A Historical Overview of Development of Philosophy
Philosophy can be traced back to the Ancient Greek period with philosophers theorized about the supernatural. However, some Greek thinkers or lovers of wisdom made a speculative leap to the natural from supernatural thinking by challenging the existing norms.
The naturalist philosophers were concerned with reasoning method such as reality and naturalism. Some of these thinkers include Thales of Miletus who argued that water was a basic substance and a source of life. Heraclitus of Ephesus claimed that the universe was in constant change and there was permanence with a guiding force that permeated nature. Another thinker was Leucippus if Miletus who argued that the physical reality was made up of atoms, which moved interminably in the void. Democritus on the other hand came up with the atomic theory, which saw everything as being made up of the same substance. The other thinker was Pythagoras whose view was based on material and non material universe views. This thinker believed that number determined proportion. Lastly, Hippocrates theorized in the area of medicine and delved into the issue of diet, environment and health as well as the issue of mind and its influence on the body (Marwick, 1995).
After this, there was a leap from naturalism to humanism whereby philosophers like Socrates, Aristotle and Plato probed the issue of nature and its relation to the human world. These philosophers were also concerned with the right of conduct and wisdom among other things. Socrates was concerned with absolute moral conduct standards while Plato was concerned with philosophical idealism and mind and matter separation. On the other hand, Aristotle was concerned with the good life.
Sophocles (Antigone) - Biographical Sketch, Context, Ideas, Review of the Text
Sophocles (Antigone) is a play written by Sophocles that explains about a tragedy. The play depicts two brothers who fought one another for the throne. After their death, one of the brothers was honored while the other was disgraced. The disgraced body would not be sanctified and would not be buried in order to be devoured by worms, vultures and predators. The sister of the two brothers was against the harsh treatment and decided to bury her brother against the ruler’s wish. This was not received well by the ruler who had obtained full support from the elders. Because of this, she would face death. However, she argues using morality as the basis of her argument leading to her imprisonment.
The play’s twisted nature continues since the ruler’s son is engaged to the wrongdoer (Antigone). After a bitter argument between the father and the son, the father (Creon) who is the ruler decides to bury the girl alive and secretly in a cave. As she is being led to her death, a prophet emerges and concludes that Creon’s son will die if Antigone is buried. Instead, the prophet advises the ruler to bury Polyneicies and flee the girl (Antigone). Following this incidence, the ruler’s son (Haemon) together with his fianc?e (Antigone) commits suicide. Creon comes to understand that his own action caused the death of the two people by going against the gods. However, the play concludes that wisdom is obtained from punishment when the proud are punished by the gods (Gibbons, 2003).
The play revolves around the discussions of natural law since god’s law and man’s law are weighed. However, the proceeding events prove that god’s law is above man’s law. The main theme in the play is the theme of state control. Antigone is presented as a citizen who is willing to sacrifice her own life in order to free herself from state control. The other evident theme is the theme of civil disobedience, which is represented by Haemon and Antigone. Contrasting citizenship appears in this play because of the difference in judgments by Creon an Antigone. According to the former, citizenship is viewed as total obedience to the state while the former is willing to bend the requirements in order to support morality. Fidelity and family love is also presented using Antigone’s desire to bury her brothers in face of danger from Creon. Finally, the play showcases different gods such as the god of death, Zeus and Apollo who intervene in human matters by making the right decision.
Plato's Republic (Socrates) - Biographical Sketch, Context, Ideas, Review of the Text
Plato's Republic (Socrates) is one of the most widely read philosophical dialogue. The main character in this discourse is Socrates who is also the main character in most Platonic dialogues. Historians trace the dialogue back in the middle period during most of Plato’s dialogues. The role of Socrates in other dialogues is to refute Plato’s accounts leading the dialogues to end in an unsatisfactory argument in the matter under investigations. However, things are different in the republic as Socrates’ argument is unified with Plato’s argument. Socrates’s position on justice and happiness (eudaimonia) is complicated, but the argument defends the just life and leads to the happy life (Lampert, 2010).
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The republic revolves around the questions of justice and happiness. The question of justice is addressed in terms of the soul or the individual and is also addressed in political terms. The question of justice leads to another question, which seeks to determine whether a just person is happier than another person who is unjust. This dialogue is important to Plato as it relates to political and the ethical part of the society.
Socrates and his counterpart constructs an imaginary just city, which is presented in the speech. This construction is done in order to illustrate justice and likening it to the human soul. The dialogue leads to other subjects, which are rival to the subject of justice such as happiness, education, knowledge, the subject of philosophy and philosophers, family, soul and others. Although, this attempts to explain the issue of justice, it has posed difficulties to scholars who have worked hard to understand Socrates argument in relation to justice.
Confucius - Biographical Sketch, Context, Ideas, Review of the Text
Confucius was a Chinese philosopher who empathized on various issues such as sincerity, justice, social relationship and morality. The philosopher is known for his interest in relationship. Confucius was very concerned with a harmonious society that was created through the cultivation of good qualities. Confucius recognized the centrality of human beings in relationship and in a harmonious society.
Confucius argued that relationships were not equal since the society was hierarchical. For example, there were different relationships in the society with all these relationships playing different roles. One of them was the father-son relationship, the elder brother and younger brother relationship and other relationships.
According to Confucius, the role played in each of these relationships was important in promoting harmony in the society. The father-son relationship was the primary relationship among all the others since it showcased other relationships such as the ruler-subject relationship. Confucius is also known for coming up with virtues, which also promote harmony in the society. The virtues include sympathy, propriety, reciprocity, filial piety and culture (Kaizuka, 2002).
The virtue of sympathy includes acts of benevolence kindness, human heartedness and others such as consideration. The virtue of propriety requires an individual to act in proper words and actions in order to enhance social life. The virtue of reciprocity requires an individual to do well to others and to question one’s actions before doing anything bad against others. The virtue of filial piety calls for devotion of family members towards one another and the society at large. The virtue of culture requires an individual to be cultural sensitive and to show love for art, poetry, music and other elements of culture.
Al Ghazali (Critique of Plato and the Philosophers)
Al Ghazali, a Muslim philosopher critiqued the works of other philosophers. According to this philosopher, logic and mathematics have no religion bearing. According to him, logic and mathematic should not be questioned when properly used. The philosopher also criticized political philosophy and ethics by stating that teachings should not be derived from philosophers, but from prophets. Because of this, the teachings should not be queried. On physics and metaphysics, Ghazali did not approve it since he viewed it as an uncertain and lacks logical reasoning. Ghazali criticized natural sciences in religious view point since natural science goes against the Islamic religion. He argued that some of the philosophers’ debates were dangerous. For example, the discussion of the world and eternity was dangerous. Because of this, Ghazali argued that philosophers are unbelievers and infidels. Their statement that all substances are eternal and the argument against resurrection depicted their character of unbelief (Anna, 2013).
The relevance of studying Philosophy today?
In contemporary world, studying philosophy helps students in developing their powers of argument critical thinking skills. This is achieved through a search for answers to different questions. Apart from this, a course in philosophy helps students in understanding international relations. Through this, a student understanding of the changing world is enhanced. This is achieved through exploration of relationship between people, societies and states. Philosophy also helps in exploring religious and cultural communities. In addition, philosophy helps in studying and understanding diplomatic relationships. Studying philosophy also helps in understanding conflicts, wars, cooperation and global peace. In addition, a course in philosophy helps students in understanding international communication, power resistances in different nations and terrorism among other issues (Jackson, 2011).
For example, in the current issues, philosophies can help in understanding why countries like Ukraine go through rough times protesting against the current government. This can be understood by employing various philosophical themes and studies from different authors. For example, the theme of state control and citizenship explained in Sophocles’ Antigone .