Jacques Maritain Center : History of Philosophy / by William Turner


As an inevitable result of the Sceptical and Eclectic tendencies of the age, the natural and mathematical sciences gradually broke loose from philosophy. They flourished especially in the Greek islands of the Mediterranean and in Egypt, because there they were free from the disheartening influences which at Athens and elsewhere in Hellas led to the dissolution of classical culture and classical philosophy.

In Sicily, where the Pythagorean tradition was still unbroken, Hicetas and Archimedes taught, as early as the third century before Christ, a system of astronomy which was far superior to the astronomical doctrines of Plato and Aristotle.{1} About the same time Aristarchus of Samos advanced the hypothesis that the earth moves round the sun. This theory was stamped as impious by the Stoics and rejected by Ptolemy himself; it did not succeed in supplanting the old conception until the dawn of modern times, when its truth was demonstrated by Copernicus, Kepler, and Galileo.

At Alexandria there developed under the influence of the Ptolemies a new phase of philosophic thought, the study of which belongs to the history of Greco-Oriental philosophy. Side by side with this new philosophy there grew up a new science, of which Euclid (about 300 B.C.) is the chief representative. He wrote the Elements of Geometry and treatises on Harmony, Optics, and Catoptrics. Ptolemy (Claudius Ptolemaeus), who lived about the middle of the second century after Christ, belongs also to the Alexandrian school of science. His work, the Almagest, or megalê suntaxis continued to be the authoritative source of astronomical learning until the time of Copernicus.

{1} Cf. Cicero, Acad., XXXIX.

<< History of Philosophy >>