• If you are citizen of an European Union member nation, you may not use this service unless you are at least 16 years old.

  • Stop wasting time looking for files and revisions. Connect your Gmail, DriveDropbox, and Slack accounts and in less than 2 minutes, Dokkio will automatically organize all your file attachments. Learn more and claim your free account.


The Natural Philosophers

Page history last edited by Brock Baker 11 years, 8 months ago



  1. What did Thales, Anaximander, Anaximenes, Parmenides, Heraclitus, Empedocles, Anaxargoras think about the universe?
  2. What is a rationalist?
  3. What did Parmenides and Heraclitus disagree upon?  Who help settled their disagreement and how?
  4. What does Heraclitus mean by "You cannot step into the same river twice" ?
  5. How does Democritus determine that “nature must consist of infinitesimal blocks that can join and separate again”?
  6. What does the word atom mean in Greek?
  7. How does Democritus combine the thoughts of those natural philosophers before him?  In particular, how does he combine Parmenides and Heraclitus?
  8. What does a materialist mean?


Discuss the following:  (a minimum of 2 posts)

Extrapolate on the implications of either looking at the world through Heraclitean (truth is changable or is in constant flux) or Parmedian (Truth is eternal, always the same) lenses.  If you are having difficulty look at the different strands of philosophy or Blooms Taxonomy and use a little imagination.

Comments (23)

Zubie said

at 11:41 pm on Feb 18, 2009

To me personally, Heraclitus' theory makes more sense. I mean if we don't trust our senses, then the only thing we have left is our mind which relies too much on our senses to learn and grow. Our minds are only able to understand and examine something if our senses tell us that there is something. Thar something could be a math problem which we can see or it can be a sound we hear. Our minds are essential, true, but i think if we only believed in rational reasonings, then we would never grow or explore. I'll expand on this later! ( I am sorry if it doesn't make sense!)

Jack Patton said

at 1:07 pm on Feb 19, 2009

1. These Philosophers, known as the Natural Philosophers thought that the Universe was all made up of a basic substance as the source of all things.

2. A rationalist is someone who believes that human reason is the primary source of our knowledge of the world. Democritus helped to settle this argument between the two with his reasoning that the world was made up of small particles that are the building blocks of all that exists in the Universe.

3. Permenides and Heraclitus disagreed upon the fact that Permenides thought that nothing in the Universe could change, while Heraclitus thought that nature and the Universe was in a constant state of change.

4. What Heraclitus means when he says that you cannot step into the river twice is that the river is ever changing, as the water flows through the river, it is different water, not the same water. Particles are also coming off the sides of the banks, natural processes in the water, etc are changing the water, therefore it is not the same river you are stepping in.

5. Democritus determined his reasoning by the fact that if everything was made of everything, it was just in a different formation of atoms that came in a variety of different shapes to help determine the objects shape, size, matter form, and anything it was made of. His theory was that atoms could be broken down but were rebuilt to make something new out of those atoms.

6. The word atom in Greek means "un-cuttable".

Jack Patton said

at 1:07 pm on Feb 19, 2009

7. Democritus learned and studied the theories of all the natural philosophers before himself, and was able to connect them in a way which best helped his own theory. He took the theories of the world was made up of water, and air, and the different elements and theorized that something smaller, a universal particle must make up everything that exists. He combines Parmenides and Heraclitus' theories into one when he says that everything is changing constantly, but it is the atoms, the smallest units of all that exist are not changing, only the formation of them is changing to make things, but the actual atoms themselves are not changing.

8. A materialist is a person that believes in nothing but material things.

Dylan Burnham said

at 2:20 am on Feb 20, 2009

4) Heraclitus means that the actual matter in the river is always moving and you will never be able to step in the exact same matter again. this is because when the river flows downstream it takes that part of the river with it.

Dylan Burnham said

at 2:24 am on Feb 20, 2009

I believe that both Heraclitus and Parmedian are both in a way right about how the world works. It appears to me that there are some true facts about the world that are never going to change as they are based on fact however there are some things that are constantly changing. The arguments of form vs substance also show how they can both be considered right as something with form will never change however its substance may change.

Heather Crumplen said

at 1:17 pm on Feb 20, 2009

4. I agree with Dylan when he said that Heraclitus means that the matter in the river is always moving. You cant step in the same river twice for two reasons in my opinion. First off like what Dylan said, the river is always moving so everything that makes up the part of the river you have stepped in would have moved by the time you step in it a second time. Also You can not step in the river at the same place you did the first time.

Sarah Milley said

at 1:19 pm on Feb 20, 2009

6.The word atom in greek means the smallest partical that cannot be divided or cut down anymore.

2. A rationalist is someone who emphasizes observable facts and excludes metaphysical speculation about origins or ultimate causes of or relating to or characteristic of rationalism. A rationalist would support science I believe. They believe what is evident and they do not philsophize about answers that are unknown. There is such a thing as a rational philosopher, The Socratic life of inquiry. The use there knowledge for justification of what is unknown.

Victoria Detoro said

at 1:23 pm on Feb 20, 2009

4. Heraclitus means that the river is constantly flowing and moving and therefore when you step into the river the second time the water will have moved and it will be a different river (different water, particles, etc). I think that he is saying that like a river, the world is always changing and this will change your views and what you think is true. An example of this is if you were to visit a place several times throughout your life, the place will be constantly changing and as your experiences and thoughts change, you will have a different experience each time you go there.

Heather Crumplen said

at 1:28 pm on Feb 20, 2009

2. According to wikipedia, in epistemology, rationalism means any view appealing to reason as a source of knowledge or justification. Therefore a rationalist is someone who believes truth is intellectual and deductive.

Lindsay Timmins said

at 1:29 pm on Feb 20, 2009

2. The word atom in Greek means "un-cuttable", because it the smallest particle that can not be divided or cut anymore.

8. Materialist means: The philosophy of materialism holds that the only thing that can be truly proven to exist is matter, and is considered a form of physicalism. Fundamentally, all things are composed of material and all phenomena (including consciousness) are the result of material interactions; therefore, matter is the only substance.

Heather Crumplen said

at 1:33 pm on Feb 20, 2009

I agree with Heraclitean because i think that society, or the world in general is becoming, no being. I think he is right by saying that the truth is changeable or in constant flux because everything is changing as time goes on. The Morals and Norms in society are always changing because things become more and moqre common or exceptable. For example if you look at the way people lived 50 years ago and compare it to now you will see major changes in what is acceptable or considered normal. Also the fact that everything is changing can be related back to Heraclitus and his opinions on how you can never step in the same river twice. Something is always different the next time you go back to it.

Victoria Detoro said

at 1:36 pm on Feb 20, 2009

I agree with Sara and think that Heraclitus' theory makes more sense. If you view the world with Parmenides' theory that there is one truth that is always the same, it seems narrow-minded to me. I think you should rely on your senses to fully experience the world and learn what is true to you. To me, believing in Parmenides' theory is like putting blinders on, because you believe that there is only one truth that will always stay the same, but how can the truth always stay the same when the world has never stayed the same? When looking through the Heraclitean lens you are opening your mind and yourself to the world and really paying attention to all of the world's changes and I think that is a more realistic way to discover the truth.

Cailin Whincop said

at 5:33 pm on Feb 20, 2009

I think that if we look at the world through the Parmedian lense we are sure to miss something. If we are not using our senses, we are not using a valid source like Sara said. Truely, to take in any sort of information in life, we need to use our senses. Even if someone else proves information to us, we are still using our senses, which means that we can misinterpret everything, even if we think it comes from our mind. The information contained in our brain has been influenced by our senses also, so even if our senses are wrong, we have to use them, because in reality that is the only way we can learn anything. If we are born with no senses, sure we can think, but nothing will be educated as that would be impossible.

Cailin Whincop said

at 5:46 pm on Feb 20, 2009

I believe in the Heraclitean lense because we have learned through our senses of the changes that have occured. I think that using our senses is necessary in finding either change or no change. Truth should be changing, because we can change it by our actions. When we use our senses, we automatically change truth, even if we do not want to.

Zubie said

at 12:11 am on Feb 21, 2009

The Parmedian theory makes some sense to me, when i read it in the book, however, i think that there is more to fully experiencing life than believing everything is the same. our sense in a way make us different from other animals becasue of our ability to anaylize the information our senses give us, animals do also do this but at a much smaller scale (i think). our senses help us understnad the things around us like Heraclitus said.

Joe Lord-Annis said

at 10:45 pm on Feb 21, 2009

To me, Heraclitus seems like a genius. How can everything be the same? To me it seems highly unlikely that everything is stable all the time, to think that everything that ever was IS everything that ever will be is too much of a stretch for me. That everything is constatly in a state of flux is reasonable, and since I have got this far relying on my senses, it seems sensible, haha, that I may continue to rely on them.If we don't have our senses, we don't have anyhting, they give us knowledge and understanding, the fundamentals of thinking. Also, when we talk about application, as well as communication, we are talking about using our senses to consolidate our knowledge. Therefore if we use our mind independant of our senses these stages would be impossible. I say if we can't trust our senses, which tell us that things change, then we can't trust anything. (because we wouldn't be able to sense it to trust it in the first place.)

Mark P said

at 11:54 pm on Feb 21, 2009

To view the world through a Paramedian lens would be a little unnerving, at least for me. I take a lot of confidence knowing what I am perceiving is what is is, not merely the same thing fooling my senses into believing it is something else.
Also, we know that nothing we have (besides atoms, perhaps) lasts forever. Thus, couldn't a Heraclitean lens be a bit easier to digest? Especially with our current knowledge of science and nature.

Being Paramedian would likely make one close-minded and reductionist (believing one answer could solve everything), and maybe a bit paranoid as well, as you couldn't trust your senses. On the other hand, being Heraclitean could make one nihilistic (believing we are nothing after this life), or non-caring about the world, believing that it all comes around regardless. They could both be true to some extent, proven by both of them being famous theories and having numerous... uh, followers.

Greg said

at 6:27 pm on Feb 22, 2009

rationalism is the doctrine that reason alone is a source of knowledge, but is seperate from independant experience(the human factor)

Greg said

at 6:28 pm on Feb 22, 2009

heraclitus means that a river is flowing, and the particles are always changing. therefore, we cannot step in the same particles twice if they are always changing. this could be a metaphor for how our world is always changing(but then again, I could be way off haha)

Heather Crumplen said

at 7:22 pm on Feb 22, 2009

I agree with Cailin and Sarah on the fact that we need our senses in order to learn and without them we would miss out on a lot of things in life. Without our senses we would have no chance at achieving the knowledge most people rely on.

sebastien said

at 8:09 pm on Feb 22, 2009

we may need our senses, but at the same time, we need our reason to understand things that our senses can't

Amanda Woodburne said

at 2:53 am on Feb 23, 2009

When Heraclitus said, "you can't step in the same river twice" he meant that the water was flowing and because the water that you stepped in earlier isn't the same as th water you stpped in earlier. Even seemingly calm bodies of water move and have a current. I agree with this method of thinking. To deny the fact that things change would be a little foolish. THe universe as we know it has to change in order to work in the manner that it normally revolves.

Amanda Woodburne said

at 12:14 pm on Feb 23, 2009

With rationalism, I don't like the idea that it's not sensory. Our lives depend so heavily on what we can see hear and feel that I don't think it works. I think that to deny our senses, it seems like we are basically saying that they lie to us, and that notion would be very disturbing as Mark said. I don't know if this is going to make any sense to anybody but me, sorry :S

You don't have permission to comment on this page.