Ancient Philosophers: The Eleatic School, Xenophanes

Classic Philosophers: The Great Thinkers of Western Philosophy

Ancient Philosophers: The Philosophy of the Early Greek Naturalists, by Jonathan Dolhenty

I. The Eleatic School: Xenophanes

The founder of the Eleatic School is Xenophanes, who was born at Colophon in Asia Minor about 580 B.C., and died at the age of more than ninety years. From his youth he was a soldier and had taken part in the defense of the Greek Ionian colonies against the Persian invasion. When these fell to the Persians, Xenophanes, in order not to submit to the conqueror, took up the life of a minstrel and went about singing the stories of the gods and heroes in the public squares. Finally he stopped in the Ionic colony of Elea in southern Italy, whence his school took its name.

Xenophanes, author of a poem of which only a few fragments remain, was a poet-philosopher who sought to draw the attention of men away from course anthropomorphism to the highest concept of divinity. “There is one God, sovereign alike over gods and men, unlike man either in appearance or in thought.”

To represent the gods as men is to alter their nature in order to make them similar to us. These errors are due to the imaginations of men. If oxen or horses had a way of representing the gods, they would picture them as oxen or horses. Negroes represent their gods with black face and flat nose. But the “Optimus” is one, and bears resemblance to no one. “He sees all things entirely, hears all things entirely, and thinks all things entirely.” Still it seems that Xenophanes confused God with space and with the universe taken it its totality.

The late Dr. Jonathan Dolhenty was the Founder and President of The Center for Applied Philosophy and the Radical Academy, and is Honorary Philosophy Editor at The Moral Liberal. The Moral Liberal has adopted these projects beginning with a republishing and preserving of all of Dr. Dolhenty’s work. “Classic Philosophers: The Great Thinkers of the Western World” was designed and organized by Jonathan Dolhenty, Ph.D. Copyright ©1992 -2011 The Radical Academy. Copyright renewed in © 2011 -2013 The Radical Academy (a project of The Moral Liberal).

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