Friday, July 6, 2007

The World's Oldest Philosophies

The issue of 'oldest philosophies' comes down to three epistemological questions and how broadly or specifically we want to define 'philosophy'.

1. What do we credibly and reliably know?
2. What are we unreliably speculating about or guessing at?
3. What do we not know?

Thales (624-546BC) is generally considered to be the 'oldest' Western (Greek) philosopher. Anaxamander (611BC-547BC), generally considered the second oldest Western (Greek) philosopher is a much more important figure to the evolution of both Western and Eastern philosophy than Thales for a reason I shall cite at the end of this essay.

Confucius (551-479BC) is one of the oldest and recognizable -- credibly reliable -- of Chinese philosophers. To be sure, there were 'hazy' philosophical figures before or contemporary with Confucious -- Laozi or Lao tzu (perhaps the earliest creator of Taoism) being one of these hazy figures who could have lived anywhere between the 6th and 4th century BC. Way before these, there is the hugely mythical figure of Fu Xi (alleged author of the I Ching) who may have lived as far back as 2852-2738BC!! Or not. All is very hazy here. And did he write I Ching? Maybe or maybe not. What is the difference between 'Tao Te Ching' credited to Laozi vs. 'I Ching' credited to either Fu Xi, Confucius, the Han philosophers (207BC-9AD) and/or any of a host of other early Chinese philosophers. All is very hazy but this important point remains the same: The principles seem almost identical.

What is even more remarkable is that the main core of ideas coming out of both the West and the East -- with or without Eastern to Western or Western to Eastern or mutual influence -- were very, very similar.

(Forgive me if I am presently ignorant on the evolution of Middle Eastern philosophy.)

The key principle uniting all these hugely significant Eastern and Western philosophers together (except Thales) is the principle of the inter-relationship and/or the necessity of a balanced, dynamic, wholistic, unity of polar opposite qualities. This basic principle -- which might be viewed as 'the ancient roots of Hegelian Dialectical Philosophy (thesis, anti-thesis, synthesis)' -- in Taoist terms is 'the way of nature'. It governs both the Eastern and Western principle of 'homeostasis' (the scientific term for 'balance') -- the centrepiece concept of the over 20 network of blogs and 200 essays to follow. The principle of homeostasis is used in science and medicine (east and west), psychology, can be used in philosophy, politics, economics, religion, and every other aspect of human culture. This network of blogs -- Hegel's Hotel: The DGB Philsophy-Psychology-Politics...Forum is designed to connect the ancient wisdom of philosophers east and west with the modernized (existentialized) dialectical thinking of one of the greatest philosophers in Western history, G.W.Hegel (1770-1831), and also the health and pathology of contemporary North America society -- particularly Canadian.

db, July 6th, 2007

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