During the centuries covered by the four chapters you have read so far (2, 3, 4 and 5), some of the most well-known and influential figures of western philosophy rose to prominence: Plato, Aristotle, Lucretius, Marcus Aurelius and Augustine, to name but a few. Philosophy in the early days was something discussed in person, and on rare occasions formed later into poetry or dialogues (Socrates, in particular, never wrote at all), but increased literacy meant that the works of these thinkers were more widely disseminated and many were immensely influential in forming the political structure of new democratic governments (Plato was famous for having attempted to put his philosophical theory into practice in Sicily, an attempt which failed disastrously).
Throughout the rest of the textbook we will be encountering many other philosophical and religious writers, but in these three crucial periods many of the leading principles were laid down on which many of our own societies have been founded.
What we are going to do this week is to analyze some of the products of this philosophical thought, and to consider what it says about the societies of the time.
Review the following sections in your textbook:
- Early Greek Philosophy (pp.43-44) [51-2];
- Classical Greek Philosophy (pp.59-62) [66-69];
- Roman Philosophy (pp.89-93) [97-100];
- Classical and Christian Philosophy (pp.107-109) [114-117].
Now consider the following questions.
1. What relationship do you perceive in the principal ideas formulated during these major periods of philosophical thinking?
2. Did society develop or progress (either in a good or a bad way) as a result of pursuing any of these ideas?
3. Can you see any similarities to other philosophies, such as those of Confucius (p.61) or Buddha (pp.90-91) ?
4. Did the spread of literacy have any influence, in your view, on the success of any particular philosophical theory?
You should aim to include:
- What similarities you can perceive;
- What developments or differences you can identify;
- What effect the works of these philosophers had on their own society and on other contemporary societies.
- Examples to illustrate your arguments, referenced according to the Citation guidelines.
Bishop, Philip E. Adventures in the Human Spirit.6th [7th] Edn. Upper Saddle River: Prentice Hall. 2011 . Print.