Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Chapter 3: Pythagoras

*this blogpost is my reading summary series of History of Western Philosophy. For chapter 2, you can read here.

Book 1: Ancient Philosophy
Part 1: The Pre-Socratics
Chapter 3: Pythagoras

Pythagoras was a native of Samos island. Some say he was the son of Mnesarchos, others say that he was the son of Apollo, god of music. He was not only an Ionian Greek philosopher and a mathematician, but he also founded a religious movement called Pythagoreanism


picture was taken from Wikipedia


Back then, Samos was rich and prosperous. In Pythagoras' time Samos was ruled by the tyrant Polycrates. He reigned Samos from 535 B.C. until 515 B.C. He was a ruffian. He got rid of his two brothers and used his vast navy for piracy. Despite his tyranny, he was a patron of arts. He beautified Samos with remarkable public works. He built the Tunnel of Eupalinos to supply the city with fresh water. Pythagoras disliked his government, so he left Samos and visited Egypt. Then he established himself at Croton. It was located in southern Italy.


Samos
picture was taken from here 


The Greek cities of Italy fought each other. When he arrived in Croton, it had just been defeated by Locri. Soon after his arrival, Croton was victorious against Sybaris in 510 B.C. Here at Croton Pythagoras founded Pythagoreanism. At first his religious movement was influential to that city, but later the city turned against him and he moved to Metapontion, and he died there. 

Thing that makes Pythagoras interesting is he was like two sides of the same coin. To one side he was a rational and the other side he was a mystical. He was a mathematician and founded a school of mathematicians. But, he also founded a religion. He became a mythical figure. Russell described him as a combination of Einstein and Mrs Eddy, the founder of Christian Science.

The main tenets of his religion were the transmigration of souls (souls can move from one being to another being) and it is sinful to eat beans. Other tenets were:
1. To abstain from beans.
2. Not to pick up what was fallen.
3. Not to touch a white cock.
4. Not to break bread.
5. Not to step over a crossbar.
6. etc. *I'm too lazy to write them all here* 

Plato said Pythagoreanism was a movement of reform in Orphism, and Orphism was a movement of reform in the worship of Dionysus. According to Dikaiarchos, Pythagoras taught:

"First, that the soul is an immortal thing, and that it is transformed into other kinds of living things; further, that whatever comes into existence is born again in the revolutions of a certain cycle, nothing being absolutely new; and that all things that are born with life in them ought to be treated as kindred." (p. 41)

Pythagoras preached to animals, too.

In regard to his society which he founded, Russell wrote:

Men and women were admitted on equal terms; property was held in common, and there was a common way of life. Even scientific and mathematical discoveries were deemed collective and in a mystical sense due to Pythagoras even after his death. (p. 41)

To those who violate the rules will have to taste the divine wrath, just like Hippasos of Metapontion who was shipwrecked for his impiety.

Pythagoras was famously quoted "all things are numbers". And his greatest discovery was Pythagorean theorem. Pardon me for not writing it in details because... Come on, you get that theory in elementary school. Everyone knows that, even for people who hate Math like me. :P 

Pythagoras was the first man who began the combination of mathematics and theology. It characterized philosophy in Greece, in the Middle Ages, and in modern times down to Kant. (p. 45) 

Russell concluded this chapter by saying:

I do not know of any other man who has been as influential as he was in the sphere of thought. I say this because what appears as Platonism is, when analysed, found to be in essence Pythagoreanism. The whole conception of eternal world, revealed to the intellect but not to the senses, is derived from him. But for him, Christians would not have thought of Christ as the Word; but for him, theologians would not have sought logical proofs of God and immortality. But in him all this is still implicit. (p. 45)

So, that was from chapter 3. Next on chapter 4 we will meet Heraclitus. Stay tuned! \m/


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