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5. Conceptions of Cosmic Processes. 1

E. Hardy, Der Bfgriff der Physis in yriechisr.hen Philosophic, I. Berlin, 1884.

As the fact of change that is, the cosmic processes furnished

the most immediate occasion for reflection upon the abiding Being,

so, on the other hand, the various conceptions of Being had

as their ultimate aim only to make the processes of Nature intel

ligible. This task was indeed occasionally forgotten, or set aside,

in the development of the conceptions of Being, as by the Eleatics ;

but immediately afterward the further progress of thought proved

to be determined all the more by the renewed attention given to

1 [Geschehen. I have translated this word variously by "change," "occur

rence," "event," "taking place," "coming to pass," "becoming," etc. The

last, which is ordinarily used for the Greek yiyvofuu seems hardly broad enough. The German means any natural process or event.]

48 The Greeks : Cosmological Period. [PART I.

Becoming and change, and by the need of so thinking Being that

Becoming and change could not only be reconciled with it, but also

be made intelligible by it. Hand in hand, then, with ideas of Being,

go those of Becoming, the two in constant relation to one another.

1. To the lonians the living activity of the world was something

so much a matter of course that they never thought of asking for

a cause of it. Naive Hylozoism could have in view only the explana

tion of a particular occurrence or cosmic process. Explanation,

however, consists in reducing what is striking not a matter of

course or intelligible in itself to such simpler forms of occur

rence as seem to need no explanation, inasmuch as they are most

familiar to our perception. That things change their form, their

qualities, their working upon one another, seemed to the Mile

sians to require explanation. They contented themselves in this

with conceiving these changes as condensation or rarefaction of the

cosmic matter. This latter process did not seem to them to need a

farther explanation, though Anaximenes at least did add, that these

changes in the state of aggregation were connected with changes in

temperature condensation with cooling, rarefaction with growing

warm. This contrast gave rise to the arrangement of the states of

aggregation in a series corresponding to the degree of rarefaction

or condensation of the primitive matter : 1 viz. fire, air, water, earth,

(or stone).
The Milesians used these ideas not only to explain individual

phenomena of Nature, particularly the meteorological processes so

important for a sea-faring people, but also to explain the develop

ment of the present state of the world out of the prime matter.

Thus Thales conceived water as in part rarefying to form air and

fire, and in part condensing to form earth and stone ; Anaximenes,

starting from air, taught an analogous process of world-formation.

As a result of these views it was assumed that the earth resting

on water, according to the first, on air, according to the second

occupied the centre of the sphere of air revolving about it, and this

sphere of air was yet again surrounded by a sphere of fire, which

either broke through or shone through in the stars.

In setting forth this process of ivorld-origination, which was per

haps still regarded by Thales and Anaximander as a process occur

ring once for all, the Milesians attached themselves closely to the

cosmogonic poetry. 2 Not until later does the consideration seem to

1 Hence it is intelligible that there were also physicists (not known to us by

name) who would regard the world-stuff as an intermediate stage between air

and water, or between air and fire.
2 Hence, also, the designation of the world-stuff as apxt (beginning).

CHAP. 1, 5.] Cosmic Processes : Anaximander, Heraclitus. 49

have gained prevalence, that if to change of form a change back to

the original form corresponds, and if, at the same time, matter is

to be regarded as not only eternal but eternally living, it is necessary

to assume a ceaseless process of world-formation and world-destruc

tion, a countless number of successive worlds. 1
2. Although these essential constituents characterise also the

physical theories of Anaximander, he was led beyond them by his

metaphysical conception of the airupov. The infinite, self-moved

matter which was intended by this obscure conception was indeed,

as a whole, to have no definite properties. It was held, however, to

contain qualitative opposites within itself, and in its process of evolu

tion to exclude them from itself, so that they became separate. 2

Anaximander remained then a Hylozoist in so far as he regarded

matter as self-moved; he had seen, however, that the differences

must be put into it if they were to come forth out of it on occasion

of its self-motion. If, then, as regards his doctrine of Being, he ap

proached the later theory of a plurality of primitive substances, and

abandoned the doctrine that the primitive matter was changeable in

quality, he was yet entirely at one with the other Milesians as

regards his conception of the causelessness of the cosmic process, and

thought that by the union of the two opposites, the warm and the

cold, which he conceived as the first to come out from the airupov, he

could explain water. This done, he could proceed with his cosmog

ony along the oceanic path taken by Thales.
But besides these physical and metaphysical determinations, the

only fragment 3 preserved from him, giving his own words, repre

sents the perishing of things as an expiation for injustice, and so

presents the first dim attempt to present the world-process as

ethical necessity, and to conceive of the shadows of transitoriness,

which rest even on the bright picture of Hellenic life, as retribution

for sin. However doubtful the particular interpretation of this

utterance, there is yet without doubt voiced in it the need of giving

to physical necessity the worth of an ethical order. Here Anaxi

mander appears as a predecessor of Heraclitus.

3. The order of events which Heraclitus thought he could estab

lish as the only constant amid the mutation of things, had two

essential marks, the harmony of opposites and the circuit completed by
1 This doctrine was supported, probably by Anaximander, certainly by

Anaximenes. It is repeated in Heraclitus and Empedocles.

2 The decisive passages for this very controverted question (Ritter, Seydel,

Zeller) are Arist. Phys. I. 4, 187 a 20, and Simpl. Phys. (D.) 33 154, 14 (after

Theophrastus) ; also the continuation of the passage in the following note.
8 Simpl. Phys. (D.) 6 r 24, 18. Cf. Th. Ziegler, Arch. f. Gesch. d. Philos.,

I. 16 ff.

50 The G-reeks : Cosmological Period. [PART I.

matter in its successive changes in the universe, The observation that

everything in the world is in process of constant change was

exaggerated by Heraclitus to the claim that everything is con

tinually changing into its opposite. The " other " was for him eo

ipso the opposed. The "flux of things " became transformed in his

poetic rhetoric into a ceaseless strife of opposites, and this strife

(TTo Ae/xos) he declared to be the father of things. All that seems to

be for a shorter or longer time is the product of opposed motions

and forces which in their operation maintain themselves in equilib

rium. The universe is thus at every moment a unity divided in

itself and again re-united, a strife which finds its reconciliation, a

want that finds its satisfaction. The essence of the world is the

invisible harmony in which all differences and oppositions are

solved. The world is Becoming, and Becoming is unity of oppo

These antitheses, according to the view of Heraclitus, present

themselves particularly in the two processes taking place in con

trary directions, through which, on the one hand, fire becomes

changed into all things, and, on the other hand, all things change

back into fire. The same stages are passed through in both

processes: on the "ivay downward" fire passes over, by condensation,

into water and earth, on the "way upward" earth and water, by rare

faction, pass over into fire ; and these two ways are alike. .Change

and counter-change run on side by side, and the semblance of a per

manent thing makes its appearance where for a time there is as

nrnch counter-change upon the one way as there is change upon the

other. The fantastic forms in which Heraclitus put these views

envelop the essential thought of a sequence of changes taking place

in conformity to law, and of a continual compensation of these

changes. The world is produced from the fire in ever-repeated

rhythm and at fixed intervals of time, and then again flashes up in

fire, to arise from it anew, a Phoenix. 1
In this ceaseless transformation of all things nothing individual

persists, but only the order, in which the exchange between the

contrary movements is effected, the laio of change, which consti

tutes the meaning and worth of the whole. If in the struggle be

tween opposites it seems as though something new were constantly

arising, this new is at the same time always a perishing product.

The Becoming of Heraclitus produces no Being, as the Being of

Parmenicles produces no Becoming.

1 In details his physical, and especially his astronomical, ideas are weak.

Metaphysical inquiry is more important with him than explanatory investiga

tion. He shares this with his opponent, Parmenides.

CHAP. 1, 5.] Cosmic Processes : Parmenides, Empedocles. 51

4. In fact, the doctrine of Being held by the Eleatics excluded

with plurality and change, events or cosmic processes, also. Ac

cording to their metaphysics an event or occurrence is incomprehen

sible, it is impossible. This metaphysics tolerates no physics.

Parmenides denies to time, as to space, independent reality (oXXo

TraptK TOV edvros) : for him there is only timeless Being with no dis

tinctions. Although Parmenides added to the first part of his didac

tic poem, which presents the doctrine of Being, a second part which

treats physical problems, this is yet done with the protest in advance

that he is here presenting not truth, but the " opinions of mortals."

At the basis of all these ordinary opinions lies the false presupposi

tion, previously rejected, that in addition to Being there is still

another, Non-being. All becoming, all plurality and motion, rest on

the interaction of these opposites, which are then further designated

as light and darkness, warmth and cold. A Weltanschauung is then

p ortrayed in poetic imagery, in which fire shapes the dark empty

space into corporeal structures, a mode of representation which in

part reminds us of Heraclitus, and in part accords with the astro

nomical teaching of the Pythagoreans. The all-ruling Fire-power

(ufuov), as inexorable necessity (81x77), with the help of love (epws)

forces together what is akin, working from the centre of the world

outward. Appropriation of the doctrines of others and polemic

against them appear in motley mixture, agreeably to the purpose of

the whole. Over this tissue thus interwoven hovers a poetic breath

of plastic formative power, but original research and clear concep

tions are lacking.

5. Ideas more definite, and more usable for explaining the par

ticular, are found among the successors, who transformed the Eleatic

conception of Being into the conceptions of element, homoiomerise,

and atom, expressly for this purpose. They all declare that by

occurrence or coming to be nothing else is to be understood than the

motion of unchangeable corporeal particles. Empedocles and Anax-

agoras seem still to have sought to connect with this the denial of

empty space, a principle which they received from Parmenides.

They ascribed to their substances universal divisibility, and re

garded parts as capable of displacement in such a way that as these

parts mixed and reciprocally interpenetrated, all space should be

always filled out. The motion in the world consists, then, in this

1 The hypothetical exposition of how the world would have to be thought if,

in addition to Heing, Non-being, plurality, and becoming were also regarded as

real, had, on the one hand, a polemic purpose; and on the other, it met the

want of his disciples, who probably demanded of the master an explanation of

his own of the empirical world.

52 The Greeks : Cosmological Period. [PART I.

displacement of the parts of matter, each of which is always crowd

ing and displacing the other. Things at a distance from one another

cannot act upon one another, except as parts of the one flow out and

penetrate into the other. This action is the more possible in pro

portion as the effluxes of the one body resemble in their spatial

form the pores of the other. So at least Empedocles taught, and

the assumption of an infinite divisibility of substances is attested in

the case of Anaxagoras also. Another picture of occurrence more

akin to the present way of thinking is that presented by Leucippus.

The atoms which impinge upon each other in empty space act upon

each other by pressure and impact, group themselves together, and

so form greater or smaller things or masses which are not separated

and destroyed until some impact or pressure of other masses conies

from without. All occurrence and coming to be consists in this

process in which atom-complexes are successively formed and


/The fundamental form of world-motion in all three systems, how

ever, is that of the vortex, of circular rotation (8tvr)). According to

Empedocles it is brought about by the forces of love and hate acting

among the elements ; according to Anaxagoras it is begun by the

Keason-stuff acting according to ends, and then continues with

mechanical consistency ; according to Leucippus it is the result

always occurring from the collision of several atoms. I The principle

of mechanism was with Empedocles still enveloped in myth, with

Anaxagoras it first made a half-successful attempt to break through

the covering, and was completely carried through only by Leucippus.

What hindered the first two from reaching this position was the

introduction of considerations of worth into their explanatory

theory. The one was for tracing the good and the evil back to cor

responding powers of mind, which were, to be sure, not ascribed to

any being, but mythically hypostatised ; the other believed that he

could explain the order of the whole only from the assumption that

purposive, rationally considered impulse had originated the motions.

Yet both came so near the position of Leucippus as to demand a

teleological explanation for the beginning only of the vortex-motion;

the farther course of the motions, arid thus every individual occur

rence, they explained, as did Leucippus, purely mechanically, by the

pushing and crowding of the particles of matter after these are once

in motion in the manner determined. They proceeded so con

sistently in this that they did not exclude from this mechanical

explanation even the origination and functions of organisms, among

which, moreover, plants are regarded as being as truly animate as are

animals. Anaxagoras is reproached for this by Plato and Aristotle,

CHAP. 1, 5.] Cosmic Processes : Anaxagoras, Leucippus, 53

and an expression of Empedocles has been handed down, 1 according

to which he taught that the animals had arisen here and there, with

out any rule, in odd and grotesque forms, and that in the course of

time only those fitted for life maintained themselves. The principle

of the survival of the fittest, which plays so great a part in the

biology of to-day, i.e. in Darwinism, is here already clearly formu

On the ground of these ideas, an interesting contrast discloses

itself in the case of the three investigators, as regards their atti

tude toward cosmogonic theories. For Empedocles and for Leu-

cippus, namely, the process of world-formation and world-dissolu

tion is a perpetual one ; for Anaxagoras, on the contrary, it is one

that takes place once for all. Between the first two there is again

the difference that Empedocles, like Heraclitus, teaches that the

world arises and perishes in periodic alternation; while Atomism,

on the contrary, holds that a countless number of worlds come into

being and pass away. According to the principles of Empedocles,

to be more explicit, there are four different states of the elements ;

their complete intermixture, in which love alone rules, and hate is

excluded, he calls cr^aipos 2 (sphere) ; when hate penetrates, this

homogeneous world-sphere becomes separated into the individual

things, until the elements are completely parted from one another ;

and out of this separate condition love brings them again together,

until full union is again attained. Neither in the case of complete

mixture, nor in that of complete separation, are there individual

things ; in both cases the Eleatic acosmism makes its appearance.

A world of individual things in motion exists only where love and

hate struggle with one another in mingling and separating the


It is otherwise with Leucippus. Some of the atoms that dart

about irregularly in the universe strike together here and there.

From the various impulses to motion which the individual particles

bring with them, where such aggregations occur, there results,

according to mathematical necessity (avdyK-rj), a whirling movement

of the whole, which draws into itself neighbouring atoms and atom-

complexes, and sometimes even whole " worlds," and so gradually

1 Arist. Phys. II. 8, 198 b 29. Moreover, we find an expression already

attributed to Anaximander, which teaches a transformation of organisms by

adaptation to changed conditions of life : Plut. Plac. V. 19, 1 (Dox. D. 430, 15).

For man, also, the oldest thinkers claimed no other origin than that of growth

out of the animal world : so Empedocles in Plut. Strom, fr. 2. (Dox. D. 579, 17).

2 Evidently not without suggestion from the Eleatic world-sphere, which this

absolute, fully adjusted mingling of all elements, taught by Empedocles, much


54 The Greeks : Cosmological Period. [PART I.

extends. Meanwhile such a system in process of revolution is

differentiating itself, since, by the rotation, the finer, more movable

atoms are driven to the periphery, the more inert and massy are,

gathered in the centre ; and so like finds its way to like, not by

inclination or love, but through their like conformity to the law of

pressure and impact. So there arise at various times and in differ

ent places in the boundless universe, various worlds, each of which

continues in motion within itself, according to mechanical law, until

it perhaps is shattered in pieces by collision with another world, or

is drawn into the revolution of a greater. So, the Atomists main

tained, the sun and moon were at one time worlds by themselves,

which subsequently fell into the greater vortex of which our earth

is the centre. How near in principle this whole conception is to

the natural science of to-day is obvious.

The teleological point of view taken by Anaxagoras excludes, on

the contrary, a plurality of worlds in time as well as a plurality of

worlds in space. The ordering mind, which introduces the pur

posive motion of the elements, forms just this one world only, which

is the most perfect. 1 Anaxagoras, therefore, quite in the manner of

the cosmogonic poetry, describes how the beginning of the world

was preceded by a chaotic primitive condition, in which the ele

ments were intermingled without order and without motion. Then

came the vows, the "Reason-stuff" (Vernunflstoff } , and set it into

ordered motion. This vortex-motion began at one point, the pole of

the celestial vault, and extended gradually throughout the entire

mass of matter, separating and dividing the elements, so that they

now perform their mighty revolution in a uniformly harmonious

manner. The teleological motive of the doctrine of Anaxagoras

is due essentially to his admiration of the order in the stellar

world, which, after it has performed the rotations started by the

voCs, moves on without disturbance always in the same track. There

is no ground for assuming that this teleological cosmology directed

attention to the adaptation to ends in living beings, or even to the

connected system of Nature as beneficent to man ; its gaze was fixed

on the beauty of the starry heavens ; and what is related of the

views of Anaxagoras on terrestrial things, on organisms, and on

man, keeps quite within the setting of the mechanical mode of

explanation in vogue among his contemporaries. What he said, too,

with regard to the presence of life on other heavenly bodies, might

just as well have come from the Atomists.

1 This motive, fully carried out, is found in Plato, Tim. 31, with unmistak

able reference to the opposition between Anaxagoras and the Atomists.

CHAP. 1, 5.] Cosmic Processes : Zeno, the Pythagoreans. 55

Accordingly, although Anaxagoras conceived of the vous as also the principle

of animation, and thought of the particles of this substance as mingled in

greater or lesser number with organic bodies, yet the central point in this con

ception is that of the authorship of the astronomical world-order. The other

side, the moment or factor of the cause of animate life, is much more energeti

cally emphasised in the transformation which a younger eclectic natural

philosopher, Diogenes of Apollonia, undertook to effect in the conception of

Anaxagoras by connecting it with the hylozoistic principle of Anaximenes.

He designated air as dpxv [first principle, primitive element], fitted it out,

however, with the characteristics of the voOj, omniscience and force acting

according to ends, named this "rational air" also weS^a [spirit], and found

this formative principle in man and other organisms as well as in the universe.

A rich physiological knowledge enabled him to carry through in detail this

thought as applied to the structure and functions of the human body. With

him teleology became the dominant mode of apprehending also the organic

His fragments have been collected by Schorn (Bonn, 1829) and Panzerbieter

(Leips. 1830). Cf. K. Steinhart in Ersch und Griiber s Encyclopddie.
6. All these doctrines, however, presuppose the conception of

motion as one that is intelligible of itself and in need of no further

explanation. They thought they had explained qualitative change

when they had pointed out as its true essence motion, whether

between the parts of a continuously connected matter, or in empty

space. The opposition, therefore, which the Eleatic School brought

to bear upon all these doctrines was directed first of all against this?

conception of motion, and Zeno showed that this could by no means

be taken so simply, but was rather full of contradictions which inca^

pacitated it for serving as principle of explanation.

Among Zeno s famous proofs of the impossibility of motion, 1 the

weakest is that which proceeds from the relativity of the amount of

motion, by showing that the movement of a wagon is variously esti

mated if it is observed either from wagons also in motion but in

different directions and at varying rates of speed, or again from two

wagons one of which is moving and one standing still. The three

other proofs, on the contrary, which made use of the analysis into

discrete parts, infinitely many and infinitely small, of the space

passed through by motion, and the time occupied by it, were

stronger, and for a long time were not overcome. The first proof

was with reference to the impossibility of passing through a fixed

space. This was regarded as proved by the infinite divisibility of

the line, since the infinite number of points which must be attained

before reaching the goal permitted no beginning of motion. The

same thought appears, somewhat varied, in the second argument,

which seeks to prove the impossibility of passing through a space

which /w.s movable boundaries. The argument (known as that of

1 Arist. Phys. VI. 9, 239 b. 9. Cf . Ed. Wellmann, Zenon s Beweise gegen die

Bewegung und ifire Widerlegungen (^--nkfurt a. O. 1870).

56 The Greeks : Cosmological Period. [PART I.

Achilles and the tortoise) is, that since the pursuer in every inter

val or subdivision of time must first reach the point from which the

pursued simultaneously starts, it follows that the latter will always

be in advance, though by an interval which becomes constantly

smaller and approaches a minimum. The third argument has refer

ence to the infinitely small extent of the motion performed in any

instant. According to this argument, called "the resting arrow" the

moved body is in every instant in some one point of its track ; its

movement in this instant is then equal to zero ; but from ever so

many zeros no real magnitude arises.

Together with the above-mentioned difficulties (dire/gun) with

regard to space and plurality, these argumentations of Zeno set

forth an extremely skilfully projected system of refuting the

mechanical theories, especially Atomism, a refutation which was

intended to serve at the same time as indirect proof of the correct

ness of the Eleatic conception of Being.

7. The number-theory of the Pythagoreans, too, was determined by

Eleatic conceptions in so far as its procedure was, in the main, to

demonstrate mathematical forms to be the fundamental relations

of reality. When, however, they termed the actual world of reality

an imitation of the mathematical forms, they thereby ascribed a sort

of reality, even though of a derivative and secondary character, to

individual things, and to what takes place among them. They were

also the less inclined to withdraw from answering cosmological and

physical questions as they were able to bring to philosophy the

brilliant results of their astronomical investigation. They had come

to a knowledge of the spherical form of the earth and of the heav

enly bodies ; they were aware also that the change of day and night

depends upon a movement of the earth itself. At first, indeed, they

thought of this movement as a circuit performed about a central fire

to which the earth presented always the same side, a side unknown

to us. 1 On the other hand, they assumed that about this same cen

tral fire there moved in concentric circles, outside the earth s track,

successively the moon, the sun, the planets, and finally the heaven

containing the fixed stars. They brought into this system, however,

in a way, the metaphysical dualism which they had maintained be

tween the perfect and the imperfect, inasmuch as they regarded the
1 Already in Plato s time the hypothesis of the central fire was given up by

the younger Pythagoreans, Ecphantus, Hicetus of Syracuse (and with it that

of the " counter-earth," which had hitherto been assumed as placed between the

central fire and the earth, invented merely to fill out the number ten), and

instead the earth was located in the centre of the universe and provided with a

rotation on its axis. With this latter assumption that of a resting position of

the heaven of the fixed stars was connected.

CHAP. 1, 6.] Conceptions of Cognition. 57

heaven of the stars, on account of the sublime uniformity of its

motions, as the realm of perfection ; the world " beneath the moon,"

on the contrary, on account of the unrest of its changing formations

and motions, they regarded as that of imperfection.

This way of looking at things runs parallel to that of Anaxagoras,

and leads, though in another way, to the interweaving and complica

tion of theory with considerations of worth [ethical or aesthetic

values]. It was in connection with astronomical insight that the

thought of an order of Nature in conformity to law dawned as clear

knowledge upon the Grecian mind. Anaxagoras reasons from this

to an ordering principle. Pythagoreanism finds in the heavens the

divine rest of unchangeableness (Sichgleichbleibens) which it misses

upon the earth. Here we have a meeting of the ancient religious

ideas and the very different result yielded thus far by the scientific

work of the Greeks. This latter, seeking a Permanent in the muta

tion of occurrence, found such a permanence only in the great, simple

relations, in the revolution of the stars, which abides ever the same.

In the terrestrial world, with its whole change of manifold, con

stantly intersecting motions, this uniformity remained still hidden

from Greek science : she regarded this terrestrial world rather as a

domain of the imperfect, the lower, which wants the sure order of

that other world. In a certain sense this may be looked upon as

the ultimate result of the first period, a result which had a determin

ing influence for after time.

What the attitude of the Pythagoreans was to the question concerning a peri

odic change of origination and annihilation of the world is uncertain. A plurality

of co-existing worlds is excluded in their system. In their theory of world-for

mation and in their particular physical doctrines they concede so prominent a

place to fire that they come very near to Heraclitus. Aristotle even places one

of the contemporaries of Philolaus, Hippasus of Metapontum, in immediate con

nection with Heraclitus {Met. I. 3).
Their assumption of aether as a fifth element out of which the spherical shells

of the heavens were formed, in addition to the four elements of Empedocles, is

doubtless connected with the separation which they made between heaven and

earth. It is not less difficult to decide whether they derived the elements from

a common ground, and if so, how: according to many passages it would seem as

if they had spoken of a progressive "attraction," i.e. in this case (cf. above, p.

46), mathematical shaping out or forming of empty space by the ?c (one), the

original number, which is exalted above limitation and the unlimited. Yet it

seems, too, that in regard to these questions various views were held within the

school side by side.

6. The Conceptions of Cognition.

M. Schneidewin, Ueber die Ke imp erkenntnisstheoretischer und ethischer Phi-

losopheme bei den vorsokratischen Denkern, I hilos. Monatshefte, II. (1869), pp.

257, 345, 429.

H. Miinz, Die Keime der Erkenntnisstheorie in der vorsophistischen Pcriode

der griechischen Philosophic. Vienna, 1880.

58 The Greeks : Cosmological Period. [PART.!.

The question, what things really are, or what is the intrinsic

nature of things, which is already contained in the Milesian con

ception of the apxn, presupposes that the current, original and naive

mode of thinking of the world has been shaken, although this pre

supposition has not come to clear recognition in consciousness. The

question proves that reflective thought is no longer satisfied with

the ideas which it finds current, and that it seeks truth behind or

above them. Those ideas are given, however, through sense-per

ception and through the involuntary elaboration of this in thought,

an elaboration that has been transmitted from generation to

generation, until it has became consolidated and fixed and embodied

in language, and so forms a part of the thinker s data. When the

individual with his reflection transcends these ideas so given and

it is in this that philosophical activity ultimately consists he does

it on the ground of logical needs which assert themselves as he re

flects on the given. His philosophising, then, even though he takes

no account of this fact, grows out of discrepancies between his expe

rience and his thought out of the inadequacy exhibited by what

is presented to his perception or imagination, when set over against

the demands and presuppositions of his understanding. However

unconscious of this its inner ground naive philosophising may be

at the outset, attention cannot fail to be turned in time to the diver

sity in the sources of the conflicting ideas within.
1. The first observations, therefore, which the Grecian philosophers

made on human knowledge concern this contrast between experience

and reflection. The farther the explanatory theories of science

became separated from the way of looking at things which belongs

to daily life, the clearer it became to their authors that those

theories sprang from another source than that of the customary

opinions. To be sure they have not as yet much to say on this

point. They set opinion (So a) over against truth, and this often,

means only that their own doctrines are true and the opinions of

others false. So much only is certain to them, that they owe their

own views to reflection, while the mass of mankind concerning

whose intellectual activity it is just the older philosophers,

Heraclitus, Parmenides, Empedocles, who express themselves in

an extremely depreciatory manner persist in the illusion of the

senses. Only through thinking (cf>poveiv, votiv, Aoyos), then, is the

truth found ; the senses, if alone, give fraud and a lie. 1 So strong

has reflection become in itself that it not only proceeds to con

sequences which to the common thinking have become absolutely

i Heracl. Frag. (Sclmst.) 11, 123; Pannen. Fray. (Karsten) 54 ff.

CHAP. 1, 6.] Conceptions of Cognition: fferaclitus, Parmenides. 59

paradoxical, but also maintains expressly that it is itself the sole

source of truth as opposed to opinions.

This, to be sure, works oddly when we notice that completely

opposite illustrations of this same assertion are given by Heradi-

tus and Parmenides in close succession. The former finds the

deceit caused by the senses, and the error of the multitude, to consist

in the illusory appearance of the Being of permanent things, which

is presented to men by sense-perception ; the Eleatic, on the contrary,

is zealous against the senses, because they would fain persuade us

that there are in truth motion and change, becoming and arising,

plurality and variety. Precisely this double form in which this

same claim is put forward shows that it is not the result of an

investigation, but the expression of a demand made on other


Moreover, this proposition fits very differently into the general

theories of the two great metaphysicians. The flux of all things,

with its restless change of individual phenomena, as taught by

Heraclitus, makes it easy to comprehend also the possibility of the

emergence of false ideas, and the seeming of permanence and Being

had besides a special explanation in the counter-course or opposi

tion (IvavTLOTpoTTLa) of the two " ways," for this causes the illusion of

permanence or Being to arise where there is just as much change in

one direction as in the other [i.e. from primitive fire into things and

vice versa] . On the contrary, it is quite impossible to see where the

seat of illusion and error was to be sought in the one world-sphere

of Parmenides, everywhere the same, which was held to be at the

same time the one, true world-thought. The search could be only

among individual things and their changing activities, which were

themselves declared to be illusion, non-existent. Nevertheless

there is no support to be found in the literature preserved, for

supposing that this so simple a thought 1 which would have over

thrown the entire Eleatic system, ever occurred to the investigators

of that time. In any case, the Eleatics contented themselves with

the assertion that all particular existence and all change were decep

tion and illusion of the senses.
The same naive denial of that which they could not explain seems to

have been employed also by the successors of the Eleatics in the

matter of the qualitative attributes of individual things. Emped-

ocles at least maintained that all things were mixtures of the ele

ments. The task that logically grew out of this was to show how

the other qualities arise from the mixture of the properties of the

1 First carried out in Plato, Sophist, 237 A.

60 The Greeks : Cosrnological Period. [PART I.

elements. But this he did not perform; so far as our knowledge

extends, he did not at all set himself this task; he probably re

garded these particular qualities as not being (objectively), and as

a deception of the senses, just as all qualities whatever were such

in the view of Parmenides. And so the oldest view of the Ato-

mists, as supported by Leucippus, may well have gone just to this

point, maintaining that in individual things only the form, arrange

ment, situation, and motion of the constituent atoms were real, and

that the other properties were a deceitful product of the senses,

which here, too, found no further explanation. 1

These difficulties were perhaps jointly influential in the mind of

Anaxagoras when he regarded all qualities as original, and not as

having become what they are, and accordingly postulated countless

elements. But for him arose the opposite difficulty of showing how

it could come about, if all was regarded as contained in all, every

quality in every thing, that only some of these qualities seemed to

be present in individual things. He explained this in part from the

consideration that many of the constituent parts are imperceptible

because of their minuteness ; hence it is only by thought that we

can learn the true qualities of things. 2 Besides this, however, he

seems to have followed up the thought, found already in Anaximan-

der s idea of the airupov, that a complete mingling of definite quali

ties yields something indefinite. So, at least, he described the

primitive mixture of all substances which preceded the formation

of the world as completely devoid of quality, 3 and a similar thought

seems to have permitted him to regard the four elements of Emped-

ocles not as primitive substances, but rather as already mixtures. 4
The rationalism common to the pre-Sophistic thinkers assumes,

among the Pythagoreans, the particular form of affirming that

knowledge consists in mathematical thought. This, though in itself

a narrowing, is yet, on the other hand, a great step in advance, in

asmuch as there is here given for the first time a positive definition

of "thought" as contrasted with "perception." Only through

number, taught Philolaus, 5 is the essential nature of things to be

known ; that is, it is when the definite mathematical relations lying

at their basis are recognised that things are properly conceived or
1 It is extremely improbable that the solution of the problem through the

suojectivity of the sense-qualities, which is found in Democritus, was presented

already by Leucippus, and therefore before Protagoras, who is universally

regarded as the founder of this theory.

2 Sext. Emp. Adv. Math. VII. 90 f.
3 Frag. (Schorn) 4. From this passage the true light may, perhaps, be thrown

upon the sense in which Anaximander designates the Awcipov as bbpiffTov.

4 Arist. De Gen. et Corr. I. 1, 314 a 24.

* Fray. (Mull.) 13.

CHAP. 1, 6.] Conceptions of Cognition : Philolaus, Zeno. 61

understood. This had been the experience of the Pythagoreans in

music and in astronomy, and this was the object of their desire and

effort in all other fields. When, however, they ultimately came to

the result that this requirement could be completely met only in

the knowledge of the perfect world of the stars, they concluded

from this that science (<ro<ia) relates only to the realm of order and

perfection, that is, to heaven, and that in the realm of the imper

fect, of change not subject to order, i.e. on earth, only practical

ability (dpeny) is of avail. 1
Another positive characteristic of the "thinking" which the

earlier investigators had set over against "perceiving," without

closer specification, appears obscurely in the reasonings of Zeno,

viz. conformity to logical laws. At the basis of all his attacks

against plurality and motion lie the principle of contradiction and

the presupposition that that can not be actual of which the same

thing must be affirmed and also denied. This principle and presup

position were applied with clearness and certainty, though not ab

stractly expressed. The Eleatic theory of the world, so highly

paradoxical, forced its supporters to enter into polemic more than

did others, and the accounts as to Zeno s treatise, which, as it seems,

was also logically well arranged and divided, offer a notable evi

dence of the developed technique of refutation to which the school

attained in consequence. To be sure, this formal training which

prevailed in Eleatic circles does not seem to have led as yet to the

abstract statement of logical laws.

2. The setting over against each other of " thinking " and " per

ceiving" arose, then, from an estimation of their relative epistemo-

logical value (erkenntnisstheoretischen Werthbestimmung) \_i.e. from

the postulate that one of these two forms of mental activity is

worth more epistemologically for attaining truth]. In decided

contradiction with this, however, stand the psychological principles

with which these same investigators sought to apprehend the origin

and process of knowing. For although their thinking was directed

first and chiefly toward the outer world, man s mental activity came

under their attention in so far as they were obliged to see in this

activity one of the formations, or transformations, or products of

motion, of the universe. The mind or soul and its action are then

at this time considered scientifically only in connection with the entire

course of the universe, whose product they are as truly as are all

other things ; and since among the men of this period the general

principles of explanation are everywhere as yet conceived corpore-

1 Stob. Ed. I. 488.

62 The Greeks : Cosmological Period. [PART I.

ally it follows that we meet also a thorough-going materialistic

psychology. 1

Now mind or soul is in the first place moving force. Thales

ascribed such a soul to magnets, and declared that the whole world

was full of souls. The essential nature of individual souls was

therefore sought at first in that which had been recognised as the

moving principle in the whole. Anaximenes found it in air,

Heraclitus and likewise Parmenides (in his hypothetical physics)

in fire, Leucippus in the fiery atoms, 2 and Anaxagoras in the world-

moving, rational substance, the vovs. Where, as in the system of

Empedocles, a corporeal moving principle was lacking, the mixed

substance which streams through the living body, the blood, was

regarded as soul. Diogenes of Apollonia found the essence of the

soul in the air mixed with the blood. 3 With the Pythagoreans, too,

the individual soul could not be considered as the same with the ev

(One) which they conceived as moving principle of the world, nor

regarded as a part of it ; instead, they taught that the soul was a

number, and made this very vague statement more definite by say

ing that it was a harmony, an expression which we can only

interpret 4 as meaning a harmony of the body ; that is, the living,

harmonious activity of its parts.
If now to this moving force, which leaves the body in death, were

ascribed at the same time those properties which we to-day designate

as " psychical," we find a clear characterisation of the specifically

theoretical interest by which this oldest science was filled, in the

fact that among these attributes it is that of ideation, of " knowing,"

which is almost exclusively the object of attention. 5 Of feelings

and volitions there is scarcely incidental mention. 6 But as the

1 Besides those characterisations of the soul, which resulted from their gen

eral scientific theory, we find in the tradition in case of several of these men

(Heraclitus, Parmenides, Empedocles, and the Pythagoreans) still other doc

trines which are not only not connected with the former, but are even in con

tradiction to them. A conception of the body as prison of the soul (<rwfj.a =

o-Tjyuo), personal immortality, recompense after death, transmigration of souls,

all these are ideas which the philosophers took from their relations to the

mysteries and retained in their priestly teaching, however little they accorded

with their scientific teachings. Such expressions are not treated above.

2 In like manner, some of the Pythagoreans declared the motes which the

sunlight discloses in the air to be souls.

8 Since, with reference to this, he recognised the distinction between venous and

arterial blood, he meant by his irvev^a what the chemistry of to-day calls oxygen.

4 Ace. to Plato, Pheedo, 85 ff., where the view is rejected as materialistic.
6 The voOs of Anaxagoras is only knowing ; air with Diogenes of Apollonia is

a great, powerful, eternal, intelligent body. Being with Parmenides is at the

same time voeiv, etc. Only 0t\6ri;s and vet/coy with Empedocles are mythically

hypostasised impulses, and these, too, have nothing to do with his psychological

6 With this is connected the fact that .in general we cannot once speak of

CHAP. 1, 6.] Conceptions of Cognition: Heraclitus, Anaxagoras. G3

individual soul in so far as it is moving force was held to be a part

of the force which moves the entire universe, so also the "knowing"

of the individual could be conceived only as a part of the knowing

activity of the world. 1 This is clearest in the systems of Heraclitus

and Anaxagoras ; each individual has so much knowledge as there

is contained in him of the general World-reason, fire with

Heraclitus, 2 the vovs with Anaxagoras. In the case of Leucippus

and of Diogenes of Apollonia the ideas are similar.

This physical conception, which with Anaxagoras especially is

purely quantitative, was given a turn by Heraclitus, in which the

epistemological postulate again forces its way to the front, and

asserts itself in the interest of a deeper insight and a profounder

view. The World-reason in which the individual participates in his

knowledge is everywhere the same ; the Aoyos of Heraclitus 3 and

the vous of Anaxagoras, as homogenous Keason, are distributed

through the whole universe as moving force. Knowing, then, is

that which is common to all. It is therefore the law and order to

which every one has to unite himself. In dreams, in personal opin

ion, each one has his own world ; knowing is common (wo v) to

all. By means of this characteristic, viz. that of universally valid

law, the conception of knowing acquires a normative significance, 4

and subjection to the common, to the law, appears as a duty

in the intellectual realm as well as in the political, ethical, and

religious. 5

attempts at ethical investigation in this period. For single moralising reflections

or admonitions cannot be regarded as beginnings of ethics. On the only excep

tion cf. below, note 5.
1 The expression " World-soul " was first used by Plato, or at the earliest by

Philolaus (in the fragment which has certainly been much questioned just for

this reason, Mull. 21). The idea is certainly present in Anaximenes, Heraclitus,

Anaxagoras, and perhaps also among the Pythagoreans.

2 Hence the paradoxical expression, the dryest soul is the wisest, and the

warning to guard the soul from the wet (intoxication).

3 Cf., for this and the following, M. Heinze, Die Lehre vom Logos in der

griechischen Philosophic (Oldenburg, 1872).

4 Fray. (Schust.) 123.
5 This is the only conception in the development of pre-Sophistic thought, in

the case of which we can speak of an attempt to propound a scientific principle

of ethics. If Heraclitus had in mind a universal expression for all moral duties

in speaking of this subordination to law, or at least hit upon such, he attached

it at once to the fundamental thoughts of his metaphysics, which declared this

law to be the abiding essence of the world. Yet attention has above ( 4) been

called to the fact that in the conception of the world-order which hovered before

him, he did not as yet separate consciously the different motives (especially the

physical from the ethical), and so ethical investigation does not as yet work

itself clear from the physical to an independent position. The same is true of

the Pythagoreans, who expressed the conception of order by the term " harmony "

(which also might be adopted from Heraclitus), and therefore designated virtue

as "harmony." To be sure, they used the term "harmony" for the soul, for

health, and for many other things.

64 The Greeks : Cosmological Period. [PART I.

3. If now we ask how under these assumptions the fact was

explained that "knowledge" comes into the individual man, i.e. into

his body, we find that the only answer offered by Heraclitus and

the whole company of his successors is, " through the door of the

senses." When a man is awake, the World-reason streams into his

body through the opened senses (sight and hearing are of course

chiefly noticed 1 ), and, therefore, he knows. This comes about, to

be sure, only if there is besides, in the man himself, so much reason

or soul that the motion coining from without is met by an inner

motion ; 2 but upon this interaction, effected through the senses*

between the outer and the inner reason knowledge rests.
A psychological distinction, then, between perceiving and think

ing, which, as regards their respective epistemological values, are so

abruptly opposed, Heraclitus does not know how to state. Par-

menides, 3 however, was just as little in a position to make such a

distinction. 4 Rather, he expressed more sharply still the dependence

upon bodily relations in which the thinking of the individual man is

involved, when he said that every one so thought as the conditions

constituted by the mixture of substances in the members of the body

permitted, and when he found in this a confirmation of his general

thought of the identity of corporeality and thinking in general.*

Still more express is the testimony 6 that Empedocles declared

thinking and perceiving to be the same, that he thought change in

thinking as dependent upon change of the body, and that he

regarded the constitution of the blood as of decisive importance

for the intellectual capacity of the man.
These two last-named thinkers did not hesitate, moreover, to make

their conception more plain to the imagination by means of physio

logical hypotheses. Parmenides taught in his hypothetical physics
1 Also smell (Empedocles) and taste (Anaxagoras). Only the Atomists, and

in particular Democritus, seem to have given value to the sense of touch.

2 Arist. De An. I. 2, 405 a 27.
3 Theophr. De Sens. 3 f.
4 So, too, it is reported (Theophr. De Sens. 25) of Alcmseon, the Pythago-

reanising physician, that he declared thought or consciousness (Sri ^"os (vt4^rt)

to be the characteristic which distinguishes man from the other animals. But

a more precise determination is lacking here also unless, in accordance with the

expression, we think of something similar to the Aristotelian noivbv ai<T0r)T-ripiov.

With this would agree the circumstance that the first attempts to localise the

particular psychical activities in particular parts of the body seem to have been

made in the circles of the Pythagoreans and of the physicians who stood in near

relations to them ; localising, e.g., thought in the brain, perception in the indi

vidual organs and in the heart, and the emotions also in the latter organ. From

them Diogenes of Apollonia, and after him Democritus, seem to have taken

these beginnings of a physiological psychology.

5 Frag. (Karst.) vv. 146-149.
e Arist. De An. I. 2, 404 b 7 ; III. 3, 427 a 21 ; Met. III. 5, 1009 b 17 ;

Theophr. De Sens. 10 f.

CHAP. 1, 6.] Conceptions of Cognition : Parmenides, Empedocles. 65

that like is always perceived by like, warmth without by the warmth

in man, the cold without by the cold even in the dead body. Emped

ocles, with the aid of his theory of effluxes and pores, carried out

the thought that every element in our body perceives the same ele

ment in the outer world, so as to teach that each organ is accessible

to the impress of those substances only whose effluxes fit into its

pores ; i.e. he derived the specific energy of the sense organs from

relations of similarity between their outer form and their objects,

and carried this out for sight, hearing, and smell, with observations

which in part are very acute. 1

This view, that like is apprehended by like, was opposed by

Anaxagoras, on what ground it is not certain. 2 He taught that

perception is only of opposite by opposite, warmth without by the

cold in man, etc. 3 At all events, his doctrine also is a proof that

these metaphysical rationalists maintained all of them in their

psychology a crass sensationalism.

1 Theophr. De Sens. 7.
2 Perhaps we have here a remembrance of Heraclitus, who also explained

perception from the tvavTiorpoTrla, motion against motion, and with whom

opposition was the principle of all motion.
3 Theophr. De Sens. 27 ff. It is interesting that Anaxagoras inferred from

this that every perception is joined with pain (XI/ITT/).

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