The Presocratics

What you are about
to see
is the history of philosophy
told
in the form of poetic
stanzas

The norm?
No, certainly not
but worth a shot

Let’s begin
our tale
going all the way
back to Thales
hell
we’ll even begin
in the mythologos
of Hesiod:

Hesiod

O thee
Hesiod famous poet of Ancient
Greece
having written his writing
around
the time of Homer in the late 8th
well
maybe 7th centuries BC
who knows exactly
but the point remains
his poems
a part of Greek mythology
considered
pre-philosopical
transitional
from the traditional
mythological understanding
of the world
to the new phil-and-scientifical
understanding
we know and love
by the name
of
Wisdom

Well then
his famous works
Theogony “birth of the Gods”
and Works and Practices
feel free to look
them up if you’re
interested in the details
and particularities
to see
how he creates a picture
similar to the Babylonian
creation story Enuma Elish
where
Greek-gods Olympic
are born
have kids
and grad-kids
too
making up the composition
of Earth-Gaia
Tartaros-Underworld
and Ouranos-Heaven

And so
then
the uniqueness here
is that in contrast
to Homer
he ain’t just telling
Greek mythologos
stories
of old
but rather
is seeking to combine
mythological elements into
a new coherent
understanding of the world

The traditional understanding
conceptual
is that human beings
are being
ruled over by the Olympic Gods
powerful immortal
can do whatever they want
but here
Hesiod
instead chooses
to use them for different
ends
literally making
up the geography
of the Universe
the Oceans Hills and Darkness
explaining how
they came into being
they serve
an order
relationship
Zeus at the top
naturally
creating
a structured ordered
cosmos
world

And this we will see
will lead
to the philosophy
and science of future
Western World
embrace in understanding
of how
things go

Now
let
us continue
to the next man
philosophical Thales
who
will take the ball
and run with it
to create a whole
new tradition
of thought:

2. Thales

Thales born in Miletus
that’s Greece 620 BC
best known
for his belief that water
is the fundamental principle
of the world
breaking with the traditional
view that the world
is the result
of the will of the Gods
instead
he chose
watery discourse
replacing mythology
with a new type
of rationality
beginning the Western
tradition of science
i.e. natural philosophy
in understanding
the world
as we would like it to be

Thales traveled through the
ancient world gathering
knowledge of Egyptian
geometry and Babylonian
astronomy
credited
for 5 geometric theorems
involving triangle
semi-circles and right angles
his wisdom was legendary
the only philosopher
to be deemed
one of the Seven Sages

He used his astronomic
knowledge to predict the eclipse
of 585
and recognized the importance
of water for sustaining
life
seeing how it could
be easily
changed from 1 thing
to the next
vapor heated
ice cooled
it must be clearly
the ultimate principle
arche
of existence

And so, he broke from
the Greek gnosis
of Poseidon
as the cause
of the motions under
the subterranean
oceans
positing
physicality as the
reason for eathquakes
in our perceived
reality

And so he saw
water as divine
replacing Olympian
god-men
anything with motion
has a soul
therefore water
too is eternal
and living
responsible for creation
as well as change

The first absent-minded
professor
Plato tells us
of how Thales
gazed upwards
doing his astronomic
calculations
falling into a well
made fun of by
a clever Thracian girl
who spoke
“He was so eager
to know the things
in the heavens
he failed to notice
what was right
in front of him.”

O the use he saw
in philosophical reasoning
falling into poverty
too
he figured out
how to
determine
the season
of fortune in olive-tree
growing
making
money in abundance
showing
that the philosopher
can be as rich
as he wishes
but doesn’t
for the simple
reason that
his goal is not
wealth
but knowledge

He divided the year
into seasons
gave dates for the solstices
even realized
the year could
be seen as being made
up of 365 days
recognized
the earth is sphere-shaped
proposing diameters for
the sun and moon
soon to help his
fellow Milesian sailors
and maritime traders
to navigate using Ursa Minor

In Egypt he saw the way
they re-measured
land after flooding
and he used
it to understand
the basics of geometry
though unable
to provide formal mathematical
proofs
he did show easily
enough through direct observation
that which he believed.

What a man
benefiting by living in a time
and place
where freedom of thought
and expression was
graced
the city polis
Miletus
aristocratic
and secular
independent of large centralized
religious and political
institutions.

Here he
engaged in new ways
of thinking and discussing
with others like Anaximander
and Anaximenes
encouraging
questions
criticality
evidence and justification
the basis of rational
explanation.

Whoa there!
What wondrous
things leading man on his
way to many a fruitful
conversation
shall
we continue
in this celebration of the
history of wisdom?

Sure, why not
our next man Anaximander:

Anaximander

Ancient Greek too he
610 born BC
replaced Thales’s belief
in water
with his own eternal
unlimited entity
i.e. the apeiron
funny name
but lets give it a chance

He saw the world
was a sphere
celestial globe
mapping out the heavens
he predicted earthquakes
and did all sorts
of other cool things

Speculative astronomer
meaning he guesed
what he couldn’t see
such as the planets
making full circles passing
beneath the earth
which of course
he thought
was the center of the universe
a theory maintained
until 1543 when
Copernicus
intervened

The first greek
to realize
planets and stars
not the same distance
from earth
his celestial vault
concept
recognizing
the depths
of space
Babylon!
astronomy introduced
to greece
the gnomen
a sundial-raised
tells you the time of day

He put one up in Sparta
how nice
to see Greeks
working together
to prevent natural
destruction
predicting
earthquakes
and making the necessary
provisions

Because Anaximander
didn’t see why everything
was water
he chose
to instead
think of all as made
of some randomly
called apeiron
i.e. indefinite principle
eternal always in motion
divine creator of all things
basically God
in not so many words
“without limit”
not a gimmick
newness creation
bringing Greeks away
from mythology
towards
new rational quote unquote
questions

He talks
about this one thing
apeiron
splintering
giving off
separation to create
other stuff
the opposites hot
and cold
dark mist
earth of old
giving way to planets
and stars
its logical
just start from an initial principle
and proceed forward accordingly

the interplay of opposites
described as committing
acts of injustice to each other
winter harsh
against the summer
reparations paid
cyclical endlessness
re-paid

Father of Cosmology
reasoning mechanic processes
modeling the universe
symmetrical
understanding
sun
certainly far away
that’s why its so small
it was he
to realize
this
to think the planets
and stars were fiery disks
with elliptical motion
due
to wind

The weather patterns
in heavens
cloud vapor and mist
thunder and lightning
not from Zeus
but the clashing of elements
all is connected

Earth non-moving
center of the universe
he may have been wrong
about that
but he set us
on course
to dis-prove
him so let’s give
him props
trying his best
to explain
according
to what Leibniz
will later call
the Principle of Sufficient
Reason
that we should
only believe
that which we have
a reason to think
actually exists
somehow
this suggesting
to him the earth
flat on top
round around
the sides
a cylinder
no wonder
no blunder
just the attempts
to under-stand
this world
we live in

Animals arising
from the ocean
thoughts evolutionary
even back
then
engaging in
critical discussion
quite pleasant
actually
or at least so i imagine

but let’s move on
shall we?