The pre-Socratics (The Early Greeks) were the first philosophers in the West. They are classed as the school that started Western philosophy off on its 2,500-year-old-history.
The ancient Greeks believed in a family of gods, who lived in palaces at the top of Mount Olympus, the highest mountain in Greece. The whole universe and its workings were attributed to the acts of these gods. Thales, Anaximinder, Anaximenes, Pythagoras, Heraclitus, Parmenides, and Empedocles were part of a diverse group of pre-Socratic thinkers.One idea they shared was the desire to work out what reality really is.They dared to look beyond religion for an explanation. These early philosophers used the power or of thought to try to figure out the truth behind reality. This quest for the truth was the beginning of Western philosophy.
Parmenides was the first philosopher to rely on his mind rather than his senses. Like the early Greek thinkers before him, he believed reality is composed of one substance. The substance he imagined was unchanging and everywhere. his substance was seamless and without holes. This led him to conclude that the motion is an illusion.
Parmenides’ pupil, Zeno of Elea, went on to “prove” that motion is impossible by a series of paradoxes, or philosophical riddles. The most Famous is a story about the athlete Achilles and a tortoise. Achilles decided to race the tortoise, but to make things fairer he gave it a head start. The problem is that, once he has given the tortoise a head start, he will never be able to catch up. For once Achilles reaches the point where the tortoise was, the tortoise will have moved on. When Achilles reaches this next point, the tortoise will have gone further, and so on ad infinitum. The distance between them will get smaller and smaller as they advance, but it will never disappear. However fast Achilles runs, he can never catch up.
The early Greeks appeared to have thought themselves to a dead end with the idea that the universe is made up from one unchanging motionless substance. Empedocles was the first of a new group of philosophers known as “pluralists”, who reasoned the reality must be made up of more than one thing, namely fire, air, earth, and water. The second was Anaxogras, who thought that Empedocles’ theory of “four elements” was too simple. He said that the universe is composed of infinite “seeds” and that everything in the world contains seeds of all the elements, but in varying proportions. Anaxogras was followed by the “atomists”, a group who believed that reality is made up of minuscule unchanging particles. The ceaseless grouping and regrouping of these particles into different patterns explained both change and motion.