THE PHILOSOPHY OF THE GREEKS.
Chr. A. Brandis, Handbuch der Geschichte der griechisch-romischen Philosophic.
3 pts. in 6 vols. Berlin, 1835-66.
Same author, Geschichte der Entwickelungen der griechischen Philosophic und
Hirer Nachwirkungen im romischen Rciche. 2 pts. Berlin, 1862-66.
Ed. Zeller, Die Philosophic der Griechen. 3 pts. in 5 vols. 1st vol. in 5th,
2 vol. in 4th, 3-5 vols. in 3d ed. Leips. 1879-93. [Trans., with the excep
tion of the portion on the concluding religious period, as six works: Pre-
Socratic Philosophy (2 vols.), Socrates and the Socratic Schools, Plato and
the Older Academy, Aristotle and the Earlier Peripatetics (2 vols.), Stoics,
Epicureans, and Sceptics, History of Eclecticism, chiefly by S.F. Alleyne and
O. J. Reichel. Lond. and N.Y., Longmans.]
A. Schwegler, Geschichte der griechischen Philosophie. Ed. by K. Kostlin. 3d
ed. Freiburg, 1882.
L. Striimpell, Die Geschichte der griechischen Philosophie. 2 pts. Leips.
W. Windelband, Geschichte der alten Philosophie. 2d ed. Munich, 1894.
[History of Ancient Philosophy, trans, by H. E. Cushman, N.Y., 1899. J
Hitter et Preller, Hixtoria philosophies grcKco-romanoK (Grcecce). In 8th ed.
Edited by Wellman. Gotha, 1898. An excellent collection of the most
[A. W. Benn, The Greek Philosophers. 2 vols. Lond., 1883. The Philoso
phy of Greece. Lond. 1898.]
Th. Gomperz, Griechische Denker. Vienna, 1897. [Trans, by L. Magnus.
Greek Thinkers. Lond. and N.Y., 1900.]
IF by science we understand that independent and self-conscious
work of intelligence which seeks knowledge methodically for its
own sake, then it is among the Greeks, and the Greeks of the sixth
century B.C., that we first find such a science, aside from some
tendencies among the peoples of the Orient, those of China and
India 1 particularly, only recently disclosed. The great civilised
1 Even if it be conceded that the beginnings of moral philosophy among the
Chinese rise above moralising, and especially those of logic in India above inci
dental reflections on the scientific formation of conceptions, on which we shall
not here pronounce, these remain so remote from the course of European
philosophy, which forms a complete unity in itself, that a text-book has no
occasion to enter upon them. The literature is brought together in Ueber-
weg, I. 6.
24 The Philosophy of the Greeks.
peoples of earlier antiquity were not, indeed, wanting either in an
abundance of information on single subjects, or in general views of
the universe ; but as the former was gained in connection with prac
tical needs, and the latter grew out of mythical fancy, so they
remained under the control, partly of daily need, partly of religious
poetry ; and, as was natural in consequence of the peculiar restraint
of the Oriental mind, they lacked, for their fruitful and independent
development, the initiative activity of individuals.
Among the Greeks, also, similar relations existed until, at the time
mentioned, the mighty upward movement of the national life unfet
tered the mental powers of- this most gifted of all peoples. For this
result the democratic development of constitutions which in passion
ate party struggle tended to bring out independence of individual
opinions and judgments, and to develop the significance of person
ality, proved even more favourable than the refinement and spiritual-
isation of life which increasing wealth of trade brought with it.
The more the luxuriant development of individualism loosened the
old bonds of the common consciousness, of faith, and of morals, and
threatened the youthful civilisation of Greece with the danger of
anarchy, the more pressing did individual men, prominent by their
position in life, their insight, and their character, find the duty
of recovering in their own reflection the measure that was becoming
lost. This ethical reflection found its representatives in the lyric
and gnomic poets, especially, however, in the so-called seven wise men. 1
It could not fail to occur, also, that a similar movement, in which
individual opinions asserted their independence, should trench upon
the religious life already so varied, in which the opposition between
the old mystery-cults and the aesthetic national mythology stimu
lated the formation of so many special types. 2 Already in the cos-
mogonic poetry the poet had dared to portray the heaven of the
myths according to his own individual fancy ; the age of the seven
sages began to read its ethical ideals into the gods of the Homeric
poetry, and in the ethico-religious reformation attempted by Pythag
oras, 3 coming as it did in the outer form of a return to the old strict
ness of life, the new content which life had gained came all the more
clearly to view.
1 The "seven sages," among whom Thales, Bias, Pittacus, and Solon are
usually named, while with regard to the rest tradition is not agreed, must not,
with the exception of Thales, be regarded as representatives of science. Diog.
Laert. I. 40 ; Plato, Protag. 343.
2 Cf. E. Rohde (Psyche, 2d ed., 1897) for the influence of religious ideas.
3 Phcrecydcs of Syrus is to be regarded as the most important of these cos-
mogonic poets ; he wrote in prose at the time of the first philosophies, but his
mode of thought .is still mythical throughout, not scientific. Fragments of his
writings collected by Sturz (Leips. 1834).
The Philosophy of the Greeks. 25
From such conditions of fermentation the science of the Greeks
to which they gave the name philosophy was born. The independ
ent reflection of individuals, aided by the fluctuations of religious
fancy, extended itself from the questions of practical life to the
knowledge of Nature, and there first won that freedom from exter
nal ends, that limitation of knowledge to itself, which constitutes
the essence of science.
All these processes, however, took place principally in the outly
ing parts of Greek civilisation, in the colonies, which were in advance
of the so-called Mother-country in mental as in material develop
ment. In Ionia, in Magna Graecia, in Thrace, stood the cradles of
science. It was only after Athens in the Persian wars had assumed
together with the political hegemony the mental as well, which she
was to keep so much longer than the former, that Attic soil, conse
crated to all the muses, attracted science also. Its advent was at
the time of the Sophists ; it found its completion in the doctrine
and school of Aristotle.
It was in connection with the disinterested consideration of
Nature that reflection first rose to the scientific construction of
conceptions. The result of this was that Greek science devoted all
the freshness of youthful joy and knowledge primarily to the prob
lems of Nature, and in this work stamped out fundamental concep
tions, or Forms of thought, for apprehending the external world. In
order to turn the look of philosophy inward and make human action
the object of its study, there was first need, for one thing, of subse
quent reflection upon what had, and what had not, been, accomplished
by this study of Nature, and, for another thing, of the imperious
demands made by public life on science now so far matured as to be
a social factor. The effect of this change might for a time seem to
be to check the pure zeal for research which had marked the begin
nings, but after positive results had been reached in the field of the
knowledge of man s inner nature this same zeal developed all the
more vigorously, and led to the construction of those great systems
with which purely Greek philosophy reached its consummation.
The philosophy of the Greeks divides, therefore, into three periods :
a cosmological, which extends from about 600 to about 450 B.C. ; an
anthropological, which fills out about the second half of the fifth
century B.C. (450-400) ; and a systematic, which contains the
development of the three great systems of Greek science, those of
Democritus, Plato, and Aristotle (400-322).
The philosophy of the Greeks forms the most instructive part of the whole
history of philosophy from a theoretical point of view, not only because the
fundamental conceptions created in it have become the permanent foundations
26 The Philosophy of the Greeks.
for all further development of thought, and promise to remain such, but also
because in it the formal presuppositions contained in the postulates of the
thinking Keason itself, attained sharp formulation as set over against the mate
rial of knowledge, which, especially at the beginning, was still relatively small
in amount. In this the Greek philosophy has its typical value and its didactic
These advantages appear already in the transparency and simplicity of the
entire development, which enable us to see the inquiring mind at first turned
outward, then thrown back upon itself, and from this point of view returning
to a deeper apprehension of reality as a whole.
There is, therefore, scarcely any controversy with regard to this course of
the general development of Greek philosophy, though different expositions have
located the divisions between the periods at different points. Whether Socrates
is made to begin a new period, or is placed together with the Sophists in the
period of Greek Enlightenment, depends ultimately only on whether the result
(negative or positive), or the object-matter of the philosophising, is regarded as
of decisive importance. That, however, Democritus must in any case be sepa
rated from the " Pre-Socratics " and assigned to the great systematic period
of Greek Philosophy, has been proved by the Author in his survey of the
History of Ancient Philosophy, ch. V., and the objections which the innovation
has encountered have not sufficed to convince him of any mistake.