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10/25/2012

Bring Back The Dead G(r)eeks



Plato's Academy
According to philosophy there is a designated approach to thinking about the world, with defined objectives and methods to understanding reality. Thinking itself is as old as humanity, some even say, it's older than anything else that exists in the materialized world. I must say I'm not that fixated on the meta aspect of it, but we can safely assume that it's as least as old as the old Greeks.

Methodic thinking is the cradle of everything we are, and everything we have accomplished as a species.
Isn't it a bit weird that the important questions we ask ourselves have already been asked by our Greek forefathers? They found answers according to their timeline and state of knowledge, but they knew very little compared to what we know today.

Yet somehow there is this incredible boldness in what a Thales of Miletus or an Anaximander thought about the world, what it was made of. Thales thought water to be the basic element of all things and the Earth itself to be a disc floating on water like a raft, Anaximander coined the term "matter" in a much broader sense, thinking that no specific element but matter itself was the basis for everything that exists.


The Greek table of elements
They knew nothing about atoms, but they had a theory - much like the experimental physicists do today, trying to "split" the world of atoms in subatomic degrees. Unlike today, the philosophers of ancient Greece were all scientists, mathematicians and physicists trying to back up their worldview with science. Today there is this partition wall between science and philosophy - the latter doesn't produce any usable results, numbers and figures on its own, thus has sadly degenerated into a theoretical exercise at universities alone.


Ideally, a modern scientist should be detached from all things ideological, especially his own hopes or expectations for finding an answer. This is so completely un-Greek!


Did Socrates' beard attract groupies?
Today's scientists can be philosophers only in their spare time. That strikes me as both strange and a bit ungrateful, because philosophy is responsible for us asking those questions, as it teaches us how to find out things about the world.
Yet it appears that over time, science accumulated the tools of the trade and ran with them. It's OK, I don't have a beef with science - although it evolved based on the (Borg) principles of assimiliation and compliance. Sometimes though, I wish there was a way to summoning the spirit of the Greeks back into our daily lives. Not only for the sake of knowledge, but for wisdom's sake - to remind us of the timeless relevance there is in understanding the world and its workings. Because sometimes we tend to forget why we want to know things, unlike the Greeks; their whole culture revolved around that aspect. It was a proud trait to think, a useful and esteemed quality to be able to speak one's mind in debate. I imagine that Plato's students got lots of tail for being the think-stars of their time. (Nowadays philo students are laughed at for being too lazy to do something useful-)


What is more useful than thinking? It's the value of wanting to know something, stating a theory out of curiosity; and even the celebration of finding out that they were wrong that made them reach for the stars - which, according to ancient Greek astronomy, consisted of fire, caught in bowls.


Strife is the father of all things, sundering itself, coalesces with itself, like the harmony of the bow and the lyre. - Heraclitus