Citation for this page in APA citation style.           Close


Philosophers

Mortimer Adler
Rogers Albritton
Alexander of Aphrodisias
Samuel Alexander
William Alston
Anaximander
G.E.M.Anscombe
Anselm
Louise Antony
Thomas Aquinas
Aristotle
David Armstrong
Harald Atmanspacher
Robert Audi
Augustine
J.L.Austin
A.J.Ayer
Alexander Bain
Mark Balaguer
Jeffrey Barrett
William Belsham
Henri Bergson
George Berkeley
Isaiah Berlin
Richard J. Bernstein
Bernard Berofsky
Robert Bishop
Max Black
Susanne Bobzien
Emil du Bois-Reymond
Hilary Bok
Laurence BonJour
George Boole
Émile Boutroux
F.H.Bradley
C.D.Broad
Michael Burke
C.A.Campbell
Joseph Keim Campbell
Rudolf Carnap
Carneades
Ernst Cassirer
David Chalmers
Roderick Chisholm
Chrysippus
Cicero
Randolph Clarke
Samuel Clarke
Anthony Collins
Antonella Corradini
Diodorus Cronus
Jonathan Dancy
Donald Davidson
Mario De Caro
Democritus
Daniel Dennett
Jacques Derrida
René Descartes
Richard Double
Fred Dretske
John Dupré
John Earman
Laura Waddell Ekstrom
Epictetus
Epicurus
Herbert Feigl
John Martin Fischer
Owen Flanagan
Luciano Floridi
Philippa Foot
Alfred Fouilleé
Harry Frankfurt
Richard L. Franklin
Michael Frede
Gottlob Frege
Peter Geach
Edmund Gettier
Carl Ginet
Alvin Goldman
Gorgias
Nicholas St. John Green
H.Paul Grice
Ian Hacking
Ishtiyaque Haji
Stuart Hampshire
W.F.R.Hardie
Sam Harris
William Hasker
R.M.Hare
Georg W.F. Hegel
Martin Heidegger
Heraclitus
R.E.Hobart
Thomas Hobbes
David Hodgson
Shadsworth Hodgson
Baron d'Holbach
Ted Honderich
Pamela Huby
David Hume
Ferenc Huoranszki
William James
Lord Kames
Robert Kane
Immanuel Kant
Tomis Kapitan
Jaegwon Kim
William King
Hilary Kornblith
Christine Korsgaard
Saul Kripke
Andrea Lavazza
Keith Lehrer
Gottfried Leibniz
Leucippus
Michael Levin
George Henry Lewes
C.I.Lewis
David Lewis
Peter Lipton
C. Lloyd Morgan
John Locke
Michael Lockwood
E. Jonathan Lowe
John R. Lucas
Lucretius
Alasdair MacIntyre
Ruth Barcan Marcus
James Martineau
Storrs McCall
Hugh McCann
Colin McGinn
Michael McKenna
Brian McLaughlin
John McTaggart
Paul E. Meehl
Uwe Meixner
Alfred Mele
Trenton Merricks
John Stuart Mill
Dickinson Miller
G.E.Moore
Thomas Nagel
Friedrich Nietzsche
John Norton
P.H.Nowell-Smith
Robert Nozick
William of Ockham
Timothy O'Connor
Parmenides
David F. Pears
Charles Sanders Peirce
Derk Pereboom
Steven Pinker
Plato
Karl Popper
Porphyry
Huw Price
H.A.Prichard
Protagoras
Hilary Putnam
Willard van Orman Quine
Frank Ramsey
Ayn Rand
Michael Rea
Thomas Reid
Charles Renouvier
Nicholas Rescher
C.W.Rietdijk
Richard Rorty
Josiah Royce
Bertrand Russell
Paul Russell
Gilbert Ryle
Jean-Paul Sartre
Kenneth Sayre
T.M.Scanlon
Moritz Schlick
Arthur Schopenhauer
John Searle
Wilfrid Sellars
Alan Sidelle
Ted Sider
Henry Sidgwick
Walter Sinnott-Armstrong
J.J.C.Smart
Saul Smilansky
Michael Smith
Baruch Spinoza
L. Susan Stebbing
Isabelle Stengers
George F. Stout
Galen Strawson
Peter Strawson
Eleonore Stump
Francisco Suárez
Richard Taylor
Kevin Timpe
Mark Twain
Peter Unger
Peter van Inwagen
Manuel Vargas
John Venn
Kadri Vihvelin
Voltaire
G.H. von Wright
David Foster Wallace
R. Jay Wallace
W.G.Ward
Ted Warfield
Roy Weatherford
William Whewell
Alfred North Whitehead
David Widerker
David Wiggins
Bernard Williams
Timothy Williamson
Ludwig Wittgenstein
Susan Wolf

Scientists

Michael Arbib
Bernard Baars
Gregory Bateson
John S. Bell
Charles Bennett
Ludwig von Bertalanffy
Susan Blackmore
Margaret Boden
David Bohm
Niels Bohr
Ludwig Boltzmann
Emile Borel
Max Born
Satyendra Nath Bose
Walther Bothe
Hans Briegel
Leon Brillouin
Stephen Brush
Henry Thomas Buckle
S. H. Burbury
Donald Campbell
Anthony Cashmore
Eric Chaisson
Jean-Pierre Changeux
Arthur Holly Compton
John Conway
John Cramer
E. P. Culverwell
Charles Darwin
Terrence Deacon
Louis de Broglie
Max Delbrück
Abraham de Moivre
Paul Dirac
Hans Driesch
John Eccles
Arthur Stanley Eddington
Paul Ehrenfest
Albert Einstein
Hugh Everett, III
Franz Exner
Richard Feynman
R. A. Fisher
Joseph Fourier
Lila Gatlin
Michael Gazzaniga
GianCarlo Ghirardi
J. Willard Gibbs
Nicolas Gisin
Paul Glimcher
Thomas Gold
A.O.Gomes
Brian Goodwin
Joshua Greene
Jacques Hadamard
Patrick Haggard
Stuart Hameroff
Augustin Hamon
Sam Harris
Hyman Hartman
John-Dylan Haynes
Martin Heisenberg
Werner Heisenberg
John Herschel
Jesper Hoffmeyer
E. T. Jaynes
William Stanley Jevons
Roman Jakobson
Pascual Jordan
Ruth E. Kastner
Stuart Kauffman
Martin J. Klein
Simon Kochen
Stephen Kosslyn
Ladislav Kovàč
Rolf Landauer
Alfred Landé
Pierre-Simon Laplace
David Layzer
Benjamin Libet
Seth Lloyd
Hendrik Lorentz
Josef Loschmidt
Ernst Mach
Donald MacKay
Henry Margenau
James Clerk Maxwell
Ernst Mayr
Ulrich Mohrhoff
Jacques Monod
Emmy Noether
Abraham Pais
Howard Pattee
Wolfgang Pauli
Massimo Pauri
Roger Penrose
Steven Pinker
Colin Pittendrigh
Max Planck
Susan Pockett
Henri Poincaré
Daniel Pollen
Ilya Prigogine
Hans Primas
Adolphe Quételet
Juan Roederer
Jerome Rothstein
David Ruelle
Erwin Schrödinger
Aaron Schurger
Claude Shannon
David Shiang
Herbert Simon
Dean Keith Simonton
B. F. Skinner
Roger Sperry
John Stachel
Henry Stapp
Tom Stonier
Antoine Suarez
Leo Szilard
William Thomson (Kelvin)
Peter Tse
Vlatko Vedral
Heinz von Foerster
John von Neumann
John B. Watson
Daniel Wegner
Steven Weinberg
Paul A. Weiss
John Wheeler
Wilhelm Wien
Norbert Wiener
Eugene Wigner
E. O. Wilson
H. Dieter Zeh
Ernst Zermelo
Wojciech Zurek

Presentations

Biosemiotics
Free Will
Mental Causation
James Symposium
 
Metaphysics and the Presocratics
Although metaphysics properly begins with Aristotle's search for the underlying principles of reality, he looked to the claims of the presocratics as possible answers to deep questions such as "what is there?" and what are the causes behind everything.

Most of their presocratic claims were speculations about the physical nature of the cosmos and its origins. In some ways, the presocratics might be viewed as the earliest natural scientists, with their strong interest in physics, chemistry, astronomy, geology, meteorology, and even psychology. Where earlier thinkers had given mythological or religious explanations of natural phenomena, attributing them to named gods, the first thinkers in the Ionian school were called physiologoi by Aristotle, because they offered accounts (logoi) for nature (phusis).

If we describe the great triad of traditional/modern/postmodern as mythos/logos/nomos, we can say that the presocratics abandoned the traditional myths in favor of modern reasoning about natural phenomena.

By contrast, Socrates/Plato changed the subject to ethical issues. The sophists argued that ethical problems are relative to the cultural values of a given community. They cannot be decided by reason. Science can discover how the world is (facts), but not how it ought to be (values). Values depend on the conventions and norms of a society, a question of nomos. Protagoras studied the norms of a community before writing their constitution for them. Protagoras was a postmodern thinker, probably the first. We make modern and postmodern a philosphical stance, not a temporal period.

It took Aristotle to return to cosmological, theological, and metaphysical issues first raised by the presocratic philosophers and the great epic writers like Homer and Hesiod. And in his great works on ethics, Aristotle sought universal principles. He was a modern thinker, who thought we can reason to values.

Thales of Miletus is regarded as the first Greek philosopher. To know anything, he advised, begin with advice, "Know thyself" This motto, γνῶθι σεαυτόν, was engraved on the facade of the Oracle of Apollo in Delphi. His cosmogony was that everything began as water.

For Anaximander of Miletus, a student of Thales, the first principle is a sort of indefinite and unbounded moving element, the apeiron (ἄπειρον). Unlike the other presocratics, he did not name a known specific element as the origin of all matter, like water (Thales), fire (Heraclitus), or air (Anaximenes). Anaximander may have been the first natural scientist, describing principles about the creation and destruction of order as an arrangement of things in time, which are created and later perish.

The two great antagonist views among the ancients were from Parmenides and Heraclitus. For Parmenides, "All is One," there is no such thing as nothing (the void of the atomists), and change is an illusion (all the Zeno paradoxes of motion attempted to support his master Parmenides's claims).

For Heraclitus, by contrast, "All is Flux." There is nothing but change. "You can't step in the same river twice." For his primal element, Heraclitus chose fire, because unlike Thales's water and Anaximines's air (and of course Earth), Fire is always rapidly changing.The one great positive insight of Heraclitus was that behind all changes there are laws – the "Logos." He clearly anticipates the modern notion of the laws of nature.

Aristotle gives great credit to several presocratic philosophers, starting with Thales of Miletus, for attempting "natural" explanations for phenomena where earlier thinkers had given only poetic, mythological, or theological stories. Although the explanations were very simple, they were as basic as could be. Thales said "All is Water." This means everything material now is somehow made from water. This is the sort of basic principle snd discovery of basic elements of nature that Aristotle was after.

For Anaximenes, another Milesian, the primal element from which all is made is air.

Pythagoras gave Plato the idea that mathematics could supply the most fundamental explanations of reality, namely the Forms, the organization and arrangement of things in the universe. Most other pre-Socratics were focused on material explanations, especially the atomists, Democritus and Leucippus, who were physical determinists, and Epicurus, who agreed about the atoms and void, but made the atoms swerve to add an element of indeterminism to events.

Among the Sophists, Protagoras was the greatest relativist, and can be regarded as the first postmodern. He travelled Greece to write constitutions for different city-states, not by following a perfectly rational and universal constitution suitable for all people as would a modern thinker, but by asking the citizens what their norms and practices should be. He is famously known for the relativistic idea that "man is the measure of all things," which recognizes that everything in culture is created by man.

The great sophist a href="/solutions/philosophers/gorgias/">Gorgias was an even greater relativist than Protagoras. He challenged the many physicists (φυσικοι) who lectured and wrote on "what there is" in treatises called "Peri Physis" (Περι Φύσις) - roughly, About Nature, or The Nature of the Physical World.

The content of the typical physicist/philosopher lectures was usually in three parts:

  • Things exist
  • You can know what things exist
  • You can tell others about what exists

Gorgias is reported to have dazzled and delighted his audiences by proving the opposites of these, by using nearly identical arguments:

  • Nothing exists
  • If by chance something did exist, you could not know anything about it
  • If you did accidentally learn something about it, there is no way you could communicate your knowledge to others
The lesson we can take away from Gorgias is that arguments, especially verbal reasoning alone, can be used to prove anything by clever rhetoricians. Logic and language can tell us nothing "true" about the physical world.

Normal | Teacher | Scholar