Greek’s natural philosophers were interesting to read about. Used as we are to have all the answers we need “just a click away”, they still teach us that there was a time when answers were far away, tangled up in mystery. They tried to make sense of the world starting from its basis: was everything made out of air? Or water? Or four elements combined? Maybe we are all made of indivisible particles, atoms. It was a really had question to begin with, and the second question was just as challenging: should we trust our senses, or trust our reason? Many arguments were made for both cases, for instance that senses are flawed and can be deceived, reason cannot (or else it wouldn’t be reason). Parmenides thought, since we can’t find where matter comes from, that matter is eternal, therefore unchangeable, so the changes we see and feel with our senses are just illusions, and we can’t trust them. On the other side, Heraclitus believed matter is good and evil, always changing between opposites. Therefore, change is real and actually takes place, and our senses are reliable. I find it remarkable how the natural philosophers’ thesis and explanations are often opposite but all make sense. They all follow a perfect logic, and they don’t fall into myths or religious dogmas, which is exceptional for their time. I admire the Greek natural philosophers, and I wish we could know more about their life, and the challenges they faced for asking such questions.
Greek philosophy has given us several existential questions that have a lot to teach us. Nowadays, we’ve already found the answer to some of them, but many still remain unanswered, haunting philosophers and the average person.
Why do we exist? What is our place in the world? Do we have the power to shape our world, or are we unconsciously shaped by it?
I see many people struggling to identify their true self, and at the same time, struggling to find their true place in society, of which rhythms are extremely fast-paced and demanding. Many of my classmates believe that they’ve solved those mysteries for themselves, that they know what job they’ll be doing and what life they’ll be living. I can’t help but envy them, for their certainty and their belief in life (not that I don’t believe in it). Deciding a path in a world of open opportunities (something the Greeks didn’t have because of their fixed social classes) is as hard as it can get, and millions of students strive for it.
On the other hand, Greek philosophers started to question religion, giving birth to what we now call science. Defying religious myths, philosophers gave us a way to train our reason, skepticism, and logic. As of today, many of us learn how to think differently than others, providing the vast pot of new and innovative ideas that is the world. I believe in diversity, and in the ability to question what we’re taught, and I think we need to thank the Greeks for that.