Professor Goodwin delivered the first of the series of five lectures on Greek Philosophy last evening in the Fogg Museum before a very large audience. The subject of the lecture was the Earlier Greek Philosophy before Socrates.
The earliest Greek philosophers denied creation and structure, and recognized only change. They insisted on physical causes and their philosophy was a pantheistic materialism. The Ionian philosophers considered everything as developed by extraction from a primal mass. They said there was no beginning and no end, but an eternal motive power. In the latter half of the sixth century, air came to be regarded as the fundamental substance, from which by rarefaction or condensation all matter was produced.
Pythagoras, born at Samos about 584 B. C., founded a school of philosophy at Croton, Italy. The most important doctrine of this famous school was the transmigration of souls. It is not probable that Pythagoras brought this doctrine from Egypt. The theory of the fundamental essence of number was another characteristic teaching of this school. Pythagoras thought that nothing in nature could be conceived or understood without numbers.
Xenocrates and Zeno of the Eleatic School contended that all Being was one and unchangeable, and that decay was non-Being. Parmenides had a similar belief. Opposed to these ideas was the doctrine of eternal change or transition, ceaseless flux and flow. Democritus, accepting in part the doctrine of Parmenides, evolved the Atomic philosophy, which treated from a scientific point of view, still lives in the atomic theory of today.