Some Presocratic Truth(s)

Here’s my recent piece on Greek concepts of the truth from The Conversation.

Pythagoreans, Stob. 1 Proem. cor. 3

“The nature of numbers does not admit any lie, nor does harmony, because it is not of their kind. Deception and envy are naturally part of the unlimited, the unknown, and the irrational. A lie in no way alights upon number, for lying is contrary and hateful to nature, while the truth is related to and cognate with the number family. There are also five bodies in the sphere: fire, water, earth, air and the container of the sphere is fifth.”

ψεῦδος δὲ οὐδὲν δέχεται ἁ τῶ ἀριθμῶ φύσις, οὐδὲ ἁρμονία, οὐδὲ γὰρ οἰκεῖον αὐτοῖς ἐντι. τᾶς τῶ ἀπείρω καὶ ἀνοάτω καὶ ἀλόγω φύσιος τὸ ψεῦδος καὶ ὁ φθόνος ἐντί. ψεῦδος δὲ οὐδαμῶς ἐς ἀριθμὸν ἐμπίπτει, πολέμιον γὰρ καὶ ἐχθρὸν τᾷ φύσι τὸ ψεῦδος, ἁ δ’ ἀλάθεια οἰκεῖον καὶ σύμφυτον τᾷ τῶ ἀριθμῶ γενεᾷ. καὶ τὰ ἐν τᾷ σφαίρᾳ σώματα πέντε ἐντί· τὰ ἐν τᾷ σφαίρᾳ, πῦρ, ὕδωρ καὶ γᾶ καὶ ἀήρ, καὶ ὁ τᾶς σφαίρας ὁλκὰς πέμπτον.

Heraclitus, D1114

“Wisdom is to speak the truth and perform each deed in harmony with nature.”

σοφίη ἀληθέα λέγειν καὶ ποιεῖν κατὰ φύσιν ἐπαΐοντας.

Diog. Laert. 9.37 Democritus

“If the composition the Rivals is Plato’s, Thrasyllus says, then [Democritus should be the nameless person there, the one who isn’t Oinopides or Anaxagoras, who is speaking in the first exchange with Socrates about philosophy, in which he says that a philosopher is similar to a pentathlete. For Democritus was truly a philosophical pentathlete: he pursued natural science and ethics, but he also practiced mathematics and general learning. He also had wide experience in technical skills”

“εἴπερ οἱ Ἀντερασταὶ Πλάτωνός εἰσι,” φησὶ Θράσυλλος [Test. 18c Tarrant], “οὗτος ἂν εἴη ὁ παραγενόμενος ἀνώνυμος, τῶν περὶ Οἰνοπίδην καὶ Ἀναξαγόραν ἕτερος, ἐν τῇ πρὸς Σωκράτην ὁμιλίᾳ διαλεγόμενος περὶ φιλοσοφίας, ᾧ, φησίν, ὡς πεντάθλῳ ἔοικεν ὁ φιλόσοφος. καὶ ἦν ὡς ἀληθῶς ἐν φιλοσοφίᾳ πένταθλος· τὰ γὰρ φυσικὰ καὶ τὰ ἠθικὰ <ἤσκητο>,3 ἀλλὰ καὶ τὰ μαθηματικὰ καὶ τοὺς ἐγκυκλίους λόγους· καὶ περὶ τεχνῶν πᾶσαν εἶχεν ἐμπειρίαν.”

Ar. Did. in Stob. 2.1.17 [Xenophanes]

“Xenophanes’ argument was the first to come to Greeks worthy of writing down—it simultaneously toyed with other people’s boldness and showed his own reverence in claiming that “god knows the truth but opinion hangs over all [others]”

Ξενοφάνους πρώτου λόγος ἦλθεν εἰς τοὺς Ἕλληνας ἄξιος γραφῆς, ἅμα παιδιᾷ τάς τε τῶν ἄλλων τόλμας ἐπιπλήττοντος καὶ τὴν αὑτοῦ παριστάντος εὐλάβειαν ὡς ἄρα θεὸς μὲν οἶδε τὴν ἀλήθειαν, δόκος δ᾽ ἐπὶ πᾶσι τέτυκται

File:Democritus and Heraclitus by Hendrick Terbrugghen.jpg
Democritus and Heraclitus y Hendrick Terbrugghen

 

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