"Natural Philosopy began with no name to designate it" - Edward Grant
Concept of natural philosophy originated by the Greeks:
The quote above by Edward Grant expands upon the notion that humans are born natural philosophers; therefore, it cannot be discovered. Likewise, The Greeks were fascinated with wisdom and ways of obtaining more knowledge on the world that we live in. Eventually, they began to merge this concept with other areas such as mathematics, and science; which ultimately became known as natural philosophy. Another term typically used to reference natural philosophy is physical science. Similarly, physical science also is defined as the study of natural bodies as such and the phenomena connected with them. However, the term natural philosophy was more commonly used in the 17th and 18th century when it was derived from Aristotle’s physics’. Subsequently, a wide range of subjects that Aristotle included in the physical sciences is used to describe natural philosophy as distinguished from metaphysics and mathematics. Moreover, the science of those beings that undergo change and are independent of human beings is another way to describe the mechanisms of natural philosophy (Del Soldato, Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 2016).
To put it simply, Natural philosophers or the Pre-Socratics were the first to introduce this concept to Greek society and eventually the world. “Their concept of nature was much broader than ours, encompassing spiritual and mythical as well as aesthetic and physical elements.” (Violatti, 2013)
Subjects explored by natural philosophers and questions asked: Natural philosophers studied a variety of subjects (including mathematics, astronomy, geometry, music, ancient history, linguistics) but their area of specialty lies within the connections between humans and nature; namely science, math, and any corresponding environmental ethics.
Moreover, since Greeks thought the world was eternal, they did not question its existence as much as the change that happens around us. Examples of these questions included: “Who are we? How can we be happy? And Does the universe have a purpose?” Natural philosophers believed that all things were made of one substance either water or air. Yet The question of how changes occurred remained relevant in their time. For this reason, natural philosophy was initially used to answer questions regarding "theological problems like explaining angels and the nature of the soul or an effort to resolve contradictions between Christian doctrines and Aristotelian concepts of the cosmos" (Del Soldato, Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 2016).
This video gives an in-depth view into the Greeks and how philosophy came to exist through their discoveries and innovations. (Sorryboat, youtube, 2009)
Solutions to questions about natural philosophy proposed by the Greeks: The study of the natural world was conducted through observations and conclusions were drawn from reflection and logical deduction. In other words, Greek philosophers attempted to solve the questions of natural philosophy in a genuine scientific, sometimes mystic way that appeared to be in an imaginative fashion (Violatti, 2013).
Emergence of natural philosophy in the Greek society: The initial phase of classical Greek civilization, Ionian Awakening, is coincidental with the birth of Greek philosophy (Gaarder, 2007). Through this phase emerged the first group of Greek philosophers: Thales, Anaximander, and Anaximenes. Each with their own idea on a “primal substance” that created all things: Thales (water), Anaximander (a substance different from all other substances), and Anaximenes (air). Their thinking encouraged the observation of subsequent thinkers and began to rationally approach the traditional questions that were initially answered by superstition and religion. This form of thinking caused perplexity on the nations that relied upon theocratic governments, like Babylon and Egypt, where religion was important in a political and social aspect. Natural philosophy ultimately divided the Greek city-states or poleis between the sophists and Socrates, but it also offered a new way of thinking that inspired a lot of innovations and discoveries (Fernandez-Armesto, 2016).
Natural philosophy's affect on the spread of Hellenism throughout Afro Eurasia:
Hellenism was a way for Greeks to promote their ideas and accomplishments, in hopes of conquering more territory. In fact, the Mediterranean was frequently used by the Phoenician and Greek colonization to exchange ideas and cultural aspects so much so that it was named the “highway of cultural exchange." Through this method, Alexander the great introduced Hellenism and proceeded to spread it through his conquests and victories until it was all throughout Afro-Eurasia. The integration of central and south Asia into east-west links affected the politics, economics, and cultures of Afro-Eurasia. Hellenism soon became the link between different areas which stressed the common identity of all world parts involved. Not to mention, the cult of the self that developed as a result of the Hellenistic religion and philosophy increasingly focusing on the individual and his or her place in the larger world.
Another instance of Hellenism's affect during this time period was the social elites beliefs about it. By adopting the Hellenistic culture, social elites believed they could enhance their position (Fernandez-Armesto, 2016).
Current uses of the ancient Greek natural philosophy: Today, the term natural philosophy has been dissected into physical science and further broken down to be a multitude of subjects. Nevertheless, the ancient Greek natural philosophy is still used today through mathematics, physics and their ties to nature. Moreover, the study of nature, newly developed theories, and the continued use of Greek ideologies illustrates the recent use of natural philosophy. By utilizing the methods of scientific theory and principles proposed by ancient Greeks, we are able to infer on the big questions of life. Conclusively, these elements are still taught in educational programs and courses worldwide, and their contributions have clarified many questions pertaining to the concept of nature and life as we know it.