suburbs of the city he founded a school that might be termed the first university. Because it was on the grounds that had once belonged to a legendary Greek called Academus, it came to be called the Academy, and this term has been applied for schools ever since. Plato remained at the Academy for the rest of his life, except for two brief periods in the 360s. At that time he visited Syracuse, the chief city of Greek Sicily, to serve as a tutor for the new king, Duonisius II. It turned out very badly and he managed with difficulty to return safely to Athens. His end was peaceful and happy, he died in the 82nd year of his age.

Plato wrote a great number of works on different philosophic subjects. They are in the form of dialogues and are distinguished by purity of language and elegance of style.

In the history of philosophy Plato created an idealist system based on the rudiments of idealism in the doctrines of the Eleatic school and the Pythagorians and also in the philosophy of his teacher Socrates.

In contrast to Democretus who held that material particles, atoms are primary, making up everything existing, Plato regarded spiritual substances, ideas, as primary. The main thing in Plato's doctrine is that it is merely phantom and reflection of the ideal world which lies beyond the bounds of the visible world.

Plato glorified the world of ideas. As for the material world, he held that it consists of sensory and transitory things and objects, and considered it a changeable and inconstant shadow of the world of ideas. Plato asserted that in reality only ideas exist because only they are eternal and non-transitory. All things are created and destroyed, and for this reason, cannot represent something true because only that which is eternal, non-transitory, can be true.

Plato taught that soul is immortal, asserting that it exists separately of the body. He introduced elements of mysticism in the concept of the soul, ascribing to it mystery, eternity and reincarnation in other bodies after death.

He asserted that there is a creator who purposively created everything. Plato's doctrine, thus, is of a theological character and is directly opposed to the atheistic nature of the doctrines of the atomists.

Plato's theory of knowledge is likewise idealistic, according to which only ideas can be cognized. Man can only recall what his soul contemplated when it existed separately of the body. Moreover, sense-perception has no bearing on the cognition of ideas. Sense-perception can give only an opinion of transitory and changeable things, but not true knowledge. Opinions to Plato is not true knowledge but something intermediate between ignorance and knowledge.

Plato was a militant philosopher and politician, an irreconcilable enemy to the slave-owning democracy. He created a theory of an ideal aristocratic state based on slave labour. According to his theory, the state is ruled by slave-owed aristocrats and represented by philosophers, it is protected by warriors, while artisans produce everything necessary. In his doctrine of the ideal state Plato, as Marx said, brilliantly understood the role played by the division of labour in forming the Greek states.

Plato was the most outstanding idealist philosopher of the ancient world.

Answer the following questions to the text:

  1. What are Plato's dates of life?

  2. What education did Plato get?

  3. Whose philosophy did Plato follow?

  4. What countries did he visit through his eagerness for knowledge?

  5. What happened to Plato during his stay in Sicily?

  6. Did Plato found any philosophical school?

  7. What was the name of Plato's school?

  8. Plato wrote a great number of works on philosophy, didn't he?

  9. In what form are his works written?

  10. Is soul immortal to Plato?

  11. What is Plato's doctrine of the origin of nature and man?

  12. Comment on Plato's theory of knowledge. What is it?

  13. Does sense-perception give true knowledge according to Plato?

  14. Did Plato support democracy?

  15. What is Plato's theory of an ideal state?

  16. Plato's idealist philosophy has been utilized by the ene­mies of the materialist world outlook up to this day, hasn't it?


(Greek philosopher. Born; northern Greece, 384 B.C. Died: Northern Greece, 322 B.C.)

He was born at Stagira in Northern Greece. Not far from that place was the semi-Greek kingdom of Macedon, with which Aristotle's family was closely connected. At the age of I7 Aristotle traveled to Athens for a college education and joined Plato's Academy where he studied diligently. Eventually he was to become by far the most renowned of all the pupils of Plato. Plato called him "the intelligence of the school", when Plato died in 347 B.C., Aristotle left the school. The reason he gave was that he disappro­ved of the growing emphasis on mathematics and theory in the Acade­my and the continuing in natural philosophy. Aristotle set out upon a journey that carried him to various parts of the Greek world, particularly to Asia Minor.

In 342 B.C. he was summoned to the court of Philip II, king of Macedonia. Aristotle became a tutor for his son, Alexander. He held the post for several years. In 336 B.C. Philip II was assassinated and Alexander ascended the throne. Alexander bad no further time for education, so Aristotle left Macedonia back to Athena. In Athens he founded a school of his own, the lyceum, so called because Aristotle lectured in a hall hear the temple of Apollo (Apollo, the Wolf-God). He also built up a collection of manuscripts, a very early example of a "university library". The school continued under Aristotle's direction quite successfully, emphasizing natural philosophy.

In 323 B.C. the news arrived of the death of Alexander the Great. Since Aristotle was well known to have been Alexander's tu­tor, be feared that anti-Macedonian reaction in Athens might lead to trouble. And, indeed, the accusation of "impiety" was railed. Aristotle had no mind to suffer the fate of Socrates. Saying he would not allow Athens to "sin twice against philosophy" he prudently retired to Chalsis, his mother's hometown and died there next year.

Aristotle's lectures were collected into nearly 150 volumes of which some 50 volumes have survived. They represent almost a one-man encyclopaedia of the knowledge of the times, much of which representing the original thought and observation of Aristotle himself.

Engels considered Aristotle the most universal head among an­cient Greek philosophers who reached the summit of ancient philo­sophy. Aristotle's teaching is contradictory. He held an intermediate position, vacillating between materialism and idealism, inconsistently dealing with the fundamental question of philosophy. On the whole, his philosophy is a variety of objective idealism. But, according to Lenin's definition, the idealism of Aristotle is of peculiar form in many respects it is "more objective and further developed, more general that the idealism of Plato, hence in the philosophy of nature more frequently - materialism, Aristotle comes very closely to materialism".

All things, according to Aristotle, are a unity of form and content, four causes underlie everything existing in the world:

  1. Matter or passive potentiality of becoming.

  2. Form (essence of being), reality of which was only potentiality.

  3. Beginning of motion.

  4. Purpose.

Aristotle's idealism is most-distinctly dis­played in the doctrine of form which he considered the essence of being and to which be ascribed eternity and immutability, and also in the doctrine of the prime mover, god, which though being immo­bile, is the source of every motion.

Aristotle subjected Plato, his teacher, to devastating criticism for his striving to separate general concepts, ideas, from sensually perceived things. Aristotle upheld the principle that there is no general without the individual and the general itself is cognized thanks to the sense-perception of the individual.

Aristotle made a great contribution to the study of the form of thinking. He elaborated formal logic so fully and all-embracing that it exists to this day almost intact. Aristotle systematical­ly studied concepts, statements and conclusions, and formulated the basic laws of formal logic, such as the law of identity, the law of contradiction, and the law of the excluded middle.

Aristotle has also made a profound analysis of philosophical categories. He wrote a special work in which he thoroughly stu­died ten primary categories such as essence, quality, quantity, relation, place, time, position, possession, action and suffering. But in other works as well, he investigated many categories of logic and philosophy which are current in science to this day.

The doctrine of Aristotle contained much that was valuable for the subsequent development of philosophy and other sciences because he eternalized and generalized almost all spheres of science of his days. It may be said that philosophy with its defi­nite subject matter actually began to take shape only after Aristotle's "Metaphysics" and "The Categories" were written. Aristo­tle was a most outstanding figure in the science of the ancient world, which was not branched out yet, and the greatest philosopher of antiquity.

Though one of the greatest thinkers, Aristotle was nevertheless limi­ted by the bounds of the slave society. He justified the division of people into slaves and slave-owners. Aristotle asserted that people are always born either slaves or masters, such is the pre­destination of the principal element, the soul. But supporting the slave-owning democracy, he denounced both tyranny and the po­wer of the oligarchy. He considered most acceptable a slave state with democratic rule by the middle class of society. Aristotle's inconsistency in philosophy was the reason why his doctrine was utilized in later times by the most opposite trends. The materia­list tendencies in Aristotle's teaching facilitated the develop­ment of science in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, while ide­alist elements were borrowed by the clergy.

Answer the following questions to the text:

  1. What are Aristotle's dates of life?

  2. Where did he get education and who was his teacher?

  3. Why did Aristotle leave the school of Plato after the death of his teacher?

  4. What famous statesman was among the pupils of Aristotle?

  5. What philosophical school did the philosopher found?

  6. Why was Aristotle persecuted at Athens after the death of Alexander the Great?

  7. What do the works of Aristotle manifest?

  8. What is Aristotle's doctrine of form?

  9. Did Aristotle criticized Plato and what far?

  10. Did the philosopher make his contribution to the development of formal logic?

  11. Aristotle made a profound analysis of philosophical cate­gories, didn't he?

  12. What are Aristotle's ideas on the politioal structure of society?

  13. What is the importance of Aristotle in the history of phi­losophy?


(Greek philosopher, born in Samos in 341 B.C., died in Athens in 270 B.C.)

Epicurus is a Greek materialist and atheist philosopher. The philosophy of Epicurus is the highest point in the development of the atomic materialism in ancient Greece. He continued the line of Democritus, developing his teaching further. Epicurus proceeding from Democritus's atomic theory, introduced an essenti­ally new element into his teaching. According to Democritus the movement of atoms in the void is caused by mechanical inward ne­cessity. Epicurus believed this movement to be conditioned by the inner property of an atom, i.e. the weight. The number of atoms is infinite, but the number of shapes is limited, as atoms cannot possess heavy weights. Epicures supposed that the atoms spontane­ously deviate from the straight path they travel in the world. This proposition enabled Epicurus to furnish a deeper concept at the origin of the universe and of all things. His assumption in­troduced an element of spontaneity and this, to a certain extent, eliminated the fatalism of Democritus who denied any chance whatsoever. Epicurus's doctrine of man, soul, knowledge and also his ethics are based on the materialist proposition of atomism. The aim of knowledge to Epicurus is to set man free of igno­rance and superstition, fear of gods and death.

Lucian, renowned writer of antiquity, left interesting testi­mony concerning the struggle of materialism and idealism of those days. In a satire against Alexander, a reactionary ideologist, Lucian wrote, "Alexander and Epicurus fought a war with neither truce nor herald, and this was natural. Whom else could the fraud, lover of all kinds of fancy tales about miracles, and the laws of nature have more reason to fight against than Epicurus, who studied the nature of things and was the only man who knew the truth about it". According to Lucian, the followers of Plato and Pythagoras were among the opponents of Epicurus. Alexander called for the physical destruction of Epicurus and publicly burnt his "Basic Principles".

Epicurus taught philosophy and is known as the founder of the Epicurean school. The main task of philosophy he believed is to create ethics, i.e. the doctrine of conduct leading to happi­ness. He taught that "pleasure" was the natural aim and highest good, but a pleasure which consisted of right living that led to tranquility of mind and body. The idea that "good living" and luxury were the pleasure to be sought was a corruption of his teaching.

Epicurus's ethics opposed religious superstitions which disparage the dignity of every person.

The later thinkers of antiquity highly honoured the thoughts and the ascetic way of life of the philosopher.

The idealist philosophers of the Middle Ages distorted the ethical doctrines of Epicurus.

I. Answer the following questions to the text:

  1. Where and when was Epicures born?

  2. Whom did Epicurus follow in his doctrine on the structure of the universe?

  3. What was the new element in the atomic theory of Democritus that was introduced by Epicurus?

  4. What is Epicurus's ethics based on?

  5. What will help man get free from ignorance to Epicurus?

  6. Did the philosopher have opponents to his doctrine?

  7. What is the main work of Epicurus?

  8. Epicurus was the founder of the Epicurean school, wasn't he?

  9. What did the philosopher teach in his ethical doctrine?

  10. In what way are Epicurus's ethics and religious supersti­tions related?

  11. What was the approach of later thinkers to the philosophi­cal and ethical doctrines of Epicurus?


(Greek philosopher, born in Elea, Southern Italy, about 480 B.C., died in 430 B.C.)

Zeno belonged to the philosophical school which arose in Elea (hence the name Eleatic school) in the 6th-5th centuries B.C. the doctrnes of this philosophical school contained rudiments of idealism alongside materialist views. The Eleatic school denied the usefulness of the senses as a means of attain­ing truth. In fact Eleatics attempted to demonstrate that by rea­son they could allow that the message of the senses must be igno­red.

Aristotle considered Zeno the founder of dialectics, as he studied contradictions and seems to have thought that the truth is proved in discussion. This is how the word "dialectics" was treated in antique philosophy. So Zeno's philosophical method was not dialectical by modern dialectics standards.

Zeno is famous for his paradoxes, all of which seemed to disprove the possibility of motion as it was sensed. The best known is that of Achilles and the tortoise. (Suppose Achilles can run ten tines as fast as a tortoise. And the tortoise has a ten-yard head start. It follows then that Achilles can never overtake the tortoise because while he covers the ten yards difference, the tortoise will have moved ahead one yard. When Achilles covers that one yard, the tortoise will have moved on a tenth of a yard and so on).

These paradoxes, although all based on fallacies, were of utmost importance to science, for .they stimulated thought and gave a headway to the development of mathematics, logic, and dialectics as they discovered the contradictions in the main concepts of space, multitude and motion.

Since all Zeno's paradoxes were based on the assumption that space and time are infinitely divisible, it encouraged men like Democritus to avoid the paradoxes. Democritus searched for indivisibility and found it in the atoms which are, as he claimed, the components of matter. Zeno's dialectics was based on the pos­tulate that contradictions are not permissible in trustworthy thinking.

Zeno's paradoxes were an important stage in the development of the antique dialectic as they greatly influenced the development of modern philosophy and philosophical grounds of mathematics.

Answer the following questions to the text:

  1. When and where was Zeno born?

  2. What philosophy did he belong to?

  3. What philosophical views were characteristic of the Eleatic school?

  4. What was the role played by reason In the process of sense perception according to the philosophers of the Eleatic school?

  5. What is Zeno mostly famous for?

  6. Why were Zeno's paradoxes of great importance for the deve­lopment of philosophy and science?

  7. In what way did Zeno treat contradictions?


(Roman philosopher, born in 95 B.C., died in 55 B.C.)

From 240 B.C. onward, Rome dominated the Mediterranean world politically, militarily and economically, but never intellectual­ly. Leadership in science was left in Greek hands to the very end of ancient times. Titus Lucretius Cerus was the best of Roman thinkers. He was a convinced and ardent follower of Democritus and Epicures.

In the philosophy of Lucretius atomic materialism of the anci­ent world reached its apex. In his book "De natura rerum" ("On the Nature of Things") published in 56 B.C., he expounded a mechanistic view of the universe in a long poem. Lucretius held that all things were composed of atoms and a void. The atoms differ in size, shape and weight. The entire diversity of the world is pro­duced by different combinations of atoms continuously moving in the void. This is quite in the line with the theories of Democritus.

Lucretius voiced many interesting ideas about space and time and denied the universal animateness of matter. He held the external world to be the source of knowledge.

He was the first to divide human history into A Stone Age, A Bronze Age and An Iron Age. Nothing is known of his life except what is drawn from later writings.

Lucretius was the most outstanding atheist of antiquity, the boldest spokesman in the ancient world of antireligious views. He held that nature develops according to its own laws and needs no for explaining it. The people themselves created gods, he declared. Lucretius did not believe in the life thereafter, but considered death as the prelude to peaceful no­thingness and thereafter not to be feared.

His book was specifically intended to lift what be considered the burden of religious fears from the backs of mankind. He was indeed a lonely voice crying in the wilderness in this respect. And the pious of the ancient world viewed him much as those of later times viewed Voltaire.

Lucretius's poem barely survived. A single surviving manuscript was discovered and popularized in I4I7 and soon after Gutenburg's invention of printing, the poem was printed in full. In this way, Lucretius acted as the transmitter of the notion of atonmism from Democritus to Dalton. His philosophy completed the development of ancient materialism.

  1. Answer the following questions to the text:

  1. What are Lucretius's dates of life?

  2. Whom did he follow in philosophy?

  3. What can you say on the dominance of Rome and Greece in the Mediterranean world in antiquity?

  4. What was Lucretius's contribution to the history of philosophy?

  5. In what book did be expound his views?

  6. What was Lucretius's philosophical doctrine?

  7. What is the source of knowledge by Lucretius?

  8. Into what periods did he divide the human history?

  9. In what way did Lucretius treat religion?

  10. Did Lucretius believe in the life after the death?

  11. When was Lucretius's poem discovered?

  12. How did Gutenberg's invention promote the popularization of Lucretius's philosophical doctrine?

  13. Lucretius's philosophy completed the development of anci­ent materialism, didn't it?


Philosophy in Slave Society (Texts 1,2)


Text 3



























Philosophy in slave society iconPhilosophy in slave society

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