Ancient Greek Epistemology

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1. Introduction When it comes to the world of philosophy, one knows to look at the foundations set about by the philosophers of Ancient Greece. It was their work and their theories that has significantly shaped and influenced what we today know as Western philosophy. This essay will focus on one particular branch of philosophy, namely epistemology i.e. the theory of knowledge, and attempt to discuss the development of different theories of philosophers ranging from pre-Socratic to post-Aristotelian Ancient Greece. 2. Pre-Socratic Epistemology Before any specific reference is made to philosophers of the pre-Socratic era, one must comment on the shifting in the mind-set that was taking place in Ancient Greece at this time. All that was known to the Greeks was that of traditionally accepted and unquestioned truths pertaining to the gods communicated to the people by poets such as Homer and Hesiod. (Lawhead 2011:15-16). However, the pre-Socratic philosophers brought about change through discrediting the accepted mythical thinking that all things can be explained by means of the nature of the Greek gods. They went about removing the negativity surrounding knowledge at the time in order to facilitate human beings to determine truth for themselves instead of blindly believing explanations of a blind nature. This opened up a consideration for knowledge from a naturalistic standpoint (Curd & Graham 2008:8). The theories of the pre-Socratic philosophers were generally characterised by their link to perception. 2.1. Xenophanes The first attempt at fabricating a general theory in regards to knowledge is credited to Xenophanes. He began questioning what had never before been delved into – such topics included the nature of human knowledge whether it was reliable and the degree to which it could extend (Everson 1990:18). Living approximately around 570-478 BC, Xenophanes’

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