Saturday, April 5, 2008

Rhodes (3)

As we moved on into Stoic physics, I could readily see why
it was important first to review the older Greek philosophers.
It became obvious that the Stoics blended all these older
concepts together to develop their own sense of cosmology.

• Ancient Greek physics consisted of air, fire, water, and earth.
Consequently, Stoic philosophers forged their cosmology
within this context. Also, earlier Greek philosophy held
that the cosmos as a whole was a single living being.

• Even more specifically, early Stoic philosophers stressed
a cosmic-biological character when it came to the universe.
For example, the early Stoics believed that the cosmos
originated out of the "fire of the conflagration." As Zeno
of Citium (the founder of Stoicisim) reportedly put, the fire is
"as it were a seed of the future cosmos, possessing the
*Logoi* (Reason) of all things."

• Eventually this primeval fire changes into water. Out of this
comes the concept that body and soul are as two distinct
entities, in that the water is body and fire is soul.

• Continuing with biological terms, the Stoics refer to seed
in terms of sperm, which was wet, watery. As put by one
lecturer, "as the seed is embraced in the seminal fluid, so
also this (i.e. god), being a *spermatikos logos* of the
cosmos is left behind--making the matter adapted to himself
for the genesis of the next things..."

• Eventually Stoic physics moved beyond biological terms
when it came to discussing the cosmos. They considered
*Pneuma* (Spirit) as an all-pervasive intelligent force that
mixes with "shapeless and passive matter" and imbued it
with all its qualities.

• The Stoics also referred to *heimarmene* as an orderly
succession of cause and effect. As put from the lectures,
"heimarmene is the natural order of the Whole by which
from eternity one thing follows another...and embodied
in the definition of heimarmene follows its meaning as
*Logos* (Eternal Reason), as the divine order and law,
by which the cosmos is administered."

• Essentially this idea of Eternal Reason--the *Logos*--is
about an intelligently designed Fire that structures matter
in accordance with it's plan. Hence, out of a "shapeless
and passive matter" the Stoics endowed the cosmos with
Intelligence and Reason via the workings of the Fire of the
Spirit, the *Pneuma.*

• In due course the Stoics addressed the existence of human
beings in this Living Cosmos. They considered Man as a
microcosm to the macrocosm. Referring back to the Pneuma,
the Stoic philosopher Chrysippus considered that "the cosmos
is permeated and given life by the Pneuma, the same...makes
a man a living, organic whole." Hence, the Stoic emphasis on
the microcosm vis-a-vis the macrocosm!

My reaction to all this was satisfaction, in that all by myself,
harkening back to my cousin Marc's agricultural notes, that
I had been inclined towards my very own "Seeding" hypothesis.
BUT--well and good, whether my own considerations, whether
that of those ancient philosophers unto the Stoa, in the end
*all* of this amounted only to philosophic speculation!

Perhaps pragmatic, but I would have wished for some tangible
proof that stood behind all the speculation. I did know that
surely some of these philosophers worked from their own
observations of the physical world. One example was
Anaximander, who drew his conclusions from his studies
in astronomy and by observing natural surroundings.

Maybe the study of astronomy might be my next step, though
I had little idea how I might begin. So often astronomy has
been mixed with astrology, which seemingly indulges more
into fortune telling. No, that wouldn't do--not at all. It likely
will not be easy finding serious astronomers who might
provide some valuable insight into how the heavens and the
earth work.

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