The Pre-Socratics and the Sophists

2.1 Thales and Anaximander

  • Understand how Thales contributed to the direction and method of philosophical inquiry and how his approach differed from traditional ways of answering questions about the world.
  • Know the reasons why Thales chose water as the fundamental stuff of the world.
  • Understand how Anaximander’s theory about the cosmos differed from Thales’s theory.
  • Be able to recount Anaximander’s explanation of why the Earth is suspended in space.

2.2 Heraclitus

  • Be able to explain Heraclitus’s concept of the logos.
  • Understand Heraclitus’s view of the logos as a “harmony of opposites.”
  • Explain Heraclitus’s maxim “All are in flux, like a river.”
  • Be able to describe Empedocles’s theory of evolution and how it differs from Darwin’s.
  • Articulate the main beliefs of the Pythagoreans.

2.3 Parmenides

  • Discuss the important conceptual distinctions that Parmenides introduced to philosophy, and define rationalism and empiricism.
  • Explain Parmenides’s theory of the One and recount his reasoning behind it.
  • State Parmenides’s main contribution to philosophical inquiry.
  • Understand Zeno’s paradox of motion and his use of the dialectic form of argument.

2.4 Democritus

  • Recount the ways in which Democritus’s theory of the cosmos differs from Parmenides’s theory.
  • Define ancient atomism, and explain Democritus’s concepts of atoms and the void.
  • List the differences between Democritus’s atoms and those of modern science.

2.5 Protagoras and the Sophists

  • Explain who the Sophists were and what role they played in Greek culture.
  • Define rhetoric, sophistry, subjective relativism, and cultural relativism.
  • Summarize Protagoras’s views and Plato’s refutation of them.
  • Evaluate the criticisms that have been aimed at subjective and cultural relativism.
  • Articulate and justify your views on relativism.
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