Hellenistic Philosophy A-Level Coursework

  • Length: 5 pages
  • Subject: Black Studies - Philosophy
  • Type: A-Level Coursework
  • Paper: #9539376

Excerpt from A-Level Coursework :

Hellenistic Philosophy

The Skeptics view anxiety as arising from the inability to ascertain right or wrong through the use of reason. Anxiety also arises through an immoderation in affect in the apprehension of the reality of evident things. Freedom from anxiety can be achieved by ceasing to ascertain reality of non-evident things through reason and to withhold judgment in such situations. According to the Epicureans, anxiety arises from an apprehension of an individual's inability to control events in life. The anxiety is exacerbated through belief in myths about gods. It can be reduced when human beings take actions to increase necessary natural desires in order to increase pleasure over pain. According to the Stoics, anxiety is created when individuals do not act in compliance with the laws of nature. Individuals need to achieve harmony with nature and adapt to the events that cannot be controlled by human effort. The anxiety can be reduced by acting according to the rules of nature. It may seem a rational approach to life because it helps to distinguish between when human beings are capable of influencing their own lives and when they are not. By this approach they can seek ways to achieve the end of mental tranquility.

2. Democritus introduced the principle of atomism through which he clarified the idea of Parmenides that one cannot know what is not, and that what is indivisible and ungenerable. The concept of space in atomism allowed for that what is not to be replaced by something that retained the essential nature of the indivisible and ungenerable what is. The concept of the atom and the void helped to explain the concept of soul of the Epicureans. Heraclitus characterized the school of process metaphysics which viewed the world as a process and set of interrelated entities. His metaphysical wholism shaped the principles of Stoicism that emphasized the role of internal relations in shaping the unity of the kosmos or the one thing. Skepticism relies on the senses to reveal reality about evident things but Epicureanism explains that the atoms of themselves do not possess the qualities perceived by the senses and ascribe the cause to a non-evident thing. Similarly, the Stoics believe in the unity of opposites, making the senses an unreliable measure of reality.

3. The hierarchical ontology of Plotinus emphasizes the attainment of unity as the ultimate release from anxiety. In order to attain that state, the individual needs to ascend from the stage of bodily existence to the state of unity. The state of bodily existence is marked by plurality as opposed to unity. Human senses are not an accurate window to reality. Therefore, the individual needs to transcend from the body to the ultimate unity by passing through the stages of the Soul and the Intellect. The Soul bestows unity but is not the source of it. So the individual climbs up to the stage of the Intellect. The Intellect is also a conglomeration of ideal or real forms instead of being the ultimate reality. That is the One which is pure and autonomous. This view is different from Stoic philosophy because it denies that the unity of soul and body. The hierarchical ontology also challenges the Epicurean philosophy of there being many worlds. It also challenges the view of the Skeptics that knowledge or reality cannot be apprehended and that doubt is the state that frees from anxiety.

4. The main difference between metaphysics of substance (Epicureanism) and metaphysics of process (Stoicism) is that substance metaphysics involves perceiving the world as composed of distinct and separate entities. On the other hand process metaphysics or Stoicism involves perceiving the world as a kosmos in terms of a process and interrelationships. This difference leads the Epicureans to presume reality at face value whereas the Stoics think about the relationships between events or objects to determine their meaning. The difference in the philosophies also leads the Epicureans to believe that individuals are capable of exerting free will and greater autonomy and control over events. The Stoics hold a fatalistic view of the world and believe that most things are beyond the control of individuals and should be accepted as fate. Epicureans believe in achieving tranquility and freedom from anxiety through meditation and habituation and by pursuing necessary pleasures. Stoics emphasize internal control and self-governance to achieve freedom from constraints.

5. Epicurus is a believer in mortalism, which is the belief that man cannot survive forever and has a limited life. According to Epicurus, death is a cause of anxiety for many people which is based on a fear of the gods. Epicurus believes that one should not fear the gods because their behavior is random. During the time when Epicurus lived, gods were believed to be super human beings who lived forever and could influence the lives of other mortals according to their whims. The fear of the myths regarding gods and of death increased people's anxiety and they searched for ways to reduce it. By saying death is nothing to us; Epicurus accepts the inevitability of death and alleviates the anxiety of the people by exposing the baseless myth of fearing gods. According to his belief, the acts and behaviors of the gods cannot be predicted as they are driven by their own fancies. Hence, there is no point in appealing to them for fear of death. Individuals possess control over some events and they have free will. They should use it to influence events over which they have control and not appeal to mythological gods.

6. Epictetus compares the death of infants and loved ones with the breaking of a cup. What he is trying to stress is that human beings should adopt a stoic attitude towards death. Man is mortal and so every person is to die when the time has come. He states that as one would not be heartbroken over the breaking of a cup in the house and would consider the death of the infant or wife of another as an accident, one should also be able to adopt a detached attitude upon the death of one's own infant or loved one. Accordingly, what has been given to one can be taken away, through whatever means. The same is the case with infants and loved ones. Nature has given them to a person and can take them away. Epictetus does not negate the love for family but offers this view as a way of coming to terms with the laws of nature and achieving tranquility and freedom from anxiety.

7. The classical model of knowledge is based on the teachings of Plato. According to this model, something can be considered as knowledge if the individual has a belief in the statement, if it can be justified and if it is true. These are known as the levels of belief, true belief and justified belief. Furthermore, the classical model of knowledge requires that something be accepted as knowledge if it is impossible to prove that the belief is false. This is a necessary test of knowledge under the classical model. The Skeptics reject the classical model by presenting the following arguments. They state that it is not necessary for someone to believe in something for it to be knowledge. Knowledge is based on fact and truth. People once believed that the world was flat but this cannot be treated as knowledge although they may have been justified in thinking so in the past. Therefore, a belief or an opinion may be false but knowledge cannot be false. Justification based on factual evidence may not be completely reliable because the Skeptics believe that it is not possible to arrive at the truth of non-evident things through reason and logic.

8. The Skeptics regard Skepticism as a good thing because it frees the individual from anxiety about what is right and what is wrong. Such value judgments are based on reason, but reason as a tool can be used to construct arguments both for and against an issue. To any argument, an anti-thesis with equal force and logical soundness can be made. Therefore, it is impossible to assert with certainty on the basis of logic whether something is right or wrong. As far as the non-evident things are concerned, it is better to withhold judgment and to express certainty only as far as evident appearances are concerned. Even there, it is important to achieve a moderate level of affection to avoid further anxiety or disturbance. According to the Skeptics, withholding judgment is a better way to alleviate anxiety than the dogmatism because final judgments about the reality of non-evident or theoretical things cannot be made. Skepticism also enables individuals to regulate their behavior and exercise self-control to achieve mental tranquility.

9. The One is an ideal being that is pure. It is the ultimate Good and hence cannot be compared to anything in the sensible world. Naming involves the use of language to communicate certain qualities but the qualities of The One…

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