An Introduction for the Human Sciences
2. The Lasting Relevance of Classical Philosophy
19 2. The Lasting Relevance of Classical Philosophy 2.1. Before Socrates Usually, to philosophize is equated with abstract thinking: the more abstract, the more philosophical. Regarding the start of Western thinking, from the seventh century B.C.E. in Asia Minor, this was not the case at all. Asia Minor is the peninsula at the west end of Asia that overlaps with modern Turkey today. In the port cities, there lived a class of merchants and politicians who were greatly interested in applying the results of the sciences pragmatically – that is to say, materially – to shipping, trade, and politics. In order to use reality, they first had to know it (epistemology, logic), whether one dealt with the environment (geography, agricultural sciences), the seasons, the influence of the moon and the stars (cosmology), or the relations between humans (ethics, anthropology). Hence, the search for a “first or prime matter” and/or a structuring principle. 2.1.1. Thales of Miletus Around 624-545 B.C.E., Thales of Miletus, a town located in present- day Turkey, was one of the first scientists to study the aforementioned problems. Though a merchant, he did not restrict himself to applied sciences, but expanded his studies to mathematics (the measuring of distances and heights) and natural mysteries, such as magnetic forces. Moreover, he noticed that ice, water, and clouds were made of the same substance, and he ventured the hypothesis (hypo-titheimi, to put forward) that eventually everything consists of water. In light of today’s scientific knowledge (hydrogen, the composition of the human body)...
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