Archbishop Lazar Puhalo


We have not updated our changing paradigms/dialogue with science page for some time, and I would like to begin a discussion about what I call the new axial era. I have used this expression many times in broadcasts and lectures, and it is time to develop this idea more fully. In order to do this successfully it would seem necessary to discuss the first axial era and explain its meaning.
    The concept of an axial era was given to us by the philosopher Karl Jaspers. In examining the monumental transformation of human thought and culture that took place between approximately 800 BC and 400 or 300 BC, Jaspers noted that this period of time developed profound changes in the way humans thought, developed culture and formed societies. We do not know all of the dynamics that drove this transformational era, but we do know that one of the generators of this new religious and philosophical thought was the question of permanence and change. It was this question, or rather series of questions, that laid the foundations of modern science.
    In this discussion about the concept of an axial era, and my suggestion that we have entered into a second axial era, we should begin with the Greeks, although they do not form the oldest part of this transformational eon. Beginning with the school at Miletus, the Hellenic thinkers had the greatest impact on non-Eastern thought, and on the development of science.
    Let us briefly outline the idea of a second axial era, and we will develop these ideals further as our discussion proceeds. During the first axial era philosophy and sometimes a vague theology developed. While the ordinary people were not immediately touched by these developments in philosophy, they were certainly impacted upon by the development of law codes, systems of ethics and the reshaping of religious concepts and principles. The thought and the concepts of the philosophers gradually trickled down to the broader levels of societies. Over decades and centuries these concepts slowly transformed human thought. The American Constitution, for example, was profoundly influenced by the humanist/deist philosophers of the 16-17th centuries (and earlier). In the latter half of the 18th century a new development began to unfold. Science began to replace philosophy as the motor of evolutionary change in human thought. At the same time the industrial revolution with the passage from merchantilism to capitalism to consumer-capitalism had already been replacing older structures of society and culture. This latter dynamic also collapsed the traditional family structure and created the new nuclear family. Beginning with Albert Einstein and his transformational theories, more and more people became aware of developments in the physical sciences. The birth of quantum mechanics, biological and neurobiological sciences and a greater awareness of the universe coupled with the explosion of technology, has reshaped human thought over the past century. By degrees the philosophers and their influence began to recede and be replaced by the physicists and developers of new technology. The new axial era that we have been discussing is essentially driven by physics and technology. These elements have produced often immense changes in the worldview and the conceptual anthropology of an ever increasing segment of the human population. It is this process that we wish to converse about, beginning with a review of four major elements of the first axial era; all of which deal with questions of permanence and change. These include the powerful influence of the great Azeri prophet Zoroaster (who taught just on the cusp of moving into the axial era), the development of new religious paradigms in India, China and Israel, and the development of Hellenic philosophy and proto-science. As mentioned above, we will begin with the Hellenic developments in the pre-Socratic Epoch because they most clearly define the question of permanence and change as the driving force of the first axial era.


(This chapter of our discussion of the Axial Era is from a series of classes which Archbishop Lazar gave at St Sava Seminary, Grayslake, Il.)


    by Archbishop Lazar Puhalo


    There is a concern of the pre-Socratics that echoes so clearly down to the Scholastic era in a problematic way. This matter, in a unique and powerful way, undermined Western Christian theology and set it on a false course. This concept is that of a "First Principle" or "First Cause."
    We will discuss the developments and changes in the concept of what constitutes the "First Principle," but let us jump ahead a few millennia. The crises that would follow from the dogmatization of this concept in the Scholastic era is one demonstration of the wounding of Western theology by Platonism and Aristotelianism. This Western theological development redirected the Christian concern for the meaning of life to a concern about the correct system of abstract proofs — a doctrinal position based on claims of the validity of "First Principle." These proofs, being essentially philosophical abstractions, seek after truth as if truth is captured by the work of reason, or is an historical or scientific "fact"— an object of some sort. We will discuss in another work why this was so destructive to Western theology (and the philosophy that was shaped by it). This development reached its zenith with the rise of nominalism and the movement into pure science, and the Scholastic reaction to it.
    The main safeguard that kept Orthodox Christian theology from degenerating into philosophy was the refusal to speculate about a "First Principle" or "First Cause." Orthodoxy refused to subject God to human reason and avoided the fall into rationalism. Rationalism must shape itself according to philosophical tradition and thus the rationalism of the scholastics became dependent on Plato and Aristotle.
    The apophatic theology of Orthodox Christianity avoids this completely. Reason is purified by faith rather than negated by it, while faith is substantiated by experience, not by reflective reasoning. Faith, like Orthodox theology, recognises the reality of things that are beyond and above reason, and are concluded in a mystery. As we approach the divine, the syllogisms of Aristotle collapse and the "Forms" of Plato evaporate. We enter into a cloud of unknowing and incomprehension, in which reason ceases and we apprehend by means of ineffable experience. In such a state, reason is regenerated by faith, and we begin to appropriate the reason of the "New Man.".
    For now, let us trace the rise of these concepts of First Principle/First Cause in the period of Greek philosophy before Socrates.



    Before we continue it seems useful to say something about motion and movement at this point. We use the term "motion" rather than movement in all the in part because it is translated that way in the all the various translation of fragments that we are using. From a metaphysical point of view "movement" was defined as passing from the potential to the actual, where later science would define "movement" as matter in motion. The Eleatics and Atomists are speaking of matter in motion. The Eleatics would deny the motion of matter, at least of the First Principle or underlying essences of Being. The Atomists insisted upon it. However, part of the contradiction lies in the fact that "motion" was little understood at the time. Even in Zeno's paradox of the Arrow, we see this lack of understanding. It is doubtful if any of the pre-Socratic philosophers would have ascribed movement to a prota archei either.
    The breakthrough in the concept of motion (the gradual passage through the idea of impetus to the theory of inertia) is pivotal in the development of modern science. The term impetus seems to have appeared in the scholastic era, however the theory of impetus originated with the 6th century Byzantine scientist/philosopher John Philiponos, in his critique of Aristotle's theories relating to the motion of projectiles. Aristotle taught that the speed of a moving body is proportionally related to the force that moves the body. Consequently, he said, no object can be moving unless it is forced to. This approach, since it attributed to what on the surface appeared obvious, the validity of a natural law, became practically doctrinal and cast a shadow over physics until the appearance of Newton's Principia, where Newton correctly related the force to the acceleration instead of speed. Actually, Aristotle would suggest that a rock thrown into the air falls back to earth because earth is its natural home. The rock, he held, will fall faster (rather, with more exuberance) as it nears the earth, because it is being drawn back to its natural place. The theory of gravity was yet a long way off. The Eleatics could never have guessed that momentum is the measure of a body's motion that is equal to its mass times its velocity. They might have guessed that a body is at rest unless acted upon by some force, but they could not have fathomed a force that might act upon a First Principle (whether defined as an uncaused causer or not) in such a way. Thus, the First Principle could have neither motion nor movement. It could not be set in motion, nor could it be passing from the potential to the actual..


        We can now perceive the universe in ways undreamed of less than a century ago. As we learn more about the cosmos
 with these new tools that expand the range of our senses, our "internal model" of the universe inexorably changes.
 Our inner vision of reality grows into a new shape in response to the new knowledge (Joel Davis)

    Karl Jaspars, the existentialist philosopher, delineates the era of approximately 700-500 B.C. as an "axial period." He suggests that in this era a radical change in social thinking developed worldwide — or at least in the area of civilisation stretching from Egypt to China. This dramatic series of developments took place in the areas of religion and ethics, and in many basic elements of the ideas of interhuman relations. This era saw the appearance of Zoraster with his dualistic religious-ethical system, of Lao Tse and Confucius in China, the Buddha in India, the great prophets such as Isaiah in Israel and the dawn of philosophy in the Hellenic world. All these movements sought to come to grips with the great existential problems that faced mankind: "being," meaning, freedom, bondage, becoming, dissolution, etc.
    The contradictions between change, continuity and permanence and the apparent contradiction between matter and spirit (which would form a basis of Gnosticism), have so dominated man that they generated the natural religions, philosophy and science. Change, the nature of change and its causes, was certainly a mystery in ancient times. The difficulty in treating cancer today reveals that it is still somewhat of a mystery. It was not only the apparent contradiction between change and permanence, of winter and summer that occupied the minds of the thinkers of the era. The problem of the co-existence of good and evil had concerned human beings since the beginnings of intelligent thought. Seeking solutions to these problems was the driving force of the axial period.
    More primitive cultures dealt with change by means of rituals which often imitated it, and with myths (cosmogonies and cosmologies) which sought to explain it. The first school of authentic rationalists we encounter sought to deny it. The ultimate solution to a lack of understanding is denial.
    Why, precisely, the question of change should have dominated the foundations of philosophy, is an interesting question. We must note, though, that it also dominated much of the cultural and religious patterns that preceded the birth of authentic philosophy, and resurfaced so profoundly in the early 1800s with Hegel.
    Earlier contemplation of change resulted in the birth of magic — an attempt to control change, in rites of passage — an attempt to celebrate or guide it, and in religious rituals aimed at influencing the Cause of the changes. Change was, however, simply accepted as the profound inevitability of "being." Existence was seen as a constant stream of change, a flux of being and becoming. All the ancient cosmogonies and cosmologies addressed the apparent cyclical nature of change, typified and amplified first by the seasons and then by observations of the heavenly bodies. Each cosmogony established a model of reality for its own culture, however many similarities there might have been among them. It has occurred to me that the establishment of the "divine monarchy" was an attempt to have more "local" influence on the often chaotic and frightening changes that took place. We have only to recall that the city of Nippur in Chaldea once flourished on the banks of the Euphrates. Now, its ruins rise like a nondescript massif in a barren, windswept desert. The Euphrates had changed her course and abandoned the city, leaving death and decay where once life had flourished in green gardens. Even the rise of empires may have been driven in some small part by the desire to control the unknown, to gain some little dominion over change and that which was "different."
    When and in what manner the first antithesis between change and permanence was posed in likely beyond speculation. Just as uncertain is the circumstance and era in which the question of the conflict between good and evil, spirit and matter arose. The philosophy regarding these contradictions would blend with mysticism to form the Gnostic sects that were to bedevil Christianity for centuries.
    The religious movements of the axial era focused more on the paradox of good and evil, while in the Hellenic world we witnessed the rise of philosophy, which concerned itself largely with the question of change and Being — that is, the coming into existence and passing out of existence of things, while there was so evidently both continuity and permanence. The Gnostic systems that arose in this era and later sought to combine both philosophy and religion in solving the quandary of good and evil. They developed schools which I would describe as mystical rationalism, and intertwined the questions of change in the material world with the problem of good and evil.
    In the course of their deliberations, the Hellenic philosophers developed methods of thought and fundamental ideas that would be sometimes an aid and sometimes a hindrance to future philosophy, and ultimately to Western Christian theology.
    We are not going to discuss the rise and systems of the great religions or of the developments in Judaism of this era. We are concerned here only with the pre-Socratic Hellenic philosophers. Moreover, we are concerned especially with those elements of speculation among these thinkers that would eventually distort Christian theology, particularly in the scholastic era.


        Empedocles:    It is impossible to find a truly wise man.                                                        
        Xenophanos:    That is likely true, for only a wise man would know a wise man if he met him.

    The paradox we have mentioned may be described in a manner which will be a bridge for us between the various schools that arose. I would like to suggest that, so far as the Hellenic philosophers are concerned, the impetus was provided by the discovery of mathematics as a system.
    There must be a permanent principle, since the universe is permanent. This is further proved by the immutability of the laws of mathematics. If there is change, then there must be a permanent principle underlying change; for, paradoxically, if there were nothing permanent, there would be nothing to change. Only what has Being can change; non-being has nothing to change, either sporadically nor in a continuous manner.
    Since we are in the realm of speculation, and since Thales of Miletos, who began the quest for a First Principle, and Pythagoras of Samos were contemporaries (6th century B.C.), let us conjure the notion that the paradox of immutability and change, of dissolution and permanence arose from the discovery of mathematics and the awe of its mysteries. Geometry and mathematics are proof of a permanent world. Their laws never change no matter how abstract they appear. We will come back to this thought later, as a bridge between Parmenides and Zeno in Elea of Sicily.
    The quandary of change and permanence lies also at the root of medicine and the physical sciences. Anthropologists and ethnographers may look at change over mere decades or centuries or millennia, evolutionary biologists and geologists over millions of year, physicists over billions of years. For medicine, it is much more pressing. Birth, growth, maturity, illness, aging, death and dissolution are changes which shape the immediate awareness of every individual. Change and permanence can be urgent and vital matters.
    If the rationalism with which the pre-Socratic philosophers approached these questions seems crude, sometimes ludicrous, we will do well to remember that fifteen hundred years later, the Scholastics became mired in the same bog of rationalism. We would also do well to reflect on some of the startling insights that the pre-Socratics hit upon by means of pure intuition, and to observe that Zeno's four paradoxes were profound enough to occupy some notable minds up to the 20th century. Zeno could give us such paradoxes and construct dialectic, the ultimate realist Heraclitus of Ephesus could presage Hegel and the Atomists could hint, however vaguely, at quantum mechanics. We still use Pythagoras' odd and even numbers, squares and cubes of numbers, etc. It seems to me, at least, that we ought not to lightly dismiss the pre-Socratics with their groping in the dark toward knowledge that we can now take for granted. We now have some understanding of the inexorable force of entropy, and the first two laws of thermodynamics, which the Milesians and Eleatics appear to have suspected was out there some place. Imagine what a Thales or a Zeno would have done with our advantage and the tools now at our disposal.

                To see the world in a grain of sand
                and heaven in a wild flower,
                Hold infinity in the palm of your hand
                and eternity in an hour
                            (William Blake)

    Thales of Miletos
    (ca.620-540 B.C.)

    Thales is generally credited as the first to systematize this question of the antithesis of change and permanence. He is also credited with developing the philosophical quest for a "First Principle" or First Cause" (prota archai) of all that exists in order to respond to the paradox. In essence, this quest appears to be a search for a principle underlying permanence. To be the principle of permanence, it would have to be the cause of "Being." In this case, Thales may be thought of as the founder of ontology.
    Let me speculate on the idea behind this (though the speculation is not entirely original). Everything that exists changes and decays. If this is so, then there must be some unchanging, undecaying essence (or mode of being) which is always the same. This essence is what things come from, and what they return to when they decay (or, what they change into at the end of their cycle). Aristotle asserts that the more ancient philosophers held that, in the most concise manner of speaking, nothing actually comes into being or loses its being, because the First Principle (or, original element) always remains the same. The First Principle is permanent; it is a principle of permanence.
    Since they had no way of examining how things began and ended, they had to speculate by means of reason and experience, or reason based on observation. They saw that the earth and people were always the same even though they changed, and that, for example, trees died and decayed as do humans, etc. Thus, they reasoned that there must be some primal substance from which all things arose, and returned to — perhaps they had the idea that everything was recycled through this substance.
    I suggest that this concept of First Principle, at least as it appears in the system of Thales, is the matrix of Platon's kosmos noetos? Thales had the idea that there must be some natural physical entity (φύσυς) from which all things come into being. There may have been one such entity or many, but there was an entity either for all or for each. Actually, it is not clear what the earlier philosophers considered to be the nature of the First Principle, and whether there was one or "one for each." Platon's "world of ideas" (kosmos noetos) is a "First Principle." We assume that Platon is the originator of the "kosmos noetos" and that it was his solution to a philosophical problem willed to him by the pre-Socratics. The question of the relation of permanence and change he answered with a permanent world of ideas reconciled to the material world of change.
    In any case, things change, but the essence of them does not. We might note also, that for Thales, that which would later be identified as "soul" was really the motor force in things, that is, the vital principle that causes motion in them. There does not seem to have been an actual concept of "spirit" or "spiritual" connected with either "soul" or "First Principle" in Thales' system.
    It seems worth mentioning that Thales travelled to Egypt, where he learned such geometry as was known there at that time. He was also familiar with Chaldean (Babylonian) thought. Thrasibulos, who was King of Miletos in the 7th century B.C. had opened the trade and intellectual door to the East. Considering the cosmogonies of both Egypt and Babylon, it is not surprising that Thales considered water to be the original element. In Babylon, Enki was not only the god of water, but of wisdom and craftsmanship. One might also suspect that his attempt at a rational explanation of the origins of the universe was in part driven by the fact that he was the best engineer of his era, and that he applied engineering concepts to his system. We have no way of knowing whether or not Thales considered the ancient cosmogonies to be allegorical expressions of physical principles. It is clear, however, that he was seeking specific physical explanations and rejecting all mythological constructs or explanations of a symbolic type. Thales observed the predominance of water in his world, and the "river of stars" that we call the Milky Way could have appeared to be a direct homologue to the earthly waters.
    As we mentioned above, it is not certain whether or not the Ionian School of Miletos introduced the quest for the First Principle, but Thales is credited with beginning it.
    It is my understanding that this quest was a desire for some stability in a world of constant change, which nevertheless always appeared to be the same. One is led to think of Hubble's evidence for the "cosmological principle." Combine the fact that the location of heavenly bodies is in constant change with the cosmological principle which states that at any given time, the universe on the large scale looks the same, no matter who observes it and regardless of their vantage point, and one may have some basis for Thales concept of "changeless change," of an unchangeable essence behind the ever changing world. The cosmological principle is not entirely correct, but if Hubble could propose large scale cosmic isotropy in 1925, we should not miss the fact that the pre-Socratics hinted at it, however simplisticly, long before.
    Thales gave philosophy the concept of an ultimate stability which accounted for the contradiction between corruption, decay, death and permanence. He also instigated a definition of psykhe (psyche) that provided for motion and action in material things.
    From all that is known of his system, Thales was satisfied with a material First Principle and a non-abstract psyche. "Soul" as we understand it is too abstract and spiritual a translation for the Milesian concept of "psyche." Thomas Hobbes would approve.


    Anaximander Son of Praxiades
    (ca.610-545 B.C.)

    The disciple of Thales, Anaximander, added "dimension" to the concept of the unchanging essence — the First Principle. He also made the First Principle more abstract. For him, it had to be something without spatial limit (to apeiron). We need not go into his arguments (as much as we know of them) as to why this First Principle, which he called "the unbounded" could not be one of the four elements (all of which are mutable). He maintained Thales idea that the First Principle was the element from which all things arose, and into which they passed again at their dissolution.
    One point that we might remember for our future discussion of Platonism and theology is the idea of the substratum. It seems to me that Anaximander introduced the idea of the First Principle as an essential substratum. He reckoned that the four elements could not be the Prime Cause (First Principle) because of their transmutability and limitedness. There must be another, a boundless and unchanging substratum. Following Thales, this substratum would be material (though Anaximander appears not to have thought so). We will encounter the term "material substratum" again in the works of the Platonist heretic Origen in the 3rd century A.D. One can read more about Anaximander's ideas of the First Principle in Aristotle's Physics, where he compares Anaximander's ideas with those of Anaxagoras. We have the information we need for our discussion.


    Anaximenes Son of Evrostratos
    (ca. 560-520 B.C.)

    According to Aristotle (Metaphysics I:3) a colleague of Anaximander, Anaximenes decided that air is the First Principle, and that all things that exist are brought into being by a rarefaction and condensation of air. In this regard, he made the prime essence more diaphanous, though still material, and diverged from Anaximander.
    So what have we come to? First, the rationalized "First Cause" or "First Principle." Secondly, the quandary of change. The problem of changingness vs permanence, of continuity and eternity troubled all the Greek philosophers. We will also see the unfolding of the denigration of sense experience and intuition in favour of rationalism. Shortly, we will also see the beginnings of the famous Scholastic era debates about how many angels can dance on the head of a pin, and if a tree falls in the forest and there is no one there to hear it, does it actually make a noise.
    Next let us look a little at this question of change and unchangingness, which the Milesians raised and the Eleatics continued.

        Out of the formless fire, the narrow orbs are woven, Those over these out
        of night;
    but a portion of flame streams through them all.
        ....Then shall you know the etherial nature of each of its tokens—
    Each of the signs in the ether, and all the invisible workings—
        Wrought by the unblemished sun's pure lamp,
    whence they have arisen.
        Then you shall hear of the orb-eyed moon's
    orbital workings,
        and of her nature, and likewise discern the heaven that surrounds them.
    Whence it arose, and how by her sway Necessity
        bound it firm, to encircle the periphery of the stars.
                    (Fragment from Parmenides poem On Nature).

    The Eliatic school would rapidly diverge from the Ionian by abandoning the Milesians' tenous analogy. This they would replace with non-empirical reason. The ancestors of the pure rationalists deduced the elements of reality on the matrix of their concept of lingustics and their understanding of the processes of thought. I might speculate that, considering their concern with nature of thought, they may have shaped their understanding of reality on the basis of their understanding of the hegimonicon (the seat of the reason/spirit/life-force in the human organism).

    Xenophanos of Colophon.
    (ca.575-470 B.C.)

    The Ionian school came to Elea in Italy in the person of Xenophanos of Colophon. Xenophanos may or may not have been the first of the philosophers of Elea, because Platon says, in his Sophist: "Our Eleatic tribe of philosophers, beginning with Xenophanos, and even earlier, embodied in a parable this truth that all things, in a manner of speaking, are in truth one." Hence, we may allow that there was some collection of philosophers who had been at Elea before Xenophanos. He was, nevertheless, the "spiritual father" of the Eleatic School. His critiques of Thales and of the Pythatorenas (particularly their doctrine of reincarnation) were important elements in setting the direction of the Eleatic school.
    Just incidently, I would like to suggest the direct connection between the meaning of the name Xenophanos and the "Eleatic stranger" in the Sophist and Politicos: Xeno= stranger; phany = appearance.
    In the context of our study, what are we going to look for in Xenophanos?

    (1) First of all, we will find in this school, as in Miletos, the same preoccupation with the paradox between change and permanence, between the everchangingness and the apparent "sameness" of everything in the cosmos. We will be interested in Xenophanos' approach to solving the problem.

    (2) We will note the rudiments of the thought which led to the concept of "the Unknown God" mentioned by Apostle Paul (Acts 17:23).

    (3) We will look for any forerunners to the ideas of Socrates.

    (4) More directly to the point of our pursuit, we will look for any concepts which may have foreshadowed Platon's kosmos noetos and his ideas about the "untruth" of sense perceptions.

    In the fragments of Xenophanos, we find the opinion that the beginning and end of all things is in earth and water. We all sprang, he says, from earth and water. All things that come into being are earth and water (see Fragments 8, 9 and 10). Remember that, in Babylon, it was the mythological Ninusag — earth — that gave life and Enki — water — that sustained it.
    It is not difficult to see why Xenophanos reaches this conclusion when we read about his "cyclical" concept. I wonder if the conclusions in the fragment cited above are not empirical. Certainly the theory is correct so far as it goes. Man really is a mud pie that can squeak. Apart from the observations of this philosopher that we will note below, it is not difficult to imagine a careful and contemplative observer noting that the basic constituents of all living things are water and mineral.
    With regard to the paradox of change, Xenophanos had actually observed fossils of sea life in the quarries of Syracuse, in the marble from Paros, in Malta and, perhaps, in the mountains (since he mentions the fossils of fish, seals, etc in mountain rocks). He concluded that these fossils had been pressed into mud, which later solidified. He deduced from this that land and sea were once intermixed and had separated out by evaporation (the "moist principle"). By some means, perhaps by observing erosion and the formation of estuaries by sediments, he concluded that, eventually, earth and sea would be re-mixed. Life would then vanish as all returned to mud and then the entire cycle would be repeated. Notably, he says that this change takes place "in all worlds."
    Nevertheless, he asserts that nothing ever passes into non-being, nor does anything arise from the non-existent. His disciple Parmenides expressed this thought by saying that being is immutable because one thing cannot arise from another thing which is, in its essence, unlike itself. In other words, everything that is is formed from these primordial First Principles, water and earth. Aristotle would later counter that everything is simultaneously passing into non-existence and coming into existence, and that this is the nature of permanence.
    So far as "change" is concerned, Xenophanos is cognizant of the dissolution of things, and since he observes that it is "the whole" that has no genesis nor passage out of being, it would seem that he infers that the elements are unchanging and cyclical. There is change, but it is not absolute; it is a fluctuation in the form of the principle elements in which things dissolve into these elements to be reconstituted as they were before, from these same unchanging elements.
    It seems worth noting that Xenophanos preceded Socrates in the deconstruction of the Olympian theogony. Xenophanos, like the Pythagoreans, was concerned with ethics. He makes it clear that the heroes and deities of Homer and Hesiod were no bases for decent ethics or human moral evolution. They were, in his words, murderers, liars and frauds. Of course, he was safely in Sicily when he made these observations, whereas Socrates was quite unsafely in Athens.
    It is clear that Xenophanos had no notion of reincarnation or the transmigration of "souls," because he ridicules the Pythagoreans for their belief in it (as did Empedocles). His cyclical idea is quite material. We find these idea developed further by Parmenides. It was he who shaped the Eleatic doctrine with his opposition to the Heraclitean doctrine of "change"
    Heraclitos of Ephesus (early 500's B.C.) was an "antisubstantialist." We will discuss Heraclitos' and the concept of "becoming" later. At the moment, we need a brief description of his system because the disciple of Xenophanos, Paramenides will debate it. Xenophanos denied that change is real, and his disciple Parmenides asserted that change would be self-contradictory, therefore it cannot be real (for reasons we will mention below), Heraclitos agreed that change was contradictory, but said that since this is so, contradiction is the very essence of reality; therefore change is in the nature of reality.

    (515-440 B.C.)

    They are tragic whose dreams are flouted, more tragic still are those who never realise that they might dream (Archipelago, June, 1964)

    Parmenides, the disciple of Xenophanos, is the real founder of the Eleatic School. It was his debate with Heraclitos of Ephesus (mentioned above and discussed below) that generated the ideology of the school.
    When Apostle Paul passed through the agora of Athens and climbed up to the Areopagus, he noted a monument to "the unknown God." Exactly where this nascent monotheism began, it is impossible to say, but it is certain that it was developing in the school at Elea. The "One" and the "All" might not yet be defined as deity, but as a fundamental concept, it led toward a monotheistic view, even if in a pantheistic manner.
    Xenophanos, as we noted decried the Olympians: "Homer and Hesiod have ascribed to the gods all deeds that are a shame and a disgrace among men — thieving, murders and fraud" (Fragment 8). Parmenides follows with: It never was nor shall be, but the ALL simultaneously now is; the one continuous ONE. What genesis will you seek for it? How and from where has it risen? I shall not allow any to tell me, or to consider of what it is not. For, no one can describe or imagine how NOT-IS IS, how after or even before its beginning, it issues from nothing...."
    As Aristotle says, Parmenides "gazing up into the expansive heavens, simply declared, `the One is god'." The "divine being" is changeless and immutable. Dare we read into Parmenides the idea that the One is also the arche? For something to "be," he says, it must be complete, whole, without change, or motion and permanent.
    Sense perceptions, Parmenides asserted, are non-being, unreal and inaccurate. Only thought is real and true ("I think, therefore I am.") Platon would later agree with this assertion about sense perceptions.
    Let me surmise that Parmenides was constrained to this conclusion because his reason told him that all things are one while his visual perception indicated otherwise. He asserts, on the basis of his reason and contemplation that Being is immutable, because one thing cannot arise from another that is in its essence unlike itself. To think otherwise, he insists, is self-contradictory. Being is, he teaches, the single, permanent essence underlying apparent (perceived by the senses) differences in objects. Only by eliminating these differences can we conceive actual reality, eternal, unchanging, limited only by itself.
    The conundrum of "knowledge" was still, for Parmenides the paradox of unchanging change. In my view, this is the dynamic of the quest for a "real cosmos," a universe of "being" beyond the appearance of sensual experience. Knowledge, Parmenides would assert, can be achieved by reason, not by experience. Our sense perceptions can deceive us as things not only do not always appear to be the same, but they often appear different from one time to the other. Only reason can be trusted to lead to knowledge. There is some cause for such notions. Place a pencil in a glass of water and look at it through the water. It should appear to be disjointed or "jogged." Take it out of the water, and it appears whole and straight. At a time when a fata morgana, such as the one that appeared so often in the Strait of Messina, and other mirages, could not be explained, it is not a great wonder that sense perception was not always trusted. This is an idea that would be revisited by Cornelius Janssen in the 17th century, in quite a different context, and with much less justification.
    Allow me to suggest that both the Milesians and the Eleatics were mystical rationalists. Mystical, because they sought the unseen and ineffable by means of unseeingness, mystical also because like the Pythagorean syncretists, they were in awe of the transcendence of numbers, of mathematic principles and of transcendental First Principles that might underlie and substantiate the mere appearances of the four elements (for, Parmenides held that the four elements were "mere appearances"). Parmenides could utilize the mathematical ontology of the Pythagorean brotherhood, and his notions of a "real world of being" was informed by the cosmology of Croton.
    Rationalists they were because they sought to arrive at this knowledge by means of reason, of rationalisation, discounting empirical substantiation and, perhaps, even the intuition derived by empirical means. Knowledge of the real world of being was transcendental wisdom; the path to it was in the world of thought, not the world of experience. There was some sort of heteronomism — no matter how crudely understood.
    I will not condone Aristotle's condescending dismissal of the early Eleatics (Metaphysics I:5). Neither Xenophanos or Melisos were so crude as he asserts. Aristotle could criticize these pre-Socratics, but he could not disguise the osmosis by which both he and his mentor became their heirs and developed better explanations of Being and of change, precisely upon their foundations. One could as well assert the "crudeness" of the pre-Baconian or pre-Cartesian Aristotelian scholastics.
    Mystical rationalism was to become common again in the late Latin Middle Ages. As an example of this mystical rationalsim, we recall the paradox: How many lines can be drawn through a dot ●? The answer: an infinite number of lines; hence a coincidence of opposites, namely, the infinite in the finite. The mathematician philosopher Nicholas of Cusa (----) would use this concept to demontrate the Incarnation of Christ. The long reach of the Eleatic school might in itself be a coincidence of opposites. No era of later Western philosophy would be un-affected by it.



    "We pass through this world but once. Few tragedies can be more extensive than the stunting of life, few injustices deeper than the denial of opportunity to strive or even to hope, by a limit imposed from without, but falsely identified as lying within." (Stephen Jay Gould)

    We can see that the philosophers we have been discussing are deeply concerned about the paradox of change and permanence (as well as the quandary of matter and spirit). In that context they are concerned about the dynamic force of both and about the generator of all that exists. It would appear that they were concerned to find a Constant which maintained the equilibrium between change and permanence, and that generator must be the force that started the entire process of being. Some of the early philosophers would deny actual change, others would seek its limits, while others would be interested in defining it.
    Let us pause to summarize my two premises. I surmise that what we are observing in the quest for a resolution of the paradox and the search for a First Principle is a restatement of ancient cosmogonies. Chaldean, Egyptian and ancient Hellenic creation myths are being first allegorized and then re-interpreted under the influence of a mathematic mysticism. The ancient generative nature deities are seen, first as material elements, driven by a First Principle or First Cause, and then they are gradually spiritualized. Aristotle hints at this idea in his criticism of the pre-Socratic philosophers.
    A new transcendentalism is introduced into this process by a fascination with the apparent paradox of the abstract concreteness of numbers. The inevitability in mathematic processes may even have generated a sense of predestination which the Gnostics would later develop. In the era of the Milesians and Eleatics, not to mention Croton, there would have been a great deal of excitement in the curious and inquiring minds of the philosophers, with the unfolding mystery of numbers and mathematics and the almost sacred geometry of the Egyptians.
    The thinkers in all societies, from Pythagoreanism to Confucianism, appear to have been consumed with the mystery of the seeming contradiction of change and permanence, of coming into being and dissolution. The Greeks had the new found instrument of numbers and mathematics to whet their burning curiosity about the mysteries of Being and of the universe. Every operation in mathematics is a change, and yet the value of a given number and the results of given combinations remains unchanging. No matter how one expresses an arrangement of digits, the sum of a given quantity of them is always the same. Two ones and two ones will equal four; three ones and one one will equal the same. If Pythagoras could give numbers shape and dimension: triangles, squares, cubes, etc., and assign meaning to them then it might be evident that, while the shape or appearances of numbers change, the value of each remains the same — unchanged. Perhaps to some mind, this seemed to demonstrate an unchanging change. Indeed, since numbers are not observable in nature, thus they must belong to a higher spiritual reality, discerned only noetically. This was the basis of Plato's Ideas, and of Nicholas of Cusa's perambulations ---- centuries later.
    Underlying the mystery of mathematics, the philosophers may have reasoned, there is some immutable First Principle that accounts for permanence, repetition and "sameness" in a world which human observation declared to be changing (and Parmenides asserted that change is an illusion of our finite perspective).
    Let me become yet more speculative for a moment. The digit is one. All succeeding numbers are composed of ones. Anything lesser is composed of divisions of one. Adding ones together creates the appearance of change, but the prime factor — the One — remains unchanging. All numbers, shapes and forms arise from the One. The One is the First Principle. If a larger number decays into its constituent parts, it returns to the One, for all numbers are composed of ones. One could not have guessed that everything a computer would do is just ones and zeros.
    Perhaps we can now pass on to Zeno by observing that: Either the One is a source of unity, and there are not Many, even though there appears to be, but ultimately, only one; or, there are many but the One is the source or cause of All. If such notions are understood as actual realities, and number as a revelation of this by type, then we might better understand the course of mystical reasoning of the Milesians and Eleatics. We must consider Pythagoras on his own. This is my own interpretation, but if number was given a mystical sense, whether in itself or as a type of a higher reality in another dimension, then this thesis is at least feasible. The quest for a unified "theory of everything" is not new.


    (mid-400s B.C.))

    Zeno was the disciple of Paramenides and to me he was the star of the Eleatic School. He spent considerable energy defending his teacher against the opponents of his theories of change. Indeed, Platon makes a point of this in his dialogue Paramenides. Since this is the case, we will not add much to our discussion of change and First Principle from Zeno's work. We cannot pass him by, however.
    Let us look briefly at the most unique feature of Zeno's thought, the foundation of dialectic. His "dialectical method" was direct and clear:

    1.)    Of two contradictories, one must be true, the other untrue.
    2.)    An entity cannot both be and not be at the same time.(The "law of non-contradiction").
    3.)    Presuppose the contradictory of what you desire to test. Establish its absurdity by the "law of the excluded middle." The other (non-absurd) member of the pair of contradictories will be true.

    Here is an example, and this example relates directly to Zeno's approach to change and First Principle:

    1.)    Being is either one or many.
    2.)    Assume that it is many.
    3.)    If Being is many, then Being is finite.
    4.)    Between the point of many, there other "manies," therefore, "many" is both finite and infinite. This, according to the law of the excluded middle, is an absurd proposition, and Being is one.

    Perhaps I should explain, before we go one, the rationale which excludes the existence of "many." The Eleatics denied the existence of empty space. As there was no empty space to keep the principles of being separated, they would merge. Each entity would always be in direct physical contact with another, there being no space between them, and they would merge. Thus, even if in the "beginning" there had been many, they would long since have merged into One, and thus, Being is One, not many.
    If you do not grasp the rationale of this, you are in good company, however, this is the nature of dialectic. So renowned was Zeno for his dialectical skills that Plutarch notes it in his Lives of Noble Greeks and Romans. Zeno, Plutarch remarks, had developed a method of making the same entity appear at once both like and unlike, both one and many, both are rest and in motion. Perhaps we should also regard him as the proto-politician.
    For Zeno, change was not "real," Change was only a "change of place." In this regard, one cannot pass silently by the four remarkable paradoxes of Zeno. While we need not discuss them in the context of this paper, I want to observe that I doubt if they were arguments against the possibility of motion, as they appear to be. Rather, they would seem to relate to the problem of infinity. I do not want to overreach the observation, but I cannot resist noting that in the third paradox, The Arrow, I am reminded of a principle in quantum mechanics. "The flying arrow," Zeno says, "is at rest, because a thing is at rest when occupying its own space at a given moment. At every instant in its flight, the arrow does occupy its given space." This is a far more complex assertion than it appears, at first glance, to be. I simply want to note that, in quantum mechanics, one cannot measure both the motion and the location of a particle at one and the same time. One or the other can be measured at any given moment, but both cannot. If the location of a given particle is located, its velocity vanishes. If its velocity is measured, its location vanishes. In the instant when its location is measured, even though it is a moving particle, we may say that at that instant, it is at rest.
    Actually, the paradoxes of the arrow are resolved only by modern theories of continuity and infinite sets. What to me is his "great paradox," The Stadium, is discussed by Bertrand Russell in his The Principles of Mathematics. That fact alone demonstrates its significance. It appears that this problem was not solved until early in the 20th century. Russell observes, "This static theory of the variable is due to the mathematicians; and its absence in Zeno's day led him to suppose that continuous change was impossible without a state of change, which involves infinitesimals and the contradiction of a body being where it is not." (p.351).
    The principles and physics of velocity were not known in Zeno's time. Moreover, he was not a mathematician and he took the state of mathematics in his own time for granted. All things considered, the four dilemmas that he set forth are quite remarkable.

    The beginnings of Empiricism

    "Most men have no comprehension even of such things as they encounter, nor to they understand what the experience, though they themselves are convinced that they do" (Heraclitos, Fragment 17).

    Heraclitos of Ephesus (early 500's B.C.) considered what he called Logos to be the First Principle. It is not clear what he meant by Logos. It is literally translated as word but it may have indicated a cosmic reason or intellect. Other philosophers would refer to the idea of a cosmic reason or intellect, as Logos. It is my view that Heraclitos has in mind cosmic intellect when he uses the term Logos.
    Wisdom, Heraclitos held, was a virtue indwelling in all people, though not often accessed or practised. He appears to be the first of the Greek philosophers to deal with the problem of a living "soul." It is often difficult to define exactly what the Greeks meant by the Intellect nous. It is used randomly to express mind, intellect, spirit or soul. Nevertheless, Heraclitos touches upon an afterlife recompense as well as a care for the soul in this life, and this was a feature of his concern for ethical behaviour. He warns, "It is difficult to struggle with the heart, because it is ready to sell the soul in order to purchase its desires" (Fragment 85). "Man's character determines his fate" (Fragment 119) and "There are things that await men after death that the do not anticipate or even dream of" (Fragment 27). "...condemnation will most assuredly overtake the authors of lies and false witnesses" (Fragment 28).
    Heraclitos, though perhaps not so arrogant as Aristotle, had little use for the views of his predecessors:

        "Great learning does not instil wisdom, otherwise it would have taught Hesiod, Pythagoras, Xenophanos and also Hecataeus" (Fragment 40). "Hesiod is the teacher of most men and they are convinced that he knew nearly everything. But he was a man who could not even tell night from day, not knowing that they are one" (Fragment 57).

    Heraclitos differed sharply from the Eleatics in that he considered change to be self-evident. If change is self-contradictory, as Parmenides asserts, then contradiction is in the order of nature. "All things flow and nothing abides. "One cannot step into the same river twice. We both step and do not step into the same river; we both are and are not" (Fragment 81). "The living and the dead are all the same, as are the waking and the sleeping, the young and the old, because the first change into the second and the second, in turn, change into the former" (Fragment 88). For Heraclitos, change or becoming is a perpetual movement from one phase of being into another. His dictum that you cannot step into the same river twice (Fragment 42) and that we both do and do not step into the same river (Fragment 81) were cited above. He uses these dicta to assert that change is constant. The river we put our foot into is not the same river by the time we are in it up to our waist. The river is always in a process of becoming.
    Change and contradiction are essential "laws of nature" — the Heraclitean doctrine of flux (all things are in flux — panta rei).
    Heraclitos is certainly a source of Hegel's thought. He coined the terms "strife of opposites" and "opposite tensions," by which he indicated that opposites such as permanence and change exist together. Balance, he asserted was provided by a "hidden attunement."
 For all his abstraction, Heraclitos in the end, chose one of the four elements as the principle of the world. For him, it was fire:

    "This universe, and the same for all...; it always has been and ever shall be an ever-living fire, fixed measures kindling and fixed measures dying out" (Fragment 30).

    Anaxagoras of Klazomenai
    (mid 400s)

    Anaxagoras perceived a set of First Principles which was limitless. He seems to have offset this with a First Cause which he referred to as nous (understood as either mind or intellect) developed the idea that the First Principles were composed of homoiomeries. It is not completely certain how he understood this. It could refer to things that are alike being attracted to each other, or things being manifested from like things that contain them. My view is that the latter best describes Anaxagoras' theory. One might suspect that this was the source of Aristotle's idea of why a rock falls back to earth when thrown upward.
    I read homoiomeries to indicate complimentaries or complimentary essences. I surmise that Anaxagoras is asserting that the First Principles consist in the complimentaries which generate things like themselves from essentials contained in the complimentaries.
    Anaxagoras certainly was not reconciled to the idea of anything coming into being ex nihilo, or of any existing thing passing into non-being. He uses the example of food. Since the food we eat generates the organs and parts of our bodies, the food must contain the essence that generates those body parts.
    Anaxagoras agrees in the deceptiveness of sense perception. It cannot penetrate beyond surface appearances; for this, the "eye of the reason" is necessary. Reason decrees that the essences of all that is manifested are contained in the complimentaries from which they arise. "All things were in one; Mind separated them and placed them in order."
    Change, for Anaxagoras, was the combining and separating of things. Nothing comes into being or passes out of being, rather things arise from their complimentaries and separate again into their essential constituents. "We Greeks are in error to use the expressions `to come into being' and `to pass our of being.' For no entity comes is to being or is ever annihilated. To the contrary, entities are mixed and separated our from already existing things. Thus, it would be more proper to say `commingling instead of `originating;' `dissolution' in stead of `destruction.' (Fragment 17). Moreover, "It is essential to be aware that when things are separated one from another, the whole is neither increased nor diminished; for it is impossible that there would be more than the whole, but the whole is always equal to itself." (Fragment 5).
    Mind (or, intellect/reason), as First Cause, seems to have been the "systems operator" of all these processes. He says, "Mind began to set all things in motion and make a differentiation of all that is in motion. Whatever Mind set in motion was all separated. When things were set in motion and separated, rotation caused them to become yet more separated" (Fragment 13). Again, "Mind, which is eternal, is most certainly where all other things are — in the surrounding mass, in the things that have been differentiated and in the things that are in the process of being differentiated" (Fragment 14). Mind was not intermixed with anything but was somehow present in living things.
    Anaxagoras proposed a peculiar concept of the operation of the senses. In this case we might say that sensation is allelomeric. Things opposite to the sense they were acting upon caused the sensation, since "like cannot act on like."
    Anaxagoras' theory of knowledge is not so clear. For him, either a purpose or a process of knowledge is the ability to define and limit that which can be defined and limited. "We cannot know," he says, "by word or act, the number of things that have been differentiated (Fragment 7). Because of the weakness of our senses, we are not able to discern truth (Fragment 21).


    (492-432 B.C.)

    I am now one of these: a fugitive from god and a wanderer relying on raging strife (Frag.b115, On the Exile of the Spirit).

    Had Empedocles lived in our own time, he would have been referred to as a "renaissance man." His interests were so broad and his influence so profound that he was considered to be the founder of the Italo-Greek school of medicine, a formative theoretician of democracy, a botanist and zoologist, among many other things. He was also a theologian of paganism and an ethicist.
    His theory of change is what interests us at present. Empedocles was influenced by both Parmenides and Pythagoras, but perhaps most by Anaxagoras. He developed Anaxagoras' ideas about change and permanence into a unique approach of his own. Empedocles returns to the Milesian four elements, which he considered to be the rhizomes from which all thing arise. Change may be natural and in the natural order of the universe, but it is, to a certain degree, illusory. Where Parmenides held that change was completely illusory, Empedocles held that "absolute becoming" is impossible as change is only relative. It actually occurs, but it is only a dissolution and reconstitution of permanent entities. These entities coalesce, separate and coalesce anew. Similar to Parmenides, Empedocles held that change does not involve the coming into being or passing our of being of anything that is real. There is only the combining, separating and recombining of Permanent "First Principles."
    The concept of a cosmos which alternates between two states of conditions is perhaps the most striking feature of Empedocles system. His two states are "love" and "strife," two forms which he appears to have borrowed from the Pythagorean table of opposites. He assigned a life cycle to the universe in which the force of love produced unity and homogeneity alternating with the force of strife which produced dissolution. Dissolution was not annihilation, however, but a separating out of entities or conditions into layers or even discreet units (the condition is not completely clear in the fragments of Empedocles' writing that come down to us). Love is a state of peace, concord, affection and unity of being. When it occurs, it is a "restoration," it breaks down differences and produces undifferentiated unity. Strife presents the exact opposite set of conditions, and precisely inverts the value of the "love state." It produces differences and violence. Strife promotes the ethics of a "fallen world," a world of imperfection, while love promotes a transcendental ethics which moves toward perfection. Under strife, the spirit is in a condition of exile, exiled by the values which are an inversion of those of love. Love is the natural home of the spirit.
    Since strife is a force of discord and multiplicity, it is the cause of ktisis — the forming of the material cosmos, and it strives to maintain this present creation. The relationship of this idea with similar doctrines in Gnosticism is obvious.
    Empedocles sees strife as a source of violence and asserts that this is why in the "strife cosmos" we have worship by means of living sacrifices: sacrifice is a form of ritualized violence.
    While one is tempted to ascribe a vague hint of entropy and counter entropy into the theory, that would perhaps be too much of a stretch. Still, one is reminded of the principle of entropy, if not the first two laws of thermodynamics. Empedocles' universe alternated between order and stochasticity (rather than actual chaos), harmony and cacophony, blending and dissolution. He assigned a periodic, cyclical concept to these alternating states, which is a bit reminiscent of teachings held in India.
    While the Pythagoreans (who influenced Empedocles) held that the nature of the four elements was geometrical and mathematical, Empedocles asserted that they are material. Nevertheless, I suspect that Empedocles took either his two principles of love and hate (or, harmony and strife) from the Pythagorean table of opposites, or borrowed the concept of opposites from it.
    In passing, I would note that Empedocles advocated the concept of the fall of spirits into the prison of the fleshly body. This idea, present in Orphism, found its fullest expression in the later Gnostic sects.
    As a footnote, both Empedocles and Anaxagoras were of the opinion that plants are motivated my desire and perceive pleasure and pain. They were joined by Democritos in holding that all plants have mind and intelligence. They did assert that plants were inferior to animals. Of more importance was Democritos of Abdera's realisation that the brain is the location of the hegimonicon: the thoughts, intelligence and the soul (by whatever definition). This may seem to our era to be "the obvious," but it was not. There were many varied theories about the seat of the hegimonicon, but the transference from the pericardial region or the heart proper to the brain would have in calculable implications for medicine and psychology. Indeed, it was in this same period that Alkmaeon would found the concept of empirical psychology.     THE ATOMISTS

    Men achieve tranquility through moderation in pleasure and through the symmetry of life. Want and superfluity are apt to upset them and to cause great agitations of soul (Democritos, Fragment 191).

    As we have seen, Heraclitus held that, since change was a basic aspect of nature and, as Parmenides held, it is a contradiction. Contradiction is, therefore, a basic aspect of nature and reality. Parmenides and the Eleatics declared that change is an illusion, and does not occur at all.
    The Atomists (4th century) offered a compromise. They suggested that change is an aspect of reality, but that reality as a whole is unchangeable. Change, they theorized consisted in the motion of the unchangeable constituents of reality. They called the constituents or entities "atoms." Everything that exists, they asserted, is composed of atoms. Anything not composed of atoms is non-being.     Leucippos of Miletus
    (early ca.500)

    Leucippos moved to Elea where he studied the systems of Xenophanos and his disciples. He would likely have also looked into the Pythagorean Brotherhood at nearby Croton. Leucippos soon diverged radically from the theories of the Eleatics, however. The Eleatic philosophers did not accept either change or the existence of "empty space." The denied multiplicity of Being, the existence of "the many" or "manies." Since we discussed this in the segment on Zeno, we need not touch on it further here. Leucippos held that there could be no motion without empty space. That which is Being is a plenum — that is, completely filled, a multiplicity, unmerged and yet with no emptiness. Space, then, is a plenum because it is completely filled with matter: space is not empty, and yet there is no merging of Being. Empty space, Leucippos held, would be non-being. Following Anaxagoras, he presumed that space was filled with ether — a rarefied, minuscule atom which nevertheless did not impede motion for other atoms. He asserted that, though being is a plenum, it is not One, rather there is a multiplicity of the essence of Being. This infinite number of Beings is invisible on account of their minuteness. These essentials of Being, he called atoms (dense bodies).
    For Leucippos, reality or "First Principle" of existence is the indestructible atoms in constant motion. It is the combination of atoms that forms things, and all change is attributable to the re-formation of atoms. Dissolution or passing our of being occurs when these atoms separate. These atoms move in space, for there is space. Even though space is a plenum, there is space for movement which out the necessity of the merger into One.
    Leucippos introduced the concept of scientific determinism with his dictum that "nothing can be produced without a purpose, rather everything results from a cause and by reason of necessity." (Fragment 58). His two main works, The Great World Order and On the Mind were the basic handbooks of atomism. They wre incorporated in to the writings of his disciple Democritos of Abdera.

    (early 400s)

  "In truth, we know nothing about anything, but everyone shares the currently prevailing opinion" (Democritos, Fragment 7).

    Democritos was the most remarkable of the Atomists. He was a materialist/empiricist. His striking intuitions account for the different properties of materials by positing differing shapes of the atoms that make up the material. While his corpuscular atoms may bear little resemblance to what is known of atoms today, his insight is startling. We now know that it is the arrangement (rather than the shape or size) of atoms that make elements differ, and that the number of electrons determine the chemistry.
    In a further remarkable insight, Democritos observed that the cohesion of atoms made objects solid while a looser association of atoms formed liquids. Atoms in rapid motion, he said, produced gases.. The "elements," the four fundamental building blocks of reality recognised by the Greeks, all consisted of atoms.
    Democritos had no tools with which to correctly understand atoms, but his intuitive concepts of the nature of things is astonishing. We need not discuss his errors here because it is only with access to the instruments of the 19th and 20th centuries that he could have avoided them.
    Democritos held that the soul (ψυχύ) and reason/intellect/mind (νους) are one and the same thing. This entity belongs to the class of primary and indivisible bodies and has the capacity of motion both because of its minute size and its spherical shape. The most mobile of shapes is the perfect sphere, and it is the shape of reason/intellect and of fire. This soul is the principle of movement, understood here as motion.
    As noted, the Atomist were convinced of the movement of atoms and of matter. Democritos proposed that ether fills all of space, making space a plenum. He believed that it was the ether that carried the heavenly bodies in their circuits. If this seems primitive, we should remember that Descartes in his own time would suggest that heavenly bodies move because they somehow contact each other and created movement by their contact. We should also recall that, in the 1800's, when Maxwell's theory of light as an electromagnetic wave was proved, the idea of the ether was reborn since it was thought that the wave must move through some substance. Moreover, it was felt, this motion could not be measured except relative to something substantial. This newer concept of ether persisted until Einstein's theory of relativity finally dispelled it in 1905. Nevertheless, the theory of "dark matter" and "dark energy" is still reminiscent of Anaxagoras' and the Atomists' theory of ether.


    The student of the pre-Socratics will undoubtedly have noticed the pre-occupation with the perfection of the spherical shape. The same will be true with Aristotle, who passed the idea on to the Scholastics and into Latin cosmology and theology. We will have occasion to focus on this fact later, when we reach the era of the Scholastics. In all likelihood, this idea either arose from or was promoted by the Pythagoreans.
    The Atomists, like the Sophists were more empiricists than rationalists. The Eleatics, indeed, wore themselves out attempting to rationalise all experience, and that is perhaps, what exhausted the school. The Atomists rejected the peculiar ontologism of the Pythagoreans and the Eleatics. They defended the Milesian (Ionian) notion of the indestructibility of matter, which the Eleatics also held, in their own way. Unlike the Eleatics, the Atomists accepted the empirical aspect of knowledge. Atomic theory was quite materialistic. The atoms were unchanging material elements, consistent with the view of Parmenides, but they combined this idea with the doctrine of local motion, consistent with the assertions of Heraclitos. This motion, they believed, accounted for change.
    The Atomists understood matter to be the only reality, and this reality is manifested in the three modes or accidents (understood as a mode which is not relevant to the definition of the thing) of matter — form, order and position. These modes are determined, they said, by motion.
    We are not discussing the contributions of the pre-Socratics to the understanding of mathematics, as that would be the subject of a different study. We will not leave it unmentioned, however, because it indicates both the impressiveness of their intuition and the significance of their contribution (which is too often dismissed). As an example, we know from Archimedes that Democritos recognised that the volume of any pyramid is one-third that of a prism having the same base and height, and that the volume of any cone is one-third that of any cylinder having the same base and height. Democritos also moved away from mathematical ontologism and toward logical formalism.
    The influence of the pre-Socratics did not vanish. Aside from the example given above, we might recall that, in the early 1600's Pierre Gassendi, the Epicurean philosopher, would reexamine the atomist theories. He advocated them, not in any metaphysical sense, but in a more scientific sense. In turn, John Locke would be influenced by Gassendi's representation of the ancient atomist's concepts. Locke, who was essentially and empiricist with a primary interest in the epistemology, in the theory of knowledge, had the idea of molecules made up of atoms. He believed that atomist theory was useful in the understanding of the construction of ideas and knowledge. We could cite far too many other example to continue with.


    Reason has its limits. The history of Western Philosophy repeats itself because of those limitations. Metaphysics deals with being (permanence) and becoming (change). The treatment of these principles is found everywhere in the Hellenic or pre-Socratic period, while Plato and Aristotle become the point of departure for all those examining metaphysics thereafter. Alfred North Whiteheads says that all philosophy after Plato and Aristotle is but a set of footnotes to them. The "universals controversy" in the Latin Middle Ages (the Scholastic era) has its roots in their philosophies. The realists are a kind of Platonists and nominalism is a variety of Aristotelianism (or, perhaps materialism). Aquinas tried to mediate the extremes. The same problems that vexed the ancient and medieval periods are repeated in modernity. We cannot escape the limitations of reason by any means other than faith, however, the medieval Scholastics would attempt to rationalise faith, and in that manner, transfer the natural limitations of reason to faith.
    Another unfortunate development in Scholasticism is the application of the principle of Being to God. We read in some catechisms that God is the "supreme Being." From an Orthodox Christian point of view that is a clearly heretical statement. The Scholastics would propose that as everting has "being", God is the Supreme Being; He has being, but is the "highest being." Orthodoxy would proclaim that God is hyperousios — beyond being.
    The Scholastic concept of God as "supreme being" would certainly refer back to criteria and concepts established by the Eleatics. It is a logical development ofthe effort to define a First Principle in the context of being/becoming.

    The idea of a dichotomy, even and opposition, between spirit and matter developed in the Hellenic era is another major problem that afflicted Western theology and philosophical thought from Augustine, through John Locke to the present.***