Natural Greek Philosophy BY pierina barletti (woh 2012)

Greek poetry describes the world beginning without prior matter. They believed the prime mover of the universe created it and sustained it. There was also the atomic theory, the theory that matter is not a continuous whole but is composed of tiny particles, which opposed the concept of nothing. Plato's creator-god "did not start from nothing but rearranged what was already there" (5.2.1). The Greeks did not believe in monotheism, the idea of a unique God, they thought the world was crowded with gods. The Greeks would array them in order according to their importance and responsibilities.

Natural philosophy can be described as "the study of change and motion in the physical world"(Grant). Greek natural philosophers explored subjects ranging from mathematics and music to logic. One important Greek natural philosopher was Aristotle. He was more empirically-minded than other Greek philosophers. He focused on knowledge, reasoning and logic. He did not agree with the idea of the world and the notion of nothing. To him, the notion of motion, space, and time existed before the world was created. His philosophy of nature was based on physics. Later on, he continued with the subject of physics and "developed a hierarchy of living souls" (5.2.1). In his scale, human beings were superior to animals and plants since they were of more worth.

Most of the questions Greek Natural Philosophers asked were about knowledge. What is knowledge? How do we know what is real? What are we suppose to know? The Greeks tried to solve this questions through science and logic. They seek out for a single explanation for all that exists.
The emergence of natural philosophy changed Greek society from thinking religiously to thinking more politically and scientifically.

Before Greek natural philosophy, Greek society thought of existence through God and the concept of nothing. They thought that God created everything in the universe. As natural philosophy started to expand, the way Greeks thought of the world changed. They started to think more logically about the existence of the universe. Plato, a Greek philosopher, and his atomic theory "raised an apparently invincible objection to the notion of nothing: the void is a non-being; and no part of what is can be non-being" (3.2.1). Even though Aristotle criticized Plato's theory, the society's way of thinking became more scientifically rather than thinking "the void" created the universe.

Hellenism can be defined as a "tribalism of the spirit, not of the blood" (Peters). Its lessons were learned all across Afroeurasia. This spread of Hellenism could not have been achieved if it wasn't for Greek natural philosophy. As Peters explained, "Hellenism's achievement lies not simply in socializing, however, but in the pursuit of intellectual ends". By intellectual end, he means using logos, the use of reason. Reason is important because it "governs the universe through the operation of natural laws; it guides the individual in making prudent judgments; and it controls the civil environment through institutions" (Peters). Natural philosophy play an important role in the spread of Hellenism.

Elements of the ancient Greek natural philosophy are still seen today.

We see them mostly in educational settings. Natural philosophy plays an important role in subjects like science and mathematics. We also used it when thinking about the world and how it was formed.

Work Cited

Grant, Edward. “The Fate of Ancient Greek Natural Philosophy in the Middle Ages: Islam and Western Christianity.” The Review of Metaphysics, vol. 61, no. 3, 2008, pp. 503–526.

Fernández-Armesto, Felipe. The world: A history. 3rd ed. Vol. 1, Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson/Prentice Hall, 2007.

Peters, F. E. “Hellenism and the Near East.” The Biblical Archaeologist, vol. 46, no. 1, 1983, pp. 33–39.


Created with images by Ranya - "temple of poseidon ancient greek" • Dimitris Graffin - "Πλάτων, Ακαδημία Αθηνών" • DariuszSankowski - "knowledge book library" • Stefan Baudy - "Question!" • heathertruett - "church religion christianity" • russ101 - "temple of delphi ancient greek" • NASA Goddard Photo and Video - "NASA's MESSENGER Satellite Captures Spectacular Color Mosaic of Mercury"

Made with Adobe Slate

Make your words and images move.

Get Slate

Report Abuse

If you feel that this video content violates the Adobe Terms of Use, you may report this content by filling out this quick form.

To report a Copyright Violation, please follow Section 17 in the Terms of Use.