Ancient Philosophy: The Power of Ideas on Reality


Heraclitus’s view concerning the nature of reality is that it keeps on changing. He argues that reality does not exist while permanence is an illusion. The most remarkable thought concerning Heraclitus’s view is that a person cannot step into the river twice because it constantly changes. Argumentatively, the water in the river keeps on flowing with a constant replacement that brings about a change. Therefore, reality becomes dynamic, as the change is predictable (Moore & Bruder, 2011).

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Empedocles proposes that the existing true reality is permanent (Moore & Bruder, 2011). Thus, objects experience change, but constituent particles do not. The primary particles that are resistant to change include the earth, water, fire, and air. They interact in various combinations to enhance the formation of objects of experience. Besides, the particles cause significant changes in the objects as well. Therefore, there are certain forces responsible for a change in any substance.


Anaximander made an advancement into Thales’s theory after an extensive personal inquiry (Moore & Bruder, 2011). He maintained that the primary substance that all things emerge from is complimentary as opposed to the water. The nature of complementariness exceeds that of any other substance that human beings know. Anaximander’s theory concerning the universe offers an explicit explanation of the existing natural processes and powers. However, the explanation makes does not account for all claims such as the formation of mist and fire.

Parmenides and Heraclitus’s views

Whereas Heraclitus views change as constantly changing, Parmenides thinks that being is unchanging. Parmenides argues that being is just one. Therefore, it is not divisible to reflect any significant change. Parmenides proposes that any change results in the formation of a new substance. A naturally changing substance must ensure that it forms a new substance that is different from the original substance. However, Heraclitus says that change in substance results from the introduction of new elements (Moore & Bruder, 2011).


Protagoras proposes that man is the measure of everything. Therefore, the view implies that there is no being with absolute knowledge about things. Whatever one person says concerning something has equal weight to what another says. The personal opinions concerning something are just correct depending on a person’s experiences. However, not all claims that people make are valid since some make sense while others suggest nothing (Moore & Bruder, 2011).


Pythagoras is of the view that things are just numbers. Therefore, the ability to generate all things results from the use of numbers. The assertion is quite difficult to understand. However, what the claim implies is that there is an active relationship between things and numbers. All the tangible and intangible things do participate in the world of harmony and order. Thus, orderliness and harmony ideas do apply to all things found in the universe (Moore & Bruder, 2011).


Anaxagoras agrees with the perspective that all the changes in the objects of experience are modifications in the arrangements of the principal elements. However, he had a notion that all things are divisible in immeasurable limits. The different substances have various particles, and each substance contains many particles of every kind. However, what distinguishes a certain substance from another is the multitude of its primary particles. The view accounts for the individual differences in similar things (Moore & Bruder, 2011).

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Heraclitus presents the most reasonable conception concerning reality. According to him, the reality is always in constant change. Therefore, whatever a person encounters in life today is likely to change later. The application of this concept makes one understand why people experience continuous changes. The changes are responsible for the new experiences that people encounter in life. Thus, the view is a perfect representation of the things that happen naturally (Moore & Bruder, 2011).

Plato’s criticism

Plato strongly opposes the theory proposed by Protagoras. Plato argues that if Protagoras is correct by saying that man is a measure of all things, then it follows that whoever views Protagoras’s theory as false is also correct (Moore & Bruder, 2011). The assumption by Plato seems to hold strongly. Therefore, it presents Protagoras’s theory as weak in its views. Plato has a strong allusion concerning Protagoras’s view, which makes the provisions of Protagoras’s theory baseless.

Plato’s forms

Plato claims that a person can know the forms through grasping them intellectually (Moore & Bruder, 2011). Therefore, knowing the forms makes one understand the theory of forms naturally. The forms have a unique formation as opposed to the ideas. However, in reality, the forms are ideas. Argumentatively, unlike the ideas, forms have certain important and unusual characteristics that distinguish them from ordinary ideas. For instance, the forms are eternal, unchanging, unmoving, and indivisible.

Aristotle’s causes

Aristotle agrees that things do change and become new. However, the main question in explaining the change is about what produces the new forms (Moore & Bruder, 2011). Therefore, Aristotle uses four causes in his argument. The main question emerging from the argument is about what the thing pertains to. Aristotle considers the question as to the formal cause. The material cause refers to what the thing comprises of, while what made it is the efficient cause. Lastly, the purpose of the thing is the final cause.

Aristotle’s 10 categories

The ten categories refer to the ways that human beings use to contemplate things. Human beings make judgments concerning different things based on their characteristics. Therefore, Aristotle assumes that whatever a person can attribute something to, falls under the primary categories. The categories allow for comprehension of different aspects of the being. They offer explicit explanations about the things through their characteristics since people want to know something and its work (Moore & Bruder, 2011).

Third man argument

The third man argument is among the most convincing arguments that Aristotle makes about the theory of forms. Aristotle thinks that the forms are universal since more than one individual can embrace one form. However, there are particulars attached to each. The universality of the individual characteristics makes them seem alike. For instance, the circularity of coins makes them belong to one category. However, the argument fails to explain what the universals mean (Moore & Bruder, 2011).

Plato and Aristotle’s views about forms

Plato and Aristotle have different views about forms. Plato argues that one can take things such as coins to be circular if they experience circularity. Therefore, he thinks that the circularity form does exist separately from the coins and other things perceived as circular. On the other hand, Aristotle maintains that the form of circularity could not exist if there were no individual circular things. However, both Plato and Aristotle believe in the existence of the respective forms (Moore & Bruder, 2011).

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Aristotle believes in the process of change. He suggests that everything that comes into being results from another influential factor (Moore & Bruder, 2011). Therefore, the things that exist or happen have an origin that makes the existence of form valid. Thus, it is impossible to have an ironic existence. The absurdity suggested by Gorgias can only result from having unjustified existences that human beings cannot explain.


Moore, B.N., & Bruder, K. (2011). Philosophy: The Power of Ideas. New York: McGraw Hill.

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