Diccionario de Filosofía
A Dictionary of English Philosophical Terms Francis Garden
Biografías y semblanzas Biographical references and lives of philosophers
History of Philosophy Summaries
Historia de la Filosofía
Historia de la Filosofía
Historia de la Filosofía
Vidas, opiniones y sentencias de los filósofos más ilustres
A brief history of Greek Philosophy
A SHORT HISTORY OF PHILOSOPHY
Part I. GREEK PHILOSOPHY
Part II. PHILOSOPHY IN THE GRECO-ROMAN WORLD
Part III. PHILOSOPHY OF MIDDLE AGES
THE PATRISTIC PERIODAugustine and Church Fathers
SCHOLASTIC PERIODNominalism and Realism
Part IV. REVIVAL OF PHILOSOPHY
Part V. PHILOSOPHY OF THE ENLIGHTENMENT
SECT. 3. ENLIGHTENMENT IN GERMANY
FOLLOWERS OF LEIBNITZ
Part VI. GERMAN IDEALISM
SECT. I. CRITICAL PHILOSOPHYKANT
SECT. 2. DEVELOPMENT OF IDEALISM
PHILOSOPHY OF FEELING
Part VII. MOVEMENTS SINCE HEGEL TO THE PRESENT
GERMAN THOUGHTAFTER HEGEL
FRENCH THOUGHTFROM THE REVOLUTION
BRITISH PHILOSOPHY IN THE VICTORIAN ERA
THE TREND OF THOUGHT IN THE TWENTIETH CENTURY
Part I. GREEK PHILOSOPHY
Its origin and character
If we regard philosophy as the quest for the unity and ground of things, then it had its home originally in Greece. Of course, wherever man has emerged from the purely savage state there has existed some kind of reflection regarding existence. At the great centres of oriental civilization, in China, India, and Persia, there may be traced movements of thought and reflective views of the world, but inasmuch as these grew out of mythical fancy and were more or less governed by religious poetic feeling, they cannot be styled in the strictest sense philosophical.
Nor must it be assumed, as it is sometimes alleged, that the Greeks derived their philosophy from Egypt and Babylon. No writer of the period during which Greek philosophy flourished knows anything at all of its having come from the East. Even though we admit, as Herodotus tells us, that the worship of Dionysus and the Doctrine of Transmigration came from Egypt, these did not directly bear upon philosophy. Long before Greek speculation began the Egyptians and Babylonians had made considerable progress in mensuration and astronomical observation, and it is most probable that the Greeks became acquainted in a general way with their methods. But the knowledge which they derived in this way was of an empirical and mechanical order, largely confined to concrete examples and to practical purposes.
But it would be a mistake to say that the Greeks borrowed either their philosophy or their science from the East. They did receive from Egypt certain rules of mensuration which, when generalized, gave birth to astronomy, and from Babylon they learnt the rotary movement of the stars. But their attitude towards the information thus derived was entirely original. Out of the particular rules and ascertained facts they evolved general principles and propounded speculative problems which had never occurred to either the Egyptians or Babylonians.
All beginnings are obscure, and in accounting for the intellectual character of a people there is a certain individual element which eludes analysis. This is specially true of the Greeks. As a people they had peculiar gifts and qualifications, partly indeed derived from their composite social origin and partly due to their geographical positionan insatiable curiosity, a faculty of generalization, a broad and varied interest in life, and a sense of beauty and fitnesswhich fitted them for their special mission of being the pioneers of philosophical inquiry. Hellas was a sea-girt mountain land; her back was turned to the north and west; her bays and islands faced east and south. On the one side her impregnable mountains defended her from invasion, and on the other her broken coastline afforded a natural stimulus to commerce and emigration. If her sense of independence and national life was fostered by her geographical position, her love of beauty was developed by the wealth and variety of nature for which the land of Greece is pre-eminent.
Still the principal factor in the development of the intellectual life of Greece must be sought in her system of Colonization. The sea naturally wooed the daring and enterprising; and the islands in close proximity to the mainland formed convenient ports of call for commerce and suitable homes for her increasing population. From the earliest period there arose a vast circle of Greek plantations, which stretched not only along the coast of Asia Minor but to Southern Italy and Sicily, and even to Spain. By this way the Greeks were brought into contact with other nationsnot only was the race enriched by intermarriage, but their mental horizon was enlarged. Local customs, tribal prejudices and religious beliefs embodied in the national mythologies, quickly disappeared before the wider outlook which the settlers obtained in their new surroundings. The new knowledge of the world which they acquired as traders and seafarers continually enlarged their ideas, while their active and adventurous life not only broke up their old habits of thought, but stimulated their natural curiosity and versatility of mind.
Of the primitive view of the world which obtained in Greece we have little knowledge. The magic rites and savage myths which prevailed before the dawn of history faded away like a mist before the breeze of a larger experience and more fearless curiosity. Even in the earliest poets, Homer and Hesiod, in whom the religion of Greece found its expression, the mythical element had begun to be eliminated. In Homer the gods had become human, and everything savage was kept largely out of sight. Hesiod offers the first crude attempt at constructing a world-system. The so-called Orphic Cosmogonies had the Hesiodic theogony for their basis. But they, no more than he, seek to account for the origin of things by natural causes. In Pherecydes of Syros, for the first time the philosophical spirit finds expression. The feature common to all the earlier poetic cosmogonies is the attempt to get behind chaos or ‘the gap’ and put Kronos or Zeus at the beginning of things. These fantastic conceptions are anticipations of the rational explanation of nature.
That which gave to the thinkers of Ionia the distinction of being the awakeners of thought was that they were the first who, as Professor Burnet says, ‘left off telling tales.’ Philosophy dates its origin from the day when those cosmologists, or ‘physicians,’ as Aristotle terms them in contrast to their predecessors, the theologians, relegated the traditional gods to the domain of fable and sought to explain nature by principles and causes. Yet philosophy in her earlier stages did not at once discard the garb of mythology. She still continued to express herself in the rhythmical language of the poets, and even her conceptions were tinged with the religious faith from which she sprung. The gods were not at once abolished, but their nature and actions were explained.
Greek philosophy was first devoted to the consideration of the problems of nature. What is the primitive element from which all things take their rise? The so-called ‘ seven wise men,’ of whom Thales, Bias and Solon are the best known, were the representatives of a certain form of worldly wisdom and prudential morality, certainly most remarkable for the age in which it appeared, but not sufficiently reflective or connected to be termed philosophy.
Later, under the impulse of social and political life, research turned from outward being to the inner nature of man. Philosophy was first objective and then subjective. Ultimately, after positive results had been reached in the field of human nature, there arose those great constructive systems of philosophyof Plato and Aristotlewhich have given to Greek thought its distinctive character and pre-eminence.
Three periods of Greek philosophy may be, therefore, distinguished.