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Nature of Reality in Ancient Greek Philosophies

The Nature of Reality from the Perspective of Heraclitus

Heraclitus believes that reality could be equated with fire (Moore & Bruder, 2011). The reason behind this is the fact that it is ever-changing. For this reason, he believes that there is no reality. According to him, permanence is nothing but an illusion. Heraclitus is convincing. He uses illustrations to put across his views clearly. He states that today, a person is not the same individual they were yesterday. However, he fails to explain why a person is viewed as a single individual throughout their life.

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Empedocles’ Views

Empedocles holds that true reality is constant. As a result, it is stationary and unchanging. However, he feels that it is unreasonable for individuals to ignore the change they feel (Moore & Bruder, 2011). He explains that it is not the particles of matter that do change, but objects of experience. His arguments seem valid, given that he uses practical examples. He explains the changes observed in relationships, quality, and quantity.

Anaximander’s View

Anaximander believes that the primary substance out of which all things in the universe are made is more elementary compared to water. He further states that it is that which no one knows of. As such, its age cannot be determined. He explains reality in terms of processes and natural powers. His arguments are well explained through the use of illustrations. For example, he tries to give an account of how the Earth came to be. He describes the Earth as a nucleus of fire and mist, which later solidified (Moore & Bruder, 2011). However, today, the composition of most of the substances on the Earth, such as soil and rocks, is known. The knowledge weakens his theory.

A Comparative Analysis of the Views Held by Parmenides and Heraclitus

Parmenides believes that there is no change. According to him, a being becomes something else after the change. As such, beings are eternal. His arguments are well supported. He states that something cannot be formed out of anything. Heraclitus, on the other hand, thinks that everything is bound to change constantly (Moore & Bruder, 2011). As such, reality does not exist. His opinion is supported by well-framed illustrations. For example, he states that one cannot step in the same river twice.

Both scholars agree that reality does not exist (Moore & Bruder, 2011). However, they fail to agree on the issue of change. Parmenides believes there is nothing like change. On his part, Heraclitus is of the opinion that change is a continuous process.

The Views of Protagoras

Protagoras believes that man is the measure of everything (Moore & Bruder, 2011). As such, everyone’s opinion is valid. In this case, knowledge is relative. What is a reality to one individual may not be the case to another. His work has attracted a lot of criticism, especially from Plato. Plato is of the view that if Protagoras’ views are true, then no one would ever be right or wrong. As such, some people regard Protagoras’ work to be false.

The Views Held by Pythagoras

Pythagoras states that fundamental reality is accessible only to the reason (Moore & Bruder, 2011). In addition, it does not change, and it is eternal. Pythagoras also believes that there is an intimate link between things and numbers. For example, all things, whether tangible or not, play a role in the universe of order. As such, they can be assigned numerical positions in this universe. His views are valid since it is possible to order all things by giving them numerical values.

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Explaining and Evaluation the Views of Anaxagoras

Anaxagoras argues that everything can be separated. For example, every form of matter has its own type of particles, which can be set apart from each other (Moore & Bruder, 2011). However, he acknowledges that the same matter has different types of particles. His views are illustrated using fire. He states that fire has more particles than water. The statement forms the basis of a modern-day study on the matter. Substances are made of different types of particles, which can be separated to come up with something pure.

Early Greeks Conception of Reality: Pythagoras’ Perspective

I feel that Pythagoras has the most reasonable conception of the nature of reality among the early Greek philosophers. He argues that fundamental reality is accessible only to reason. He also states that it does not change and exists forever (Moore & Bruder, 2011). He feels that all things in the world can be ordered numerically. In my opinion, his conception is reasonable. The reason is that we can only understand reality through reasoning. It is also possible to order all kinds of things. His work forms the basis of modern arithmetic.

Plato’s Criticism of Protagoras

Plato is known for his criticism relating to the works of other philosophers. He remains the greatest critic of Protagoras’ work. Protagoras stated that man is the measure of everything. Plato’s interpretation of the statement was that knowledge is relative. As such, everyone’s opinion is valid. In his criticism, Plato implies that everyone who thinks Protagoras’ work is false may be right. The reason behind this is that Protagoras’ work meant no statement is right or wrong (Moore & Bruder, 2011).

How Plato Claims People can Know the Forms

Plato is well known for his theory of forms (Moore & Bruder, 2011). In this theory, he believes that the objects encountered by man through sensory experiences are not truly real. In his opinion, forms are the actual reality. He states that man can grasp these forms intellectually. His theory is clear and is supported by illustrations. He uses two examples of forms. The two are beauty and circularity. He states that it is impossible to encounter circularity and beauty in real life. However, in reality, individuals encounter objects that exhibit some degree of these forms.

Aristotle’s Notion of the 4 Causes

Aristotle argues that when change occurs, things become new. His opinions raised questions regarding the cause of the change (Moore & Bruder, 2011). In response, Aristotle states that every change is directed towards some end. He proposes the ‘four causes’ of change. They include formal, material, efficient, and final causes. The formal element attempts to explain the form of change. The material focuses on what that change is made of. The efficient component explains what made it. The final cause seeks to explain the purpose of that particular thing. His argument is valid since everything in the universe seems to have a purpose.

Aristotle’s 10 Categories

Aristotle holds that man thinks of things in varying ways (Moore & Bruder, 2011). He came up with ten of these ‘ways,’ which later came to be popularly known as categories of being. His argument is genuine since all attributes of things can be summed up under the ten categories.

Aristotle’s Third Man Argument and Theory of Forms

In the theory of form, Aristotle comes up with the ‘third man argument.’ It is the most compelling view against the theory. He uses the example of circular coins to illustrate the argument. For example, he refers to Plato’s argument that the only thing that ties two circular coins together is circularity. In his opinion, the argument is misplaced. For the theory to apply, a further form would be required to tie the circularity to the two coins (Moore & Bruder, 2011). Aristotle’s argument is valid. The reason is that if Plato’s theory is factual, then there would be an endless chain of forms.

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Analyzing Forms from the Views of Plato and Aristotle

Both scholars are of the opinion that forms do exist. They also agree that one form can make up more than one thing. For example, circularity (a form) can be found in several objects (Moore & Bruder, 2011). The two philosophers disagree on some things. For example, Plato states that forms exist independently. He believes that forms existed long before there were things to be tied to them. Aristotle, on the other hand, argues that forms are dependent on things tied to them. He illustrates this by stating that circularity would not exist if there were no circular things.

Gorgias’ Paradox of Existence and Aristotle’s Views

Aristotle holds that everything that comes into being results from something else (Moore & Bruder, 2011). Gorgias disagrees with this. If Aristotle is right, then existence would be a paradox. The reason is that Aristotle’s statement is contradictory in nature. He himself had earlier stated that some things, such as humans, are particular. As such, they exist in singularity. As a result, they cannot be said to come from something else. However, from biology, it is known that people come from other persons through birth. As such, it is not easy to tell which is true.


Moore, B., & Bruder, K. (2011). Philosophy: The power of ideas (8th ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill.

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