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XENOPHANES OF COLOPHONE

Updated on September 8, 2010

XENOPHANES OF COLOPHON

Xenophanes of Colophon was born around 580 BC to Dexias and was the founder of the Eleatic school and was one of the pre-Socratic philosophers of renown. Xenophon propagated his ideas mostly in the form of verses and there are references to him made by both Diogenes and Heraclitus. Like all early philosophers like Pythagoras or Thales of Miletus, not much is known about his early life except for the fact that he lived during the time of war between the Ionic colonies and Persia.

He was however well known for his philosophical viewpoints and his ideas were far ahead of his time. Much before Socrates he asserted that certainty in knowledge was not possible and that even if we happen to hit upon the truth, there is no way of knowing for certain that things are as we think they are. This does not imply that philosophical inquiry was useless. Because by exposing errors in our thinking we can at least know what is not the case, even if we cannot tell what the case is. This is similar to the line of thinking of Karl Poppers falsificationist methodology.

Xenophon conceived of a vague single deity that was ‘no way like man in shape or thought ‘but rather ‘causing all things by the thought of the mind’. He emphasized the fact that ‘Men create the Gods in their own image which he beautifully described as follows:

But if cattle and horses and lions had hands
or could paint with their hands and create works such as men do,
horses like horses and cattle like cattle
also would depict the gods' shapes and make their bodies
of such a sort as the form they themselves have.
...
Ethiopians say that their gods are
snub-nosed and black
Thracians that they are pale and red-haired

He was the first Greek philosopher to criticize the anthropomorphic description of deities by Homer and Hesiod. He believed a single formless God which is motionless, intelligent and activates everything with the sheer power of thought. In a way he was the first thinker to introduce the concept of monotheism in religion.

xenophane of colophon
xenophane of colophon

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  • ram_m profile image
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    ram_m 4 years ago from India

    Thank you Mountain Blossom, I'm inspired by your comment

  • Mountain Blossoms profile image

    Marianne Kellow 4 years ago from SE Thailand

    Another excellent read and thought for further research. Thank you. M B

  • ram_m profile image
    Author

    ram_m 6 years ago from India

    Neither have I met the almighty Micky. Thank you for your nice comments

  • ram_m profile image
    Author

    ram_m 6 years ago from India

    you are right randslam and it was a new information to me. thanks for you useful comments

  • Micky Dee profile image

    Micky Dee 6 years ago

    Great hub and thoughts! My god is very short and hairy. Just kidding that's only me. I have no idea what God looks like. Thank you for a great piece! Peace!

  • randslam profile image

    Rand Zacharias 6 years ago from Kelowna, British Columbia

    Like the information, but the single deity concept had its time in ancient Egypt under Akhenaten, or Amenhotep IV. His was the sun god and only god introducing Egypt's polytheistic culture to a single deity.

    Akhenaten reigned in the middle-1300's BCE, so the monotheistic origins were not introduced by Xenophane, but perhaps, in a way, as you mention--it was an introduction for the Greeks.

    Whatever the origins of monotheism it is a fascinating topic and Xenophane of Colophon is certainly a portion of that history that is intriguing.

    Thanks for the hub.

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