Greek Philosophy: A Brief Look and Suggested Reading

Have you ever read a noteworthy book from a previous century or perhaps watched a classic movie when you are struck by the fact that morals or ideas from such an outdated source could serve itself so well to relevance today? If so, and you want to stretch that timeline even further, you may find enjoyment in learning about Greek philosophy as I recently have. Having absolutely no background knowledge of the topic, I found The Greek Philosophers: From Thales to Aristotle by W. K. C. Guthrie provided a substantial introduction without being an overwhelmingly lengthy read.

“The world as our senses perceive it seems restless and unstable . . . Philosophy started in the faith that beneath this apparent chaos there exists a hidden permanence and unity, discernible, if not by sense, then by the mind” (Guthrie 24).

Guthrie first sets readers up with a bit of historical context before building into the contemporary philosophy. He then leads us through a chronological path through significant thinkers such as the Pythagoreans, Ionians, Sophists, Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, and others. Given the nature of this literature, I  suggest taking your time to understand each page before flipping to the next as some of the content is worthy of a bit of extra thought.

In the interest of keeping this blog post from becoming a full-length research paper, I’ll just use up some space to acknowledge my personal favorite thinker based upon the introduction given by Guthrie. (Feel free to comment or contact me with your own opinions!) One of Socrates’ major ideas related to the concept of knowledge, or rather the pursuit of knowledge.

Socrates is known for his exploration into this topic including the famous Socratic Paradox, “knowledge is virtue”. In fact, he suggested that all of mankind, including himself, should be aware of their own lack of knowledge.

“The conviction of ignorance is a necessary first step to the acquisition of knowledge, for no one is going to seek knowledge on any subject if he is under the delusion that he already possesses it” (Guthrie 74).

I personally agree with this to an extent and should remind myself of this idea to remain open to the pursuit of new ideas and opinions.

A particular fun fact about Socrates that I discovered was that he almost never recorded his thoughts in writing due to placing a greater importance on verbal discussion (Guthrie 73). This, I assume, may be partially responsible for the development of the Socratic method of teaching used today. I could probably go on for a while about this topic with favorite quotes from each philosopher, but in the interest of blog space and the potential discovery for yourself, I will force myself to refrain.

Keep moving on your path to knowledge,

Matthew

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