Volume 2, Issue 1, 2018
Ancient Greek Philosophy: Pre-Socratic Philosophy
Some Wise Advice for a Good Life at the Origins of European Philosophy
When contemporary scholars study the first Greek (and European) thinkers, their most current attitude is to concentrate on their ontological and epistemological theories, paying little or no attention at all to their ethical or political positions. It is true that ethical and political ideas cover a minor part of the fragments we possess. Moreover, they often take up a peculiar form, which has been characterized as “non-philosophical”, because it isn’t deductive, empirical or clearly founded on rational arguments: they resemble rather some common sense advice offered by the elderly members of a community. But are these precepts indeed to be taken so lightly? In my paper, I intend to make an analysis that hasn’t been undertaken up to now, to my knowledge, of this particular form of ethical and political ideas destined to help people to achieve concretely a life as good as possible, in order to prove that: a) these concepts are founded on a philosophical method equivalent to the one result-ing in the cosmological theories of the archaic period; b) their form, inspired by the oracles, is chosen deliberately in order to astound, to help memorization in a largely oral cultural environment, and to encourage the personal activity of rational interpretation, which may lead to multiple results, underlining the liberty of thought. I shall finally cite some representative examples of the eth-ical and political maxims attributed to the “Seven sages” (of which Thales), to Pythagoras and to Democritus, to illustrate this particular link between theory, and practice at the origins of the European philosophy.