The Greek philosophers’ contribution to language
Xenophon and Plato both tell the story of Socrates' defense in his trial. He defended himself by exposing errors or inconsistencies in his interlocutors' positions.
Aristotle, a student of Plato, wrote many philosophical dialogues on topics such as logic, metaphysics and astronomy. His philosophy also influenced the development of Western science.
Empedocles, a native of Acragas, Sicily, lived c. 490 bc to 430 bc. Tradition presents him as a poet, statesman, religious teacher, and rhetorician of great skill. He is credited with having put down an oligarchy at Acragas and instituting democracy there by the use of his powers of speech.
He also developed a system of physics that had an unusual biological focus. He used the botanical metaphor of 'roots' to describe what were later called elements. He argued that these 'roots' could form different kinds of matter just as a limited number of colours can produce all sorts of different hues.
Empedocles was influenced by Parmenides but developed his ideas into a more dynamic world. He believed that nothing came into being or was destroyed, but things merely transformed into different forms as a result of the interaction of the four elements.
During the 7th Century BC, philosophers began to concentrate more on natural science and less on moral questions. Anaxagoras was one of the first Greek thinkers to make a name for himself in scientific thought. He built on the ideas of earlier Ionian School thinkers, but added a new concept. He believed that the universe was constructed of indestructible, interlocking "seeds" (spermata) that were separated and arranged by a power called nous.
He taught for 30 years in Athens, but he was charged with impiety when he denied that the sun and moon were gods, instead describing them as fiery stones. He was acquitted, but he never returned to Athens and retired to Lampasacus in the Troad. He died in c. 480 BCE.
Heraclitus was a dark philosopher, so called because his writings are difficult to understand. He taught that everything is in flux and never stays the same, a philosophy expressed by his famous sayings, "No man steps in the same river twice" and "Panta rhei" (Life is flow).
He argued that nothing can be permanent because opposites continually clash to produce change. Heraclitus was also the first philosopher to introduce the concept of logos, which means word or thought.
Heraclitus' riddling statements force the attentive reader to interpret them and thereby gain a proper understanding of nature. Heraclitus considered sound thinking the greatest virtue and wisdom, because it allows one to act in harmony with the universe.
Parmenides is widely regarded as one of the most important Greek philosophers. He was born in Elea, a Greek settlement on the Tyrrhenian coast of Ionia. The conventional dating of his philosophical activity is 540 B.C.E. (Coxon Test), based on the later doxographical accounts of Diogenes and Apollodorus.
Against this backdrop, it is easy to understand why many commentators have focused upon the opening lines of the Proem of the Nature of Truth. Here an unnamed goddess tells the youth that he must learn both Reality and Opinion. Nevertheless, the interpretations have varied considerably.
A number of scholars have argued that the Proem contains parallels with Babylonian sun-mythology and Orphic and Shamanistic themes. This view, however, has been challenged by philological and interpretative considerations.