The History of Philosophy

Philosophy is above all a feeling of amazement at reality and asking why things are as they are. Philosophy started in Greece in the 5th century BC, when people asked themselves what life was like and why? what is nature? what is life made up of? Being used to explaining natural phenomena through myths and legends, the Greek philosophers tried to explain the secrets of nature through reason. They tried to imagine what materials made up the cosmos, starting with fails of Miletus who said everything was made up of water. Socrates and his disciples centered their inquiries on the person making philosophy a more practical tool for finding out about human beings. Socrates became famous in Athens for asking people what is justice, what is beauty. He demonstrated that people knew much less than they thought. When they asked him he would say I only know that I know nothing realizing that acceptance of one’s ignorance is the first step towards wisdom. Faced with the questions that his master Socrates asked, Plato found the answers and what he called ideas. What are ideas? Plato divides the world in sensory perceives through feelings changing and uncertain and the world of ideas which is permanent and the source of all truth.


Goodness which Plato compared to the Sun, is the most fundamental idea from which all other truths are born. Aristotle rejected the big abstract ideas of his teacher Plato preferring observation accompanied by logic. The Platonic ideas were no longer sufficient to explain the richness of things if you didn’t take into account the material of which they were made, so his questions focused on the particularities of the world and the human beings who lived in it. What made each one unique for our stott all the wise man was not the one who contemplates good and evil rather the one who knows what to do in each situation.

While Greek philosophy asked questions using reason, medieval philosophy asked questions from the viewpoint of Christian faith. In this way st. Augustine maintains the platonic distinction between the world of ideas represented by God, permanent and eternal, and the sensorial world the earth and his people an imperfect manifestation of God we are capable of doing bad because we don’t have the perfection of God. Meanwhile st. Thomas proposed reconciling faith and reason uniting Aristotelian thought with Christian faith. God is the root of everything, the main engine and the cause of all causes. In the 17th century, one of the most important movements in Europe’s history burst forth, modernity with the help of the new sciences and it broke with the Christian Way of asking to prioritize a purely rational a mathematical focus. Everything begins through causality, modern philosophers demanded a reason for everything a cause instead of accepting reality through God, discuss was the first to demand certainty in knowledge through principles and demonstrations. His form of analysis allowed us to think of things in terms of a big machine in which everything is due to a previous reason I think therefore I am, this new idea banished faith let them to think of a world without God. The thing who took this rationalism to an extreme is Spinoza who deduced through mathematical principles a new way of living without the help of religion. God is the universe, nature, reason, truth and everything that exists.

In contrast to rationalism arose empiricism with figures such as David Hume who rejected the notion of causality, alleging that only our feelings are a valid source of knowledge. For example, although experience tells us that smoke comes from fire, it doesn’t follow the fire always produces smoke. In this way empiricism has a strong component of skepticism renewing in a certain way the Socratic thought of I only know that I know nothing. Facing these two contrasting currents can’t build a system that resolved the question in ourselves, it is true that we don’t know things for themselves only what our senses tell us while these ideas are processed in our minds. The most important category is causality which allows us to order the world this emphasis on the mind gave place to what we know as idealism which as its name indicates means that to understand things you have to take into account the subject and the thought.

In the second half of the 19th century three great philosophers appeared who paradoxically reunited in an unprecedented attack against philosophical thinking. They were suspicious of previous philosophy because it did not consider the force which escaped our conscious analysis. Marx emphasized the economic and sociological categories which man set up which far from being neutral that itemize the exploitation of one class the bourgeoisie of another the proletariat. The important factor for understanding man is not the individual but society whose engine is class war. Communism as proposed by Marx as the elimination of classes and therefore exploitation. Nietzsche on the other hand rebelled against philosophy which he identified with Socrates and Plato, above all he rejected the Platonic division between the real world of ideas and the apparent world as its subjects us to transcend our values that make man a morale slave. It was necessary to create new ways of living, of thinking which would extol life and bring about Superman who would produce his own system of values and boost our lust for life. Finally Freud proposed a new way of understanding our minds through what we don’t understand about ourselves. The unconscious self which is determined by childhood traumas and also by instincts which society represses. Freud discovered a part of ourselves which is inaccessible to a conscious analysis and which makes our own identity something that is never completely attainable by our conscious understanding.

Source: History of Spain

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