Date of Award

Spring 1957

Document Type





Ancient Greek Philosophy was concerned primarily with external nature, and it is for the most part naturalistic (the view that all facts have only natural causes and natural significance) and hylozastic (the opinion that all things are in some degree alive). The philosophers of this period had two problems: 1. that of substance; 2. that of change. Philosophers of the Milesian school; Thasles, Anaximander, Anaximenes, and the Pythagorians deal almost exclusively with these problems. Heraclitus bases his psychology on his theory of the universe holding that the controlling element in man in the soul (fire), and man must subordinate himself to a "universal reason". Whatever passion desires to get it buys at the cost of the soul.

The Elatic school of Parmenides, being idealistic, and denying all change, calls the sense world illusion, stating that reason is the criterion of truth. Parmenides tells us that our reason shows the world as a unity, unchangeable and immovable, but sense perception reveals a world of plurality and change. How it is possible to perceive such a world he does not tell us.

Empedocles says man is composed of these elements. He ascribes psychic life to all things and maintains transmigration of the human soul.

Anaxargas ascribes souls to organic bodies in order to explain their motion. He calls the mind, which initiated the motion, the nous, which has the power over the matter, and as a result his position is one of vague dualism. He involves the mind only when a mechanical explanation fails.

Democritus and the Atomists agree with the Eleatics saying that absolute change is impossible. He claims that certain organs of the body are the seats of particular mental functions which results in the crude beginnings of physiosogical psychology on a materialistic basis. Sense perception is explained as a change produced in the soul by the action of images resembling the perceived object. Greek Atomists anticipated the distinction between primary and secondary qualities encountered in modern philosophy. This distinction was held by Kant (1724-1804). He claims that a primary quality is in the object exactly the same way as it appears in the mind. Primary qualities then are associated with quantity, extension, figure, position, number and motion. For Kant, a secondary quality is any physical property in the object using sensation that differs from the conditions of that property in the object itself. Secondary qualities are associated with color, odor, sound and taste.

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