Beginning of Philosophy
Philosophy’s birth, between the 8th and 3rd centuries BCE, is described by the German philosopher Karl Jaspers as the Axial Age (in the sense of a “pivotal age”). It was a period of gradual transition from understanding the world in terms of myth to the more rational understanding of the world we have today. Rational understanding didn’t supplant early folk beliefs and myths so much as grow out of their values and tenets.
Early Philosophy Around the World
- The early Upanishads – the foundational texts of Indian philosophy, of unknown authorship – were written between the 8th and 6th centuries BCE.
- China’s first great philosopher, Confucius, was born in 551 BCE.
- In Greece the first notable pre-Socratic philosopher, Thales of Miletus, was born around 624 BCE.
- The Buddha’s traditional birth date places him in the 6th century BCE (although scholars now believe he probably wasn’t born until around 480 BCE, about the same time as Socrates).
Development of Distinct Cultures
These early philosophies have had a profound impact on the development of distinctive cultures across the world. Their values and tenants have shaped the different ways people worship, live and think about the big questions that concern us all.
How the World Thinks: A Global History of Philosophy