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A SHORT HISTORY OF PHILOSOPHY

ARCHIBALD B. D. ALEXANDER - 1922 - Table of contents

Diccionario filosófico
Voltaire.
Complete edition

Diccionario de Filosofía
Brief definition of the most important concepts of philosophy.

 

A Dictionary of English Philosophical Terms Francis Garden

Biografías y semblanzas Biographical references and lives of philosophers

Brief introduction to the thought of Ortega y Gasset

History of Philosophy Summaries

Historia de la Filosofía
Explanation of the thought of the great philosophers; summaries, exercises...

Historia de la Filosofía
Digital edition of the History of Philosophy by Jaime Balmes

Historia de la Filosofía
Digital edition of the History of Philosophy by Zeferino González

Vidas, opiniones y sentencias de los filósofos más ilustres
Complete digital edition of the work of Diogenes Laertius

Compendio de las vidas de los filósofos antiguos
Fénelon

A brief history of Greek Philosophy
B. C. Burt

 

A SHORT HISTORY OF PHILOSOPHY

 

INTRODUCTION

Part I. GREEK PHILOSOPHY


Its origin and character

PHYSICAL PERIOD
MONASTIC THEORIES
PLURALISTIC THEORIES

MORAL PERIOD
THE SOPHISTS
SOCRATES. Cynics and Cyrenaics

SYSTEMATIC PERIOD
PLATO
ARISTOTLE

Part II. PHILOSOPHY IN THE GRECO-ROMAN WORLD

ETHICAL THEORIES
Stoicism. Epicureanism
Scepticism

RELIGIOUS TENDENCIES
Roman Moralists: Seneca, Epictetus, M. Aurelius
Alexandrian Mystics: Philo, Plotinus, Proclus

Part III. PHILOSOPHY OF MIDDLE AGES

THE PATRISTIC PERIOD Augustine and Church Fathers

SCHOLASTIC PERIOD Nominalism and Realism

PLATONIC INFLUENCE
Anselm, Abelard, Peter Lombard

ARISTOTELIAN INFLUENCE
1. Alexander of Hales, Albertus Magnus, Thomas Aquinas
2. Duns Scotus, Francis of Assisi, William of Occam
 

Part IV. REVIVAL OF PHILOSOPHY

TRANSITION PERIOD
1. Revival of Learning
2. Reformation
3. Rise of Sciences
Bruno, Böhme, Montaigne

REALISTIC TENDENCY
Bacon
Gassendi
Hobbes

IDEALISTIC TENDENCY
Descartes

PANTHEISTIC TENDENCY
Geulinx, Occasionalism
Malebranche, Pantheism
Spinoza, Acosmism

Part V. PHILOSOPHY OF THE ENLIGHTENMENT

[Introduction]

SECT. I. ENLIGHTENMENT IN BRITAIN
Empiricism-Locke
Development of empiricism-Berkeley
Sceptical Conclusion-Hume

THEOLOGICAL AND ETHICAL QUESTIONS
Natural Philosophy
Theological Controversy
Ethical Theories
Scottish Philosophy

SECT. 2. ENLIGHTENMENT IN FRANCE
Earlier Rationalism
Bossuet, Fontenelle, Bayle, Montesquieu, Condillac, Helvetius
Materialistic Tendencies
Voltaire, Diderot, D'Alembert,  La Mettrie, Holbach, Rousseau

SECT. 3. ENLIGHTENMENT IN GERMANY
INDIVIDUAL IDEALISM—LEIBNITZ

FOLLOWERS OF LEIBNITZ
Thomasius, Tschirnhausen, Wolff

POPULAR PHILOSOPHY
Mendelssohn, Nicolai
Lessing

Part VI. GERMAN IDEALISM


SECT. I. CRITICAL PHILOSOPHY—KANT
INTRODUCTION

KANT'S THEORETIC PHILOSOPHY

KANT'S MORAL PHILOSOPHY

PHILOSOPHY OF ART AND RELIGION

SECT. 2. DEVELOPMENT OF IDEALISM

PHILOSOPHY OF FEELING
Hamann, Herder, Jacobi
Schiller and Humboldt

SUBJECTIVE IDEALISM—FICHTE
1. Science of Knowledge
2. Its Theoretic Principles
3. Its Practical Sphere

OBJECTIVE IDEALISM—SCHELLING
1. Philosophy of Nature
2. Philosophy of Identity
3. Mythology and Revelation

ROMANTIC SCHOOL
1. Novalis and Schlegel
2. Baader and Krause
3. Schleiermacher

 

SECT. 3. ABSOLUTE IDEALISM—HEGELIANISM
CONCEPTION AND METHOD
STAGES OF DEVELOPMENT
REACTION AGAINST HEGELIANISM
1. Herbart
2. Beneke
3. Schopenhauer

Part VII. MOVEMENTS SINCE HEGEL TO THE PRESENT


GERMAN THOUGHT—AFTER HEGEL
1. Influence of Hegelianism
2. Materialistic Tendency—Haeckel
3. Idealistic Tendency
Fechner, Lotze, Hartmann, Wundt
4. Modern Psychology
5. Neo-Kantianism
Dühring, Schuppe, Ritschl
6. Eucken and Activist Tendency

FRENCH THOUGHT—FROM THE REVOLUTION
1. Cousin and Eclecticism
2. Comte and Positivism
3. Religious Philosophy
4. Philosophy of Development—Taine, Renan, Fouillée

BRITISH PHILOSOPHY IN THE VICTORIAN ERA
1. Utilitarianism—Bentham and Mill
2. Evolution—Darwin and Spencer. Maurice, Newman, Martineau
3. Influence of German Idealism. Caird, Green, Bradley, etc.

THE TREND OF THOUGHT IN THE TWENTIETH CENTURY
Anti-Conceptualism—Bergson
Pragmatism—Wm. James
Neo-Realism. Revival of Idealism in Italy. The Philosophy of the Gifford Lectures

 

CONCLUSION

 

BOOKS OF REFERENCE

 

Part I. GREEK PHILOSOPHY - Sect. I. Physical Period

Chap. II. Pluralistic theories of change and multiplicity

It was natural that the rigorous consequences drawn by the Eleatics in suppressing all change and movement should bring about a reaction, and that there should come forth a series of thinkers who sought to combat the abstract unity which had been reached by the earlier schools, and to find an explanation of reality in the many elements which had been denied. The belief that all things are one was common to the philosophers we have hitherto studied.

 

  "Parmenides," says Burnet, "has shown that if this one being really is, we must give up the idea that it can take different forms. The senses which present to us a world of change and multiplicity are deceitful. From this there is no escape: the time was still to come when men would seek the unity of the world in something which, from its very nature, the senses could not perceive. We find accordingly that from the time of Parmenides to that of Plato all thinkers in whose hands philosophy made real progress abandoned the monistic hypothesis."

It is true that Heraclitus (about whose place in the sequence of thought historians differ) was not really a pluralist. He, not less than Parmenides, sought to derive the world from a single principle. But in so far as he opposed, to the idea of permanence and rest, that of change and movement, he inaugurated a new era, and his doctrine of 'Becoming' may be regarded as marking a transition from the monistic to the pluralistic explanation of reality. He marks the beginning of a change of doctrine in so far as he affirms the principle of becoming to be the law of the world whose ground he seeks in the primitive constitution of the material itself. The idea of becoming is more closely examined by Empedocles and the Atomists, and being and non-being are transformed into a plurality of uncreated elements. But while Empedocles affirms that the primitive constituents are qualitatively different and places alongside of them the mythological figures of Love and Hate as their moving forces, the Anatomists recognise only a mathematical difference in the primal bodies, and explain their movement in a purely mechanical way by the attractive power of the weight of the elements themselves. Finally, Anaxagoras pronounces this mechanical explanation of nature to be unsatisfactory, and he is constrained to set over against external matter an inner spirit or nous as its formative and moving cause. Heraclitus therefore, though not actually a pluralist, in so far as he unites the two sides of being and non-being in the principle of becoming, may be said to be the connecting-link between the earlier monists and the later pluralists.

I. Heraclitus of Ephesus is one of the most remarkable figures of early Greek philosophy. Unlike some of his predecessors, he was reared not amid the markets and docks of a commercial town, but in the shadow of a sanctuary city. Solitude and the beauty of nature were his teachers. He was a man of abounding pride and self-confidence, and he sat at no master's feet. Of his life we know little beyond what may be gathered from the fragments of his book that have been preserved. Legend has been busy spinning threads of story around his name. He is sometimes called the 'dark' or 'obscure,' probably on account of the obscurity of his teaching: and he has been named the 'weeping philosopher,' perhaps on account of the sombre view he took of life. He is said to have been descended from the city kings of Ephesus; but, disgusted with the growing power of democracy, he renounced his high position, and in the isolation of his later years betook himself to reflection. According to the best authorities he flourished about 504-501 B.C., and was therefore a contemporary of Parmenides, though he did not publish his work till after 478. We do not know the title of his book, and from its fragments it is not easy to form a clear estimate of its contents. His style is proverbial and aphoristic in form, and somewhat melancholy in spirit. He was one of those disdainful prophetic souls who are not anxious to make themselves intelligible to the multitude. He himself says in one of his fragments, "if men cared to dig for gold they might find it, if not they must be content with straw." The political and moral condition of Ephesus seemed to feed his contempt, and he never tired pouring out his invective against the luxury and effeminacy of his countrymen. He withdrew to the solitude of the mountains, where he ended his days, having first deposited in the temple of Artemis a roll of manuscript containing his reflections on nature and life.

(1) Heraclitus looked down not only upon the mass of men, but upon all previous thinkers. He himself thought he had attained insight into the truth of things which had not hitherto been recognised. If we wish to get at the central thought of his teaching, we must discover what it was that led him to denounce the ignorance of others. The truth hitherto ignored he said was—"That the many apparently conflicting things are really one, and that this one is also the many." Wisdom is not so much a knowledge of many things as a perception of the underlying unity of warring opposites. Not rest but motion, not permanence but change, is the key to nature and to life. All things are in a state of endless flux and mutation. "The one remains, the many change and pass." All things flow; nothing stays. Life passes into death: death into life. The universe is like a river, the waters of which are continually passing away. "No one," so runs a famous dictum of the philosopher, "can bathe twice in the same stream,"—because indeed a stream never is for a single moment the same. Not individuals only, but the whole universe is involved in ceaseless movement and change. We cannot say that things are: they come into being and pass away. Not being but "becoming" is the alone real.

(2) To account for this endless flux and transformation Heraclitus is led to seek out a new primary element from which all things take their rise. This substance is not water or air, but something finer, more subtle and mysterious—Fire. This original matter extends from the very centre to the utmost boundaries of the earth. Everything that exists is derived from it and returns to it again. The universe is, therefore, fire in the process of transformation, an ever-living, ever-changing force which takes innumerable forms but is never extinguished. That restless, all-consuming, all-transforming and vivifying activity, now darting and vibrating as a flame, now sinking to an ember, now soaring up and vanishing away as smoke, is at once the symbol and essence of life. At every moment it seems to pass away. The contents change but its substance is the same.

(3) This ceaseless movement of which fire is the symbol must not be conceived as a gentle flow like a gliding stream. Becoming is a struggle between contrary forces, one of which comes from above and strives to transform the celestial fire into earth; while the other ascends from earth and strives to bring all things back to fire. The path of change he calls 'the upward way' and 'the downward way.' Fire sinks through water to earth: and rises again through water to fire. Everywhere there is strife, war, ferment. " Strife is the father and king of all things." The Milesians had already recognised this strife of contending forces, but they had regarded it as a disturbing element—an 'injustice' in the world. Heraclitus sets himself to show that so far from it being an injustice, it is the very secret of justice and order. "We must know," he says, "that war is common to all, and strife is justice, and that all things come into being and pass away through strife." "Homer was wrong in saying: Would that strife would perish from among gods and men: he did not see that he was praying for the destruction of the universe: for if his prayer were heard, all things would pass away."

(4) But not discord but harmony is the last word of Heraclitus. If there is flux everywhere, all this mutation and change takes place according to 'measure' or law. Everywhere there is strict order or harmony in the revolution of the universe. Reality is an "attunement" of opposites like that of the bow and the lyre, the strings of which must suffer strain to produce music. It is the tension of opposite forces that makes the world one. Opposition is co-operative, and the fairest harmony is born of differences. Were there no higher and lower notes in music, no flats and discords, there could be no melody.

(5) Now what is this harmony which comprehends all opposites? What is it that preserves this rhythm amid all strife and multiplicity? It is termed by Heraclitus sometimes "Destiny," sometimes Justice, and more frequently the Logos, or Reason, and in two passages at least God. "It is God who is day and night, winter and summer, war and peace, satiety and hunger." "To God all things are beautiful and right and good." In Heraclitus the three conceptions—Fire, Logos and God—are fundamentally the same. In his physical aspect he is Fire, the substance which creates and sustains all. Regarded as the Logos, God is the omnipresent wisdom or Reason by which all lives are animated and steered. "The one is all and all is one."

(6) Heraclitus never wearies reiterating this union of contrasts, and he applies his doctrine of opposites not only to the constitution of the world, but to man's nature and his ethical conduct. As all things come from the primitive fire, so does man. Without the soul the body is rigid and lifeless. "The driest soul is the wisest and best." "Where the fire in man is quenched by moisture, reason is lost." Knowledge is not dependent upon sense. Wisdom belongs only to him who follows the dictates of the Logos. For man has reason as well as God, and man's reason is derived from the Divine. "Man's character is his fate," and that which makes the soul divine is just its union with the Logos. Most men ignore this and follow the fleeting appearances of sense. Our duty is to follow the universal faculty, and not the senses which are relative to the individual.

(7) As the world is always "according to measure," so must man's life be governed by moderation and the sense of harmony. To "follow the universal" is to recognise that pain and evil are the necessary and inseparable concomitants of good in human life. Just as the light and the heavy, the warm and the cold, are relative terms, so likewise are good and evil. Without injustice there could be no justice. "It is not good for men to get all they desire. Sickness makes health pleasant and good, hunger satiety, weariness rest." Heraclitus foreshadows the words of Browning—

             "Type needs antitype:
        As night needs day, as shine needs shade, so good
        Needs evil: how were pity understood
        Unless by pain?"

With all his melancholy and seeming pessimism, Heraclitus is an optimist. "To God all things are beautiful," and He "accomplishes all things with a view to the harmony of the whole."

It is significant that this lonely thinker founded no school, though his influence may be traced through the Stoics, upon Plato and Aristotle, in Philo and the Neoplatonics; and even in modern times upon Schleiermacher, Lassalles, and, above all, upon Hegel, who sees in his doctrine of Becoming—"the dialectic of the infinite "— the union of being and non-being.

Heraclitus' claim to originality rests not on his theory of nature, but, as Gomperz says, in the fact that "he was the first to build a bridge, which has never since been destroyed, between the natural and the spiritual life. "The essence of Heraclitism lies in the insight into the many-sidedness of things and the relativity of all truth. If we must discard many of his grotesque paradoxes, we may at least learn from his perception of the deep inner harmony amid apparent conflict, that only out of strife, truth and nobility are born, and that what seems repulsive and harmful may be the stepping-stone to the beautiful and the wholesome.

II. In the teaching of Empedocles we meet the earliest exponent of pluralism, which, as we have seen, pervades later Greek philosophy and the first attempt to reconcile the opposite poles of thought represented by Parmenides and Heraclitus.

 

  Empedocles was a native of Agrigentum, in Sicily (about 490-430 B.C.). He was distinguished as a statesman, physician, poet and wonder-worker. In the political events of his country he played an important part. He sided with the popular party, and to this day his memory is revered in the district round Girgenti as a popular hero and deliverer. He was famed for his skill in medicine, and was credited with possessing supernatural powers. The tradition that he leapt into the crater of Mount Aetna to prove his divinity is probably but one of the many legends that have grown up around his name.

(1) At the outset of his poem Empedocles seeks to mark the distinction between himself and previous writers. Parmenides had held that the reality which underlies the illusory world was a spherical, eternal and immovable plenum. Granted the sphere of Parmenides, how are we to get the world from it we know—whence come the variety and motion we see? If we assume the perfect homogeneity of the sphere, then motion is impossible, or at least it would simply be equivalent to rest. But if we assume a variety of primary elements within the sphere, it would be quite possible to apply all that Parmenides says of reality to each of these, and then the forms of existence could be explained by the mingling and separation of these realities. This then is the new conception of Empedocles which marks an important advance in philosophic thought. If reality is one, as Parmenides had assumed, then the world as we know it can never come into being. But if reality is many, then we can account both for permanence and change. Matter, in other words, is immutable in its essence, but its primary constituent elements are combined and separated in different proportions.

(2) The four roots of all things which Empedocles assumed were those that have become traditional—Fire, Air, Earth and Water. These are eternal. "They are what they are," and "are always alike." In their mixture all change and motion, all variety and difference in this world become possible.

All things then are formed out of these four elements by a process of mingling and separation, and, according to the kind of mixture, are due the various qualities of individual things. These four radical elements have an immutable being. They cannot pass into each other, and are capable of change in their material relations and combinations alone.

(3) But now the question presents itself to Empedocles, how are these elements to be set in motion? How is that process of mingling and separation, which we see everywhere, brought about? Heraclitus had attributed the dynamic force to the primitive fire from which everything arose. But if fire is only one of the constituents of reality, and if, in its nature it is entirely alien to the others, this will not sufficiently account for generation and decay.

(4) Empedocles, therefore, finds it necessary to have recourse to a separate principle in order to set the bodies in motion. But inasmuch as the elements not only unite with one another in birth and generation, but also fall asunder in death, Empedocles feels constrained to conceive not one but two moving causes. These he calls 'Love' and 'Hate.' These are not to be regarded as properties of the elements, but as independent powers set over against them. These rival powers contend with one another throughout the whole of nature. "At one time," says Empedocles, "all the members of the body are united through love, and their life's bloom is at its highest. At another, severed by hateful strife, they wander apart by themselves, where the waves of life are breaking." " It is the same with plants, with fishes in their watery halls, with wild beasts that crouch in the mountains, and with birds that move on the wing." Love and hate are eternal, like the elements which they move; so that in reality there are six uncreated principles in the universe.

(5) Each of these moving powers—love and hate— alternately prevail, and the life of the world follows a circular course. At first there was a period of unity over which love presided. But when the elements were completely blended, there could be no real worldly existence. But strife entered, and the elements began to separate. For a time love was sufficiently strong to keep disintegration within limits. The result of this conflict of the elements was the creation of the cosmos. But next dissolution and decay set in. Hate overcame love, and the separation was complete. At this point, however, the process is renewed, and love again gains upon strife until unity is once more established. Such is the history of the world, which repeats itself in endless cycles through eternity. The story of the universe is an everlasting evolution, a constant oscillation to and fro between discord and harmony.

(6) In his theory of human life this principle of evolution also finds expression. Man is the image of the sphere. The four radical elements are represented in turn, and he is likewise affected by love and hate. He perceives everything because he is everything. The problem of knowing is thus explained by Empedocles. What we are, we know. Like is perceived by like. "It is with earth that we perceive earth, and water with water: by air we see air, by fire, fire. By love do we see love, and by hate, hate."

(7) In his theology, Empedocles conceals his naturalism under the traditional forms of mythology. He deifies the four elements, and the two motive principles. But it must not be forgotten that love and hate are simply material powers, and not spiritual or personal embodiments. He does, indeed, speak of the Deity "as sacred and unutterable mind flashing through the whole world with rapid thought." But his conception of God does not enter as an integral part into his account of the constitution of the universe. Thought, like all other vital activities, depends on the mixture of the four elements. The soul is not considered as an entity apart from the body; though in his sacred poems entitled the "Purifications," he adopts the Pythagorean doctrine of the Transmigration of the Soul, and describes how he himself was at one time a youth, a maiden, a fish, a bird, and even a shrub. The originality of Empedocles is undoubted. He was highly esteemed by Plato and Aristotle. Many fine suggestive thoughts which have borne fruit in later times are to be found in his writings. It is his merit to have been the first to have originated the idea of primitive elements, thus preparing the way for the atomistic theories of Leucippus and Democritus. But, as Aristotle has pointed out, the chief defect of his system is the omission of the idea of an intelligent Ruler under whose guidance the various elements of the world would be brought into consistency and order.

III. A third attempt to combat the conception of unity which the earlier philosophers assumed was made by The Atomist Theory of the universe, the propounders of which were Leucippus and Democritus. In another way they sought also to unite the Eleatic and Heraclitic ideas. They assumed that all bodies consisted of numberless invisible and indivisible particles which in their various combinations gave form, size and weight to bodies.

Of the age of Leucippus and the circumstances of his life little is definitely known; his very existence, indeed, has been questioned. Aristotle, however, makes him the originator of the Atomic theory. He was probably a native of Miletus, where philosophy first had its rise. It is uncertain whether he wrote anything or whether Aristotle and others drew their information concerning his opinions from his pupil Democritus.

Democritus, the younger and better known of the two, was born of wealthy parents in the Ionian colony of Abdara about 420. He travelled widely and gave to the world the treasures of his scientific knowledge in a series of writings, of which μέγας Διάκοσμος was the most celebrated. Cicero compares Democritus to Plato in regard to eloquence. He died at the age of 104.

The origin and general standpoint of the atomists is thus described by Aristotle: The Eleatics, he says, denied the plurality and movement of things, because they cannot be conceived without the notion of empty space. But empty space is unthinkable. Leucippus acknowledges that without the void no motion is possible, but, as he was not willing to give up the reality of change, he believed that movement and multiplicity could still be preserved by assuming the existence of empty space alongside of the full. Accordingly, for solid motionless unity of being for which Parmenides contended, the atomists substituted an infinite number of invisibly small bodies qualitatively similar and differing only in quantity, which move within the void and by whose combination and separation and reciprocal action the world of reality exists.

The distinctive features of the Atomic theory may be summarized in the following three points:

(1) The nature of the atom. The world consists of primitive, immutable, indivisible particles, alike in quality but unlike in quantity—size, shape, weight. The atom is the least conceivable particle, so small that it cannot be less. It entirely fills the space which it occupies, that is to say, it is incapable of further compression. Besides being the absolutely least, the atom is the absolutely full. Between atom and atom is the void or empty space. The atoms moreover are the same in kind, indistinguishable from each other by any difference of quality. They are different in quantity only—that is, they differ in size, weight, figure, but not in being hot or cold, sweet or bitter, luminous or dark. On the one hand, the atoms are analogous to the pure being of Parmenides in regard to uniformity of quality; and on the other hand, the Atomic school differs from Empedocles, who attributes differences of quality to his four elements in order to account for the changes of the universe.

According to the atomists there is no difference in the universe except differences of quantity. All qualitative differences are merely apparent and are due to our sensations only.

(2) The conception of the "full and the void." The atoms being the least conceivable are incapable of further compression. In order to exist at all they must be reciprocally bounded off and separated. There must, therefore, be something of an opposite nature to themselves that receives them as atoms and renders possible their separation and independence. This is empty space—the vacuum which is between the atoms, and keeps them asunder. Aristotle, in his account of the early philosophers, says, "Leucippus and Democritus assume as elements the 'full' and the 'void.' The former they term being and the latter non-being. Hence they assert that non-being exists as well as being." And, according to Plutarch, Democritus himself is reported as saying, "there is naught more real than nothing." The number of things is infinitely great. Each of them is indivisible. Between them, therefore, there must be empty space. Hence the full and the empty stand opposed, and are necessary to each other.

(3) The principle of necessity. But now, as with Empedocles, the question arises, how do the change and movement which we see everywhere come about? What is the reason that the atoms assume these manifold combinations which make up the world of nature and life around us? Democritus maintains that the ultimate ground of the world's constitution is to be found in the inner necessity or predestination inherent in the nature of the different atoms to combine. The atoms, varying in size and weight and mobility, impinge on each other and coalesce, forming larger or smaller bodies and constituting the inorganic and organic worlds.

It is incorrect to say that Democritus explained the motion of the atoms by attributing it to chance, as Cicero seemed to indicate. At the same time, in the cosmological scheme of the Atomists there is no room for design or intelligent purpose. Motion simply belongs to each atom as an original possession, and there is no attempt made to appeal to mind or purpose, or any cause whatever beyond the natural necessity of mechanical interaction. Nothing, indeed, happens without cause. All things have their reason and necessity (ὰνάγκη). And if Democritus sometimes uses the word τύχη or chance, it simply expresses man's ignorance of the real causes of things.

The atomist theory is interesting as affording the first hint at a theory of sensation which has been much in vogue in more recent times. Sensation is entirely subjective and dependent on our senses. A body is cold or hot, sweet or bitter, light or dark, not because it is so in itself, but wholly because of certain sensations peculiar to ourselves and dependent on our senses of touch, taste, smell or sight.

While modern exponents of this theory have held that there are occult qualities in matter, corresponding to our sensations of heat, colour, taste, smell, etc., the atomists maintained that the quantitative differences of bodies, by affecting our sentient organisms in different ways, sufficiently accounted for our various sensations. According to Democritus, the perceiving mind or soul consists also of atoms of the finest, smoothest and most mobile character. These he calls "fire-atoms," because they are the same as those which constitute the essence of fire. These indeed are scattered throughout the whole world, and are present in all animate things, but are united in largest numbers in the human body. The emanations which proceed from things set in motion the organs, and through them, the fire-atoms of the soul. These emanations he calls images (έίδωλα), and regards them as infinitely small copies of the things. Their impression upon the fire-atoms constitutes perception. External objects, in other words, give off minute copies or images of themselves. These impress themselves upon the senses, and, by setting in motion the fire-atoms of which the soul is composed, create our knowledge. The materialism of Democritus thus compels him to explain knowledge simply in terms of contact and reduce it to a form of material influence. This theory of images as a mode of representing outward things and explaining the mind's knowledge of the world, largely dominates ancient philosophy, and is defended, as we shall afterwards see, by Locke.

The atomist theory is professedly a system of materialism, and stands in contrast to the idealism of Plato. Democritus is one of the great names of history, and his atomic hypothesis may be regarded as still largely the faith of the scientific world. He may be said indeed to have laid the foundations of modern chemistry and other cognate sciences. In the comprehensiveness of his system he rivals Plato and Aristotle, and is the earliest philosopher who attempted to give a scientific explanation of the world.

We cannot but admire the greatness of the man who struck out for the first time in firm and decisive outline a purely dynamic theory of the world and who, in the place of the fragmentary and uncertain pictures of nature which the earlier philosophers afforded, at last sought to satisfy the demands of reason by a principle of inner coherence and reciprocal interaction of parts. All subsequent materialistic explanations of the world have always reverted to the atomic theory, although the advance of knowledge may throw a very different light upon the actual nature of the particles and their mode of operation. Two great and fruitful ideas were struck out by Democritus which became axioms in all scientific procedure: (1) The sensible, discreet particular as the starting-point in all investigation of nature; and (2) the invariable and unbroken causal connection of all things.

The radical defect, however, of all such theories as an explanation of the world, as Aristotle showed, lies in the contradiction of assuming the indivisibility of matter and the consequent derivation of the extended from that which occupies no space. It is also a weakness in the system of Democritus that the unconscious motiveless necessity, which is really equivalent to chance, banishes from nature all idea of a final cause.

IV. The last philosopher of this period we may mention is Anaxagoras, who was born at Klasomene about 450. He lived a considerable time at Athens, where he became a friend of Pericles. The age of Pericles was the zenith of commercial and political power. The highest development of art and letters was reached just as the State began to decline. This brilliant period was ushered in by a reign of doubt, which brought to a close the series of attempts on the part of the pre-Socratic thinkers to solve the problems of existence. This first period of Greek thought closes with Anaxagoras, who made a valiant effort to establish in Athens a revival of the Ionian school. A short time before the Peloponnesian war he was accused by his enemies of impiety, and was condemned to banishment. Advanced in years he retired to Lampacus, where a monument was erected to his memory.

The speculations of Anaxagoras are contained in a work on Nature, which was popular at the time of Socrates. His philosophy centres in two points : (I) his doctrine of simple substances, called "Homoiomeriae," which he held were countless in number; and (2) his doctrine of the intelligence or nous as the universal in all things and as the originating principle of the universe.

(1) The world is made up of a mass of primitive constituents. These elements are not like those of Empedocles, fire, air, earth, water, but they are the seeds or roots (σπέρματα) of all things, or, as he sometimes calls them, the primal substances (χρήματα)—stone, gold, bone, etc. These are infinitely fine and simple, and are present throughout the entire universe. So that in each individual particle of matter all elements are represented. Everything changes into everything else. The things of which the world is made are not "cut off with a hatchet." On the contrary, the true formula must be: "There is a portion of everything in everything." How then do things differ? Though everything has a portion of everything in it, things appear to be that of which there is most in them. Air is that in which there is most cold; fire, that in which there is most heat. According to this theory, every particular object in the universe is itself a kind of world in miniature.

(2) But now we come upon that part of Anaxagoras' theory which has given him a distinctive place in the history of early philosophy—his doctrine of the nous. Like Empedocles, Anaxagoras required some external cause to produce motion in the primitive 'mixture' or chaos so that it might form a cosmos. This moving cause Anaxagoras finds in Reason. It is the function of the nous to set this inert chaotic mass of substances in ever-changing motion. This formative principle separates the like parts and brings them together again, each according to its nature. Such an arrangement of gigantic masses in a harmonious system could only be, he held, the result of a mind working towards special ends. The nous of Anaxagoras, though a corporeal element, is so fine as almost to partake of the character of thought. It differs from the other substances not only in degree, but also in essence, as being alone self-moved, and in virtue of its own motion moving all the other elements in a purposeful way.

(3) At the same time we cannot disguise the fact that by this artificial introduction of Reason a dualism was created. On the one side were the elements of the world, inert and motionless, and on the other the nous, which alone is self-moved, and is entirely foreign to all the substances on which it acts. When he comes to explain the nous, he falls back upon material qualities, and he fails to show-how it applies to particulars. Plato, in the Phaedo, represents Socrates as saying that he had rejoiced to see nous designated as the cause of the order of the world, but when he came to examine it he was disappointed, as Anaxagoras had recourse only to "concomitant causes." Aristotle praises him on account of the supersensible principle which he had introduced, and describes him "as a sober man standing out from the crowd of random talkers who preceded him." But in general both Plato and Aristotle blamed Anaxagoras for his lack of consistency. They complained that he employed the 'nous' as the Deus ex machina of the dramatists, whose function it was to descend from heaven and cut the tragic knot, when no other means could be found of disentangling its confusion.

(4) But after all is said, it is the unique distinction of this thinker to have proclaimed an omniscient, omnipotent creator of the universe—a Being "who has all knowledge about everything," "who owns no master but itself," and "has power over all things that have life." In this theory we have the first instance of a teleological explanation of the universe. Anaxagoras therefore strikes out a new path in philosophy. He looks at the end rather than the beginning of things, and is concerned with the purpose more than the origin of being. Anaxagoras therefore has the merit of being the first philosopher who recognised an intelligent principle as the orderer of the world, and has thus laid the basis of the various arguments from design, which have been adduced by different thinkers to account for the existence of an all-wise and all-powerful creator.

(5) In Anaxagoras we detect also the first conscious separation of thought and matter. Mind is conceived by him as having a distinct existence in the universe and as being the supreme motive force of all things. His conception of the nous is indeed confused and vague; it is still regarded as consisting of material elements. But it was a great thing in that dim morning of time to perceive the distinction between those two factors, mind and matter, the relation of which has been the perennial problem of philosophy. With Anaxagoras, therefore, the first stage of philosophy, the physical stage, comes to a close, and his vision of a rational element in life prepares the way for the more definite study of man on his mental and moral side, which followed.

Greek Philosophy. Early Monastic Theories                                                     Greek Philosophy. The Sophists

 

 

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