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I am reading Sophie's World written by Jostein Gaarder. At the beginning, there was one fact which blew my mind (a little).

According to this book, Greek philosophers thought that the world always existed. But why did they think about it like that? Was it only because their mythology, or is there logical explanation for this?

  • "logical" explanation ??? See Aristotle and the Eternity of the world for a brief overview. – Mauro ALLEGRANZA Mar 7 '18 at 13:39
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    We can say that the eternity of the wrold is the "most reasonable" option: if the universe is what there is, from "where" it must come from ? Any "thing" that must be prior to the unievrse must be part of the universe itself. – Mauro ALLEGRANZA Mar 7 '18 at 13:41
  • I'm a little suprised. Hesiod in his Theogony has the world appear out of a primeval chaos; he was writing in 700 BC and so even before the earliest of the pre-socratics. Could you edit in an extract so we can see why he wrote that? – Mozibur Ullah Mar 7 '18 at 13:44
  • First man, i am new in philosophy world, so please dont hate me for this easy question. Actually its just amazed me, because we now lived in world who know about the big bang theory and i cant even amagine the reason for eternity of world. Anyway if you buddy give me tips on book related to greek philosophy for begginers i would be really happy man. – L.Dodo Mar 7 '18 at 13:46
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    To sort this out I think you'd need to distinguish between the universe that appears with the Big Bang and The Universe. If BB theory is correct then the latter must encompass an infinity of Big Bangs. You'd also have to deal with the issue that if time begins with the BB then 'eternal' means timeless, not a period of time. The Greek's were like all of us when faced with these questions. They will have seen that the Universe must be eternal in some sense or we wouldn't be here. – PeterJ Mar 9 '18 at 11:01
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It is always hazardous to talk in broad terms of ancient Greek philosophy. In the case of the world, Plato* and Aristotle believed in the existence of a single, eternal world which none the less they conceived differently.

Anaximenes, Heracleitus, Diogenes and the Stoics appear to have believed in a continuous series of single worlds. Empedocles accepted a discontinuous series of single worlds with nothing - no kosmos - in the intervals between worlds.

Anaxagoras, Archelaus, and Metrodoros of Chios inclined to the view that there is a single world only, which came into existence with the beginning of time.

Quite a variety of views here !

As to Aristotle's view that the world is uncreated and eternal, this is a central claim of 'De Caelo' ['On the Heavens']. Aristotle's arguments may not be impressive but he does try to make a reasoned claim. It is briefly that the kosmos is too vast, complex, and tightly structured to be the work of any conceivable agent, let alone (a dig at Plato's 'Timaeus') a 'demiurge' or 'craftsman' (technites) who creates the organised world from pre-existing materials. Since no-one and nothing is a plausible creator of the kosmos, it must always have existed.

Weak as the argument may be, it is not myth or a reworking of myth but a genuine form of argument.

References

F.M. Crawford, 'Innumerable Worlds in Presocratic Philosophy', The Classical Quarterly, Vol. 28, No. 1 (Jan., 1934), pp. 1-16.

W.K.C. Guthrie, 'A History of Greek Philosophy', VI, Cambridge : CUP, 1981, 86. (On Aristotle.)

  • I have followed Cornford here but am not wholly certain that this is Plato's view. The matter is too complex and controversial to go into here.
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Einstein when he formulated General Relativity believed in the 'eternity of the world', that is a steady state - he introduced a cosmological constant to stop the universe collapsing under it's own gravity. Hubble's work revealed that not to be the situation.

Cosmogenies, ideas about where the cosmos comes from, can only fall into so many types. But really they say more about our mental habits, than the universe.

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