4 The Axial Age 500 BC

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The Axial Age
presentation #1
500 BC – 100 AD
Thoughts, Thinkers, and Empires
 Solve problems of human nature
 Identify human nature
 Social and political solutions
 Iran’s Zoroaster
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Approx. 600 BC give or take 100 years
Dualist religion Zoroastrianism (IDEA #7)
 Ahura Mazda vs. Ahriman
 Light vs. Dark
Dominates Iran for 1000 years
 Spreads outward to influence all other thinkers
of the Axial Age
Zoroaster
(from Raphael’s School of Athens)
Upishands
 India c. 600 BC
 Basis of early Hinduism
 Universe eternal and uncreated
 Reality exists outside the senses
 Reincarnation (IDEA #8)
India’s Sages
 Mahavira
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c. 600 BC
Jainism
 Siddhartha Guatama
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The Buddha
c. 550 BC
Escape from desire
Nirvana = extinction of the self (IDEA #9)
China’s Sages
 Lao Tzu c. 450 BC
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Warring States Period
Detach from the world to avoid suffering
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Salvation in another world, not just survival in this
 (IDEA #10)
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Use power of mind and rituals
 Confucius
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c. 500 BC
Loyalty to family and state
Lao Tzu
Confucius and his disciples
Hebrew Philosophy/Religion
 Jews of the Levant (Asia’s Med. coast)
 Inhabit war zone between Egypt and Mes.
 Pastoral people (herders)
 Early tribal religion (like Mesopotamians)
 Est. two warring kingdoms
 Israel
 Judah
 Conquered in 580 BC by Babylonia
 King Nebuchadnezzar
 Deported Jews (Babylonian Captivity)
 Diaspora
 Attempt to maintain identity led to codifying religious law
(IDEA #11)
Old/Hebrew Testament
 Superior tribal god morphs into 1 true God
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(IDEA #12)
 Lack of power in political sphere led to belief
that suffering = punishment for sin (IDEA #13)
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Living according to God’s Law would lead to
reward
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Immortality
Relief from sinfulness
Elimination of evil
Empire over enemies
Jesus of Nazareth
 Jesus last great teacher of the Axial Age
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Died c. 33 AD
Independent Jewish rabbi with radical
message
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Purge priesthood of corruption
Cleanse temple of money lending practices
Salvation comes from grace (IDEA #14)
 Personal connection w/ God rather than law
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Kristus = Greek for “Messiah” or “Anointed One”
The Last Supper
by Leonardo Da Vinci
Greek Teachers of 4th Century BC
 Socrates
 Plato
 Aristotle
Socrates
Plato and Aristotle
from Raphael's The School of Athens
Big Ideas of the Axial Age
 Creation (IDEA #15)
 Invention of the concept of “nothing” or “zero”
 Earlier myths simply redistributed pre-existing matter
 “Big Bang” Theory
 Brahma spinning Universe like a spider
 Creation by intellectual not physical act
 Thought
 Emotion
 Logos
 Word
 Now the fundamental principle of world philosophy
Brahma, Shiva, and Vishnu
Monotheism (IDEA #12)
 Previous religions diverse and polytheistic
 Dualism (Persia)
 Hierarchical (Greece)
 Multiplicity = Unity (Hinduism)
 Monotheism develops early in Judaism
 Yahweh
 Treasure too precious to share with Gentiles
 Abrahamic tradition now most pop. in world
 Judaism
 Christianity
 Islam
Divine Love (IDEA #14)
 Begins with doctrines of unselfishness
common to many religions
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Mozi in China
Brahmanism (world is an illusion)
Greek (world is divine)
Confucianism (world is neutral)
Buddhism (world is transient)
Zoroastrianism (world is evil)
Christianity (world is good)
Divine Love cont.
 Led to belief that humans are divinely special
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Previous thinkers tended to see all living
things as equal
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Jainists
Southern Italian philosophers
New hierarchical structures
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Greece (Aristotle)
China (Xunzi)
 Christianity pop. because it did not restrict
Divine Love to a single people or race
New Political Thought
 Debate regarding basic view of human nature
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Optimists (man is intrinsically good)
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(IDEA #16)
Pessimists (man is intrinsically evil)
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(IDEA #17)
Pessimists
 Strengthen state to protect man from himself
 Plato
 Censorship
 Repression
 Militarism
 Extreme communism
 Selective breeding (eugenics)
 Deception of people by the state
 Rigid class structure
 All power in the hands of philosopher-kings
(Guardians) (IDEA #18)
 Intellectual superiority
 Heredity and education
Plato’s Classes
More Pessimists
 Legalism in China (4th Century BC)
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Law is right regardless of ethics (IDEA #19)
Obedience is all that matters
“goodness” is irrelevant, only “order” matters
No equating human law w/ divine law
Reaction to inability of Confucianism and Daoism to control
Warring States
Severe punishments
Anticipation of modern fascism
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Glorification of “order” and “war”
Praised agriculture
Anti-capitalism
Suppression of the individual in subordination to the state
Political Optimists
 Confucianism
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Function of state to liberate subjects to fullest
States not working in best interest of subjects
should be rebelled against
State obligated to subjects, not subjects to
state (IDEA #20)
 Indian Sages
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Rulers/kings elected by aristocrats (IDEA #21)
Usually hundreds or thousands of voters
Optimists cont.
 Daoists
Ruler’s job is to enforce virtue
 Must lead by example
 Greek optimists
 States as practical methods
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Experiments
 Republican
 Aristocratic
 Democratic
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True democracy is dangerous
Best gov. = flexible aristocracy limited by laws (IDEA #22)
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Aristotle’s combination government
Romans
United States?
Still more Optimists
 Jesus as a political subversive
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“Render unto Caesar” Political irony (IDEA
#23)
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Welcomed social outcasts from Jewish system
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Leads to political execution
Challenging Illusions
 Debate over Appearance vs. Reality
 Plato’s Allegory of the Cave
 Attempts to “know” true reality
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Mathematics
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Indian sages come up with concept of infinity (IDEA #24)
Greeks find incalculable ratios
 Pi
 Golden mean (approximately 1.618)
 Underpin descriptions of the universe
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Pythagoras c. 550 BC (IDEA #25)
 Believed universe made of numbers
 “5” and “2” exist even if there is nothing to count
 Result is “Rationalism” (distrust of the senses)
 Reason will find truth and solve problems
Reason
 Parmenides c. 500 BC
 Geometry = reality
 “a perfect triangle, like god has never been seen”
 all objects like this (IDEA #25)
 Chinese Paradoxes
 thought its pure because not filtered through senses
 Zeno
 1/2 paradoxes
 Aristotle’s exposition on reason taught western world
how to think (IDEA #26)
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syllogism
(Nyaya school in India similar)
Science
 Also distrust of senses
 No differentiation between natural and supernatural
until Chinese 679 B.C. (IDEA #27)
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attempts to explore “natural” to dig out superstition.
inanimate substances have no wills
 Greek science rooted in magic
 nature worship encouraged natural explanation
 developed scientific method to know gods better.
Science cont.
 led to Greek scientific achievements
 Aristotle’s biological texts
 Archimedes principles of mechanics C. 250 B.C.
 C. 200 B.C. Eratosthenes calculated almost exactly the
size of the planet
 Chinese Science ( systematic investigation of nature)
 from Daoist nature worship
 avoided theory in favor of observation to avoid
contamination of reason
 Chinese science weak on theory and heavy on
technology.
Eratosthenes Formula
Archimedes
Medicine
 Hippocrates
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balance 4 humors
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C. 500 B.C.
Phlegm, blood, yellow bile, and black bile
Phlegmatic, melancholic, sanguine, choleric
diet, vomiting, laxatives, bloodletting
scientifically based
 Indian C. 550 B.C.
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Susutra
charaka
Skepticism
 world might be purposeless
 China
 Liezi
“Mosquito”
 Wang Chong
 Greeks Epicurus
 imaginary world of gods
 nothing to hope/fear
 atomic theory
 Romans
 Sextus Empiricus
 man invented gods as a form of social control
Stoicism (Greeks)
 Zeno C. 400 B.C.
 Nature morally neutral
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fatalism
indifference
 Similar to Buddism
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