History of philosophy


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G. Grote, History of Greece, VIII. (London, 1850), pp. 474-544.

C. F. Hermann, Geschichte und System der platonischen Philosophic, I. (Heidel

berg, 1839), pp. 179-231.

Blass, Die attische Beredsamkeit von Gorgias bis zu Lysias. Leips. 1868.
H. Kochly, Sokrates und seinVolk, 1855, in " Akad. Vortragen und Ileden," I.

(Zurich, 1859), pp. 219 ff.

H. Siebeck, Ueber Sokrates Verhaltniss zur Sophistik, in " Untersuchungen

zur Philosophie der Griechen," 1873, 2 Aufl. (Freiburg i. B. 1888).

W. Windelband, Sokrates in "Prseludien" (Freiburg i. B. 1884), pp. 64 ff.
[H. Jackson, Art. Sophists, in Erie. Brit.}
THE farther development of Greek science was determined by the

circumstance that in the powerful, universal upward movement of

the mental and spiritual life which the nation achieved after the

victorious result of the Persian wars, science was torn away from

the restraints of close schools in which it had been quietly pursued,

and brought out upon the stage of publicity, where all was in vehe

ment agitation.
The circles in which scientific research was fostered had widened

from generation to generation, and the doctrines which at first had

been presented in smaller societies and spread abroad in writings

that were hard to understand, had begun to filter through into the

general consciousness. The poets, as Euripides and Epicharmus,

began already to translate into their language scientific conceptions

and views ; the knowledge gained by investigation of Nature had

already been made practically effective, as by Hippodamus in his

architecture. Even medicine, which had formerly been only an art

practised according to traditions, became so permeated with the

general conceptions of natural philosophy, and with the special doc

trines, information, and hypotheses of physiological research which

in the course of time had occupied an ever-broader space in the

systems of science, that it became encumbered with an excessive

CHAP. 2.] The Anthropological Period. 67

growth of etiological theories, 1 and first found in Hippocrates the

reformer who reduced this tendency to its proper measure and gave

back to the physician s art its old character in contrast to scientific

doctrine. 2

Moreover, the Greek nation, matured by the stern experience

which had been its lot within and without, had entered upon the

age of manhood. It had lost its naive faith in old tradition, and

had learned the value of knowledge and ability for practical life.

Of science, which up to this time had followed in quiet the pure

impulse of investigation the noble curiosity which seeks knowledge

for its own sake the state now demanded light on the questions

which disturbed it, counsel and help in the doubt into which the

luxuriance of its own development in culture had plunged it. In

the feverish emulation of intellectual forces which this greatest

period in the world s history brought with it, the thought everywhere

gained recognition that in every walk in life the man of knowledge

is the most capable, the most useful, and the most successful. In

every department of practical activity, the fruitful innovation of

independent reflection, of individual judgment, took the place of the

old life controlled by custom. The mass of the people was seized with

the burning desire to make the results of science its own. v lt was espe

cially true, however, that at this time family tradition, habituation,

personal excellence of character and address were no longer suffi

cient, as formerly, for the man who wished to play a political part.

The variety of transactions and the attendant difficulties, as well as

the intellectual status of those with whom and upon whom he would

work, made a theoretical schooling for the political career indispen

sable. Nowhere was this movement so powerful as in Athens, then

the capital of Greece, and here also these desires found their fullest


For the supply followed the demand. The men of science, the

Sophists (<ro<icrrai), stepped forth out of the schools into public life,

and taught the people what they themselves had learned or discov

ered. They did this, indeed, partly out of the noble impulse to

teach their fellow-citizens, 3 but it was none the less true that this

teaching became their business. From all parts of Greece men of

the different schools flocked toward Athens to expound their doc-

1 This innovation in medicine began among the physicians who stood in near

relation to .Pythagoreanism, especially with Alcmaeon. Asa literary instance

of it, the writing which goes falsely under the name of Hippocrates, vtpl diairris,

serves. Cf. II. Siebeck, Gesch. d. Psych. I. 1, 94 ff.
2 Cf. principally his writings Trepi apx*^* IT)TPIKTJS and vep
3 Cf. Protagoras in Plato, Prot. 316 d.

68 The Philosophy of the Greeks. [PART I.

trines, and from so expounding them in the capital as well as in

the smaller cities, to gain honour and wealth.

In this way it happened that in a short time not only the social

position of science, but its own inner nature, its tendency and the

questions for its solution, were fundamentally changed. It became

j a social power, a determining factor in political life, as in the case

of Pericles ; but just by this means it came into a state of dependence

upon the demands of practical, and in particular, of political life.

These demands showed themselves principally in the facts that

the democratic polity demanded of politicians first of all the capac

ity for public speaking, and that in consequence the instruction

of the Sophists was especially sought as a preparation for public

life, and converged more and more upon this object. Men of science

became teachers of eloquence.

As such, however, they lost sight of the goal of nature-knowledge,

the vision of which had formerly hovered before the eyes of science.

At the most they presented transmitted doctrines in the most grace

ful and pleasing form possible. But their own investigations, if

they were not confined to a formal routine, were necessarily directed

toward man s thinking and ivilling, the activities which public

speaking was designed to determine and control, toward the

manner in which ideas and volitions arise, and the way in which

they contend with one another and maintain their mutual rights.

In this way Greek science took an essentially anthropological or -

subjective direction, studying the inner activities of man, his

ideation and volition, and at the same time lost its purely theoretical

character and acquired a preponderantly practical significance. 1 J < -
But while the activity of the Sophists found itself brought face

to face with the manifold character of human thought and will,

while the teachers of eloquence were presenting the art of persua

sion and pursuing the path upon which every opinion could be

helped to victory, every purpose to its achievement, the question

rose before them whether above and beyond these individual opin

ions and purposes which each one feels within himself as a necessity

and can defend against others, there is anything whatever that

is right and true in itself. The question whether there is anything *

universally valid, is the problem of the anthropological period of

Greek philosophy, or of the Greek Enlightenment.
For it is likewise the problem of the time, of a time in which

religious faith and the old morality were wavering, a time when the

1 Cicero s well-known expression (Tusc. V. 4, 10) with regard to Socrates

holds good for the entire philosophy of this period.

CHAI>. 2.] The Anthropological Period. 69

respect which authority had commanded sank more and more, and

all tended towards an anarchy of individuals who had become self-

governing. Very soon this internal disintegration of the Greek

spirit became clearly evident in the disorders of the Peloponnesian

war, and with the fall of Athenian supremacy the flower of Grecian

culture withered.

The dangers of this condition were at first decidedly increased by

philosophy. For while the Sophists were perfecting the scientific

development of the formal art of presentation, verification, and refu

tation which they had to teach, they indeed created with this rheto

ric, on the one hand, the beginnings of an independent psychology,

and raised this branch of investigation from the inferior position

which it had taken in the cosmological systems to the importance of

a fundamental science, and developed, on the other hand, the prelim

inaries for a systematic consideration of the logical and ethical norms.

But as they considered what they practised and taught, viz. the

skill to carry through any proposition whatever, 1 the relativity of

human ideas and purposes presented itself to their consciousness so

clearly and with such overwhelming force that they disowned in

quiry as to the existence of a universally valid truth in the theoreti

cal, as well as in the practical sphere, and so fell into a scepticism

which at first was a genuine scientific theory, but soon became a

frivolous play. With their self-complacent, pettifogging advocacy,

the Sophists made themselves the mouth-piece of all the unbridled

tendencies which were undermining the order of public life.
The intellectual head of the Sophists was Protagoras; at least, he

was the only one who was the author of any conceptions philosophi

cally fruitful and significant. Contrasted with him, Gorgias, who is

usually placed at his side, appears only as a rhetorician who occa

sionally attempted the domain of philosophy and surpassed the

artifices of the Eleatic dialectic. Hippias and Prodicus are only to

be mentioned, the one as the type of a popularising polyhistor, and

the other as an example of superficial moralising.

To the disordered activity and lack of conviction of the younger

Sophists, Socrates opposed faith in reason and a conviction of the

existence of a universally valid truth. This conviction was with

him of an essentially practical sort; it was his moral disposition, but

it led him to an investigation of knowledge, which he anew set over

against opinions, and whose essence he found in conceptional thought.

Socrates and the Sophists stand, accordingly, on the ground of

1 Cf. the well-known rbv TJTTW \6yov Kpflrria iroitiv, Aristoph. Nnl> 112 ff.,

893 ff. ; Arist. Ehet. II. 24, 1402 a 23.

70 The Philosophy of the Greeks. [PART I.

the same common consciousness of the time, and discuss the same

problems ; but where the Sophists with their skill and learning re

main caught iu the confusion of the opinions of the day and end

with a negative result, there the plain, sound sense, and the pure

and noble personality of Socrates find again the ideals of morality

and science.

The strong impression which the teaching of Socrates made forced

the Sophistic activity into new lines. It followed him in the at

tempt to gain, through scientific insight, sure principles for the

ethical conduct of life. While the old schools had for the most part

become disintegrated, and had diverted their activity to the teaching

of rhetoric, men who had enjoyed intercourse with the Athenian

sage now founded new schools, in whose scientific work Socratic

and Sophistic principles were often strangely intermingled, while

the exclusively anthropological direction of their investigation

remained the same.

Among these schools, called for the most part " Socratic," though

not quite accurately, the Megarian, founded by Euclid, fell most

deeply into the unfruitful subtleties of the later Sophists. Con

nected with this is the Elean-Eretrian School, the most unimportant.

The fundamental contrast, however, in the conception of life which

prevailed in the Greek life of that day, found its scientific expression

in the teachings of those two schools whose opposition permeates all

ancient literature from that time on: namely, the Cynic and the

Cyrenaic, the precursors of the Stoic and Epicurean. The first of

these schools numbers among its adherents, besides its founder

Antisthenes, the popular figure of Diogenes. In the latter, which is

also called the Hedonistic School, the founder, Aristippus, was suc

ceeded by a grandson of the same name, and later by Tlieodorus,

Anniceris, ffegesias, and Euemerus.

The wandering teachers known as the Sophists came in part from the earlier

scholastic societies. In the second half of the fifth century these had for the

most part disappeared, and had given place to a freer announcement of opinions

attained, which was not unfavourable to special research, particularly physiologi

cal research, as in the case of Hippo, Cleidemus, and Diogenes of Apollonia,

but which was attended by a crippling of general speculation. Only the school

of Abdera and the Pythagorean School survived this time of dissolution. A

society of Heracliteans which maintained itself in Ephesus appears soon to have

fallen away into the pursuits of the Sophists, as in the case of Cratylus. 1
From the Atomistic School came Protagoras of Abdera (about 480-410). lie

was one of the first, and rightly the most renowned, of these wandering teachers.

Active at various times in Athens, he is said to have been convicted of impiety

in that city, to have fied because of this, and to have met his death in flight. Of

his numerous treatises, grammatical, logical, ethical, political, and religious in

their character, very little has been preserved.

In Plato (The<zt. 181 A) they are called ol ftovw. cf. Arist. Met. IV. 5,


CHAP. 2.] The Anthropological Period. 71

Gorgias of Leontini (483-375) was in Athens in 427 as an envoy from his

native city, and there gained great literary influence. In old age he lived in

Larissa in Thessaly. He came from the Sicilian school of orators, with which

Empedocles also had been connected. 1

Concerning Hippias of Elis, with the exception of some opinions (among

which are those criticised in the Platonic dialogue Hippias Major), it is known

only that he made great parade of his "much knowledge." Of Prodicus of

lulls, a town on the island of Ceos, the familiar allegory "Hercules at the Cross

roads" is preserved by Xenophon, Mmwr. 11. 1,21. The remaining Sophists,

known for the most part through Plato, are without intrinsic importance. We

know only that this or that characteristic affirmation is put in the mouth of one

or another.

In forming a conception of the Sophistic doctrine we have to contend with the

difficulty that we are made acquainted with them almost exclusively through

their victorious opponents, Plato and Aristotle. The first has given in the Pro-

tayoras a graceful, lively delineation of a Sophist congress, redolent with fine

irony, in the Goryias a more earnest, in the Theatetus a sharper criticism, and

in the Cratylus and Euthydemus supercilious satire of the Sophists methods of

teaching. In the dialogue the Sophist, to which 1 lato s name is attached, an

extremely malicious definition of the theories of the Sophists is attfmpted, and

Aristotle reaches the sime result in the book on the fallacies of the Sophists

(Ch. I. 165 a 21).

The history of philosophy for a long time repeated the depreciatory judg

ment of opponents of the Sophists, and allowed the word 0-o0m?s (which

meant only a "learned man," or, if you will, a " professor") to bear the dis

paraging meaning which they had given it. Hegel rehabilitated the Sophists,

and thereupon it followed, as often happens, that they were for a time eve r-

estimated, as by Grote.

M. Schanz, Die Sophistm (Geittingen, 1867).
Socrates of Athens (469-399) makes an epoch in the history of philosophy,

even by his external characteristics, by his original personality, and his new

style of philosophising. He was neither savant nor wandering teacher, le-

longed to no school and adhered to none. He was a simple man of the people,

the son of a sculptor, and at first busied himself with the chisel. In his ardent

desire for knowledge he absorbed the new doctrines with which the streets of

his native city re-echoed, but did not allow himself to be dazzled by these brill

iant rhetorical efforts, nor did he find himself much advanced by them. His

keen thought took note of their contradictions, and his moral earnestness was

offended by the superficiality and frivolity of this constant effort after culture.

He held it to be his duty to enlighten himself and his fellow-citizens concerning

the emptiness of this pretended knowledge, and, through earnest investigation,

to follow after truth. So, a philosopher of this opportunity and of daily life, he

worked unremittingly among his fellow-citizens, until misunderstanding and per

sonal intrigue brought him before the court which condemned him to the death

that was to become his greatest glory.

The accounts concerning him give a clear and trustworthy picture of his per

sonality. In these accounts Plato s finer and Xenophon s coarser portrayal

supplement each other most happily. The first in almost all his writings brings

out the honoured teacher with dramatic vividness. Of the second we have to

consider the Memorabilia ( \iro^vrnjMvev^a.Ta. ~ZwKparovs) and the Symposium.

As regards his teaching, the case is more difficult, for here the presentations of

both Xenophon and Plato are partisan writings, each laying claim to the famous

name for his own doctrine (in the case of Xenophon a mild Cynicism). The

statements of Aristotle are authoritative on all essential points, because of the

greater historical separation and the freer point of view.

E. Alberti, Sokrates (Gottingen, 1869) ; A. Labriola, La Dottrina di Socrate

(Naples, 1871) ; A. Fouill6e, La Philosophic de Socrate (Paris, 1873).

Euclid of Megara founded his school soon after the death of Socrates. The

two Eristics (see below), Eubulides of Miletus, Alexinus of Klis, Diodorus

Cronus of Caria (died 307), and Stilpo (380-300), are to be mentioned as
1 In regard to these relationships cf. H. Diels, Berichte der Berl, Akademie,

1884, pp. 343 ff.

72 The Greeks : Anthropological Period. [PART I

belonging to this school, which had only a brief existence, and later became

incorporated with the Cynics and Stoics. The same is true of the society which

Pheedo, the favourite pupil of Socrates, founded in his home at Elis, and which

Menedemus soon after transplanted to Eretria. Cf. E. Mallet, Histoire de

Vecole de Megare et des ecoles (T Elis et <T Eretrie (Paris, 1845).
The founder of the Cynic School (named after the gymnasium Cynosar-

ges) was Antisthenes of Athens, who, like Euclid, was an older friend of

Socrates. The singular Diogenes of Sinope is rather a characteristic by-figure

in the history of civilisation than a man of science. In this connection Crates

of Thebes may also be mentioned. Later this school was blended with that of

the Stoics.

F. Dummler, Antisthenica (Halle, 1882) ; K. W. Gottling, Diogenes der

Kyniker, oder die Philosophie des griechischen Proletariats (Ges. Abhandl.

I. 251 ff.).
Aristippus of Cyrene, a Sophist and wandering teacher, somewhat younger

than Euclid and Antisthenes, and united only for a little time with the Socratic

circle, founded his school in old age, and seems to have left to his grandson the

systematic development of thoughts, which, for himself, were rather a practical

principle of life. The above-named successors (Theodoras, etc.) extend into

the third century, and form the transition to the Epicurean School, which took

up the remnants of the Hedonistic into itself.
A. Wendt, De Philosophia Cyrenaica (Gottingen, 1841).

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