History of philosophy

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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

important sources.
[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.

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