Episode 2 – Italian Pre-Socratic Philosophy


Pythagoras, probably ordering more bubble wrap jumpsuits for his cult followers…

On this episode of the podcast, we continued our discussion about pre-socratic western philosophy, this time focusing on the Italian style of thinking.

We first addressed the meaning of the word ‘philosophy’. ‘Phil’ and ‘soph’ are greek roots which mean ‘love’ and ‘wisdom’ respectively. So, ‘philosophy’ literally means ‘the love of wisdom’. This term was first coined by Pythagoras, the first of three Italian philosophers we discussed on this episode.

Most people have heard of the Pythagorean Theorem, which one might assume belongs to Pythagoras himself. However, as we learned, not much at all is known about Pythagoras. Because he had no writings and was the leader of what can only described as a cult dedicated to the study of math, music, and astronomy, it’s unclear which ideas came directly from Pythagoras and which came from his followers, the Pythagoreans.

The next philosopher we talked about was Parmenides, whose most notable contribution to philosophy was his use of deductive reasoning to arrive at conclusions. Parmenides’ ideas were a complete departure from the ideas of those who had come before him; rather than trying to explain how the world around him had come into existence, he concluded through deductive reasoning that it was impossible for it to have come into existence at all. Parmenides also believed that change was impossible and that our deceptive senses are the cause of our belief that anything begins, ends, or changes. 

Parmenides. Long before the advent of pupils...

Parmenides. Long before the advent of pupils…

The last philosopher we discussed in this episode was Empedocles, or as I like to think of him, Captain Planet. Empedocles believed that everything was made up of four elements — air, water, fire, and earth. He also believed that these elements were controlled by the competing forces of love and strife, and that these forces were responsible for the changing world we see.

Philosophize this! We learned many philosophers devoted their entire lives to explaining the world around them, solely because of their love of wisdom. What do you do without expectation of reward? Is there anything you love so much, you would do it for free indefinitely?

Make sure to download Philosophize This! on iTunes for the full story behind Pythagoras, Parmenides and Empedocles and the Italian style of thinking!

See the full transcript of this episode here.

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