History of Philosophy and Definition of Philosophy in My Own Words

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Table of Contents

  • What is Philosophy?
  • The Ancient World 700 BCE – 250 BCE
  • Thales Miletus (624 to 546)
  • Laozi (6th century)
  • Pythagoras (570–495)
  • Siddhartha Gautama (563 – 483)
  • Socrates (469 - 399)
  • Plato (427 – 347)
  • Aristotle (384 – 322)
  • The Medieval World 250 – 1500 BCE

'Philosophy Book Big ideas Simply Explained” is a beautiful illustration with pictures and diagrams, and interesting book about ideas of philosophy. This book provides an overview of the World’s most famous Philosophers, their autobiographies and their noticeable ideas in philosophy. The book is divided in different eras starting from the ancient world to the contemporary philosophy. The book covers almost all famous ideas of famous philosophers starting from Classical Greek philosophy to the modern contemporary philosophy. It explains more than one hundred of the great ideas in philosophy in very simple language. This is an essential introduction to the concepts, history and thinking behind the philosophy. The book is divided in different time frame categories starting with introduction of philosophy, The Ancient world (700 BCE-250 BCE), The Medieval World (250-1500), Renaissance And The Age Of Reason (1500-1750), The Age of Revolution (1750-1900), The Modern World (1900-1950) and Contemporary Philosophy (1950-Present). The book contains 351 pages.

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What is Philosophy?

Philosophy is not so about coming with answer to the questions. Although we may not realize but whatever we reason, we are thinking philosophically. Philosophy has four main branches Epistemology, metaphysics and logic. Epistemology is theory of knowledge, the study of nature and extent of knowledge. How we come to know, what we know is some knowledge? Can we know something from reasoning only? These are the question related to the philosophy. We are need to able to rely on our knowledge in order to correctly reasoning. What is universe made of? What is the nature of the universe? What is relationship between our mind and body? These are the question which deals the metaphysics. The area of metaphysics is concerned with the question of existence. Logic well justified rule of reasoning. The logical argument starts from premise and work through series of steps to conclusion. What is ‘good’ ‘bad’ and ‘beautiful’? These are the question deals with ethics. Philosophy is not simply about ideas and a way of thinking. There are frequently no rights or wrong answers and different philosophers often come to radically different conclusions in their investigations into questions that science cannot and religion does not explain.

The Ancient World 700 BCE – 250 BCE

First I shall give the overview of the beginning of the philosophy than I shall discuss the ideas of philosophers in the ancient era. From the beginning of human history people have asked question about the world in which they live some of the answers of these questions were found in the religion. But some people found these religious answers inadequate and they began to search these answers based on the reasoning. This shift takes the birth of philosophy and the first philosopher was known as Thales of Miletus. He passed the process of thinking rationally and reasoning to his followers so due to this reason Thales regarded as first philosopher. The work of the path agoras was key turning point as sought to explain the world in terms of mathematics. Classical Greek’s philosophy takes birth due to the ideas of Socrates. He started questioning, How we know, what we know? Socrates has left no writings, but his ideas lay down the foundation of philosophy. The classical period of the Greek philosophy was come to an end with the death of The Alexander the great in 323 BC. After the death of Aristotle philosophy has divided into many schools of thoughts such as Cynics, Skeptical, Epicurean, and Stoics. In China from 771 to BCE led to the collection of hundred schools of thoughts in the field of Ethics and political Just. But most famous and significant were Confucianism and Doism dominated in Chinese philosophy until 20th century. Around 500 BCE Siddhartha Gautama was known as Buddha in Northern India. His philosophy spread across the subcontinent and Southern Asia.

Thales Miletus (624 to 546)

First I shall the background of Thales Miletus. He was born and lived in Miletus on the coast of the river. We know little about him and none of his writings left. He was actively involved in politics and was successful business man. While visiting Egypt he learned the practical Geometry which was the base of his deductive reasoning. He was the teacher at Milesian school of philosophers. Anaximander was his pupil who expanded his scientific theories and ideas. According to him very thing is made of water. He started posing the question what is the universe made of? Thales reasons that the fundamental material universe had be something which is the foundation of everything. So he observed that water is necessary for all the forms of life. It has different forms such liquid to solid, ice and vaporous mist. He stated that earth must be floated on the bed of water and anything that caused the ripples in water caused the earth quack.

Laozi (6th century)

“The Dao that can be told is not the eternal Dao.”Laozi was the significant figure of Chinese philosophy he used the Daoism approach. The Chinese politics evolved from politics, and concerned with Ethics rather than composition of cosmos. One of the most important ideas appears at that time was “the way and its power”. It was the first approach to propose the theory of Just rule based on de (virtue), which could be founded by following Dao (the way). His famous quote was “knowing others is intelligence, knowing yourself is true wisdom”.

Pythagoras (570–495)

“Number is the ruler of forms and ideas”. He was the concerned with the branch of metaphysics and used the Pythagoreanism approach. He was probably born on the island of Samos. He studied at Milesian school founded by Thales Miletus where he learned geometry. He believed that shapes and ratios are governed the principal that can be discovered by mathematical reasoning. For example, the Egyptians had discovered that a triangle whose sides have ratios of 3:4:5 always has a right angle, and this was useful in practice, such as in architecture. But Pythagoras discovered the underlying principal behind right angle triangle that “the square of the hypotenuse equals the sum of the squares of the other two sides” and found it to be universally true. He argued that number can be used to explain every structure of the cosmos. His most important discovery was the relationships between the numbers, the ratios and proportions that were used in Harmonic series. Then he applied his theories to see the relationships between the stars, elements and planets. His most famous idea was the principal of deductive reasoning which is the step by step process such as 2+2=4. His famous quote was “The reason is immortal all else mortal.”

Siddhartha Gautama (563 – 483)

Gautama was known as Buddha, was born in Lumbini (Nepal) around 560 BCE. His father was the leader of clan and he led a life very luxurious and high status. But he was not contented with this life and left this in search of spiritual path. He was concerned with eastern philosophy and used the Buddhism approach. He was the first to challenge the sacred Veda text with his philosophical reasoning. He gave the four truth of his life. The truth of sufferings (Dukkha), it is an inherent part of existence from birth through sickness and old age to death. The truth of origin of suffering (Samudaya) the cause of suffering is desire. The truth of ending of suffering (Nirodha) suffering can be ended by detaching oneself from attachment. The truth of the path to ending of suffering (Magga) the eightfold path is the mean to end eliminate the ego and desires. The eightfold path includes the elements, right mind fullness, right action, right intention, right livelihood, right efforts, right concentration, right speech, and right understanding. His famous quotes are, “Belief nothing, no matter where you read it, or who said it, unless it agrees with your own reasons.” And “peace comes from within. Do not seek it without.”

Socrates (469 - 399)

Socrates was born in Athens in 469 BCE. He was the son of stonemason. He was the founder of western philosophy and wrote nothing. He was concerned with the branch of epistemology and used the dialectic method. He used to ask question and gave new way of thinking, this was called dialectic method. It proceeds as dialogue between opposing views. His famous works were the phaiedo, symposium and apology which were recorded by his pupil Plato in the form of dialogues. He was interested in examining the life. He was the first philosopher, who introduced the concept of “good life”. He rejected the idea that virtue is relative thing according to him it is absolute. He gave the notion of immortal soul. He used to say “I know nothing except the fact of my ignorance”. He was sentence to death punishment in 399 BCE due to charges of corrupting the youth.

Plato (427 – 347)

Plato was born in noble family in Athens around 427 BCE and named as Aristocles but later he acquired the name Plato meaning “broad”. Around 385 BCE he founded the school called the Academy. He was the student of Socrates he was concerned with the branch of philosophy and used the rationalism approach in philosophy. Socrates has left no writings. Plato recorded his important work in the form of dialogues. Plato’s famous idea was the theory of form. In which he said nothing is in its original form everything is the shadow. To illustrate his theory he demonstrated with allegory of the cave. He gave the notion that material is not concrete reality only the ideas in our mind is realty. He believed that human beings are divided into two form body and soul. Our body possesses the senses through we perceive and our soul possesses the reason through which we can perceive the realm of the ideas. He said the “The soul of man is immortal and imperishable.”

Aristotle (384 – 322)

Aristotle was born in Stagira and was the son of Physician. He was the student of Plato. He was concerned with branch of epistemology and used the approach epricisism. Aristotle believes that things in the material world are not imperfect copies of some ideal Form of themselves, but that the essential form of a thing is actually inherent in each instance of that thing. For example, “dogginess”is not just a shared characteristic of dogs. He opposed the idea of Plato theory of forms and he was believed in testimony of senses. His other famous work was the biological classification and the Syllogism. He was the founder of “Logic”. His famous quotes are “Man is social animal” and “Everything that depends on the action of nature is by nature as good as it can be”.

The Medieval World 250 – 1500 BCE

Early Christian philosophers such as St. Augustine of Hippo sought to integrate Greek philosophy into the Christian religion. This process was the main task of scholasticism, a philosophical approach stemmed from the monastic schools and was renowned for its rigorous dialectical reasoning. As the Roman Empire shrank and eventually fell, Europe sank into the “Dark Ages” and most of the culture it had inherited from Greece and Rome disappeared. The Church held the monopoly on learning, and the only true philosophy that survived was a form of Platonism. Islamic world also introduced a world of science and technology to the medieval Europe. In 15th century sparked the change of mode which led the people towards new thinking of rationality rather than faith to provide the answer of their questions.

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