How Was the Transition from Philosophy of Nature to Philosophy on Man?

How Was the Transition from Philosophy of Nature to Philosophy on Man?

June 28, 2021 Off By Felso

Philosophy has started to think about nature since its emergence. This interest and curiosity of philosophy will turn to human after a while.

The reasons that led to this change in philosophy can be grouped under three headings: philosophical, political and social reasons. At the forefront of the philosophical reasons is the bankruptcy of natural philosophy, which took place in the 5th century BC. The phenomenon of bankruptcy of natural philosophy means that, on the one hand, natural philosophy has exhausted its development opportunities and completed its development after saying more or less everything that can be said, and on the other hand, it becomes inconclusive and unable to contribute to the Greeks due to the fact that philosophers put forward opposing or even contradictory views on the same issue. Greek philosophers have said everything that can be said, pushing philosophical speculation to the limit, in an age where some concepts and distinctions necessary for philosophical thought were not available. In order for philosophy or metaphysics to develop further, the knowledge-related abilities of people who say so much about existence must be critically filtered, new methods must be found for philosophical thought, and new concepts, distinctions and insights must be introduced for correct research on existence. There is an obligation to wait for Aristotle.

On the other hand, the fact that natural philosophers, who reduce the real world of ordinary people to a world of appearances with their extremely abstract and speculative views that reject the reality of the sensory world, put forward different reality designs and even contradictory views on almost every subject played a decisive role in the bankruptcy of this philosophy. For example, where the Ionian philosophers placed matter, a material principle on the basis of existence, the Pythagoreans put forward a formal principle, number, as the arche of existence; While the Elea School said that change is nothing but an illusion, Heraclitus claimed that change is real; Where philosophers such as Thales, Anaksimandros and Anaksimenes derived existence from a single substance, pluralist philosophers such as Empedocles and Anaksagoras  placed many substances on the basis of existence. This contradictory process, which points to a development, to the infrastructure necessary for a synthesis, however, has caused the average person to turn their back on philosophy on nature.

The philosophical reason in question can be added to the fact that, as a social phenomenon, the conditions in Athens, which has now become the center of philosophy, are not suitable for disinterested intellectual activity as before. After a long period of prosperity, Athens first became tired of the wars of influence between Athens and Sparta. Again, the wars with the Persians and a severe plague epidemic nearly exhausted the power of the Athenians and Greeks. Moreover, there was a real democracy in Athens; The Assembly of the Athenians, that is, all adult male citizens who could attend a meeting, represented the ultimate authority in the state. In this democracy, the assembly had complete sovereignty, even though it was convened with only a small fraction of those eligible for election. The Assembly was both the legislator, the executive, and the judge. Athenian democracy did not rule out great differences in wealth and social status. But still, during the first three quarters of the 5th century BC, the old aristocratic families held power.

However, from the middle of the 5th century, with the restructuring of Greek democracy and its transformation into a commercial democracy, the aristocrats lost their hold on power. The newly emerging business class needed a new outlook or philosophy to ensure their legitimacy in power, a new body of philosophers to impart political knowledge to them. Sophists, the children of their age, emerged as a result of this need. These wandering philosophy teachers, who acted as the spokespersons for the new owners of political power, taught them the political knowledge and strategies they needed. Indeed, in the same democracy, where the power changed hands from aristocrats to the class of merchants, where the knowledge of the art of politics and administration in aristocrats was passed from father to son or acquired within the family, the rising class of merchants needed a new philosophy, a new and practical approach to the people who would provide this information to them, to ground and legitimize their political positions. Considering that the point of view needs intellectuals who will defend it, the birth of philosophy on human and the fact that the first and greatest representatives of this philosophy, the Sophists, are really the children of their age can be better understood.

Prepared by: Sociologist Ömer YILDIRIM
Source: Omer YILDIRIM’s Personal Lecture Notes. Atatürk University Sociology Department 1st Year “Introduction to Philosophy” and 2nd, 3rd, 4th Grade “History of Philosophy” Lecture Notes (Ömer YILDIRIM); Open Education Philosophy Textbook, MEB Philosophy Textbook, “History of Philosophy” Ahmet Cevizci