Understanding the Teachings of Plato – Free University of Pennsylvania MOOC – Ancient Philosophy


Tonight, I began watching the videos from the Free University of Pennsylvania Online Course: Ancient Philosophy, and I believe that this might be the perfect introduction to philosophy for people who almost know nothing about philosophy and yet, they love to philosophize. At least in the beginning, the course is very basic. It is almost like an elementary encyclopedia of ancient philosophers.

Before I get too far ahead of myself, I’ll share the link where you can also join the course. Again, it is free.

penncas-logo-home-blue  Ancient Philosophy from the University of Pennsylvania
Class Began August 1, 2016. Class Ends August 26, 2016
Primarily a study of Plato & his immediate predecessors. You can still join the course Here

5 - school-of-athens-detail-from-right-hand-side-showing-diogenes-on-the-steps-and-euclid-1511

Dr. Meyer begins her first lecture by closely examining the figures that Raphael painted into his work: The School of Athens.

5 - school-of-athens-detail-from-right-hand-side-showing-plato left aristotle right In the center of the painting, Plato is on the left and Aristotle is on the right. The Penn MOOC in Philosophy is in 2-parts, and the first part, which began August 1, is the first part, which is primarily a study of Plato and the Milesians. Thales, Anaximander, and Anaximenes were some of the Milesians.

 Dr. Meyer shared the  following story about Thales. Supposedly, while Thales was looking at the stars, he fell into a pit. Even today we have a tendency to say the dreamers of our society are starry-eyed, and while we might immediately think that the story about Thales is nothing more than fable and that it has no basis in fact, Thales was actually an astronomer.

Thales preceded Euclid and is believed to be one of the earliest mathematicians, too, and he offered an early theory that the earth was stationary and that it floated on water. He believed that water was the Ultimate Principle of the Universe.

 Anaximenes believed that air was the Ultimate Principle of the Universe and that everything was air.

5-Anaximander Anaximander believed that the Ultimate Principle of the Universe lay within the infinite.

Each of the above Milesians believed that what they upheld to be the Ultimate Principle of the Universe was connected to god but not to a supernatural deity. They believed that god was within the natural.

Xenophones was another Milesian and he also  strove to replace supernatural explanations of god with natural ones. He was critical of the traditional views of god as an anthropomorphic human being.

The above is a paraphrase of what I understand Dr. Meyer to be saying in her lecture videos for Week 1.

and said:

3) ‘Mortals believe that the gods are born and have human clothing, voice and form.’

— Clement, Miscellanies (5.109)

(4) “Ethiopians say that their gods are flat-nosed and dark, Thracians that theirs are blue-eyed and red-haired.”

— Clement, Miscellanies (7.22)

(5) “If oxen and horses and lions had hands and were able to draw with their hands and do the same things as men, horses would draw the shapes of gods to look like horses and oxen to look like oxen, and each would make the gods’ bodies have the same shape as they themselves had.”

— Clement, Miscellanies (5.110)

(6) “Xenophanes used to say that those who say the gods are born are just as impious as those who say that they die, since in both ways it follows that there is a time when the gods do not exist.”

— Aristotle, Rhetoric (2.23 1399b6-9) Credit for the above quotes Here






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