Metaphysics Quiz: (Sophie 28-55): The Problem of Change

metaphysics: the branch of philosophy that deals with the first principles of reality, including questions about being, substance, time and space, causation, change, and identity. (OED)

1. What did the following philosophers believe was the basic substance of the universe?

The Ionian School (Asia Minor):

a. Thales: water (the Nile): “all things are full of gods" or “life-germs”
b. Anaximander:  the boundless (as opposed to the limited stuff of reality)
c. Anaximenes: air, breath, the origin of earth, fire and water 

2. How did Parmenides (540-480 BC) explain how things change? (deductive reasoning; rationalism, pure logic) 

The Eleatics (Southern Italy):

Nothing can come from nothing, so nothing that exists can become nothing. There is no such thing as change. Parmenides trusted his reason over what his senses were telling him. 

3. How did Heraclitus (540-480 BC) solve the problem of change? (inductive reasoning; empiricism, sense perceptions)

Ephesus (on Ionian Coastline)

Everything flows. We cannot step into the same river twice. Nature is composed of opposites in constant interplay (good v evil; light v. dark; winter v. summer)

4. What was Heraclitus' conception of God?

the logos- the combination of opposites: day and night, life and death, war and peace, hunger and satiety

5. How did Empedocles (490-430 BC) resolve the conflict between Parmenides and Heraclitus over transformations in nature?


Nature consists of four elements (the roots which never change), but their interactions with each other cause all transformation in nature. Earth, air, fire, water interact under the forces of love and strife, attraction and repulsion. Empedocles distinguishes between the elements and the forces of nature. He also raises the question of what actually enables our perception of nature. 

6. What force existed, according to Empedocles, which enabled these transformations to take place?

 Love and Strife (positive and negative-- like in magnetism)

7. What was Anaxagoras' (500-428 BC) extremely cool idea about seeds? (Hint: He predicted genetics and fractals.)


The universe has an infinite number of elements, and all of these elements are present in every different piece of the universe: its seeds. ( In our DNA located in every cell of the human body, a blueprint of the whole structure is carried. Stem cells) Anaxagoras was driven from Athens

8. How was Anaxagoras also way ahead of his time in his understanding of astronomy?

a) All heavenly bodies are composed of the same substances as Earth is.
b) Human life may exist on other planets.
c) The sun is not a god but a red-hot stone.

9. How did Democritus (460-370 BC) resolve the dispute over change between Parmenides and Heraclitus? (Hint: Lego blocks) (atomist, materialist)

Abdera (northern Aegean)

All matter is composed of atoms (un-cuttable elements).
An unlimited number of eternal and immutable atomic elements connect together with hooks and barbs. (How close was he to being right?) (Democritus explains sense perception by theorizing that our eyes are bombarded by these atoms.)

10. How did Democritus, a strict materialist, conceive of the soul?

 The soul was composed of atoms. (soul atoms!)

 E.C. What do scientists today believe is the most basic substance of the universe?

Sub-atomic particles like quarks, gluons, photons and neutrinos. (CERN experiments)

String Theory?

E.E.C. Who is Hilde?!