Cosmos: The Backbone of the Night

We have probably been looking up at the stars, and creating myths about them, for hundreds of thousands of years. It's only in the past 2,600 years that brilliant minds have devised powerful new methods to systematically attempt to understand the world around us, one step at a time.

Carl Sagan, with his inimitable charisma, is here to tell us all about this unprecedented, bold and revolutionary intellectual birth of philosophy and science, which originally took place in Greece with the geniuses commonly known as the pre-Socratics: Thales, Anaximander, Empedocles, Democritus, Anaxagoras and Pythagoras.

With the exception of Pythagoras, these thinkers believed in the democratization of a naturalistic approach to knowledge, relying firmly on observation and rational thinking (although Empedocles believed himself a god and jumped into a volcano crater to prove it). The pre-Socratics raised humanity above the dark cloud of superstition and mysticism, only to have that promise reversed by Pythagoras and those influenced by him, most notably Plato. Although moved by the theoretical underpinning behind this reversal (check out this short video about the significance of the pythagorean theorem), Sagan has some harsh words to say about the social implications to which it led and the ease with which these thinkers fell into their own trap.

Check out more episodes of this fascinating documentary series.
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