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A Brief Survey Of Presocratic And Platonic Metaphysics.

1663 words - 7 pages

Stepping in the Same River Twice:The Metaphysics of Plato and the PresocraticsHe who cannot draw on three thousand yearsis living hand to mouth- GoetheThe SS Sardine is a fine, sea-going vessel. Its owner however, is quite bent on wanting an entirely new boat. Instead of investing the money into buying a whole boat, she figures that she will simply transform the Sardine into a new boat herself. For a period of twelve months, the owner replaces every single plank used in the Sardine's construction with fresh lumber from Home Depot. At what point can it be said that the Sardine no longer exists? Clearly, when the first board is replaced the boat changes, but can it be said to be a completely different boat? If, when twelve months is up and every single original plank of the Sardine has been replaced, is it a new boat then? Using an example closer to home: as our own cells die and are replaced, are we a new person when none of our original cells exist?This is a perfect example of one of the classic problems from the history of metaphysics: the problem of change. This problem was as vexing to the ancient Greeks as it is to the modern mind. Should we assume that what we see and feel what is actually the way we think it to be? For philosophers concerned with metaphysics (literally translated as beyond-physics), the answer is most frequently no. For the majority of people unfamiliar with the history of philosophy, Plato serves as the first metaphysician, developing an elaborate system of forms and particulars. In actuality, the world of metaphysics was already quite diverse and developed when Plato came onto the scene. The first of the Greeks to be concerned with the subject were the scientist-philosophers of Miletus, around 600 BCE (Wheelwright, 40), two whole centuries before Plato. His thought was heavily influenced by the string of philosophers that came before him, though his metaphysics remains quite unique for what it has to offer to the tradition of metaphysics. Though an intensive discussion of each of the major figures in presocratic metaphysics is beyond the scope of this paper, the way they saw the real world left an indelible impression on Plato, and may still have wisdom to impart on us modern folk, some 2,600 years later.It is important to note that it is only very recently (within the last two and a half centuries) that science actually separated itself from philosophy, its parent discipline. The philosophers thought themselves something similar to modern scientists (that is, concerned with figuring out the nature of our world), and scientists considered themselves philosophers (specifically "natural philosophers"). Many of the Greeks thought about reality and particulars as being made of a basic "arché" or "primary substance," which is the stuff behind the stuff (Wheelwright, 6). The arché can be thought of as being what all substance is ultimately reducible to, and that from which all substance comes. None of the...

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