Hegel’s History of Philosophy: Greek Philosophy

A. The Ionic Philosophy.

Here we have the earlier Ionic philosophy, which we desire to treat as shortly as possible; and this is so much the easier, that the thought contained in it is very abstract and barren. Other philosophers than Thales, Anaximander, and Anaximenes, only come under our consideration as names. We have no more than half a dozen passages in the whole of the early Ionic philosophy, and that makes it an easy study. Yet learning prides itself most upon the ancients, for we may be most learned about that of which we know the least.

1. Thales.

With Thales we, properly speaking, first begin the history of Philosophy. The life of Thales occurred at the time when the Ionic towns were under the dominion of Croesus. Through his overthrow (01. 58, 1; 548 B.C.), an appearance of freedom was produced, yet the most of these towns were conquered by the Persians, and Thales survived the catastrophe only a few years. He was born at Miletus; his family is, by Diogenes (1. 22, 37), stated to be the Phoenician one of Thelides, and the date of his birth, according to the best calculation, is placed in the first year of the 35th Olympiad (640 B.C.), but according to Meiners it was a couple of Olympiads later (38th Olympiad, 629 B.C.). Thales lived as a statesman partly with Croesus and partly in Miletus. Herodotus quotes him several times, and tells (1. 75) that, according to the narratives of the Greeks, when Croesus went to battle against Cyrus and had difficulty in passing over the river Halys, Thales, who accompanied the army, diverted the river by a trench, which he made in the form of a crescent behind the camp, so that it could then be forded. Diogenes (1. 25) says further of him as regards his relations to his country, that he restrained the men of Miletus from allying themselves with Croesus when he went against Cyrus, and that hence, after the conquest of Croesus, when the other Ionic States were subdued by the Persians, the inhabitants of Miletus alone remained undisturbed. Diogenes records, moreover (1. 23), that he soon withdrew his attention from the affairs of the State and devoted himself entirely to science.

Voyages to Phoenicia are recorded of him, which, however, rest on vague tradition; but that he was in Egypt in his old age seems undoubted. There he was said to have learned geometry, but this would appear not to have been much, judging from the anecdote, which Diogenes (1. 24, 27) retails from a certain Hieronymus. It was to the effect that Thales taught the Egyptians to measure the height of their pyramids by shadow — by taking the relation borne by the height of a man to his shadow. The terms of the proportion are: as the shadow of a man is to the height of a man, so is the shadow of a pyramid to its height. If this were something new to the Egyptians, they must have been very far back in the theory of geometry. Herodotus tells (1. 74), moreover, that Thales foretold an eclipse of the sun that happened exactly on the day of the battle between the Medians and Lydians, and that he ascribed the rising of the Nile to the contrary Etesian winds, which drove back the waters. We have some further isolated instances of, and anecdotes about his astronomical knowledge and works. “In gazing at and making observations on the stars, he fell into a ditch, and the people mocked him as one who had knowledge of heavenly objects and yet could not see what lay at his own feet.” The people laugh at such things, and boast that philosophers cannot tell them about such matters; but they do not understand that philosophers laugh at them, for they do not fall into a ditch just because they lie in one for all time, and because they cannot see what exists above them. He also showed, according to Diogenes (1. 26), that a wise man, if he wishes, can easily acquire riches. It is more important that he fixed that the year, as solar year, should have 365 days. The anecdote of the golden tripod to be given to the wisest man, is recorded by Diogenes (1. 27-33); and it carries with it considerable weight, because he combines all the different versions of the story. The tripod was given to Thales or to Bias; Thales gave it to some one else, and thus it went through a circle until it again came to Thales; the latter, or else Solon, decided that Apollo was wisest, and sent it to Didyma or to Delphi. Thales died; according to Diogenes (1. 38), aged seventy-eight or ninety, in the 58th Olympiad; according to Tennemann (vol. i. p. 414), it was in Olympiad 59, 2 (543 B.C.), when Pythagoras came to Crotona. Diogenes relates that he died at one of the games, overcome by heat and thirst.

We have no writings by Thales, and we do not know whether he was in the habit of writing. Diogenes LaŽrtius (1. 23, 34, 35) speaks of two hundred verses on astronomy, and some maxims, such as “It is not the many words that have most meaning.”

As to his philosophy, he is universally recognized as the first natural philosopher, but all one knows of him is little, and yet we seem to know the most of what there is. For since we find that the further philosophic progress of which his speculative idea was capable, and the understanding of his propositions, which they alone could have, make their first appearance and form particular epochs with the philosophers succeeding him, who may be recognized thereby, this development ascribed to Thales never took place with him at all. Thus if it is the case that a number of his other reflections have been lost, they cannot have had any particular speculative value; and his philosophy does not show itself to be an imperfect system from want of information about it, but because the first philosophy cannot be a system.

We must listen to Aristotle as regards these ancient philosophers, for he speaks most sympathetically of them. In the passage of most importance (Metaph. 1. 3), he says: “Since it is clear that we must acquire the science of first causes (ex arcs aitiwn), seeing that we say that a person knows a thing when he becomes acquainted with. its cause, there are, we must recollect, four causes — Being and Form first (for the ‘why’ is finally led back to the Notion, but yet the first ‘why’ is a cause and principle); matter and substratum second ; the cause whence comes the beginning of movement, third; and fourth the cause which is opposed to this, the aim in view and the good (for that is the end of every origination). Hence we would make mention of those who have undertaken the investigation of Being before us, and have speculated regarding the Truth, for they openly advance certain principles and first causes. If we take them under our consideration, it, will be of this advantage, so far as our present investigation goes, that we shall either find other kinds of causes or be enabled to have so much the more confidence in those just named. Most of the earliest philosophers have placed the principles of everything in something in the form of matter (en ulhs eidei) for, that from which everything existent comes, and out of which it takes its origin as its first source, and into which it finally sinks, as substance (ousia), ever remains the same and only changes in its particular qualities (paqesi) ; and this is called the element (stoiceion) and this the principle of all that exists” (the absolute prius). “On this account they maintain that nothing arises or passes away, because the same nature always remains. For instance, we say that, absolutely speaking, Socrates neither originates if he becomes beautiful or musical, nor does he pass away if he loses these qualities, because the subject (to upokeimenon), Socrates, remains the same. And so it is with all else. For there must be one nature, or more than one, from which all else arises, because it maintains its existence” (swzomenhs ekeinhς), that means that in its change there is no reality or truth. “All do not coincide as to the number of this principle or as to its description (eidoς); Thales, the founder of this philosophy,” (which recognizes something material as the principle and substance of all that is), “says that it is water. Hence he likewise asserts the earth to be founded on water.” Water is thus the upokeimenon, the first ground, and, according to Seneca’s statement (Quśst. Nat. vi. 6), it seems to him to be not so much the inside of the earth, as what encloses it which is the universal existence; for “Thales considered that the whole earth has water as its support (subjecto humore), and that it swims thereon.”

We might first of all expect some explanation of the application of these principles, as, for example, how it is to be proved that water is the universal substance, and in what way particular forms are deduced from it. But as to this we must say that of Thales in particular, we know nothing more than his principle, which is that water is the god overall. No more do we know anything farther of Anaximander, Anaximenes and Diogenes than their principles. Aristotle brings forward a conjecture as to how Thales derived everything directly out of water, “Perhaps (iswς) the conclusions of Thales have been brought about from the reflection that it was evident that all nourishment is moist, and warmth itself comes out of moisture and thereby life continues. But that from which anything generates is the principle of all things. This was one reason for holding this theory, and another reason is contained in the fact that all germs are moist in character, and water is the principle of what is moist.” It is necessary to remark that the circumstances introduced by Aristotle with a “perhaps” which are supposed to have brought about the conclusions of Thales, making water the absolute essence of everything, are not adduced as the grounds acknowledged by Thales. And furthermore, they can hardly be called grounds, for what Aristotle does is rather to establish, as we would say from actuality, that the latter corresponds to the universal idea of water. His successors, as for instance Pseudo-Plutarch (De plac. phil. 1. 3), have taken Thales’ assertion as positive and not hypothetical; Tiedmann (Geist der spec. Phil. vol. 1. p. 36) remarks with great reason that Plutarch omits the “perhaps.” For Plutarch says, “Thales suggests (stocazetai) that everything takes its origin from water and resolves itself into the same, because as the germs of all that live have moisture as the principle of life, all else might likewise (eikoς) take its principle from moisture; for all plants draw their nourishment, and thus bear fruit, from water, and if they are without it, fade away; and even the fires of sun, and stars and world are fed through the evaporation of water.” Aristotle is contented with simply showing in regard to moisture that, at least, it is everywhere to be found. Since Plutarch gives more definite grounds for holding that water is the simple essence of things, we must see whether things, in so far as they are simple essence, are water. (a) The germ of the animal, of moist nature, is undoubtedly the animal as the simple actual, or as the essence of its actuality, or undeveloped actuality. (b) If, with plants, water may be regarded as for their nourishment, nourishment is still only the being of a thing as formless substance that first becomes individualized by individuality, and thus succeeds in obtaining form. (g) To make sun, moon and the whole world arise through evaporation, like the food of plants, certainly approximates to the idea of the ancients, who did not allow the sun and moon to have obtained independence as we do.

“There are also some,” continues Aristotle, “who hold that all the ancients who, at the first and long before the present generation, made. theology their study, understood Nature thus. They made Oceanus and Tethys the producers of all origination (ths genesewς), and water, which by the poets is called Styx, the oath of the gods. For what is most ancient is most revered, and the oath is that most held in reverence.” This old tradition has within it speculative significance. If anything cannot be proved or is devoid of objective form, such as we have in respect of payment in a discharge, or in witnesses who have seen the transaction, the oath, the confirmation of myself as object, expresses the fact that my assurance is absolute truth. Now since, by way of confirmation, men swear by what is best, by what is absolutely certain, and the gods swore by the subterranean water, it follows that the essence of pure thought, the inmost being, the reality in which consciousness finds its truth, is water; I, so to speak, express this clear certainty of myself as object, as God.

1. The closer consideration of this principle in its bearings would have no interest. For since the whole philosophy of Thales lies in the fact that water is this principle, the only point of interest can be to ask how far that principle is important and speculative. Thales comprehends essence as devoid of form. While the sensuous certitude of each thing in its individuality is not questioned, this objective actuality is now to be raised into the Notion that reflects itself into itself and is itself to be set forth as Notion; in commencement this is seen in the world’s being manifested as water, or as a simple universal. Fluid is, in its Notion, life, and hence it is water itself, spiritually expressed; in the so-called grounds or reasons, on the contrary, water has the form of existent universal. We certainly grant this universal activity of water, and for that reason call it an element, a physical universal power; but while we find it thus to be the universal of activity, we also find it to be this actual, not everywhere, but in proximity to other elements — earth, air and fire. Water thus has not got a sensuous universality, but a speculative one merely; to bt, speculative universality, however, would necessitate its being Notion and having what is sensuous removed.

Here we have the strife between sensuous universality and universality of the Notion. The real essence of nature bas to be defined, that is, nature has to be expressed as the simple essence of thought. Now simple essence, the Notion of the universal, is that which is devoid of form, but this water as it is, comes into the determination of form, and is thus, in relation to others, a particular existence just like everything that is natural. Yet as regards the other elements, water is determined as formless and simple, while the earth is that which has points, air is the element of all change, and fire evidently changes into itself. Now if the need of unity impels us to recognize for separate things a universal, water, although it has the drawback of being a particular thing, can easily be utilized as the One, both on account of its neutrality, and because it is more material than air.

The proposition of Thales, that water is the Absolute, or as the ancients say, the principle, is the beginning of Philosophy, because with it the consciousness is arrived at that essence, truth, that which is alone in and for itself, are one. A departure from what is in our sensuous perception here takes place; man recedes from this immediate existence. We must be able to forget that we are accustomed to a rich concrete world of thought; with us the very child learns, “There is one God in Heaven, invisible.” Such determinations are not yet present here; the world of Thought must first be formed and there — is as yet no pure unity. Man has nature before him as water, air, stars, the arch of the heavens; and the horizon of his ideas is limited to this. The imagination has, indeed, its gods, but its content still is natural; the Greeks had considered sun, mountains, earth, sea, rivers, &c., as independent powers, revered them as gods, and elevated them by the imagination to activity, movement, consciousness and will. What there is besides, like the conceptions of Homer, for instance, is something in which thought could not find satisfaction ; it produces mere images of the imagination, endlessly endowed with animation and form, but destitute of simple unity. It must undoubtedly be said that in this unconsciousness of an intellectual world, one must acknowledge that there is a great robustness of mind evinced in not granting this plenitude of existence to the natural world, but in reducing it to a simple substance, which, as the ever enduring principle, neither originates nor disappears, while the gods have a Theogony and are manifold and changing. This wild, endlessly varied imagination of Homer is set at rest by the proposition that existence is water ; this conflict of an endless quantity of principles, all these ideas that a particular object is an independent truth, a self-sufficient power over others existing in its own right, are taken away, and it is shown likewise that there is only one universal, the universal self-existent, the simple unimaginative perception, the thought that is one and one alone.

This universal stands in direct relationship to the particular and to the existence of the world as manifested. The first thing implied in what has been said, is that the particular existence has no independence, is not true in and for itself, but is only an accidental modification. But the affirmative point of view is that all other things proceed from the one, that the one remains thereby the substance from which all other things proceed, and it is only through a determination which is accidental and external that the particular existence has its being. It is similarly the case that all particular existence is transient, that is, it loses the form of particular and again becomes the universal, water. The simple proposition of Thales therefore, is Philosophy, because in it water, though sensuous, is not looked at in its particularity as opposed to other natural things, but as Thought in which everything is resolved and comprehended. Thus we approach the divorce of the absolute from the finite ; but it is not to be thought that the unity stands above, and that down here we have the finite world.

This idea is often found in the common conception of God — where permanence is attributed to the world and where men often represent two kinds of actuality to themselves, a sensuous and a supersensuous world of equal standing. The philosophic point of view is that the one is alone the truly actual, and here we must take actual in its higher significance, because we call everything actual in common life. The second circumstance to be remembered is that with the ancient philosophers, the principle has a definite and, at first, a physical form. To us this does not appear to be philosophic but only physical; in this case, however, matter has philosophic significance. Thales’ theory is thus a natural philosophy, because this universal essence is determined as real; consequently the Absolute is determined as the unity of thought and Being.

2. Now if we have this undifferentiated principle predominating, the question arises as to the determination of this first principle. The transition from universal to particular at once becomes essential, and it begins with the determination of activity ; the necessity for such arises here. That which is to be a veritable principle must not have a one-sided, particular form, but in it the difference must itself be absolute. while other principles are only special kinds of forms. The fact that the Absolute is what determines itself is already more concrete ; we have the activity and the higher self-consciousness of the spiritual principle, by which the form has worked itself into being absolute form, the totality of form. Since it is most profound, this comes latest; what has first to be done is merely to look at things as determined.

Form is lacking to water as conceived by Thales. How is this accorded to it? The method is stated (and stated by Aristotle, but not directly of Thales), in which particular forms have arisen out of water; it is said to be through a process of condensation and rarefaction (puknpthti kai manothti), or, as it may be better put, through greater or less intensity. Tennemann (vol. 1. p. 59) in reference to this, cites from Aristotle, De gen. et corrupt. I. 1, where there is no mention of condensation and rarefaction As regards Thales, and further, De cœlo, III. 5, where it is only said that those who uphold water or air, or something finer than water or coarser than air, define difference as density and rarity, but nothing is said of its being Thales who gave expression to this distinction. Tiedmann (vol. I. p. 38) quotes yet other authorities; it, was. however, later on, that this distinction was first ascribed to Thales. Thus much is made out, that for the first time in this natural philosophy as in the modern, that which is essential in form is really the quantitative difference in its existence. This merely quantitative difference, however, which, as the increasing and decreasing density of water, constitutes its only form-determination, is an external expression of the absolute difference; it is an unessential distinction set up through another and is not the inner difference of the Notion in itself; it is therefore not worth while to spend more time over it.

Difference as regards the Notion has no physical significance. but differences or the simple duality of form in the sides of its opposition, must be comprehended as universally in the Notion. On this account a sensuous interpretation must not be given to the material, that is to particular determinations, as when it is definitely said that rare water is air, rare air, fiery ether, thick water, mud, which then becomes earth ; according to this, air would be the rarefaction of the first water, ether the rarefaction of air, and earth and mud the sediment of water. As sensuous difference or change, the division here appears as something manifested for consciousness; the moderns have experimented in making thicker and thinner what to the senses is the same.

Change has consequently a double sense ; one with reference to existence and another with reference to the Notion. When change is considered by the ancients, it is usually supposed to have to do with a change in what exists, and thus, for instance, inquiry would be made as to whether water can be changed through chemical action, such as heat., distillation, &c., into earth; finite chemistry is confined to this. But what is meant in all ancient philosophies is change as regards the Notion. That is to say, water does not become converted into air or space and time in retorts, &c. But in every philosophic idea, this transition of one quality into another takes place, i.e., this inward connection is shown in the Notion, according to which no one thing can subsist independently and without the other, for the life of nature has its subsistence in the fact that one thing is necessarily related to the other. We certainly are accustomed to believe that if water were taken away, it would indeed fare badly with plants and animals, but that stones would still remain; or that of colours, blue could be abstracted without harming in the least yellow or red. As regards merely empirical existence, it may easily be shown that each quality exists on its own account, but in the Notion they only are, through one another, and by virtue of an inward necessity. We certainly see this also in living matter, where things happen in another way, for here the Notion comes into existence; thus if, for example, we abstract the heart, the lungs and all else collapse. And in the same way all nature exists only in the unity of all its parts, just as the brain can exist only in unity with the other organs.

3. If the form is, however, only expressed in both its sides as condensation and rarefaction, it is not in and for itself, for to be this it must be grasped as the absolute Notion, and as an endlessly forming unity. What is said on this point by Aristotle (De Anima, 1. 2, also 5) is this: “Thales seems, according to what is said of him, to consider the soul as something having movement, for he says of the loadstone that it has a soul, since it moves the iron.” Diogenes LaŽrtius (1. 24) adds amber to this, from which we see that oven Thales knew about electricity, although another explanation of it is that hlektron was besides a metal. Aldobrandini says of this passage in Diogenes, that it is a stone which is so hostile to poison that when touched by such it immediately hisses. The above remark by Aristotle is perverted by Diogenes to such an extent that he says: “Thales has likewise ascribed a soul to what is lifeless.” However, this is not the question, for the point is how he thought of absolute form, and whether he expressed the Idea generally as soul so that absolute essence should be the unity of simple essence and form.

Diogenes certainly says further of Thales (1. 27), “The world is animated and full of demons,” and Plutarch (De plac. phil. 1. 7) says, “He called God the Intelligence (nouς) of the world.” But all the ancients, and particularly Aristotle, ascribe this expression unanimously to Anaxagoras as the one who first said that the nous is the principle of things. Thus it does not conduce to the further determination of form according to Thales, to find in Cicero (De Nat. Deer. 1. 10) this passage: “Thales says that water is the beginning of everything, but God is the Mind which forms all that is, out of water.” Thales may certainly have spoken of God, but Cicero has added the statement that he comprehended him as the nous which formed everything out of water. Tiedmann (vol. I. p. 42) declares the passage to be possibly corrupt, since Cicero later on (c. 11) says of Anaxagoras that “he first maintained the order of things to have been brought about through the infinite power of Mind.” However, the Epicurean, in whose mouth these words are put, speaks “with confidence only fearing that he should appear to have any doubts” (c. 8) both previously and subsequently of other philosophers rather foolishly, so that this description is given merely as a jest. Aristotle understands historic accuracy better, and therefore we must follow him. But to those who make it their business to find everywhere the conception of the creation of the, world by God, that passage in Cicero is a great source of delight, and it is a much disputed point whether Thales is to be counted amongst those who accepted the existence of a God. The Theism of Thales is maintained by Plouquet, whilst others would have him to be an atheist or polytheist, because he says that everything is full of demons. However, this question as to whether Thales believed in God does not concern us here, for acceptation, faith, popular religion are not in question; we only have to do with the philosophic determination of absolute existence. And if Thales did speak of God as constituting everything out of this same water, that would not give us any further information about this existence ; we should have spoken unphilosophically of Thales because we should have used an empty word without inquiring about its speculative significance. Similarly the word world-soul is useless, because its being is not thereby expressed.

Thus all these further, as also later, assertions do not justify us in maintaining that Thales comprehended form in the absolute in a definite manner; on the contrary, the rest of the history of philosophical development refutes this view. We see that form certainly seems to be shown forth in existence, but as yet this unity is no further developed. The idea that the magnet has a soul is indeed always better than saying that it has the power of attraction ; for power is a quality which is considered as a predicate separable from matter, while soul is movement in unison with matter in its essence. An idea such as this of Thales stands isolated, however, and has no further relation to his absolute thought. Thus, in fact, the philosophy of Thales is comprised in the following simple elements: (a) It has constituted an abstraction in order to comprehend nature in a simple sensuous essence. (b) It has brought forth the Notion of ground or principle; that is, it has defined water to be the infinite Notion, the simple essence of thought, without determining it further as the difference of quantity. That is the limited significance of this principle of Thales.

2. Anaximander.

Anaximander was also of Miletus, and he was a friend of Thales. “The latter,” says Cicero (Acad. Quśst. IV. 37), “could not convince him that everything consisted of water.” Anaximander’s father was called Praxiades ; the date of his birth is not quite certain; according to Tennemann (vol. 1. p. 413), it is put in Olympiad 42, 3 (610 B.C.), while Diogenes LaŽrtius (11. 1, 2) says, taking his information from Apollodorus, an Athenian, that in 01. 58, 2 (547 B.C.), he was sixty-four years old, and that he died soon after, that is to say about the date of Thales’ death. And taking for granted that he died in his ninetieth year, Thales must have been nearly twenty-eight years older than Anaximander. It is related of Anaximander that he lived in Samos with the tyrant Polycrates, where were Pythagoras and Anacreon also. Themistius, according to Brucker (Pt. I. p. 478), says of him that he first put his philosophic thoughts into writing, but this is also recorded of others, as for example, of Pherecydes, who was older than he. Anaximander is said to have written about nature, the fixed stars, the sphere, besides other matters; he further produced something like a map, showing the boundary (perimetron) of land and sea; he also made other mathematical inventions, such as a sun-dial that he put up in Lacedaemon, and instruments by which the course of the sun was shown, and the equinox determined; a chart of the heavens was likewise made by him.

His philosophical reflections are not comprehensive, and do not extend as far as to determination. Diogenes says in the passage quoted before: “He adduced the Infinite” (to apeiron, the undetermined), “as principle and element ; he neither determined it as air or water or any such thing.” There are, however, few attributes of this Infinite given. (a.) “It is the principle of all becoming and passing away; at long intervals infinite worlds or gods rise out of it, and again they pass away into the same.” This has quite an oriental tone. “He gives as a reason that the principle is to be determined as the Infinite, the fact that it does not need material for continuous origination. It contains everything in itself and rules over all: it is divine, immortal, and never passes away.” (b.) Out of the one, Anaximander separates the opposites which are contained in it, as do Empedocles and Anaxagoras; thus everything in this medley is certainly there, but undetermined. That is, everything is really contained therein in possibility (dunamei), “so that,” says Aristotle (Metaphys. XI. 2), “it is not only that everything arises accidentally out of what is not, but everything also arises from what is, although it is from incipient being which is not yet in actuality.” Diogenes LaŽrtius adds (II. 1): “The parts of the Infinite change, but it itself is unchangeable.” (g.) Lastly, it is said that the infinitude is in size and not in number, and Anaximander differs thus from Anaxagoras., Empedocles and the other atomists, who maintain the absolute discretion of the infinite, while Anaximander upholds its absolute continuity. Aristotle (Metaphys. I. 8) speaks also of a principle which is neither water nor air, but is “thicker than air and thinner than water.” Many have connected this idea with Anaximander, and it is possible that it belongs to him.

The advance made by the determination of the principle as infinite in comprehensiveness rests in the fact that absolute essence no longer is a simple universal, but one which negates the finite. At the same time, viewed from the material side, Anaximander removes the individuality of the element of water ; his objective principle does not appear to be material. and it may be understood as Thought. But it is clear that he did not mean anything else than matter generally, universal matter. Plutarch reproaches Anaximander “for not saying what (ti) his infinite is, whether air, water or earth.” But a definite quality such as one of these is transient; matter determined as infinitude means the motion of positing definite forms, and again abolishing the separation. True and infinite Being is to be shown in this and not in negative absence of limit. This universality and negation of the finite is, however, our operation only: in describing matter as infinite, Anaximander does not seem to have said that this is its infinitude.

He has said further (and in this, according to Theophrastus, he agrees with Anaxagoras), “In the infinite the like separates itself from the unlike and allies itself to the like; thus what in the whole was gold becomes gold, what was earth, earth, &c., so that properly nothing originates, seeing that it was already there.” These, however, are poor determinations, which only show the necessity of the transition from the undetermined to the determined; for this still takes place here in an unsatisfying way. As to the further question of how the infinite determines the opposite in its separation, it seems that the theory of the quantitative distinction of condensation and rarefaction was field by Anaximander as well as by Thales. Those who come later designate the process of separation from the Infinite as development. Anaximander supposes man to develop from a fish, which abandoned water for the land. Development comes also into prominence in recent times, but as a mere succession in time — a formula in the use of which men often imagine that they are saying something brilliant; but there is no real necessity, no thought, and above all, no Notion contained in it.

But in later records the idea of warmth, as being the disintegration of form, and that of cold, is ascribed to Anaximander by Stobaeus (Eclog. Phys. c. 24, p. 500); this Aristotle (Metaphys. 1. 5) first ascribed to Parmenides. Eusebius (De praep. Evang. 1. 8), out of a lost work of Plutarch, gives us something from Anaximander’s Cosmogony which is dark, and which, indeed, Eusebius himself did not rightly understand. Its sense is approximately this: “Out of the Infinite, infinite heavenly spheres and infinite worlds have been set apart; but they carry within them their own destruction, because they only are through constant dividing off.” That is, since the Infinite is the principle, separation is the positing of a difference, i.e. of a determination or something finite. “The earth has the form of a cylinder, the height of which is the third part of the breadth. Both of the eternally productive principles of warmth and cold separate themselves in the creation of this earth, and a fiery sphere is formed round the air encircling the earth, like the bark around a tree. As this broke up, and the pieces were compressed into circles, sun, moon, and stars were formed.” Hence Anaximander, according to Stobaeus (Eel. Phys. 25, p. 510), likewise called the stars “wheel-shaped with fire-filled wrappings of air.” This Cosmogony is as good as the geological hypothesis of the earth-crust which burst open, or as Buffon’s explosion of the sun, which beginning, on the other hand, with the sun, makes the planets to be stones projected from it. While the ancients confined the stars to our atmosphere, and made the sun first proceed from the earth, we make the sun to be the substance and birthplace of the earth, and separate the stars entirely from any further connection with us, because for us, like the gods worshipped by the Epicureans, they are at rest. In the process of origination, the sun, indeed, descends as the universal, but in nature it is that which comes later; thus in truth the earth is the totality, and the sun but an abstract moment.

3. Anaximenes.

Anaximenes still remains as having made his appearance between the 55th and 58th Olympiads (560-548 B.C.). He was likewise of Miletus, a contemporary and friend of Anaximander; he has little to distinguish him, and very little is known about him. Diogenes LaŽrtius says neither with consideration nor consistency (11. 3): “He was born, according to Apollodorus in the 63rd Olympiad, and died in the year Sardis was conquered” (by Cyrus, Olympiad 58th).

In place of the undetermined matter of Anaximander, he brings forward a definite natural element; hence the absolute is in a real form, but instead of the water of Thales. that form is air. He found that for matter a sensuous being was indeed essential, and air has the additional advantage of being more devoid of form; it is less corporeal than water, for we do not see it, but feel it first in movement. Plutarch (De plac. phil. 1. 3) says: “Out of it everything comes forth, and into it everything is again resolved.” According to Cicero (De Nat. Deer. I. 10), “he defined it as immeasurable, infinite, and in constant motion.” Diogenes LaŽrtius expresses this in the passage already quoted: “The principle is air and the infinite” (outos archn aera eipe kai to apeiron) as if there were two principles; however, archn kai apeiron may be taken together as subject, and aera regarded as the predicate in the statement. For Simplicius, in dealing with the Physics of Aristotle, expressly says (p. 6 a) “that the, first principle was to him one and infinite in nature as it was to Anaximander, but it was not indefinite as with the latter, but determined, that is, it was air,” which, however, he seems to have understood as endowed with soul.

Plutarch characterizes Anaximenes’ mode of representation which makes everything proceed from air — later on it was called ether — arid resolve itself therein, better thus: “As our soul, which is air, holds us together (sugkratei), one spirit (pneuma) and air together likewise hold (periecei) the whole world together; spirit and air are synonymous.” Anaximenes shows very clearly the nature of his essence in the soul, and he thus points out what may be called the transition of natural philosophy into the philosophy of consciousness, or the surrender of the objective form of principle. The nature of this principle has hitherto been determined in a manner which is foreign and negative to consciousness; both its reality, water or air, and the infinite are a “beyond” to consciousness. But soul is the universal medium; it is a collection of conceptions which pass away and come forth, while the unity and continuity never cease. It is active as well as passive, from its unity severing asunder the conceptions and sublating them, and it is present to itself in its infinitude, so that negative signification and positive come into unison. Speaking more precisely, this idea of the nature of the origin of things is that of Anaxagoras, the pupil of Anaximenes.

Pherecydes has also to be mentioned as the teacher of Pythagoras; he is of Syros, one of the Cyclades islands. He is said to have drawn water from a spring, and to have learned therefrom that an earthquake would take place in three days ; he is also said to have predicted of a ship in full sail that it would go down, and it sank in a moment. Theopompus in Diogenes LaŽrtius (1. 116), relates of this Pherecydes that “he first wrote to the Greeks about Nature and the gods” (which was before said of Anaximander). His writings are said to have been in prose, and from what is related of them it is clear that it must have been a theogony of which he wrote. The first words, still preserved to us, are: “Jupiter and Time and what is terrestrial (cqwn) were from eternity (eis aei) ; the name of earthly (cqonih) was given to the terrestrial sphere when Zeus granted to it gifts.” How it goes on is not known, but this cannot be deemed a great loss. Hermias tells us only this besides: “He maintained Zeus or Fire (aiqera), Earth and Chronos or Time as principles — fire as active, earth as passive, and time as that in which everything originates.” Diogenes of Apollonia, Hippasus, and Archelaus are also called Ionic philosophers, but we know nothing more of them than their names, and that they gave their adherence to one principle or the other.

We shall leave these now and go on to Pythagoras, who was a contemporary of Anaximander; but the continuity of the development of the principle of physical philosophy necessitated our taking Anaximenes with him. We see that, as Aristotle said, they placed the first principle in a form of matter — in air and water first, and then, if we may so define Anaximander’s matter, in an essence finer than water and coarser than air. Heraclitus, of whom we have soon to speak, first called it fire. “But no one,” as Aristotle (Metaph. 1. 8) remarks, — called earth the principle, because it appears to be the most complex element” (dia thn megalomereian) ; for it seems to be an aggregate of many units. Water, on the contrary, is the one, and it is transparent; it manifests in sensuous guise the form of unity with itself, and this is also so with air, lire, matter, &c. The principle has to be one, and hence must have inherent unity with itself; if it shows a manifold nature as does the earth, it is not one with itself, but manifold. This is what we have to say about the early Ionic Philosophy. The importance of these poor abstract thoughts lies (a) in the comprehension of a universal substance in everything, and (b) in the fact that it is formless, and not encumbered by sensuous ideas.

No one recognized better the deficiencies in this philosophy than did Aristotle in the work already quoted. Two points appear in his criticism of these three modes of determining the absolute: “Those who maintain the original principle to be matter fall short in many ways. In the first place, they merely give the corporeal element and not the incorporeal, for there also is such.” In treating of nature in order to show its essence, it is necessary to deal with it in its entirety, and everything found in it must be considered. That is certainly but an empirical instance. Aristotle maintains the incorporeal to be a form of things opposed to the material, and indicates that the absolute must not be determined in a one-sided manner; because the principle of these philosophers is material only, they do not manifest the incorporeal side, nor is the object shown to be Notion. Matter is indeed itself immaterial as this reflection into consciousness; but such philosophers do not know that what they express is an existence of consciousness. Thus the first great defect here rests in the fact that the universal is expressed in a particular form.

Secondly, Aristotle says (Metaph. 1. 3): “From this it may be seen that first cause has only been by all these expressed in the form of matter. But because they proceeded thus. the thing itself opened out their way for them, and forced them into further investigation. For whether origin and decay are derived from one or more, the question alike arises, ‘How does it happen and what is the cause of it?’ For the fundamental substance (to upokeimenon) does not make itself to change, just as neither wood nor metal are themselves the cause of change; wood neither forms a bed nor does brass a statue, but something else is the cause of the change. To investigate this, however, is to investigate the other principle, which, us we would say, is the Principle of Motion.” This criticism holds good even now, where the Absolute is represented as the one fixed substance. Aristotle says that change is not conceivable out of matter as such, or out of water not itself having motion; he reproaches the older philosophers for the fact that they have not investigated the principle of motion for which men care most. Further, object is altogether absent; there is no determination of activity. Hence Aristotle says in the former passage: “In that they undertake to give the cause of origin and decay, they in fact remove the cause of movement. Because they make the principle to be a simple body (earth being excepted), they do not comprehend the mutual origination and decay whereby the one arises out of the other: I am here referring to water, air, fire, and earth. This origination is to be shown as separation or as union, and hence the contradiction comes about that one in time comes earlier than the other. That is, because this kind of origination is the method which they have adopted, the way taken is from the simple universal, through the particular, to the individual as what conies latest. Water, air, and fire are, however, universal. Fire seems to be most suitable for this element, seeing that it is the most, subtle. Thus those who made it to be the principle, most adequately gave expression to this method of origination; and others thought very similarly. For else why should no one have made the earth an element, in conformity with the popular idea? Hesiod says that it was the original body — so ancient and so common was this idea. But what in Becoming comes later, is the first in nature.” However, these philosophers did not understand this so, because they were ruled by the process of Becoming only, without again sublating it, or knowing that first formal universal as such, and manifesting the third, the totality or unity of matter and form, as essence. Here, we see, the Absolute is not yet the self-determining, the Notion turned back into itself, but only a dead abstraction; the moderns were the first, says Aristotle, (Metaph. 1. 6; III. 3) to understand the fundamental principle more in the form of genus.

We are able to follow the three moments in the Ionic philosophy: (a) The original essence is water; (b) Anaximander’s infinite is descriptive of movement, simple going out of and coming back into the simple, universal aspects of form — condensation and rarefaction; (g) the air is compared to the soul. It is now requisite that what is viewed as reality should be brought into the Notion; in so doing we see that the moments of division, condensation, and rarefaction are not in any way antagonistic to the Notion. This transition to Pythagoras, or the manifestation of the real, side as the ideal, is Thought breaking free from what is sensuous, and, therefore, it is a separation between the intelligible and the real.


Translated by E.S. Haldane and Frances H. Simson, published by K. Paul Trench, Trübner in 1894.

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