Greek Philosophy, Historical Thinking,

and the Western Tradition of Rational Thought



1) Why did the Greeks move away from a mythical or religious understanding of the world and toward a rational/scientific one?

2) What were the key stages and who figures in the development of Greek philosophy?


Key Terms

1) Pre-Socratic Philosophy

2) Hippocrates

3) Sophists

4) Socrates

5) The Allegory of the Cave

6) Philosopher King

7) Thucydides and the “Science” of History


I.  Historical Context and Influences


Š      Near Eastern/Egyptian Contribution:  Math and Astronomy

Š      The Greek Poets:  Homer’s Message and Human Agency

Š      The Nature of Greek Religion

Š      Political Systems and Intellectual Creativity


II.  The First “Scientists” (650-450B.C.) and the Idea of a Universal Truth


Pre-Socratic Philosophers

Š      Thales of Miletus (624-548)

Š      Hericlitus of Ephesus (535-475)

Š      Parmenides of Elea (514-?)

Š      Hippocrates of Kos  (460-377)


III. The Sophist Challenge and Socrates’ Answer, 450-400 B.C.


Š     Protagoras (481-411): “Man is the Measure of All Things”

Š     Socrates (469-399) and Individual Moral Philosophy


IV. Plato, Forms, and a Philosophy for Politics


Š      The Allegory of the Cave

Š      Plato’s The Republic and the “Philosopher King”


V. Putting it all Together:  Aristotle’s Synthesis and “The Golden Mean”



VI. The “Science” of History


Š      Herodotus (484-424)

Š      Thucydides (460-c.400)