From Heraclitus to the Sophists
Introduction More or Less Protreptic
Despite the fairly widespread decline of philosophy’s reputation today, no one seriously doubts that its birth in the Greek environment more than 2,600 years ago marked a turning point in history that gradually crystal- lised into one of the pillars of European culture and edu- cation. The year 585 BC is considered the offi cial “birth year” of philosophy, when a solar eclipse occurred as predicted by Thales of Miletus in the Ionian city located on the west coast of present-day Turkey. According to tradition, Thales of Miletus was the ﬁ rst philosopher ever. Since then, philosophy increasingly emancipated from myth as a peculiar way of thinking, it became a means of human reﬂ ection of him/herself, nature and its phenomena, or deities and religion. It gives human- kind a substance and means of criticism, clariﬁ cation and explanation of causes, and it increasingly became 8a topic and problem of how we can know something and what causes us to be wrong. This textbook aspires to present the reader with at least a small section of this story. This approach to history has important implications nowadays. We often view the past as a history of mis- takes and the present as an epoch that has already man- aged to largely cope with age-old prejudices and griev- ances against the truth or the human ethos. From this perspective, exploring the history of philosophy may seem an unnecessary and impractical undertaking. But the task of philosophy consists in asking questions, dis- puting...
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