To start off, what is Natural Philosophy? Drawing close to the end of the BC era, philosophy had become a major part of Greek life. Through this large focus on the universe and existence they began to wander about the origin of the universe and what made up life. These questions led to the creation of Natural Philosophy.
Natural Philosophy was created to try and explain the existence, state and purpose of the universe. One of main topics debated in Natural Philosophy was: What made up life and all things within the universe?
To solve this questions the ancient philosophers observed the world around them and made hypothesis. Many philosophers had differing hypothesis of what the fundamental material of the world was. As explained in a lecture from Swinburne University of Technology: Thales though the fundamental material was water, as the Earth emerged out of the sea and water fell from the sky as rain. Anaximenes argued it was air, as the world was surrounded by air and all other matter was just compressed air. Heraclitus believed everything emerged from fire, and the energy of fire was what drove life. Pythagoras though everything was made physical representation of numbers as everything can be explained through mathematics. These hypothesis were then supported and criticized by other philosophers with differing hypothesis. This would also lead to the unionization of philosophies, as shown by Empedocles whom combined all the previous philosophers hypothesis and argued everything was made by a combination of earth, wind, fire and water.
Apart from debating the existence of the universe and a fundamental material, Natural Philosophy was also concerned with the ideals and moral of people. As a result the Greek's became very centered around moral and equality. An example of this is the poleis of Athens. Athens adapted a democratic style, in which every free male citizen had an equal voice in politics. The focus on philosophy ended up making the public more centered around rhetoric during debates, which further increased the popularity of philosophical schools. An example of philosophy making its was into politics was the wise words of Plato "Good people do not need laws to tell them to act responsibly, while bad people will find a way around the laws.".
The large influence the Natural Philosophy had on Greek culture was present in the Hellenization of Afroeurasia. With the large conquest of Alexander the Great came the attempt to change the areas conquered to become more Greek in nature, known as Hellenization. This meant adapting to Greek language, literature and philosophy. Since the main philosophy at this point in Greek was Natural Philosophy this led to the areas conquered adapting this philosophy.
Long term influences of Natural Philosophy can still be seen to this day. The adoption of the atomic theory, which was modernly proved, is still relevant. To this day, much like the founders of Natural philosophy, we still debate and wonder as to the beginnings and creation of life and our role in the vast existence of the Universe.
- Swinburne University of Technology: http://astronomy.swin.edu.au/sao/downloads/HET607-M05A01.pdf