The Three Stages of Philosophy (Part 2)

Part Two: Logic

Storytelling had evolved to be so complex that each city/state had its own sub-story that was a functioning part of the overall larger story. Each sub-story was structured so as to give the people of that city/state a sense of dominance and superiority to all the others. This situation made it easy for the politicians to maintain an environment of constant war and conflict. Suffice to say, the sophists had taken over. Not because they were smarter or more clever, but simply because they outnumbered the philosophers by no small margin. It was greed that compelled storytellers to take the easy route and become a sophist.

From this environment, a man named Socrates had taken principles from the new field of mathematics and applied them to how the stories were structured. He took umbrage to the fact that the stories the sophists told, and their interpretations of them, were comprised of pure fantasy and changed frequently to suit their needs. There was no continuity, no consistency, or “logic” to them. His first conclusion was that it was impossible to know whether anything about such stories were true, so it was best to assume nothing at all and to rely completely on logic. He devised and taught a means to examine stories for sound logic.

(It is important to understand that the Socratic Method is not a means to discover the Truth, but only a way to test Logic. For example: let’s say there were six apples on a table and you asked someone how many apples there were. They reply that 2+2=4. This is a very logical statement, however, it is not true in this situation. To this you might say that logic is what tells us that the answer is wrong because of the observable fact of the six apples. Yes, you are right. Except most of the stories of life do not deal in observable facts. Which is why, by this example, it is very important to remember that Truth and Logic are not the same things.)

The older people, set in their ways, and making a living off of the constant war, scoffed at the teachings of Socrates. The younger people, tired of being ordered around by the whims of politicians, had taken to his teachings. This cost Socrates his life, but planted the seed of Logic in how people structured the stories that guided their lives and held society together. Plato, a student of Socrates, was the first philosopher to try and build a logical story in his mind that unified the people on a large scale, taking away all the crazy sub-stories by creating a single, all encompassing “Good”. Aristotle, student of Plato, decided that the best way to build a logical story is not from the top down, like Plato, but directly from our experiences of the world around us; or, from the ground up. Separately, both approaches fell far short of being effective. Together, however, having a broad story to hold us together while we explore the universe and modify that story with the facts we find, was a stroke of genius that was going to have to wait to be discovered.

Instead, over the centuries, as evolution never sleeps, the sophists and the philosophers continued to battle it out. The stories that were told included more and more complicated and complex logistic gymnastics. Tomes of logically accurate arguments were written down, for only the hardiest (and most sadistic) of scholars to read and ruminate over. The sophists continued to used increasingly complex logical arguments to pull the story to their own needs; wrapped around them like a shawl. In response, the philosophers continued to use increasingly complex logical arguments to restate over and over again, in as many various ways as the sophists were pursuing, that we do not know anything for sure… we are all individually responsible for what we choose to believe.

Aside from this battle purely of the mind, the alchemists and barbers, the sophist followers of the Aristotelian perspective, busied themselves trying to turn lead into gold and curing people of their diseases with leaches and mercury. In the end, I would argue, before modern science could get underway they had to learn how to confront sophistry in their own terms; from their own perspective. The result of that battle, for the followers of Aristotle, is the Scientific Method.