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The Basics

Introduction

When did philosophy begin?

In the West, the scientific aspect of philosophy, or abstract general thought about the natural and human worlds, began in ancient Greece in the seventh century B.C.E., with inquiry about the earth and the cosmos by the so-called Pre-Socratic philosophers, many of whom continued to flourish in Socrates’ time. Between the Pre-Socratics and Socrates, the Sophists were the first to focus on the human world, although their methods were adversarial and perhaps unethical. They were paid for their arguments, without concern about their truth or the justice of what they were arguing for. With Socrates’ activities in the fifth century B.C.E., and his student Plato’s dramatization of Socrates’ style of discourse in written dialogues in the fourth century B.C.E., the true humanistic side of philosophy was founded. The two big subjects of the natural world and the human world endured as the concerns of philosophers, well after the physical and social sciences branched out on their own. These subjects are also perennial in ordinary life.



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