OVERVIEW OF PHILOSOPHY
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THALES AND THE PRE-SOCRATICS
Ok- let me do a little teaching- maybe finish it tonight.
Christianity is not simply ‘made up stories’ from some bible.
No- the history of Western Thought- Philosophy- ideas- all of the various World Views are imbedded with God- our concepts of God- and ask the ultimate question ‘where did all this come from- and why are we here’.
We usually trace the beginning of Ancient Philosophy to the 6th century BCE.
A thinker by the name of Thales sought to find ways to describe natural phenomena without the use of Greek Mythology.
Even though Philosophy deals with Metaphysics [things beyond the natural- physical realm- Physics] yet Thales wanted to find explanations for existence- without leaning on Myth.
He is considered a ‘Pre Socratic’ thinker [before Socrates] and espoused an idea that water was the key source of all things.
These guys were looking for a singular thing to explain stuff.
Sometimes referred to as a unified theory- the same thing that Einstein was seeking to find some 2 Millennia later.
So- Thales surmised that water was the key thing.
There are various ideas of why he came to this conclusion- but one reason might have been the idea of motion.
Many Geek thinkers were looking for the source of motion- where did it come from?
And to the natural eye- if you observe the ocean- rivers- etc. – there does seem to be no cause for the moving of water- so to these guys it seemed like water itself was the source- motion came from water.
Now- there were other religions who taught a sort of idea along these lines.
Some pagan religions said that the ‘god’s’ moved upon the water- and life came that way.
If you read the Christian account of creation in Genesis- you will notice that God did move upon the waters- and the account in Genesis does indeed say that he brought forth life from the water.
Thales came from for Miletus- in Asia Minor.
He was famous for the prediction of a Solar Eclipse that occurred on May 28th– 585 BCE.
The earliest account of this is found in the writings of Herodotus.
Thales is considered one of the 7 sages of the time.
Christianity was born at a time where Greek thought/ideas were a big part of society.
We do find the early apostles using the language/ideas of the Greek philosophers when describing the reality of Christ.
The apostle John refers to Christ as THE LOGOS- The word Logos- is a Greek word for ‘word’.
Jesus is called ‘the word of God’.
Now- the Greek thinkers were in fact seeking for the Logos- they used this term to describe the ultimate answer to all tings.
They were on a search for some Divine principle that could explain things.
So- the writers of the New Testament were in a way saying ‘look- we have found the Logos- the thing that you guys are looking for- it is Christ- the Divine Logos’.
We also see the apostle Paul debating with the Greek thinkers in the city of Athens [the seat of Geek philosophy- the city/state where Socrates was forced to drink cyanide].
In Acts chapter 17 he is preaching to these guys on Mar’s Hill- he says ‘In him we live AND MOVE and have our being’.
Now- today as we read this- we don’t get the full import of what he was doing.
But- to the Greek mind- the source of motion was a big thing.
Paul was a smart guy- and he was saying ‘in him we move’ showing that yes- the ‘source of motion’ [Thales water] is not found in the natural world [Physics] but the source comes from the Metaphysical world [God].
He also says ‘when I was walking thru your town- I saw one of your altars- to the unknown god’.
At the time many believed in a Pantheon of gods- and to cover their bases- they had an altar for any god they might have missed- smart thinking!
So Paul says ‘him I declare unto you’.
Notice how Paul was able to debate- converse with them- and at the end actually use their own ideas- to present the gospel.
In this chapter- Acts 17- we read of the only 2 groups of philosophers mentioned in the bible.
The Epicureans and the Stoics.
The Epicureans were an early form of what we call Hedonism today- the idea that pleasure is the principle purpose of man.
The Stoics believed in ‘stoicism’ that man should have no emotional response to pain or pleasure- that’s why we call people today ‘Stoics’- when they seem to not be moved by anything.
Ok- that’s it for now- might make some comments tonight- but I’m getting ready to fly out soon- and trying to wind down before I leave.
If I don’t write tonight- I’ll talk again when in North Bergen- God bless you all.
1Corinthians 1:18 For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.
1Corinthians 1:19 For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent.
1Corinthians 1:20 Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world? hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world?
1Corinthians 1:21 For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.
1Corinthians 1:22 For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom:
1Corinthians 1:23 But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness;
1Corinthians 1:24 But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God.
1Corinthians 1:25 Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men.
1Corinthians 1:26 For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called:
1Corinthians 1:27 But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty;
1Corinthians 1:28 And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are:
1Corinthians 1:29 That no flesh should glory in his presence.
1Corinthians 1:30 But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption:
1Corinthians 1:31 That, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.
1Corinthians 2:1 And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God.
1Corinthians 2:2 For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.
1Corinthians 2:3 And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling.
1Corinthians 2:4 And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power:
1Corinthians 2:5 That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.
1Corinthians 2:6 Howbeit we speak wisdom among them that are perfect: yet not the wisdom of this world, nor of the princes of this world, that come to nought:
1Corinthians 2:7 But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory:
1Corinthians 2:8 Which none of the princes of this world knew: for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.
1Corinthians 2:13 Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth.
See? Paul the apostle had the intellectual capacity to engage with the best of them- but he knew that the core issue- was sin. That is those who reject Christianity on the basis of ‘it’s a religion of foolishness’- in reality- even if you win the intellectual argument- yet for the most part people will still not believe. In the end it is always a matter of true repentance- being honest with ourselves- and others. So- Paul didn’t rely on the ‘wisdom of men’ but the power of the Cross. When needed- he would ‘use it’ [men’s wisdom- Acts 17- Mars Hill] but he closed his argument by declaring Christ.
THE 5TH ELEMENT.
Ok- let’s talk philosophy today- the last post on this subject I traced what we normally refer to as the beginning of Greek philosophy- a man by the name of Thales- 6th century BCE.
We said that Thales had an idea that water was the principle element- water seemed to have the ability to move [motion] by itself- so Walla- maybe water is the principle thing.
He was what we refer to as a Monist.
Monists believed that there was one principle element- responsible for all other things.
Now- the pre Socratic philosophers debated about this- some said it was air- others earth- some said fire- as a matter of fact- some said all 4 of these elements were responsible for existence.
Now- some sought a 5th element- some yet to be discovered thing that would explain it all.
A man by the name of Anaximander described it as ‘the boundless’- something that has no origin- he said it was ‘both unborn- and immortal’ ahh- you can already see the attributes of God in this [boundless- what Theologians call omnipresent- God having no limits- he is everywhere [but not everything- get to that in a moment] and ‘unborn’ that is he himself has no beginning].
Ok- this 5th element [some called it Ether- or Aether- a sort of wave theory- that light travels along this ether- this idea lasted till the day of Einstein- who showed us that Ether does not exist [in this way] but that light itself is made up of particles- photons- this was one of the major breakthroughs of modern physics].
A few years ago the movie ‘the 5th Element’- Bruce Willis- hit on this theme- sort of like the ‘God particle’- that is they were in search for some type of being that was eternal – self existent.
The term Quintessence [quint- 5] came to be defined as this 5th element- and today we use the word Quintessential to describe the pure essence of a thing- the perfect embodiment of something.
Over time the Greek thinkers would arrive at the idea that yes indeed- there was one main thing- Monism- that could be the source of all other things.
It is interesting to note that the Jewish prophets- and wisdom literature- which predates these guys- already started from the standpoint of Monotheism- one God.
Now- Monism is not Monotheism.
Monism is really a form of what we call Pantheism [in the study of religion].
Pantheism says that God is ‘everything’- some eastern religions hold to this concept.
The Christian view is that God is separate from creation- that he is indeed the original source of creation- but not the creation itself.
The Geek philosophers even described this 5th element as ‘The One’- see- they were getting close.
In today’s debates- some espouse an idea that there was no beginning point- that the universe is either eternal [something Einstein disproved with the Big Bang theory] or that there is a sort of infinite regress- that there is no one starting point- but that there have been a never ending [or beginning] series of ‘big bangs’ that go on forever.
This defies the laws of logic- and math.
Yeah- many of the great physicists were also great mathematicians [like Einstein- and Max Plank- who was first a mathematician].
If there was no beginning point- mathematically it doesn’t ‘work’.
You would never be able to arrive at the present time- if there was no starting point to measure from [I know this might sound strange- but this is indeed a proof- that there had to be a starting point].
What these thinkers show us is that even thru the ancient field of Philosophy- you still arrive at some type of ‘thing’ that is responsible for all other things.
Some Christians reject the Big Bang theory- but in my view it gave the Christian apologist the greatest tool to argue for the existence of God.
For many centuries it was believed that the universe was eternal- and if that was true- then indeed you did not have to have an outside source that was responsible for it.
But Einstein showed us that there was a beginning point- that the universe is in a continual expansion mode- and if it is getting ‘bigger’ by the second- then yes- it did have a starting point.
Many today think that it ‘popped’ into existence on its own- this is both scientifically and logically impossible- it violates the law of Cause and Effect [every effect has to have a cause also ‘out of nothing- nothing comes’].
There was a famous Christian who abandoned the faith- Bertrand Russell- he said ‘if everything has to have a cause- then God must have one too- and if God needs a cause- then why not see the universe as the cause’.
Tough Russell was a good man- he made a mistake here.
The laws of logic do not say that everything has to have a cause- but every effect has to have one.
In essence- somewhere along the line- going back to the beginning- there must be an initial cause- that has no beginning- Anaximander’s Boundless One.
Ok- I won’t do too many of these posts in a row- because as you can see- this takes time- and you lose people along the way.
But- over the next few weeks I’ll slip a post like this in- it helps when dealing with those who have sincere objections to the faith- and it also debunks some common misconceptions.
HERACLITUS- Ok- lets pick up on my philosophy stuff.
Heraclitus lived in the 6th/5th century BC. – He was from Ephesus and his key thought was Ever Present Change.
That is he saw everything as being in a state of continual flux- one of his famous sayings was ‘No man ever steps into the same river twice’.
He is called the Weeping Philosopher- sort of like the prophet Jeremiah in the bible- also called the Weeping Prophet.
Heraclitus is known for his concept of the Logos- the Word- or thought/reason.
Now- this aspect of his thought plays a role in the development of the Christian understanding of Christ himself- in our New Testaments [written in Greek] Jesus is indeed referred to as the Logos- or Word of God.
The Greek philosophers understanding of the Logos was not the same as the Christian view- mainly expressed thru the writings of John [The gospel- the 3 epistles- and Revelation].
But- some see the Greek view as a precursor to Christ.
In the work of one of the early church fathers- Hippolytus ‘The Refutation of all Heresies’ he attacks Heraclitus view of the Logos as an early form of heresy.
The apologist Justin Martyr is more gracious- he [Like Ulrich Zwingli- the great Swiss reformer of the 16th century] viewed the early Geek thinkers as ‘pre- Christian’ or ‘Christians before Christ’.
Though many reject this view- yet there is some scripture to back it up.
The apostle Paul said in his letter to the Romans that if the Gentiles [non-Jews] do by nature the things contained in the law- then they are justified in God’s sight.
Of course these things are debatable- but I add this to show you that some great Christian thinkers did indeed view the early Greek thinkers- who did live by a moral code- as being right in God’s eyes.
And the bible does teach a theme that we will be judged according to the amount of light [understanding] that we had at the time.
I should note that Plato [one of the 3 titans that arose after Heraclitus- from the city/state of Athens] disagreed with Heraclitus on all things being in a state of constant change.
When [if?] we get to Socrates- Plato and Aristotle- I’ll try and cover the ways they advanced- built upon- the thought of the pre Socratic thinkers.
As a side note- the most famous student of Aristotle- who was the most famous student of Plato- who was the most famous student of Socrates- was Alexander the Great.
This goes to show you how great an influence Greek philosophy had on the ancient world.
A few nuggets from Heraclitus- ‘all things come to pass in accordance with this Logos’ ‘follow the common’ ‘not having their own judgment’.
Recently I covered Acts chapter 2- and we see some of these ideas in the early Christian movement.
The first Christians did ‘follow the common’ they sold their goods- and had ‘all things common’ [communal lifestyle].
The apostle Paul teaches the early church to all ‘speak the same thing- that there be no divisions among you’.
And the New Testament also says the scripture should not be given to Private Interpretation- meaning- ‘not having your own personal judgment’.
All in all- we do indeed see a sort of pre Christian thought in the pre Socratic thinkers- they did indeed speak of the Divine- God- though there understanding of him was not the same as the Christian church.
In a sense- Heraclitus idea that in life- the only ‘constant’ is the fact that there is no constant- that life itself is made up of an ongoing journey- we live day by day- not ever knowing what ‘the next day will bring forth’- Jesus.
Yeah- the man had some good points- the later Stoics would consider Heraclitus as the father of their movement.
And in the study of Philosophy- the Stoics- who had a good run from a few years before the Common Era- were overtaken in the 4th century [as the main influential philosophy of the time] by some new and lasting philosophy- started by a man named Jesus Christ- who his followers claimed rose from the dead.
Yeah- this New Way was called Christianity- and this philosophy has endured now for over 2 thousand years.
Socrates was born around 469-470 BCE.
He is famous for introducing a way of learning that engaged the students in a dialogue- the question would be put on the table- and thru rigorous debate- you would come to an understanding thru the process of questioning.
This is referred to as the Socratic Method.
Socrates came on the scene during the famous Spartan wars.
The other day I watched the movie 300- which depicts the battle between the city state of Athens against the city/state of Sparta.
As you know- the Athenians suffered a great defeat at the hands of the Spartans.
The Spartans were outmanned by the Athenians- but their motto was ‘come back with your shields- or on them’.
They were a true warrior nation- trained to fight from their youth- and this defeat sent the people of Athens into a time of disillusionment.
They questioned the power of their gods- and a sort of malaise fell over Athens after the defeat.
This was when Socrates entered the fray- when the people had many questions about life.
He was called the Gadfly of Athens- a title that would also be given to the 19th century Danish father of existentialism- Soren Kierkegaard.
They were called Gadfly’s- because they were like flies that would pester you- and elicit a response.
The leadership of Athens saw Socrates as one that was stirring up the youth of his day- and creating discontent among the populace.
He rejected the many god’s of the day- but did have a belief in a single deity- he- like the Christians 4 centuries later- would be accused of atheism- because of his rejection of multiple god’s.
He was sentenced to death in 399 BCE- and his form of execution was drinking Hemlock.
His most famous student- Plato- spoke with him before his death.
Many were surprised at how willingly Socrates faced his demise- and this willingness had a great impact on those who witnessed it.
Socrates never wrote anything- but most of what we do know about him comes from the writing of others- most notably from Plato’s Dialogues.
Plato wrote down what Socrates taught- In his writings we see Socrates engaging in this method with various people- thus the name of Plato’s works- Dialogues.
There is a debate about how much of what was written about him was actually true- Plato did add his own ideas into these debates- and the controversy about this is so strong that we actually have a name for it- the ‘Socratic Problem’.
During the time of the disillusionment of the Athenians- there were a group of philosophers known as the Sophists.
The word comes from Sophia- meaning wisdom.
Philosophy itself means The Love of Wisdom.
In our day the words Sophomore- Sophistry and Sophisticated are derived from this root word.
The Sophists were the original Pragmatists.
Pragmatism is a form of belief that says ‘do what works- regardless of the ethical implications’.
We will get to Pragmatism at the end of this whole series on Philosophy.
But for now- we see the division between what Socrates taught- and the Sophists.
Socrates did indeed teach a form of Ethics- which contrasted with the Sophists.
He said that the pursuit of virtue was better than the pursuit of wealth- much like the words of Jesus ‘what does it profit a man if he gain the world- and lose his soul’.
His most famous saying is ‘The unexamined life is not worth living’.
He emphasized the importance of mind over body- which inspired Plato’s philosophy of dividing reality into 2 separate realms- the world of senses and the world of ideas.
Socrates actually challenged the Democratic process- he believed it better for the wise men- the Philosopher Kings- to run the show.
Athens did have a form of Democracy at the time- and because of the rise of the Sophists- and the itinerant teachers- you had sort of an election process- much like in our day- where those who would attain office were those who spoke the best- and made the best public argument.
We elect judges and stuff in our day- and even presidents- not because they are the most capable- but because they ran the best campaign.
So- in a way I agree with Socrates- at times I think we need a better process of electing those to higher office- then the one we have now.
It’s important to note that even though we started this study with Thales- and in the study of Western philosophy it’s commonly understood to have started with Thales.
Yet- Socrates seems to be the Father of philosophy in many ways.
He probably has had the most influence in the field philosophy- and the 2 great philosophers that we’ll get to next come right out from the heels of Socrates [Plato and Aristotle].
Why is this important to note?
As we progress in this study- and get closer to the 19th/20th century philosophers- we will see a trend- away from the idea that there are actually any ethical values- moral virtues- or ‘right or wrong’.
These philosophers dabbled with the idea that values themselves are the cause of man’s problems [Freud].
So- keep in mind- one of the main streams of thought in the early stages of philosophy was that values were indeed the main thing- Socrates challenged the Sophists of his day- he said that moral virtue was very important- that to live life with the values of courage- honesty- self-denial- these were the things that made men good- noble.
The bible says ‘the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom’ ‘those that seek the Lord understand all things’.
Christian tradition would agree with Socrates in many ways- Jesus showed us that the virtue of service to others- to love your fellow man- to honor God- that these were indeed the heart of the matter.
Socrates feared the loss of virtue in society- that if we simply lived for the present time- with no higher values [a form of hedonism] then the foundations of society will erode.
He also believed that it was good to question things- not to simply believe a thing for the sake of believing.
Over time- thru debate and the discourse of other people- he believed you would get to the truth.
The bible says ‘in the multitude of counselors there is safety’.
Yeah- as people have a conversation- as they dialogue- often times they themselves come up with the answer to the question.
The apostle Paul penned the letter to young Timothy- he said ‘preach the word- in doing this you will save yourself- and those that hear you’.
Yeah- when you engage- and even try and teach others- this will have an effect on you too- the actual act of engaging- of teaching- often brings more insight to the one doing the communicating- then the ones who hear.
Yeah- I like Socrates- he believed in what he taught- he drank the Hemlock- knowing full well that his life would pass- but he had belief- faith- that after death man would pass over into another realm- a much better one.
No- he was not ‘Christian’ in the traditional sense of the word- but he was about as close as you could get- for his time.
Plato was born in 427 BC- he was the most famous student of Socrates.
He is best known for his theory of Ideas/Forms.
He believed that the material world was an imperfect copy of the Idea world.
That is he believed that Ideas exist apart from the construct of the human mind- that they were the perfect forms of the things we see in the material realm.
He could also be referred to as a Realist- because he believed these Ideas actually existed [for real]. Where did he get this from?
As we study Philosophy- each one that comes down the line has been influenced in some way by those that preceded them.
There was a famous thinker- Pythagoras [his followers were the Pythagoreans] who taught a concept called the Transmigration of the Soul [a sort of Reincarnation].
They believed that the soul of man went thru various stages- and existed independently of the body.
In Greek thought the soul is immortal- it exists before the body.
In Christian teaching the Soul [mind- Spirit] comes into existence when God creates man [the bible says ‘and man BECAME a living soul’- referring to the creation of Adam].
The Greeks saw the soul as preexisting before the natural life.
In the mind of Plato- the body was a receptacle- in this life we recollect the knowledge that comes from the Idea world.
He ascribed Ontological status to ideas themselves.
In Philosophy there are 2 basic ways knowledge comes [we study this in Epistemology- an offshoot of Philosophy- which deals with how we know things].
A Priori knowledge is knowledge obtained independent of experience.
A Posteriori is knowledge obtained thru the senses- what we call Empirical evidence.
In Plato’s schema he believed that the knowledge that comes to us from the Formal world [ideas- forms] was A Priori knowledge- that the human mind recalls- and in the present material world- knowledge comes to us from the perfect idea world.
The Greeks believed that all matter was flawed- that the Body was an imperfect vessel- and after death we are released into the perfect world- and free from the material realm.
Christian Tradition does not hold to this view.
The Church teaches that the created world is good- not evil.
Among Christians there is some confusion about this- because the older versions of the bible [King James] seem to teach that matter [world, flesh] is evil.
Paul the apostle talks about no good thing being in The Flesh- he talks about the Carnal mind- the apostle John says ‘all that is in the World- the lust of the flesh- the pride of life- is not of the Father but is of the world’.
There are many references like this in the bible- but they are speaking about the sinful nature of man [the flesh] and not about the human body itself [For instance Paul says in Romans ‘present your BODIES as living sacrifices unto God- Holy and acceptable’ in Corinthians ‘your BODY is the temple of the Holy Spirit’- there are many references in scripture that speak of the Body as Holy.
When the bible says ‘satan is the god of this world’ it is not speaking of the earth- which God created- and calls GOOD- but it is speaking of the ‘world’ system- an age of wickedness.
So- at times Christians have confused this- and have held a sort of Dualistic view of matter- that is not the biblical view- but a Gnostic view- that all matter is evil.
Plato saw the unseen world of Ideas as the perfect- pure world.
He taught that in this life we obtain the knowledge of the pure- by reason of recollection- that these pure ideas come to us ‘are recalled’ in this life.
He is famous for founding the first Philosophical school- it was called The Academy- named after a man by the name of Academus.
The land was donated for the school- it was previously used as an Olive Grove- and in honor of the donation- Plato named the school after the donor.
This is why we use the phrase ‘The Groves of Academia’ today.
Plato was actually a nick name- he wrestled in Athens- in a sort of precursor to what would later become the Olympic games- and he was broad shouldered- that’s where his name comes from- Plato means broad shouldered.
So- to sum up- Plato believed that Forms [ideas] were eternal, the cause of all that is.
He believed we are born with innate ideas- these are not learned thru sense experience- but exist independently of the mind- and in this bodily life we retrieve [the body is a receptacle] these ideas.
Does the bible teach anything along these lines?
Christians believe that God himself is infinite- without beginning or end.
That wisdom- ideas- ‘forms’ of things do indeed exist- prior to our own life.
But these ideas are not without a Mind- God is Spirit- and he is everywhere [Omnipresent] he knows all tings [Omniscient] – so- in a way- there are indeed ideas- forms- but they come from the ultimate Mind of God.
A good example would be the building of the Tabernacle- and later the Temple- under Moses and King David [his son Solomon actually built it].
God told Moses ‘see that you build it after the Pattern shown to thee in the mount’.
In the book of Hebrews we read that the earthly Tabernacle [Temple] was simply an image- a symbol- of heavenly realities.
That God himself had the ‘form’ in his mind- indeed- like Plato taught- the heavenly form is perfect- the earthly expression imperfect.
But these patterns- forms- ideas- are from the Mind of God- they are not Innate in the soul of man- nor does the soul of man exist before his birth.
In the past few months I have had several Christian friends tell me that they feel like they existed before this life- a type of reincarnation.
I explained to them that in the Christian faith we do not hold to this view.
But- the bible does tell us that God had a purpose for us- Predetermined- before the ‘foundation of the world’.
Meaning that yes- in the Mind of God- in a way- we did exist- but we did not have actual being [called Ontological status in the field of Philosophy] until we were created by God.
God’s purpose for us was already in the Mind of God before our birth.
The bible says that Christ is made unto us wisdom- we are not Receptacles in the sense that Plato taught.
But yes- in time God reveals to us this Hidden Wisdom- about his love and purpose for us.
And in this life we act out- we fulfil this eternal purpose.
Man [or woman] can never find true happiness- true meaning- until they tap into this purpose.
We were created by the hand of God- to bring glory and honor to him- and we in this life can ever find true fulfilment- until we make it back to God.
1Chronicles 28:10 Take heed now; for the LORD hath chosen thee to build an house for the sanctuary: be strong, and do it.
1Chronicles 28:11 Then David gave to Solomon his son the pattern of the porch, and of the houses thereof, and of the treasuries thereof, and of the upper chambers thereof, and of the inner parlours thereof, and of the place of the mercy seat,
1Chronicles 28:12 And the pattern of all that he had by the spirit, of the courts of the house of the LORD, and of all the chambers round about, of the treasuries of the house of God, and of the treasuries of the dedicated things:
1Chronicles 28:19 All this, said David, the LORD made me understand in writing by his hand upon me, even all the works of this pattern.
Exodus 25:9 According to all that I shew thee, after the pattern of the tabernacle, and the pattern of all the instruments thereof, even so shall ye make it.
Exodus 25:40 And look that thou make them after their pattern, which was shewed thee in the mount.
Hebrews 8:5 Who serve unto the example and shadow of heavenly things, as Moses was admonished of God when he was about to make the tabernacle: for, See, saith he, that thou make all things according to the pattern shewed to thee in the mount.
Hebrews 9:23 It was therefore necessary that the patterns of things in the heavens should be purified with these; but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these.
Hebrews 9:24 For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us:
Ecclesiastes 7:12 For wisdom is a defence, and money is a defence: but the excellency of knowledge is, that wisdom giveth life to them that have it.
Ecclesiastes 7:19 Wisdom strengtheneth the wise more than ten mighty men which are in the city.
Ecclesiastes 7:25 I applied mine heart to know, and to search, and to seek out wisdom, and the reason of things, and to know the wickedness of folly, even of foolishness and madness:
Ecclesiastes 7:26 And I find more bitter than death the woman, whose heart is snares and nets, and her hands as bands: whoso pleaseth God shall escape from her; but the sinner shall be taken by her.
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Born in Northern Greece- in 384 BC.
The most famous student of Plato- attended Plato’s Academy for around 20 years.
His main disagreement with Plato was on his theory of Forms.
Plato believed that the ‘idea’ world contained the forms of all things we see in the physical realm.
Aristotle taught that substance itself was the main thing- that the forms of what we see in the natural realm come from matter itself.
He spoke about Potentiality and Actuality- that is the material things have in ‘seed’ form the final product.
The acorn has the Potential of becoming a tree- the fetus has the Potential of becoming a man- etc.
The form is already embedded in the thing itself- it does not exist in the ‘idea’ world of Plato.
Aristotle loved and admired his teacher- yet Plato had somewhat of a disdain for his most famous student.
Plato passed over Aristotle to head up the Academy- twice.
As things go- Aristotle went and started his own school- called the Lyceum.
Aristotle did not just teach Philosophy- but Biology- Logic- Ethics- Rhetoric.
Some refer to him as the first real scientist.
His development of the laws of Logic- Cause and Effect- play a key role in the Scientific Method till this day.
Aristotle taught that the main way we gain knowledge is thru sense perception and experiment.
As we study the natural order of things themselves- we gain understanding from them.
What we refer to as the Empirical method- knowledge gained thru the observation and experimentation of things.
He referred to God as the Final Cause- not the First Cause.
He believed in God [some debate this- Aristotle himself called him God in his work on Metaphysics] and called him the Prime Mover.
As I said before- a big thing with the early thinkers was the origin of Motion- who started the ball rolling- so to speak.
Aristotle credited the source of all motion to an ‘un- moved Mover’.
He gave the attributes of God to his Mover- said he had no beginning- was not material- an eternal and imperishable substance.
So- why the Final Cause?
He said God attracts all things to himself- so in his mind- motion started by attraction- not by a ‘push’ so to speak.
This is interesting indeed- in modern physics we see that the universe is undergoing a continual expansion- heading somewhere- of course we believe this somewhere is God himself- the source of all things.
Isaac Newton agreed with Aristotle on this point- he referred to it in his 3rd law of Physics.
The medieval Muslim thinkers called him ‘The First Teacher’- and Kant [who we will get to later in this study] credits him with the bulk of what we know today as the Laws of Logic.
Aristotle taught that the main activity of God was thought.
The bible says that thru Wisdom and Understanding God made things [‘Wisdom builds the house- Understanding establishes it- and thru Knowledge it’s rooms are filled with all pleasant and precious riches- Wisdom is profitable to direct- the words of the wise are like nails fastened by the masters of assemblies- as a wise master builder I have laid the foundation’- various bible verses found in Proverbs- Ecclesiastes and Paul’s letter to the church at Corinth] – in a way Aristotle was right.
One of his key contributions was the Syllogism- you start with a Logical argument- you engage in Deductive reasoning- and come to a Conclusion.
A famous example would be ‘All men are mortal- Plato is a man- Plato is mortal’.
Aristotle did not believe that something comes from nothing- a phrase that will come up a lot as we progress in this study is ‘ex nihilo nihil fit’- meaning Nothing comes from Nothing.
He was also what we refer to as a Teleolologist- he believed that there was design and purpose in the created order of things.
He saw design in the universe- world.
Many today embrace an idea that there is no purpose or design- that the design we see in the material world is by accident- and furthermore some say all that we see- CAME FROM NOTHING.
I can’t stress enough that this is simply not possible- I don’t say this from the Christian view point alone- but from a scientific one.
Science deals with the observation and testing of things- we look into the material world and come to certain conclusions based on what we see- observe.
One of the most fundamental observations that science SEES- is what I quoted above- NOTHING COMES FROM NOTHING.
That is- every effect has a cause.
This is important for our day- because many have capitulated to the view that all things CAME FROM CHANCE.
Not only is this statement illogical [chance is simply a word- this statement ascribes Ontological status to a word- which is impossible].
But it is scientifically not true.
Because science shows us that things do not ‘pop into existence’ without a cause- from nothing.
True science in no way contradicts belief in God- no- it backs it up.
Aristotle- as well as most of the great thinkers we shall cover- came to the conclusion that there had to be some immaterial thing [being] that was the cause of all other things.
Now- why did he argue for a PRIME MOVER?
Because he believed that the universe was eternal- if there ever came a time when science showed us that the universe had a beginning point- then the argument would be over.
The Theists [those that believe in God] would win.
Sure enough- in the 20th century that’s exactly what happened.
Today Physics teaches us that time- space- matter did indeed have a beginning point- what we refer to as the Big Bang Theory.
If the early thinkers had this knowledge- then the argument for a Prime Mover would be moot- because instead we would have a Prime Starter- see?
Aristotle is credited with writing the second greatest work on Ethics from the ancient period- called Ethics [the first one being Plato’s Republic].
He wrote on political theory- believed that Aristocracy [rule by the excellent] was the best form of government [sort of like Socrates Philosopher Kings].
Aristotle’s most famous student was Alexander the Great.
During Alexander’s conquests- he took a huge team of scientists with him- they collected all types of specimens from these conquests- and Alexander brought them back to Athens and they were used at the Lyceum for further study.
It has been said that this was the most expensive scientific enterprise up to the day of the modern space program.
He taught that the intellectual virtues can be taught directly- but the moral ones HAD TO BE LIVED FIRST.
The bible says ‘the fear of the Lord is the beginning of Wisdom’.
Proverbs 3:19 The LORD by wisdom hath founded the earth; by understanding hath he established the heavens.
Proverbs 3:20 By his knowledge the depths are broken up, and the clouds drop down the dew.
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