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Title: Hegel's Lectures on the History of Philosophy: Volume 1 (of 3)

Author: Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel

Translator: Elizabeth Sanderson Haldane

Release date: April 2, 2016 [eBook #51635]

Language: English

Credits: Produced by Giovanni Fini, Fritz Ohrenschall and the Online
Distributed Proofreading Team at








Hegel’s Lectures on

Translated from the German by


In three volumes



Broadway House, 68-74 Carter Lane

London, E.C.4


First published in England 1892
by Kegan Paul, Trench, Trübner & Co. Ltd
Reprinted 1955
by Routledge & Kegan Paul Ltd
Broadway House, 68-74 Carter Lane
London, E.C.4

Reprinted by lithography in Great Britain by
Jarrold and Sons Limited, Norwich



It is perhaps unnecessary to say anything respecting the difficulty of making any adequate translation of Hegel’s writings. In the case of the History of Philosophy, that difficulty is possibly enhanced by the fact that the greater part of the book is put together from the notes of different courses of lectures delivered on the subject at various times. Hegel, as we learn from Michelet, in his preface to the first edition of this work, lectured in all nine times on the History of Philosophy: first in Jena in 1805-1806, then in Heidelberg in 1816-1817 and 1817-1818, and the other six times in Berlin between the years 1819 and 1830. He had begun the tenth course on the subject in 1831 when death cut his labours short. It was only for the first course of lectures—that delivered in Jena—that Hegel fully wrote out his lectures; this was evidently done with the intention of future publication in book form. At Heidelberg he composed a short abstract of his subject, giving in a few terse words the main points dealt with in each system of Philosophy. In the later courses of lectures Hegel trusted to extempore speaking, but at the same time made considerable use of the above writings, the margins of which he annotated with subsequent additions. Besides these annotations he left behind him a large number of miscellaneous notes, which have proved of the greatest value. The present translation is taken from the second and amended edition of the “Geschichte der Philosophie,” published in 1840. This edition is derived from no one set of lectures in particular, but carefully prepared by Michelet—himself one of Hegel’s pupils—from all available sources, including the[vi] notes of students. The Jena volume is, however, made the basis, as representing the main elements of the subject afterwards to be more fully amplified; or, in Michelet’s words, as the skeleton which was afterwards to be clothed with flesh.

I have endeavoured to make this translation as literal as possible consistently with intelligibility, and have attempted, so far as might be, to give the recognized symbols for the words for which we have in English no satisfactory equivalents. “Begriff,” when used in its technical sense, is translated by “Notion,” “Idee” by “Idea,” as distinguished from the colloquial “idea”; “Vorstellung” is usually rendered by “popular” or “ordinary conception.”

Miss Frances H. Simson has rendered very valuable assistance in going carefully over most of the proofs of the first volume, and she is now engaged with me in the translation of the volumes following.

E. S. H.



Introduction 1
A. Notion of the History of Philosophy 7
1. Common Ideas regarding the History of Philosophy 10
2. Explanatory remarks upon the Definition of the History of Philosophy 19
3. Results obtained with respect to the Notion of the History of Philosophy 29
B. The Relation of Philosophy to other Departments of
1. The Historical side of this Connection 50
2. Separation of Philosophy from other allied departments of Knowledge 55
3. Commencement of Philosophy and its History 94
C. Division, Sources, and Method adopted in treating of the
History of Philosophy
1. Division of the History of Philosophy 101
2. Sources of the History of Philosophy 110
3. Method of Treatment adopted 114
Oriental Philosophy 117
A. Chinese Philosophy 119
1. Confucius 120
2. The Philosophy of the Y-king 121
3. The Sect of the Tao-See 124
B. Indian Philosophy 125
1. The Sanc’hya Philosophy of Capila 128
2. The Philosophy of Gotama and Canade 141



Introduction 149
The Seven Sages 156
Division of the Subject 163



Chapter I.—First Period, First Division 166
A. The Ionic Philosophy 171
1. Thales 171
2. Anaximander 185
3. Anaximenes 189
B. Pythagoras and the Pythagoreans 194
1. The System of Numbers 208
2. Application of the System to the Universe 224
3. Practical Philosophy 235
C. The Eleatic School 239
1. Xenophanes 241
2. Parmenides 249
3. Melissus 257
4. Zeno 261
D. Heraclitus 278
1. The Logical Principle 282
2. Natural Philosophy 285
3. Relation of the Principle to Consciousness 293
E. Empedocles, Leucippus and Democritus 298
1. Leucippus and Democritus 299
a. The Logical Principle 302
b. The Constitution of the World 304
c. The Soul 310
2. Empedocles 310
F. Philosophy of Anaxagoras 319
1. The Universal Principle 329
2. The Homœomeriæ 333
3. The Relation of the Two 339
Chapter II.—First Period, Second Division 350
A. The Sophists 352
1. Protagoras 372
2. Gorgias 378
B. Socrates 384
1. The Socratic Method 397
2. The Principle of the Good 406
3. The Fate of Socrates 425
C. The Philosophy of the Socratics[ix] 448
1. The Megarics 454
a. Euclides 455
b. Eubulides 456
c. Stilpo 464
2. The Cyrenaic School 469
a. Aristippus 470
b. Theodoras 475
c. Hegesias 477
d. Anniceris 478
3. The Cynic School 479
a. Antisthenes 481
b. Diogenes 484
c. Later Cynics 486



Delivered at Heidelberg on the 28th October, 1816

Gentlemen,—Since the History of Philosophy is to be the subject of these lectures, and to-day I am making my first appearance in this University, I hope you will allow me to say what satisfaction it gives me to take my place once more in an Academy of Learning at this particular time. For the period seems to have been arrived at when Philosophy may again hope to receive some attention and love—this almost dead science may again raise its voice, and hope that the world which had become deaf to its teaching, may once more lend it an ear. The necessities of the time have accorded to the petty interests of every-day life such overwhelming attention: the deep interests of actuality and the strife respecting these have engrossed all the powers and the forces of the mind—as also the necessary means—to so great an extent, that no place has been left to the higher inward life, the intellectual operations of a purer sort; and the better natures have thus been stunted in their growth, and in great measure sacrificed. Because the spirit of the world was thus occupied, it could not look within and withdraw into itself. But since this stream of actuality is checked, since the German nation has cut its way out of its most material conditions, since its nationality, the basis of all higher life, has been saved, we may hope that, in addition to the State, which has swallowed up all other interests in its own, the Church may now resume her high position—that in addition to the kingdom of the world to which all thoughts and efforts have hitherto been[xii] directed; the Kingdom of God may also be considered. In other words, along with the business of politics and the other interests of every-day life, we may trust that Science, the free rational world of mind, may again flourish.

We shall see in the History of Philosophy that in other European countries in which the sciences and the cultivation of the understanding have been prosecuted with zeal and with respect, Philosophy, excepting in name, has sunk even from memory, and that it is in the German nation that it has been retained as a peculiar possession. We have received the higher call of Nature to be the conservers of this holy flame, just as the Eumolpidæ in Athens had the conservation of the Eleusinian mysteries, the inhabitants of the island of Samothrace the preservation and maintenance of a higher divine service; and as, earlier still, the World-spirit reserved to the Jewish nation the highest consciousness that it should once more rise from thence as a new spiritual force. We have already got so far, and have attained to a seriousness so much greater and a consciousness so much deeper, that for us ideas and that which our reason justifies, can alone have weight; to speak more plainly, the Prussian State is a State constituted on principles of intelligence. But the needs of the time and the interests of the events in the world already mentioned, have repressed a real and earnest effort after Philosophy and driven hence any general attention to it. It has thus happened that because vigorous natures turned to the practical, insipidity and dulness appropriated to themselves the preeminence in Philosophy and flourished there. It may indeed be said that since Philosophy began to take a place in Germany, it has never looked so badly as at the present time—never have emptiness and shallowness overlaid it so completely, and never have they spoken and acted with such arrogance, as though all power were in their hands! To combat the shallowness, to strive with German earnestness and honesty, to draw Philosophy out of the solitude into[xiii] which it has wandered—to do such work as this we may hope that we are called by the higher spirit of our time. Let us together greet the dawn of a better time in which the spirit, hitherto a prey to externalities, may return within itself, come to itself again, and win space and room for a kingdom of its own, where true minds will rise above the interests of the moment, and obtain the power to receive the true, eternal and divine, the power to consider and to grasp the highest.

We elders, who in the storms of the age have ripened into men, may think you happy whose youth falls in the day in which you may devote the same undisturbed to Science and to Truth. I have dedicated my life to Science, and it is a true joy to me to find myself again in this place where I may, in a higher measure and more extensive circle, work with others in the interests of the higher sciences, and help to direct your way therein. I hope that I may succeed in deserving and obtaining your confidence. But in the first place, I can ask nothing of you but to bring with you, above all, a trust in science and a trust in yourselves. The love of truth, faith in the power of mind, is the first condition in Philosophy. Man, because he is Mind, should and must deem himself worthy of the highest; he cannot think too highly of the greatness and the power of his mind, and, with this belief, nothing will be so difficult and hard that it will not reveal itself to him. The Being of the universe, at first hidden and concealed, has no power which can offer resistance to the search for knowledge; it has to lay itself open before the seeker—to set before his eyes and give for his enjoyment, its riches and its depths.



In the History of Philosophy the observation is immediately forced upon us that it certainly presents great interest if its subject is regarded from a favourable point of view, but that it would still possess interest even if its end were regarded as opposite to what it is. Indeed, this interest may seem to increase in the degree in which the ordinary conception of Philosophy, and of the end which its history serves, is reversed; for from the History of Philosophy a proof of the futility of the science is mainly derived.

The demand that a history, whatever the subject may be, should state the facts without prejudice and without any particular object or end to be gained by its means, must be regarded as a fair one. But with a commonplace demand like this, we do not get far; for the history of a subject is necessarily intimately connected with the conception which is formed of it. In accordance with this what is important in it is determined, and the relation of the events to the end regulates the selection of facts to be recorded, the mode of comprehending them, and the point of view under which they are regarded. It may happen from the ideas formed of what a State really is, that a reader of the political history of a country may find therein nothing of what he looks for. Still more may this be the case in the history of Philosophy, and representations of this history may be instanced in which everything, excepting what was supposed to be Philosophy, appears to be found.

In other histories we have a clear conception of their subjects,[xv] at least so far as their principal points are concerned; we know whether they concern a particular land, people or race, or whether their subject is the science of mathematics, physics, &c., or an art, such as painting. The science of Philosophy has, however, this distinguishing feature, and, if you will, this disadvantage as compared with other sciences, that we find the most varied points of view as regards its Notion, and regarding that which it ought to and can accomplish. If this first assumption, the conception of the subject of the history, is not established, the history itself is necessarily made vacillating, and it only obtains consistency when it sets forth a definite conception: but then in view of the various ways of regarding its subject, it easily draws upon itself the reproach of one-sidedness.

That drawback relates, however, only to an external consideration of this narrative; there is another and greater disadvantage allied to it. If there are different Notions of the science of Philosophy, it is the true Notion alone that puts us in a position to understand the writings of philosophers who have worked in the knowledge of it. For in thought, and particularly in speculative thought, comprehension means something quite different from understanding the grammatical sense of the words alone, and also from understanding them in the region of ordinary conception only. Hence we may possess a knowledge of the assertions, propositions, or of the opinions of philosophers; we may have occupied ourselves largely with the grounds of and deductions from these opinions, and the main point in all that we have done may be wanting—the comprehension of the propositions. There is hence no lack of voluminous and even learned histories of Philosophy in which the knowledge of the matter itself about which so much ado has been made, is absent. The authors of such histories may be compared to animals which have listened to all the tones in some music, but to whose senses the unison, the harmony of their tones, has not penetrated.


The circumstance mentioned makes it in no science so necessary as in the history of Philosophy to commence with an Introduction, and in it correctly to define, in the first place, the subject of the history about to be related. For it may be said, How should we begin to treat a subject, the name of which is certainly mentioned often enough, but of whose nature we as yet know nothing? In treating the history of Philosophy thus, we could have no other guidance than that of seeking out and taking up whatever has received the name of Philosophy, anywhere or any time. But in fact, when the Notion of Philosophy is established, not arbitrarily but in a scientific way, such treatment becomes the science of Philosophy itself. For in this science the peculiar characteristic is that its Notion forms the beginning in appearance merely, and it is only the whole treatment of the science that is the proof, and indeed we may say the finding of its Notion; and this is really a result of that treatment.

In this Introduction the Notion of the science of Philosophy, of the subject of its history, has thus likewise to be set forth. At the same time, though this Introduction professes to relate to the history of Philosophy only, what has just been said of Philosophy on the whole, also holds good. What can be said in this Introduction is not so much something which may be stated beforehand, as what can be justified or proved in the treatment of the history. These preparatory explanations are for this reason only, not to be placed in the category of arbitrary assumptions. But to begin with stating what in their justification are really results, can only have the interest which may be possessed by a summary, given in advance, of the most general contents of a science. It must serve to set aside many questions and demands which might, from our ordinary prejudices, arise in such a history.



There are various aspects under which the History of Philosophy may possess interest. We shall find the central point of this interest in the essential connection existing between what is apparently past and the present stage reached by Philosophy. That this connection is not one of the external considerations which may be taken into account in the history of Philosophy, but really expresses its inner character: that the events of this history, while they perpetuate themselves in their effects like all other events, yet produce their results in a special way—this it is which is here to be more clearly expounded.

What the history of Philosophy shows us is a succession of noble minds, a gallery of heroes of thought, who, by the power of Reason, have penetrated into the being of things, of nature and of spirit, into the Being of God, and have won for us by their labours the highest treasure, the treasure of reasoned knowledge.

The events and actions of this history are therefore such that personality and individual character do not enter to any large degree into its content and matter. In this respect the history of Philosophy contrasts with political history, in which the individual, according to the peculiarity of his disposition, talents, affections, the strength or weakness of his character, and in general, according to that through which he is this individual, is the subject of actions and events. In Philosophy, the less deserts and merits[2] are accorded to the particular individual, the better is the history; and the more it deals with thought as free, with the universal character of man as man, the more this thought, which is devoid of special characteristic, is itself shown to be the producing subject.

The acts of thought appear at first to be a matter of history, and, therefore, things of the past, and outside our real existence. But in reality we are what we are through history: or, more accurately, as in the history of Thought, what has passed away is only one side, so in the present, what we have as a permanent possession is essentially bound up with our place in history. The possession of self-conscious reason, which belongs to us of the present world, did not arise suddenly, nor did it grow only from the soil of the present. This possession must be regarded as previously present, as an inheritance, and as the result of labour—the labour of all past generations of men. Just as the arts of outward life, the accumulated skill and invention, the customs and arrangements of social and political life, are the result of the thought, care, and needs, of the want and the misery, of the ingenuity, the plans and achievements of those who preceded us in history, so, likewise, in science, and specially in Philosophy, do we owe what we are to the tradition which, as Herder has put it,[1] like a holy chain, runs through all that was transient, and has therefore passed away. Thus has been preserved and transmitted to us what antiquity produced.

But this tradition is not only a stewardess who simply guards faithfully that which she has received, and thus delivers it unchanged to posterity, just as the course of nature in the infinite change and activity of its forms ever remains constant to its original laws and makes no step in advance. Such tradition is no motionless statue, but is alive, and swells like a mighty river, which increases in[3] size the further it advances from its source. The content of this tradition is that which the intellectual world has brought forth, and the universal Mind does not remain stationary. But it is just the universal Mind with which we have to do. It may certainly be the case with a single nation that its culture, art, science—its intellectual activities as a whole—are at a standstill. This appears, perhaps, to be the case with the Chinese, for example, who may have been as far advanced in every respect two thousand years ago as now. But the world-spirit does not sink into this rest of indifference; this follows from its very nature, for its activity is its life. This activity presupposes a material already present, on which it acts, and which it does not merely augment by the addition, of new matter, but completely fashions and transforms. Thus that which each generation has produced in science and in intellectual activity, is an heirloom to which all the past generations have added their savings, a temple in which all races of men thankfully and cheerfully deposit that which rendered aid to them through life, and which they had won from the depths of Nature and of Mind. To receive this inheritance is also to enter upon its use. It constitutes the soul of each successive generation, the intellectual substance of the time; its principles, prejudices, and possessions; and this legacy is degraded to a material which becomes metamorphosed by Mind. In this manner that which is received is changed, and the material worked upon is both enriched and preserved at the same time.

This is the function of our own and of every age: to grasp the knowledge which is already existing, to make it our own, and in so doing to develop it still further and to raise it to a higher level. In thus appropriating it to ourselves we make it into something different from what it was before. On the presupposition of an already existing intellectual world which is transformed in our appropriation of it, depends the fact that Philosophy can only arise[4] in connection with previous Philosophy, from which of necessity it has arisen. The course of history does not show us the Becoming of things foreign to us, but the Becoming of ourselves and of our own knowledge.

The ideas and questions which may be present to our mind regarding the character and ends of the history of Philosophy, depend on the nature of the relationship here given. In this lies the explanation of the fact that the study of the history of Philosophy is an introduction to Philosophy itself. The guiding principles for the formation of this history are given in this fact, the further discussion of which must thus be the main object of this introduction. We must also, however, keep in mind, as being of fundamental importance, the conception of the aim of Philosophy. And since, as already mentioned, the systematic exposition of this conception cannot here find a place, such discussion as we can now undertake, can only propose to deal with the subject provisionally and not to give a thorough and conclusive account of the nature of the Becoming of Philosophy.

This Becoming is not merely a passive movement, as we suppose movements such as those of the sun and moon to be. It is no mere movement in the unresisting medium of space and time. What we must represent to ourselves is the activity of free thought; we have to present the history of the world of thought as it has arisen and produced itself.

There is an old tradition that it is the faculty of thought which separates men from beasts; and to this tradition we shall adhere. In accordance with this, what man has, as being nobler than a beast, he has through thinking. Everything which is human, however it may appear, is so only because the thought contained in it works and has worked. But thought, although it is thus the essential, substantial, and effectual, has many other elements. We must, however, consider it best when Thought does not pursue[5] anything else, but is occupied only with itself—with what is noblest—when it has sought and found itself. The history which we have before us is the history of Thought finding itself, and it is the case with Thought that it only finds itself in producing itself; indeed, that it only exists and is actual in finding itself. These productions are the philosophic systems; and the series of discoveries on which Thought sets out in order to discover itself, forms a work which has lasted twenty-five hundred years.

If the Thought which is essentially Thought, is in and for itself and eternal, and that which is true is contained in Thought alone, how, then, does this intellectual world come to have a history? In history what appears is transient, has disappeared in the night of the past and is no more. But true, necessary thought—and it is only with such that we have to do—is capable of no change. The question here raised constitutes one of those matters first to be brought under our consideration. But in the second place, there are also many most important things outside of Philosophy, which are yet the work of Thought, and which are left unconsidered. Such are Religion, Political History, forms of Government, and the Arts and Sciences. The question arises as to how these operations differ from the subject of consideration, and how they are related in history? As regards these two points of view, it is desirable to show in what sense the history of Philosophy is here taken, in order to see clearly what we are about. Moreover, in the third place, we must first take a general survey before we descend to particulars, else the whole is not seen for the mere details—the wood is not seen for the trees, nor Philosophy for mere philosophies. We require to have a general idea of the nature and aim of the whole in order to know what to look for. Just as we first desire to obtain a general idea of a country, which we should no longer see in going into detail, so we desire to see the relation which single philosophies bear to the whole; for in[6] reality, the high value of the detail lies in its relation to the whole. This is nowhere more the case than with Philosophy, and also with its history. In the case of a history, indeed, the establishment of the Universal seems to be less needful than in that of one of the sciences proper. For history seems at first to be a succession of chance events, in which each fact stands isolated by itself, which has Time alone as a connecting-link. But even in political history we are not satisfied with this. We see, or at least divine in it, that essential connection in which the individual events have their place and relation to an end or aim, and in this way obtain significance. For the significant in history is such only through its relation to and connection with a Universal. To perceive this Universal is thus to apprehend the significance.

There are, therefore, the following points with which I wish to deal in this introduction.

The first of these will be to investigate the character of the history of Philosophy, its significance, its nature, and its aim, from which will follow inferences as to its treatment. In particular, we shall get an insight into the relation of the history of Philosophy to the science of Philosophy, and this will be the most interesting point of all. That is to say, this history represents, not merely the external, accidental, events contained within it, but it shows how the content, or that which appears to belong to mere history, really belongs to the science of Philosophy. The history of Philosophy is itself scientific, and thus essentially becomes the science of Philosophy.

In the second place, the Notion of Philosophy must be more adequately determined, and from it must be deduced what should be excluded from the history of Philosophy out of the infinite material and the manifold aspects of the intellectual culture of the nations. Religion, certainly, and the thoughts contained in and regarding it, particularly when these are in the form of mythology, are, on account of[7] their matter, and the sciences with their ideas on the state, duties and laws, on account of their form, so near Philosophy that the history of the science of Philosophy threatens to become quite indefinite in extent. It might be supposed that the history of Philosophy should take account of all these ideas. Has not everything been called Philosophy and philosophizing? On the one hand, the close connection has to be further considered in which Philosophy stands with its allied subjects, religion, art, the other sciences, and likewise with political history. On the other hand, when the province of Philosophy has been correctly defined, we reach, with the determination of what Philosophy is and what pertains to it, the starting-point of its history, which must be distinguished from the commencements of religious ideas and mere thoughtful conjectures.

From the idea of the subject which is contained in these first two points of view, it is necessary to pass on to the consideration of the third point, to the general review of this history and to the division of its progress into natural periods—such an arrangement to exhibit it as an organic, progressive whole, as a rational connection through which this history attains the dignity of a science. And I will not occupy further space with reflections on the use of the history of Philosophy, and other methods of treating it. The use is evident. But, in conclusion, I wish to consider the sources of the history of Philosophy, for this is customary.


The thought which may first occur to us in the history of Philosophy, is that the subject itself contains an inner contradiction. For Philosophy aims at understanding what[8] is unchangeable, eternal, in and for itself: its end is Truth. But history tells us of that which has at one time existed, at another time has vanished, having been expelled by something else. Truth is eternal; it does not fall within the sphere of the transient, and has no history. But if it has a history, and as this history is only the representation of a succession of past forms of knowledge, the truth is not to be found in it, for the truth cannot be what has passed away.

It might be said that all this argument would affect not only the other sciences, but in like degree the Christian religion, and it might be found inconsistent that a history of this religion and of the other sciences should exist; but it would be superfluous further to examine this argument, for it is immediately contradicted by the very fact that there are such histories. But in order to get a better understanding of this apparent contradiction, we must distinguish between the outward history of a religion or a science and the history of the subject itself. And then we must take into account that the history of Philosophy because of the special nature of its subject-matter, is different from other histories. It is at once evident that the contradiction in question could not refer to the outward history, but merely to the inward, or that of the content itself. There is a history of the spread of Christianity and of the lives of those who have avowed it, and its existence has formed itself into that of a Church. This in itself constitutes an external existence such that being brought into contact with temporal affairs of the most diverse kind, its lot is a varied one and it essentially possesses a history. And of the Christian doctrine it is true that it, too, has its history, but it necessarily soon reached its full development and attained to its appointed powers. And this old creed has been an acknowledged influence to every age, and will still be acknowledged unchanged as the Truth, even though this acknowledgment were become no[9] more than a pretence, and the words an empty form. But the history of this doctrine in its wider sense includes two elements: first the various additions to and deviations from the truth formerly established, and secondly the combating of these errors, the purification of the principles that remain from such additions, and a consequent return to their first simplicity.

The other sciences, including Philosophy, have also an external history like Religion. Philosophy has a history of its origin, diffusion, maturity, decay, revival; a history of its teachers, promoters, and of its opponents—often, too, of an outward relation to religion and occasionally to the State. This side of its history likewise gives occasion to interesting questions. Amongst other such, it is asked why Philosophy, the doctrine of absolute Truth, seems to have revealed itself on the whole to a small number of individuals, to special nations, and how it has limited itself to particular periods of time. Similarly with respect to Christianity, to the Truth in a much more universal form than the philosophical, a difficulty has been encountered in respect to the question whether there is a contradiction in the fact that this religion should have appeared so late in time, and that it should have remained so long and should still remain limited to special races of men. But these and other similar questions are too much a matter of detail to depend merely on the general conflict referred to, and when we have further touched upon the peculiar character of philosophic knowledge, we may go more specially into the aspects which relate to the external existence and external history of Philosophy.

But as regards the comparison between the history of Religion and that of Philosophy as to inner content, there is not in the latter as there is in Religion a fixed and fundamental truth which, as unchangeable, is apart from history. The content of Christianity, which is Truth, has, however, remained unaltered as such, and has therefore[10] little history or as good as none.[2] Hence in Religion, on account of its very nature as Christianity, the conflict referred to disappears. The errors and additions constitute no difficulty. They are transitory and altogether historical in character.

The other sciences, indeed, have also according to their content a History, a part of which relates to alterations, and the renunciation of tenets which were formerly current. But a great, perhaps the greater, part of the history relates to what has proved permanent, so that what was new, was not an alteration on earlier acquisitions, but an addition to them. These sciences progress through a process of juxtaposition. It is true that in Botany, Mineralogy, and so on, much is dependent on what was previously known, but by far the greatest part remains stationary and by means of fresh matter is merely added to without itself being affected by the addition. With a science like Mathematics, history has, in the main, only the pleasing task of recording further additions. Thus to take an example, elementary geometry in so far as it was created by Euclid, may from his time on be regarded as having no further history.

The history of Philosophy, on the other hand, shows neither the motionlessness of a complete, simple content, nor altogether the onward movement of a peaceful addition of new treasures to those already acquired. It seems merely to afford the spectacle of ever-recurring changes in the whole, such as finally are no longer even connected by a common aim.

1. Common Ideas regarding the History of Philosophy.

At this point appear these ordinary superficial ideas regarding the history of Philosophy which have to be referred to and corrected. As regards these very current[11] views, which are doubtless known to you, gentlemen, for indeed they are the reflections most likely to occur in one’s first crude thoughts on a history of Philosophy, I will shortly explain what requires explanation, and the explanation of the differences in philosophies will lead us further into the matter itself.

a. The History of Philosophy as an accumulation of Opinions.

History, at the first glance, includes in its aim the narration of the accidental circumstances of times, of races, and of individuals, treated impartially partly as regards their relation in time, and partly as to their content. The appearance of contingency in time-succession is to be dealt with later on. It is contingency of content which is the idea with which we have first to deal—the idea of contingent actions. But thoughts and not external actions, or griefs, or joys, form the content of Philosophy. Contingent thoughts, however, are nothing but opinions, and philosophical opinions are opinions relating to the more special content of Philosophy, regarding God, Nature and Spirit.

Thus we now meet the view very usually taken of the history of Philosophy which ascribes to it the narration of a number of philosophical opinions as they have arisen and manifested themselves in time. This kind of matter is in courtesy called opinions; those who think themselves more capable of judging rightly, call such a history a display of senseless follies, or at least of errors made by men engrossed in thought and in mere ideas. This view is not only held by those who recognize their ignorance of Philosophy. Those who do this, acknowledge it, because that ignorance is, in common estimation, held to be no obstacle to giving judgment upon what has to do with the subject; for it is thought that anybody can form a judgment on its character and value without any comprehension, of it whatever. But the same view is even held by those[12] who write or have written on the history of Philosophy. This history, considered only as the enumeration of various opinions, thus becomes an idle tale, or, if you will, an erudite investigation. For erudition is, in the main, acquaintance with a number of useless things, that is to say, with that which has no intrinsic interest or value further than being known. Yet it is thought that profit is to be derived from learning the various opinions and reflections of other men. It stimulates the powers of thought and also leads to many excellent reflections; this signifies that now and then it occasions an idea, and its art thus consists in the spinning one opinion out of the other.

If the history of Philosophy merely represented various opinions in array, whether they be of God or of natural and spiritual things existent, it would be a most superfluous and tiresome science, no matter what advantage might be brought forward as derived from such thought-activity and learning. What can be more useless than to learn a string of bald opinions, and what more unimportant? Literary works, being histories of Philosophy in the sense that they produce and treat the ideas of Philosophy as if they were opinions, need be only superficially glanced at to find how dry and destitute of interest everything about them is.

An opinion is a subjective conception, an uncontrolled thought, an idea which may occur to me in one direction or in another: an opinion is mine,[3] it is in itself a universal thought which is existent in and for itself. But Philosophy possesses no opinions, for there is no such thing as philosophical opinions. When we hear a man speaking of philosophical opinions, even though he be an historian of philosophy itself, we detect at once this want of fundamental education. Philosophy is the objective science of truth, it is science of necessity, conceiving knowledge, and neither opinion nor the spinning out of opinions.

The more precise significance of this idea is that we get[13] to know opinions only, thus laying emphasis upon the word Opinion. Now the direct opposite of opinion is the Truth; it is Truth before which mere opinion pales. Those who in the history of Philosophy seek mere theories, or who suppose that on the whole only such are to be found within it, also turn aside when that word Truth confronts them. Philosophy here encounters opposition from two different sides. On the one hand piety openly declares Reason or Thought to be incapable of apprehending what is true, and to lead only to the abyss of doubt; it declares that independent thought must be renounced, and reason held in bounds by faith in blind authority, if Truth is to be reached. Of the relation existing between Religion and Philosophy and of its history, we shall deal later on. On the other hand, it is known just as well, that so-called reason has maintained its rights, abandoning faith in mere authority, and has endeavoured to make Christianity rational, so that throughout it is only my personal insight and conviction which obliges me to make any admissions. But this affirmation of the right of reason is turned round in an astonishing manner, so that it results in making knowledge of the truth through reason an impossibility. This so-called reason on the one hand has combated religious faith in the name and power of thinking reason, and at the same time it has itself turned against reason and is true reason’s adversary. Instinct and feeling are maintained by it against the true reason, thus making the measure of true value the merely subjective—that is a particular conviction such as each can form in and for himself in his subjective capacity. A personal conviction such as this is no more than the particular opinion that has become final for men.

If we begin with what meets us in our very first conceptions, we cannot neglect to make mention of this aspect in the history of Philosophy. In its results it permeates culture generally, being at once the misconception and true sign of our times. It is the principle through which[14] men mutually understand and know each other; an hypothesis whose value is established and which is the ground of all the other sciences. In theology it is not so much the creed of the church that passes for Christianity, as that every one to a greater or less degree makes a Christianity of his own to tally with his conviction. And in history we often see theology driven into acquiring the knowledge of various opinions in order that an interest may thus be furnished to the science, and one of the first results of the attention paid them is the honour awarded to all convictions, and the esteem vouchsafed to what has been constituted merely by the individual. The endeavour to know the Truth is then of course relinquished. It is true that personal conviction is the ultimate and absolute essential which reason and its philosophy, from a subjective point of view, demand in knowledge. But there is a distinction between conviction when it rests on subjective grounds such as feelings, speculations and perceptions, or, speaking generally, on the particular nature of the subject, and when it rests on thought proceeding from acquaintance with the Notion and the nature of the thing. In the former case conviction is opinion.

This opposition between mere opinion and truth now sharply defined, we already recognize in the culture of the period of Socrates and Plato—a period of corruption in Greek life—as the Platonic opposition between opinion δόξα and Science ἐπιστήμη. It is the same opposition as that which existed in the decadence of Roman public and political life under Augustus, and subsequently when Epicureanism and indifference set themselves up against Philosophy. Under this influence, when Christ said, “I came into the world that I should bear witness unto the Truth,” Pilate answered, “What is Truth?” That was said in a superior way, and signifies that this idea of truth is an expedient which is obsolete: we have got further, we know that there is no longer any question about knowing[15] the Truth, seeing that we have gone beyond it. Who makes this statement has gone beyond it indeed. If this is made our starting point in the history of Philosophy, its whole significance will consist in finding out the particular ideas of others, each one of which is different from the other: these individual points of view are thus foreign to me: my thinking reason is not free, nor is it present in them: for me they are but extraneous, dead historic matter, or so much empty content, and to satisfy oneself with empty vanity is mere subjective vanity itself.

To the impartial man, the Truth has always been a heart-stirring word and one of great import. As to the assertion that the Truth cannot be known, we shall consider it more closely in the history of Philosophy itself where it appears. The only thing to be here remarked is that if this assumption be allowed, as was the case with Tennemann, it is beyond conception why anyone should still trouble about Philosophy, since each opinion asserts falsely in its turn that it has found the truth. This immediately recalls to me the old belief that Truth consists in knowledge, but that an individual only knows the Truth in so far as he reflects and not as he walks and stands: and that the Truth cannot be known in immediate apprehension and perception, whether it be external and sensuous, or whether it be intellectual perception (for every perception as a perception is sensuous) but only through the labour of thought.

b. Proof of the futility of Philosophical Knowledge obtained through the History of Philosophy itself.

From another point of view another consequence ensues from the above conception of the history of Philosophy which may at will be looked at as an evil or a benefit. In view of such manifold opinions and philosophical systems so numerous, one is perplexed to know which one ought to be accepted. In regard to the great matters to which[16] man is attracted and a knowledge of which Philosophy would bestow, it is evident that the greatest minds have erred, because they have been contradicted by others. “Since this has been so with minds so great, how then can ego homuncio attempt to form a judgment?” This consequence, which ensues from the diversity in philosophical systems, is, as may be supposed, the evil in the matter, while at the same time it is a subjective good. For this diversity is the usual plea urged by those who, with an air of knowledge, wish to make a show of interest in Philosophy, to explain the fact that they, with this pretence of good-will, and, indeed, with added motive for working at the science, do in fact utterly neglect it. But this diversity in philosophical systems is far from being merely an evasive plea. It has far more weight as a genuine serious ground of argument against the zeal which Philosophy requires. It justifies its neglect and demonstrates conclusively the powerlessness of the endeavour to attain to philosophic knowledge of the truth. When it is admitted that Philosophy ought to be a real science, and one Philosophy must certainly be the true, the question arises as to which Philosophy it is, and when it can be known. Each one asserts its genuineness, each even gives different signs and tokens by which the Truth can be discovered; sober reflective thought must therefore hesitate to give its judgment.

This, then, is the wider interest which the history of Philosophy is said to afford. Cicero (De natura Deorum I. 8 sq.) gives us from this point of view, a most slovenly history of philosophic thought on God. He puts it in the mouth of an Epicurean, but he himself knew of nothing more favourable to say, and it is thus his own view. The Epicurean says that no certain knowledge has been arrived at. The proof that the efforts of philosophy are futile is derived directly from the usual superficial view taken of its history; the results attendant on that history[17] make it appear to be a process in which the most various thoughts arise in numerous philosophies, each of which opposes, contradicts and refutes the other. This fact, which cannot be denied, seems to contain the justification, indeed the necessity for applying to Philosophy the words of Christ, “Let the dead bury their dead; arise, and follow Me.” The whole of the history of Philosophy becomes a battlefield covered with the bones of the dead; it is a kingdom not merely formed of dead and lifeless individuals, but of refuted and spiritually dead systems, since each has killed and buried the other. Instead of “Follow thou Me,” here then it must indeed be said, “Follow thine own self”—that is, hold by thine own convictions, remain steadfast to thine own opinion, why adopt another?

It certainly happens that a new philosophy makes its appearance, which maintains the others to be valueless; and indeed each one in turn comes forth at first with the pretext that by its means all previous philosophies not only are refuted, but what in them is wanting is supplied, and now at length the right one is discovered. But following upon what has gone before, it would rather seem that other words of Scripture are just as applicable to such a philosophy—the words which the Apostle Peter spoke to Ananias, “Behold the feet of them that shall carry thee out are at the door.” Behold the philosophy by which thine own will be refuted and displaced shall not tarry long as it has not tarried before.

c. Explanatory remarks on the diversity in Philosophies.

Certainly the fact is sufficiently well established that there are and have been different philosophies. The Truth is, however, one; and the instinct of reason maintains this irradicable intuition or belief. It is said that only one philosophy can be true, and, because philosophies are different,[18] it is concluded that all others must be erroneous. But, in fact, each one in turn gives every assurance, evidence and proof of being the one and true Philosophy. This is a common mode of reasoning and is what seems in truth to be the view of sober thought. As regards the sober nature of the word at issue—thought—we can tell from every-day experience that if we fast we feel hunger either at once or very soon. But sober thought always has the fortunate power of not resulting in hunger and desire, but of being and remaining as it is, content. Hence the thought expressed in such an utterance reveals the fact that it is dead understanding; for it is only death which fasts and yet rests satisfied. But neither physical life nor intellectual remains content with mere abstention; as desire it presses on through hunger and through thirst towards Truth, towards knowledge itself. It presses on to satisfy this desire and does not allow itself to feast and find sufficiency in a reflection such as this.

As to this reflection, the next thing to be said of it is that however different the philosophies have been, they had a common bond in that they were Philosophy. Thus whoever may have studied or become acquainted with a philosophy, of whatever kind, provided only that it is such, has thereby become acquainted with Philosophy. That delusive mode of reasoning which regards diversity alone, and from doubt of or aversion to the particular form in which a Universal finds its actuality, will not grasp or even allow this universal nature, I have elsewhere[4] likened to an invalid recommended by the doctor to eat fruit, and who has cherries, plums or grapes, before him, but who pedantically refuses to take anything because no part of what is offered him is fruit, some of it being cherries, and the rest plums or grapes.

But it is really important to have a deeper insight into the bearings of this diversity in the systems of Philosophy.[19] Truth and Philosophy known philosophically, make such diversity appear in another light from that of abstract opposition between Truth and Error. The explanation of how this comes about will reveal to us the significance of the whole history of Philosophy. We must make the fact conceivable, that the diversity and number of philosophies not only does not prejudice Philosophy itself, that is to say the possibility of a philosophy, but that such diversity is, and has been, absolutely necessary to the existence of a science of Philosophy and that it is essential to it.

This makes it easy to us to comprehend the aim of Philosophy, which is in thought and in conception to grasp the Truth, and not merely to discover that nothing can be known, or that at least temporal, finite truth, which also is an untruth, can alone be known and not the Truth indeed. Further we find that in the history of Philosophy we have to deal with Philosophy itself. The facts within that history are not adventures and contain no more romance than does the history of the world. They are not a mere collection of chance events, of expeditions of wandering knights, each going about fighting, struggling purposelessly, leaving no results to show for all his efforts. Nor is it so that one thing has been thought out here, another there, at will; in the activity of thinking mind there is real connection, and what there takes place is rational. It is with this belief in the spirit of the world that we must proceed to history, and in particular to the history of Philosophy.

2. Explanatory Remarks upon the Definition of the History of Philosophy.

The above statement, that the Truth is only one, is still abstract and formal. In the deeper sense it is our starting point. But the aim of Philosophy is to know this one Truth as the immediate source from which all else proceeds,[20] both all the laws of nature and all the manifestations of life and consciousness of which they are mere reflections, or to lead these laws and manifestations in ways apparently contrary, back to that single source, and from that source to comprehend them, which is to understand their derivation. Thus what is most essential is to know that the single truth is not merely a solitary, empty thought, but one determined within itself. To obtain this knowledge we must enter into some abstract Notions which, as such, are quite general and dry, and which are the two principles of Development and of the Concrete. We could, indeed, embrace the whole in the single principle of development; if this were clear, all else would result and follow of its own accord. The product of thinking is the thought; thought is, however, still formal; somewhat more defined it becomes Notion, and finally Idea is Thought in its totality, implicitly and explicitly determined. Thus the Idea, and it alone is Truth. Now it is essentially in the nature of the Idea to develop, and only through development to arrive at comprehension of itself, or to become what it is. That the Idea should have to make itself what it is, seems like a contradiction; it may be said that it is what it is.

a. The Notion of Development.

The idea of development is well known, but it is the special characteristic of Philosophy to investigate such matters as were formerly held as known. What is dealt with or made use of without consideration as an aid to daily life, is certainly the unknown to man unless he be informed in Philosophy. The further discussion of this idea belongs to the science of Logic.

In order to comprehend what development is, what may be called two different states must be distinguished. The first is what is known as capacity, power, what I call being-in-itself (potentia, δύναμις); the second principle is that[21] of being-for-itself, actuality (actus, ἐνέργεια). If we say, for example, that man is by nature rational, we would mean that he has reason only inherently or in embryo: in this sense, reason, understanding, imagination, will, are possessed from birth or even from the mother’s womb. But while the child only has capacities or the actual possibility of reason, it is just the same as if he had no reason; reason does not yet exist in him since he cannot yet do anything rational, and has no rational consciousness. Thus what man is at first implicitly becomes explicit, and it is the same with reason. If, then, man has actuality on whatever side, he is actually rational; and now we come to reason.

What is the real meaning of this word? That which is in itself must become an object to mankind, must arrive at consciousness, thus becoming for man. What has become an object to him is the same as what he is in himself; through the becoming objective of this implicit being, man first becomes for himself; he is made double, is retained and not changed into another. For example, man is thinking, and thus he thinks out thoughts. In this way it is in thought alone that thought is object; reason produces what is rational: reason is its own object. The fact that thought may also descend to what is destitute of reason is a consideration involving wider issues, which do not concern us here. But even though man, who in himself is rational, does not at first seem to have got further on since he became rational for himself—what is implicit having merely retained itself—the difference is quite enormous: no new content has been produced, and yet this form of being for self makes all the difference. The whole variation in the development of the world in history is founded on this difference. This alone explains how since all mankind is naturally rational, and freedom is the hypothesis on which this reason rests, slavery yet has been, and in part still is, maintained by many peoples, and men have remained contented under it. The only distinction between the Africans[22] and the Asiatics on the one hand, and the Greeks, Romans, and moderns on the other, is that the latter know and it is explicit for them, that they are free, but the others are so without knowing that they are, and thus without existing as being free. This constitutes the enormous difference in their condition. All knowledge, and learning, science, and even commerce have no other object than to draw out what is inward or implicit and thus to become objective.

Because that which is implicit comes into existence, it certainly passes into change, yet it remains one and the same, for the whole process is dominated by it. The plant, for example, does not lose itself in mere indefinite change. From the germ much is produced when at first nothing was to be seen; but the whole of what is brought forth, if not developed, is yet hidden and ideally contained within itself. The principle of this projection into existence is that the germ cannot remain merely implicit, but is impelled towards development, since it presents the contradiction of being only implicit and yet not desiring so to be. But this coming without itself has an end in view; its completion fully reached, and its previously determined end is the fruit or produce of the germ, which causes a return to the first condition. The germ will produce itself alone and manifest what is contained in it, so that it then may return to itself once more thus to renew the unity from which it started. With nature it certainly is true that the subject which commenced and the matter which forms the end are two separate units, as in the case of seed and fruit. The doubling process has apparently the effect of separating into two things that which in content is the same. Thus in animal life the parent and the young are different individuals although their nature is the same.

In Mind it is otherwise: it is consciousness and therefore it is free, uniting in itself the beginning and the end. As with the germ in nature, Mind indeed resolves itself back into unity after constituting itself another. But what[23] is in itself becomes for Mind and thus arrives at being for itself. The fruit and seed newly contained within it on the other hand, do not become for the original germ, but for us alone; in the case of Mind both factors not only are implicitly the same in character, but there is a being for the other and at the same time a being for self. That for which the “other” is, is the same as that “other;” and thus alone Mind is at home with itself in its “other.” The development of Mind lies in the fact that its going forth and separation constitutes its coming to itself.

This being-at-home-with-self, or coming-to-self of Mind may be described as its complete and highest end: it is this alone that it desires and nothing else. Everything that from eternity has happened in heaven and earth, the life of God and all the deeds of time simply are the struggles for Mind to know itself, to make itself objective to itself, to find itself, be for itself, and finally unite itself to itself; it is alienated and divided, but only so as to be able thus to find itself and return to itself. Only in this manner does Mind attain its freedom, for that is free which is not connected with or dependent on another. True self-possession and satisfaction are only to be found in this, and in nothing else but Thought does Mind attain this freedom. In sense-perception, for instance, and in feeling, I find myself confined and am not free; but I am free when I have a consciousness of this my feeling. Man has particular ends and interests even in will; I am free indeed when this is mine. Such ends, however, always contain “another,” or something which constitutes for me “another,” such as desire and impulse. It is in Thought alone that all foreign matter disappears from view, and that Mind is absolutely free. All interest which is contained in the Idea and in Philosophy is expressed in it.

b. The Notion of the Concrete.

As to development, it may be asked, what does develop[24] and what forms the absolute content? Development is considered in the light of a formal process in action and as destitute of content. But the act has no other end but activity, and through this activity the general character of the content is already fixed. For being-in-self and being-for-self are the moments present in action; but the act is the retention of these diverse elements within itself. The act thus is really one, and it is just this unity of differences which is the concrete. Not only is the act concrete, but also the implicit, which stands to action in the relation of subject which begins, and finally the product is just as concrete as the action or as the subject which begins. Development in process likewise forms the content, the Idea itself; for this we must have the one element and then the other: both combined will form a unity as third, because the one in the other is at home with, and not without, itself. Thus the Idea is in its content concrete within itself, and this in two ways: first it is concrete potentially, and then it is its interest that what is in itself should be there for it.

It is a common prejudice that the science of Philosophy deals only with abstractions and empty generalities, and that sense-perception, our empirical self-consciousness, natural instinct, and the feelings of every-day life, lie, on the contrary, in the region of the concrete and the self-determined. As a matter of fact, Philosophy is in the region of thought, and has therefore to deal with universals; its content is abstract, but only as to form and element. In itself the Idea is really concrete, for it is the union of the different determinations. It is here that reasoned knowledge differs from mere knowledge of the understanding, and it is the business of Philosophy, as opposed to understanding, to show that the Truth or the Idea does not consist in empty generalities, but in a universal; and that is within itself the particular and the determined. If the Truth is abstract it must be untrue.[25] Healthy human reason goes out towards what is concrete; the reflection of the understanding comes first as abstract and untrue, correct in theory only, and amongst other things unpractical. Philosophy is what is most antagonistic to abstraction, and it leads back to the concrete.

If we unite the Notion of the concrete with that of development we have the motion of the concrete. Since the implicit is already concrete within itself, and we only set forth what is implicitly there, the new form which now looks different and which was formerly shut up in the original unity, is merely distinguished. The concrete must become for itself or explicit; as implicit or potential it is only differentiated within itself, not as yet explicitly set forth, but still in a state of unity. The concrete is thus simple, and yet at the same time differentiated. This, its inward contradiction, which is indeed the impelling force in development, brings distinction into being. But thus, too, its right to be taken back and reinstated extends beyond the difference; for its truth is only to be found in unity. Life, both that which is in Nature and that which is of the Idea, of Mind within itself, is thus manifested. Were the Idea abstract, it would simply be the highest conceivable existence, and that would be all that could be said of it; but such a God is the product of the understanding of modern times. What is true is rather found in motion, in a process, however, in which there is rest; difference, while it lasts, is but a temporary condition, through which comes unity, full and concrete.

We may now proceed to give examples of sensuous things, which will help us further to explain this Notion of the concrete. Although the flower has many qualities, such as smell, taste, form, colour, &c., yet it is one. None of these qualities could be absent in the particular leaf or flower: each individual part of the leaf shares alike all the qualities of the leaf entire. Gold, similarly contains in every particle all its qualities unseparated and entire. It[26] is frequently allowed with sensuous things that such varied elements may be joined together, but, in the spiritual, differentiation is supposed to involve opposition. We do not controvert the fact, or think it contradictory, that the smell and taste of the flower, although otherwise opposed, are yet clearly in one subject; nor do we place the one against the other. But the understanding and understanding thought find everything of a different kind, placed in conjunction, to be incompatible. Matter, for example, is complex and coherent, or space is continuous and uninterrupted. Likewise we may take separate points in space and break up matter dividing it ever further into infinity. It then is said that matter consists of atoms and points, and hence is not continuous. Therefore we have here the two determinations of continuity and of definite points, which understanding regards as mutually exclusive, combined in one. It is said that matter must be clearly either continuous or divisible into points, but in reality it has both these qualities. Or when we say of the mind of man that it has freedom, the understanding at once brings up the other quality, which in this case is necessity, saying, that if Mind is free it is not in subjection to necessity, and, inversely, if its will and thought are determined through necessity, it is not free—the one, they say, excludes the other. The distinctions here are regarded as exclusive, and not as forming something concrete. But that which is true, the Mind, is concrete, and its attributes are freedom and necessity. Similarly the higher point of view is that Mind is free in its necessity, and finds its freedom in it alone, since its necessity rests on its freedom. But it is more difficult for us to show the unity here than in the case of natural objects. Freedom can, however, be also abstract freedom without necessity, which false freedom is self-will, and for that reason it is self-opposed, unconsciously limited, an imaginary freedom which is free in form alone.


The fruit of development, which comes third, is a result of motion, but inasmuch as it is merely the result of one stage in development, as being last in this stage, it is both the starting point and the first in order in another such stage. Goethe somewhere truly says, “That which is formed ever resolves itself back into its elements.” Matter—which as developed has form—constitutes once more the material for a new form. Mind again takes as its object and applies its activity to the Notion in which in going within itself, it has comprehended itself, which it is in form and being, and which has just been separated from it anew. The application of thought to this, supplies it with the form and determination of thought. This action thus further forms the previously formed, gives it additional determinations, makes it more determinate in itself, further developed and more profound. As concrete, this activity is a succession of processes in development which must be represented not as a straight line drawn out into vague infinity, but as a circle returning within itself, which, as periphery, has very many circles, and whose whole is a large number of processes in development turning back within themselves.

c. Philosophy as the apprehension of the development of the Concrete.

Having thus generally explained the nature of the Concrete, I now add as regards its import, that the Truth thus determined within itself is impelled towards development. It is only the living and spiritual which internally bestirs and develops itself. Thus the Idea as concrete in itself, and self-developing, is an organic system and a totality which contains a multitude of stages and of moments in development. Philosophy has now become for itself the apprehension of this development, and as conceiving Thought, is itself this development in Thought. The more progress made in this development, the more perfect is the Philosophy.


This development goes no further out than into externality, but the going without itself of development also is a going inwards. That is to say, the universal Idea continues to remain at the foundation and still is the all-embracing and unchangeable. While in Philosophy the going out of the Idea in course of its development is not a change, a becoming “another,” but really is a going within itself, a self-immersion, the progress forward makes the Idea which was previously general and undetermined, determined within itself. Further development of the Idea or its further determination is the same thing exactly. Depth seems to signify intensiveness, but in this case the most extensive is also the most intensive. The more intensive is the Mind, the more extensive is it, hence the larger is its embrace. Extension as development, is not dispersion or falling asunder, but a uniting bond which is the more powerful and intense as the expanse of that embraced is greater in extent and richer. In such a case what is greater is the strength of opposition and of separation; and the greater power overcomes the greater separation.

These are the abstract propositions regarding the nature of the Idea and of its development, and thus within it Philosophy in its developed state is constituted: it is one Idea in its totality and in all its individual parts, like one life in a living being, one pulse throbs throughout all its members. All the parts represented in it, and their systematization, emanate from the one Idea; all these particulars are but the mirrors and copies of this one life, and have their actuality only in this unity. Their differences and their various qualities are only the expression of the Idea and the form contained within it. Thus the Idea is the central point, which is also the periphery, the source of light, which in all its expansion does not come without itself, but remains present and immanent within itself. Thus it is both the system of necessity and its own necessity, which also constitutes its freedom.


3. Results obtained with respect to the Notion of the History of Philosophy.

Thus we see that Philosophy is system in development; the history of Philosophy is the same; and this is the main point to be noted and the first principle to be dealt with in this treatise on that history. In order to make this evident, the difference in respect to the possible modes of manifestation must first be pointed out. That is to say, the progression of the various stages in the advance of Thought may occur with the consciousness of necessity, in which case each in succession deduces itself, and this form and this determination can alone emerge. Or else it may come about without this consciousness as does a natural and apparently accidental process, so that while inwardly, indeed, the Notion brings about its result consistently, this consistency is not made manifest. This is so in nature; in the various stages of the development of twigs, leaves, blossom and fruit, each proceeds for itself, but the inward Idea is the directing and determining force which governs the progression. This is also so with the child whose bodily powers, and above all whose intellectual activities, make their appearance one after the other, simply and naturally, so that those parents who form such an experience for the first time, marvel whence all that is now showing itself from within, comes from; for the whole of these manifestations merely have the form of a succession in time.

The one kind of progression which represents the deduction of the forms, the necessity thought out and recognized, of the determinations, is the business of Philosophy; and because it is the pure Idea which is in question and not yet its mere particularized form as Nature and as Mind, that representation is, in the main, the business of logical Philosophy. But the other method, which represents the part played by the history of Philosophy, shows the different stages and moments in development in time, in manner of[30] occurrence, in particular places, in particular people or political circumstances, the complications arising thus, and, in short, it shows us the empirical form. This point of view is the only one worthy of this science. From the very nature of the subject it is inherently the true one, and through the study of this history it will be made manifest that it actually shows and proves itself so.

Now in reference to this Idea, I maintain that the sequence in the systems of Philosophy in History is similar to the sequence in the logical deduction of the Notion-determinations in the Idea. I maintain that if the fundamental conceptions of the systems appearing in the history of Philosophy be entirely divested of what regards their outward form, their relation to the particular and the like, the various stages in the determination of the Idea are found in their logical Notion. Conversely in the logical progression taken for itself, there is, so far as its principal elements are concerned, the progression of historical manifestations; but it is necessary to have these pure Notions in order to know what the historical form contains. It may be thought that Philosophy must have another order as to the stages in the Idea than that in which these Notions have gone forth in time; but in the main the order is the same. This succession undoubtedly separates itself, on the one hand, into the sequence in time of History, and on the other into succession in the order of ideas. But to treat more fully of this last would divert us too far from our aim.

I would only remark this, that what has been said reveals that the study of the history of Philosophy is the study of Philosophy itself, for, indeed, it can be nothing else. Whoever studies the history of sciences such as Physics and Mathematics, makes himself acquainted with Physics and Mathematics themselves. But in order to obtain a knowledge of its progress as the development of the Idea in the empirical, external form in which Philosophy appears[31] in History, a corresponding knowledge of the Idea is absolutely essential, just as in judging of human affairs one must have a conception of that which is right and fitting. Else, indeed, as in so many histories of Philosophy, there is presented to the vision devoid of idea, only a disarranged collection of opinions. To make you acquainted with this Idea, and consequently to explain the manifestations, is the business of the history of Philosophy, and to do this is my object in undertaking to lecture on the subject. Since the observer must bring with him the Notion of the subject in order to see it in its phenomenal aspect and in order to expose the object faithfully to view, we need not wonder at there being so many dull histories of Philosophy in which the succession of its systems are represented simply as a number of opinions, errors and freaks of thought. They are freaks of thought which, indeed, have been devised with a great pretension of acuteness and of mental exertion, and with everything else which can be said in admiration of what is merely formal. But, considering the absence of philosophic mind in such historians as these, how should they be able to comprehend and represent the content, which is reasoned thought?

It is shown from what has been said regarding the formal nature of the Idea, that only a history of Philosophy thus regarded as a system of development in Idea, is entitled to the name of Science: a collection of facts constitutes no science. Only thus as a succession of phenomena established through reason, and having as content just what is reason and revealing it, does this history show that it is rational: it shows that the events recorded are in reason. How should the whole of what has taken place in reason not itself be rational? That faith must surely be the more reasonable in which chance is not made ruler over human affairs, and it is the business of Philosophy to recognize that however much its own manifestations may be history likewise, it is yet determined through the Idea alone.


Through these general preliminary conceptions the categories are now determined, the more immediate application of which to the history of Philosophy we have now to consider. This application will bring before us the most significant aspects in this history.

a. The development in Time of the various Philosophies.

The first question which may be asked in reference to this history, concerns that distinction in regard to the manifestation of the Idea, which has just been noticed. It is the question as to how it happens that Philosophy appears to be a development in time and has a history. The answer to this question encroaches on the metaphysics of Time, and it would be a digression from our object to give here more than the elements on which the answer rests.

It has been shown above in reference to the existence of Mind, that its Being is its activity. Nature, on the contrary, is, as it is; its changes are thus only repetitions, and its movements take the form of a circle merely. To express this better, the activity of Mind is to know itself. I am, immediately, but this I am only as a living organism; as Mind I am only in so far as I know myself. Γνῶθι σεαυτόν, Know thyself, the inscription over the temple of the oracle at Delphi, is the absolute command which is expressed by Mind in its essential character. But consciousness really implies that for myself, I am object to myself. In forming this absolute division between what is mine and myself, Mind constitutes its existence and establishes itself as external to itself. It postulates itself in the externality which is just the universal and the distinctive form of existence in Nature. But one of the forms of externality is Time, and this form requires to be further examined both in the Philosophy of Nature and the finite Mind.

This Being in existence and therefore Being in time is a moment not only of the individual consciousness,[33] which as such is essentially finite, but also of the development of the philosophical Idea in the element of Thought. For the Idea, thought of as being at rest, is, indeed, not in Time. To think of it as at rest, and to preserve it in the form of immediacy is equivalent to its inward perception. But the Idea as concrete, is, as has been shown, the unity of differences; it is not really rest, and its existence is not really sense-perception, but as differentiation within itself and therefore as development, it comes into existent Being and into externality in the element of Thought, and thus pure Philosophy appears in thought as a progressive existence in time. But this element of Thought is itself abstract and is the activity of a single consciousness. Mind is, however, not only to be considered as individual, finite consciousness, but as that Mind which is universal and concrete within itself; this concrete universality, however, comprehends all the various sides and modes evolved in which it is and becomes object to the Idea. Thus Mind’s thinking comprehension of self is at the same time the progression of the total actuality evolved. This progression is not one which takes its course through the thought of an individual and exhibits itself in a single consciousness, for it shows itself to be universal Mind presenting itself in the history of the world in all the richness of its form. The result of this development is that one form, one stage in the Idea comes to consciousness in one particular race, so that this race and this time expresses only this particular form, within which it constructs its universe and works out its conditions. The higher stage, on the other hand, centuries later reveals itself in another race of people.

Now if we thus grasp the principles of the Concrete and of Development, the nature of the manifold obtains quite another signification, and what is said of the diversity in philosophies as if the manifold were fixed and stationary and composed of what is mutually exclusive, is at once[34] refuted and relegated to its proper place. Such talk is that in which those who despise Philosophy think they possess an invincible weapon against it, and in their truly beggarly pride in their pitiful representations of it, they are in perfect ignorance even of what they have and what they have to know in any meagre ideas attained, such as in that of the manifold and diverse. Yet this category is one which anybody can understand; no difficulty is made in regard to it, for it is thoroughly known, and those who use it think they can do so as being entirely comprehensible—as a matter of course they understand what it is. But those who believe the principle of diversity to be one absolutely fixed, do not know its nature, or its dialectic; the manifold or diverse is in a state of flux; it must really be conceived of as in the process of development, and as but a passing moment. Philosophy in its concrete Idea is the activity of development in revealing the differences which it contains within itself; these differences are thoughts, for we are now speaking of development in Thought. In the first place, the differences which rest in the Idea are manifested as thoughts. Secondly, these distinctions must come into existence, one here and the other there; and in order that they may do this, they must be complete, that is, they must contain within themselves the Idea in its totality. The concrete alone as including and supporting the distinctions, is the actual; it is thus, and thus alone, that the differences are in their form entire.

A complete form of thought such as is here presented, is a Philosophy. But the Idea contains the distinctions in a peculiar form. It may be said that the form is indifferent, and that the content, the Idea, is the main consideration; and people think themselves quite moderate and reasonable when they state that the different philosophies all contain the Idea, though in different forms, understanding by this that these forms are contingent. But everything hangs on this: these forms are nothing else than the original distinctions[35] in the Idea itself, which is what it is only in them. They are in this way essential to, and constitute the content of the Idea, which in thus sundering itself, attains to form. The manifold character of the principles which appear, is, however, not accidental, but necessary: the different forms constitute an integral part of the whole form. They are the determinations of the original Idea, which together constitute the whole; but as being outside of one another, their union does not take place in them, but in us, the observers. Each system is determined as one, but it is not a permanent condition that the differences are thus mutually exclusive. The inevitable fate of these determinations must follow, and that is that they shall be drawn together and reduced to elements or moments. The independent attitude taken up by each moment is again laid aside. After expansion, contraction follows—the unity out of which they first emerged. This third may itself be but the beginning of a further development. It may seem as if this progression were to go on into infinitude, but it has an absolute end in view, which we shall know better later on; many turnings are necessary, however, before Mind frees itself in coming to consciousness.

The temple of self-conscious reason is to be considered from this the point of view alone worthy of the history of Philosophy. It is hence rationally built by an inward master worker, and not in Solomon’s method, as freemasons build. The great assumption that what has taken place on this side, in the world, has also done so in conformity with reason—which is what first gives the history of Philosophy its true interest—is nothing else than trust in Providence, only in another form. As the best of what is in the world is that which Thought produces, it is unreasonable to believe that reason only is in Nature, and not in Mind. That man who believes that what, like the philosophies, belongs to the region of mind must be merely contingent, is insincere in his belief in divine rule, and what he says of it is but empty talk.


A long time is undoubtedly required by Mind in working out Philosophy, and when one first reflects on it, the length of the time may seem astonishing, like the immensity of the space spoken of in astronomy. But it must be considered in regard to the slow progress of the world-spirit, that there is no need for it to hasten:—“A thousand years are in Thy sight as one day.” It has time enough just because it is itself outside of time, because it is eternal. The fleeting events of the day pass so quickly that there is not time enough for all that has to be done. Who is there who does not die before he has achieved his aims? The world-spirit has time enough, but that is not all. It is not time alone which has to be made use of in the acquisition of a conception; much else is required. The fact that so many races and generations are devoted to these operations of its consciousness by Mind, and that the appearance is so perpetually presented of rising up and passing away, concern it not at all; it is rich enough for such displays, it pursues its work on the largest possible scale, and has nations and individuals enough and to spare. The saying that Nature arrives at its end in the shortest possible way, and that this is right, is a trivial one. The way shown by mind is indirect, and accommodates itself to circumstances. Considerations of finite life, such as time, trouble, and cost, have no place here. We ought, too, to feel no disappointment that particular kinds of knowledge cannot yet be attained, or that this or that is still absent. In the history of the world progression is slow.

b. The application of the foregoing to the treatment of Philosophy.

The first result which follows from what has been said, is that the whole of the history of Philosophy is a progression impelled by an inherent necessity, and one which is implicitly rational and à priori determined through its Idea; and this the history of Philosophy has to exemplify. Contingency[37] must vanish on the appearance of Philosophy. Its history is just as absolutely determined as the development of Notions, and the impelling force is the inner dialectic of the forms. The finite is not true, nor is it what it is to be—its determinate nature is bound up with its existence. But the inward Idea abolishes these finite forms: a philosophy which has not the absolute form identical with the content, must pass away because its form is not that of truth.

What follows, secondly from what we have said, is that every philosophy has been and still is necessary. Thus none have passed away, but all are affirmatively contained as elements in a whole. But we must distinguish between the particular principle of these philosophies as particular, and the realization of this principle throughout the whole compass of the world. The principles are retained, the most recent philosophy being the result of all preceding, and hence no philosophy has ever been refuted. What has been refuted is not the principle of this philosophy, but merely the fact that this principle should be considered final and absolute in character. The atomic philosophy, for example, has arrived at the affirmation that the atom is the absolute existence, that it is the indivisible unit which is also the individual or subject; seeing, then, that the bare unit also is the abstract being-for-self, the Absolute would be grasped as infinitely many units. The atomic theory has been refuted, and we are atomists no longer. Mind is certainly explicitly existent as a unit or atom, but that is to attribute to it a barren character and qualities incapable of expressing anything of its depth. The principle is indeed retained, although it is not the absolute in its entirety. This same contradiction appears in all development. The development of the tree is the negation of the germ, and the blossom that of the leaves, in so far as that they show that these do not form the highest and truest existence of the tree. Last of all, the blossom finds its negation in the[38] fruit. Yet none of them can come into actual existence excepting as preceded by all the earlier stages. Our attitude to a philosophy must thus contain an affirmative side and a negative; when we take both of these into consideration, we do justice to a philosophy for the first time. We get to know the affirmative side later on both in life and in science; thus we find it easier to refute than to justify.

In the third place, we shall limit ourselves to the particular consideration of the principle itself. Each principle has reigned for a certain time, and when the whole system of the world has been explained from this special form, it is called a philosophical system. Its whole theory has certainly to be learned, but as long as the principle is abstract it is not sufficient to embrace the forms belonging to our conception of the world. The Cartesian principles, for instance, are very suitable for application to mechanism, but for nothing further; their representation of other manifestations in the world, such as those of vegetable and animal nature, are insufficient, and hence uninteresting. Therefore we take into consideration the principles of these philosophies only, but in dealing with concrete philosophies we must also regard the chief forms of their development and their applications. The subordinate philosophies are inconsistent; they have had bright glimpses of the truth, which are, however, independent of their principles. This is exemplified in the Timæus of Plato, a philosophy of nature, the working out of which is empirically very barren because its principle does not as yet extend far enough, and it is not to its principle that we owe the deep gleams of thought there contained.

In the fourth place it follows that we must not regard the history of Philosophy as dealing with the past, even though it is history. The scientific products of reason form the content of this history, and these are not past. What is obtained in this field of labour is the True, and, as such, the Eternal; it is not what exists now, and not then; it is[39] true not only to-day or to-morrow, but beyond all time, and in as far as it is in time, it is true always and for every time. The bodily forms of those great minds who are the heroes of this history, the temporal existence and outward lives of the philosophers, are, indeed, no more, but their works and thoughts have not followed suit, for they neither conceived nor dreamt of the rational import of their works. Philosophy is not somnambulism, but is developed consciousness; and what these heroes have done is to bring that which is implicitly rational out of the depths of Mind, where it is found at first as substance only, or as inwardly existent, into the light of day, and to advance it into consciousness and knowledge. This forms a continuous awakening. Such work is not only deposited in the temple of Memory as forms of times gone by, but is just as present and as living now as at the time of its production. The effects produced and work performed are not again destroyed or interrupted by what succeeds, for they are such that we must ourselves be present in them. They have as medium neither canvas, paper, marble, nor representation or memorial to preserve them. These mediums are themselves transient, or else form a basis for what is such. But they do have Thought, Notion, and the eternal Being of Mind, which moths cannot corrupt, nor thieves break through and steal. The conquests made by Thought when constituted into Thought form the very Being of Mind. Such knowledge is thus not learning merely, or a knowledge of what is dead, buried and corrupt: the history of Philosophy has not to do with what is gone, but with the living present.

c. Further comparison between the History of Philosophy and Philosophy itself.

We may appropriate to ourselves the whole of the riches apportioned out in time: it must be shown from the succession in philosophies how that succession is the systematization of the science of Philosophy itself. But a distinction is[40] to be noted here: that which first commences is implicit, immediate, abstract, general—it is what has not yet advanced; the more concrete and richer comes later, and the first is poorer in determinations. This may appear contrary to one’s first impressions, but philosophic ideas are often enough directly opposed to ordinary ideas, and what is generally supposed, is not found to be the case. It may be thought that what comes first must be the concrete. The child, for instance, as still in the original totality of his nature, is thought to be more concrete than the man, hence we imagine the latter to be more limited, no longer forming a totality, but living an abstract life. Certainly the man acts in accordance with definite ends, not bringing his whole soul and mind into a subject, but splitting his life into a number of abstract unities. The child and the youth, on the contrary, act straight from the fulness of the heart. Feeling and sense-perception come first, thought last, and thus feeling appears to us to be more concrete than thought, or the activity of abstraction and of the universal. In reality, it is just the other way. The sensuous consciousness is certainly the more concrete, and if poorer in thought, at least richer in content. We must thus distinguish the naturally concrete from the concrete of thought, which on its side, again, is wanting in sensuous matter. The child is also the most abstract and the poorest in thought: as to what pertains to nature, the man is abstract, but in thought he is more concrete than the child. Man’s ends and objects are undoubtedly abstract in general affairs, such as in maintaining his family or performing his business duties, but he contributes to a great objective organic whole, whose progress he advances and directs. In the acts of a child, on the other hand, only a childish and, indeed, momentary “I,” and in those of the youth the subjective constitution or the random aim, form the principle of action. It is in this way that science is more concrete than sense-perception.


In applying this to the different forms of Philosophy, it follows in the first place, that the earliest philosophies are the poorest and the most abstract. In them the Idea is least determined; they keep merely to generalities not yet realized. This must be known in order that we may not seek behind the old philosophies for more than we are entitled to find; thus we need not require from them determinations proceeding from a deeper consciousness. For instance, it has been asked whether the philosophy of Thales is, properly speaking, Theism or Atheism,[5] whether he asserted a personal God or merely an impersonal, universal existence. The question here regards the attribution of subjectivity to the highest Idea, the conception of the Personality of God. Such subjectivity as we comprehend it, is a much richer, more concentrated, and therefore much later conception, which need not be sought for in distant ages. The Greek gods had, indeed, personality in imagination and idea like the one God of the Jewish religion, but to know what is the mere picture of fancy, and what the insight of pure Thought and Notion, is quite another thing. If we take as basis our own ideas judged by these deeper conceptions, an ancient Philosophy may undoubtedly be spoken of as Atheism. But this expression would at the same time be false, for the thoughts as thoughts in beginning, could not have arrived at the development which we have reached.

From this it follows—since the progress of development is equivalent to further determination, and this means further immersion in and a fuller grasp of the Idea itself—that the latest, most modern and newest philosophy is the most developed, richest and deepest. In that philosophy everything which at first seems to be past and gone must be preserved and retained, and it must itself be a mirror of the whole history. The original philosophy is the most abstract, because it is the original and has not as yet made any movement[42] forward; the last, which proceeds from this forward and impelling influence, is the most concrete. This, as may at once be remarked, is no mere pride in the philosophy of our time, because it is in the nature of the whole process that the more developed philosophy of a later time is really the result of the previous operations of the thinking mind; and that it, pressed forwards and onwards from the earlier standpoints, has not grown up on its own account or in a state of isolation.

It must also be recollected that we must not hesitate to say, what is naturally implied, that the Idea, as comprehended and shown forth in the latest and newest philosophy, is the most developed, the richest and deepest. I call this to remembrance because the designation, new or newest of all in reference to Philosophy, has become a very common by-word. Those who think they express anything by using such terms might quite easily render thanks respecting any number of philosophies just as fast as their inclination directs, regarding either every shooting-star and even every candle-gleam in the light of a sun, or else calling every popular cry a philosophy, and adducing as proof that at any rate there are so many philosophies that every day one displaces another. Thus they have the category in which they can place any apparently significant philosophy, and through which they may at the same time set it aside; this they call a fashion-philosophy.

“Scoffer, thou call’st this but a fleeting phase
When the Spirit of Man once again and anew,
Strives earnestly on, towards forms that are higher.”

A second consequence has regard to the treatment of the older philosophies. Such insight also prevents us from ascribing any blame to the philosophies when we miss determinations in them which were not yet present to their culture, and similarly it prevents our burdening them with deductions and assertions which were neither made nor thought of by them, though they might correctly enough allow themselves[43] to be derived from the thought of such a philosophy. It is necessary to set to work on an historical basis, and to ascribe to Philosophy what is immediately given to us, and that alone. Errors crop up here in most histories of Philosophy, since we may see in them a number of metaphysical propositions ascribed to a philosopher and given out as an historical statement of the views which he has propounded, of which he neither thought nor knew a word, and of which there is not the slightest trace found in history. Thus in Brucker’s great History of Philosophy (Pt. I. pp. 465-478 seq.) a list of thirty, forty, or a hundred theorems are quoted from Thales and others, no idea of which can be traced in history as having been present to these philosophers. There are also propositions in support of them and citations taken from discussions of a similar kind with which we may occupy ourselves long enough. Brucker’s method is to endow the single theorem of an ancient philosopher with all the consequences and premises which must, according to the idea of the Wolffian Metaphysics, be the premises and conclusions of that theorem, and thus easily to produce a simple, naked fiction as if it were an actual historical fact. Thus, according to Brucker, Thales said, Ex nihilo fit nihil, since he said that water was eternal. Thus, too, he was to be counted amongst the philosophers who deny creation out of nothing; and of this, historically at least, Thales was ignorant. Professor Ritter, too, whose history of Ionic Philosophy is carefully written, and who on the whole is cautious not to introduce foreign matter, has very possibly ascribed to Thales more than is found in history. He says (pp. 12, 13), “Hence we must regard the view of nature which we find in Thales as dynamic in principle. He regarded the world as the all-embracing, living animal which has developed from a germ like every other animal, and this germ, like that of all other animals, is either damp or water. Thus the fundamental idea of Thales is that the world is a living whole which has developed from a germ and carries on its[44] life as does an animal, by means of nourishment suitable to its nature” (cf. p. 16). This is quite a different account from that of Aristotle, and none of it is communicated by the ancients regarding Thales. The sequence of thought is evident, but historically it is not justified. We ought not by such deductions to make an ancient philosophy into something quite different from what it originally was.

We are too apt to mould the ancient philosophers into our own forms of thought, but this is just to constitute the progress of development; the difference in times, in culture and in philosophies, depends on whether certain reflections, certain thought determinations, and certain stages in the Notion have come to consciousness, whether a consciousness has been developed to a particular point or not. The history of Philosophy has simply to deal with this development and bringing forth of thought. The determinations involved certainly follow from a proposition, but whether they are put forth as yet or not is quite another thing, and the bringing forth of the inner content is the only matter of importance. We must therefore only make use of the words which are actually literal, for to use further thought determinations which do not yet belong to the consciousness of the philosopher in question, is to carry on development. Thus Aristotle states that Thales has defined the principle (ἀρχή) of every thing to be water. But Anaximander first made use of ἀρχή, and Thales thus did not possess this determination of thought at all; he recognized ἀρχή as commencement in time, but not as the fundamental principle. Thales did not once introduce the determination of cause into his philosophy, and first cause is a further determination still. There are whole nations which have not this conception at all; indeed it involves a great step forward in development. And seeing that difference in culture on the whole depends on difference in the thought determinations which are manifested, this must be so still more with respect to philosophies.


Now, as in the logical system of thought each of its forms has its own place in which alone it suffices, and this form becomes, by means of ever-progressing development, reduced to a subordinate element, each philosophy is, in the third place, a particular stage in the development of the whole process and has its definite place where it finds its true value and significance. Its special character is really to be conceived of in accordance with this determination, and it is to be considered with respect to this position in order that full justice may be done to it. On this account nothing more must be demanded or expected from it than what it actually gives, and the satisfaction is not to be sought for in it, which can only be found in a fuller development of knowledge. We must not expect to find the questions of our consciousness and the interest of the present world responded to by the ancients; such questions presuppose a certain development in thought. Therefore every philosophy belongs to its own time and is restricted by its own limitations, just because it is the manifestation of a particular stage in development. The individual is the offspring of his people, of his world, whose constitution and attributes are alone manifested in his form; he may spread himself out as he will, he cannot escape out of his time any more than out of his skin, for he belongs to the one universal Mind which is his substance and his own existence. How should he escape from this? It is the same universal Mind that is embraced by thinking Philosophy; that Philosophy is Mind’s thought of itself and therefore its determinate and substantial content. Every philosophy is the philosophy of its own day, a link in the whole chain of spiritual development, and thus it can only find satisfaction for the interests belonging to its own particular time.

On this account an earlier philosophy does not give satisfaction to the mind in which a deeper conception reigns. What Mind seeks for in Philosophy is this conception[46] which already constitutes its inward determination and the root of its existence conceived of as object to thought; Mind demands a knowledge of itself. But in the earlier philosophy the Idea is not yet present in this determinate character. Hence the philosophy of Plato and Aristotle, and indeed all philosophies, ever live and are present in their principles, but Philosophy no longer has the particular form and aspect possessed by that of Plato and of Aristotle. We cannot rest content with them, and they cannot be revived; hence there can be no Platonists, Aristotelians, Stoics, or Epicureans to-day. To re-awaken them would be to try to bring back to an earlier stage the Mind of a deeper culture and self-penetration. But this cannot be the case; it would be an impossibility and as great a folly as were a man to wish to expend his energies in attaining the standpoint of the youth, the youth in endeavouring to be the boy or child again; whereas the man, the youth, and the child, are all one and the same individual. The period of revival in the sciences, the new epoch in learning which took place in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, began not only with the revived study of, but also with the re-animation of the old philosophies. Marsilius Ficinus was a Platonist; an Academy of Platonic philosophy was established and installed with professors by Cosmos de Medici, and Ficinus was placed at the head of it. There were pure Aristotelians like Pomponius: Gassendi later on maintained the Epicurean philosophy, for his philosophy dealt with Physics after the manner of the Epicureans; Lipsius wished to be a Stoic, and so on. The sense of opposition was so great, ancient philosophy and Christianity—from or in which no special philosophy had developed—were so diverse, that no philosophy peculiar to itself could develop in Christianity. What was or could be had as philosophy, either in conformity with or in opposition to Christianity, was a certain ancient philosophy which was thus taken up anew. But mummies when brought amongst[47] living beings cannot there remain. Mind had for long possessed a more substantial life, a more profound Notion of itself, and hence its thought had higher needs than such as could be satisfied by these philosophies. A revival such as this is then to be regarded only as the transitory period in which we learn to know the forms which are implied and which have gone before, and as the renewal of former struggles through the steps necessary in development. Such reconstructions and repetitions in a distant time of principles which have become foreign to Mind, are in history transitory only, and formed in a language which is dead. Such things are translations only and not originals, and Mind does not find satisfaction excepting in knowledge of its own origination.

When modern times are in the same way called upon to revert to the standpoint of an ancient philosophy (as is recommended specially in regard to the philosophy of Plato) in order to make this a means of escaping from the complications and difficulties of succeeding times, this reversion does not come naturally as in the first case. This discreet counsel has the same origin as the request to cultivated members of society to turn back to the customs and ideas of the savages of the North American forests, or as the recommendation to adopt the religion of Melchisedec which Fichte[6] has maintained to be the purest and simplest possible, and therefore the one at which we must eventually arrive. On the one hand, in this retrogression the desire for an origin and for a fixed point of departure is unmistakable, but such must be sought for in thought and Idea alone and not in an authoritatively given form. On the other hand, the return of the developed, enriched Mind to a simplicity such as this—which means to an abstraction, an abstract condition or thought—is to be regarded only as the escape of an incapacity which cannot enjoy the rich material[48] of development which it sees before it, and which demands to be controlled and comprehended in its very depths by thought, but seeks a refuge in fleeing from the difficulty and in mere sterility.

From what has been said it is quite comprehensible how so many of those who, whether induced by some special attraction such as this, or simply by the fame of a Plato or ancient philosophy in general, direct their way thereto in order to draw their own philosophy from these sources, do not find themselves satisfied by the study, and unjustifiably quit such altogether. Satisfaction is found in them to a certain extent only. We must know in ancient philosophy or in the philosophy of any given period, what we are going to look for. Or at least we must know that in such a philosophy there is before us a definite stage in the development of thought, and in it those forms and necessities of Mind which lie within the limits of that stage alone are brought into existence. There slumber in the Mind of modern times ideas more profound which require for their awakening other surroundings and another present than the abstract, dim, grey thought of olden times. In Plato, for instance, questions regarding the nature of freedom, the origin of evil and of sin, providence, &c., do not find their philosophic answer. On such subjects we certainly may in part take the ordinary serious views of the present time, and in part philosophically set their consideration altogether aside, or else consider sin and freedom as something negative only. But neither the one plan nor the other gives freedom to Mind if such subjects have once been explicitly for it, and if the opposition in self-consciousness has given it the power of sinking its interests therein. The case is similar with regard to questions regarding the limits of knowledge, the opposition between subjectivity and objectivity which had not yet come up in Plato’s age. The independence of the “I” within itself and its explicit existence was foreign to him; man had not yet gone back within himself, had[49] not yet set himself forth as explicit. The subject was indeed the individual as free, but as yet he knew himself only as in unity with his Being. The Athenian knew himself to be free, as such, just as the Roman citizen would, as ingenuus. But the fact that man is in and for himself free, in his essence and as man, free born, was known neither by Plato, Aristotle, Cicero, nor the Roman legislators, even though it is this conception alone which forms the source of law. In Christianity the individual, personal mind for the first time becomes of real, infinite and absolute value; God wills that all men shall be saved. It was in the Christian religion that the doctrine was advanced that all men are equal before God, because Christ has set them free with the freedom of Christianity. These principles make freedom independent of any such things as birth, standing or culture. The progress made through them is enormous, but they still come short of this, that to be free constitutes the very idea of man. The sense of this existent principle has been an active force for centuries and centuries, and an impelling power which has brought about the most tremendous revolutions; but the conception and the knowledge of the natural freedom of man is a knowledge of himself which is not old.

The Relation of Philosophy to other Departments of Knowledge.

The History of Philosophy has to represent this science in that form of time and individualities from which its outward form has resulted. Such a representation has, however, to shut out from itself the external history of the time, and to take into account only the general character of the people and time, and likewise their circumstances as a whole. But as a matter of fact, the history of Philosophy does present this character, and that indeed in the highest possible[50] degree; its connection with it is of the closest kind, and the particular appearance presented by a philosophy belonging to one special period, is only a particular aspect or element in the character. Because of this inward correspondence we have partly to consider more closely the particular relation borne by a philosophy to its historical surroundings, and partly, but pre-eminently, what is proper to itself, from which alone, after separating everything related however closely, we can fix our standpoint. This connection, which is not merely external but essential, has thus two sides, which we must consider. The first is the distinctly historical side, the second is the connection with other matters—the connection of Philosophy with Religion, for instance, by which we at once obtain a deeper conception of Philosophy itself.

1. The Historical side of this Connection.

It is usually said that political affairs and such matters as Religion are to be taken into consideration because they have exercised a great influence on the Philosophy of the time, and similarly it exerts an influence upon them. But when people are content with such a category as “great influence” they place the two in an external relationship, and start from the point of view that both sides are for themselves independent. Here, however, we must think of this relationship in another category, and not according to the influence or effect of one upon the other. The true category is the unity of all these different forms, so that it is one Mind which manifests itself in, and impresses itself upon these different elements.

a. Outward and historical conditions imposed upon Philosophy.

It must be remarked in the first place, that a certain stage is requisite in the intellectual culture of a people in order[51] that it may have a Philosophy at all. Aristotle says, “Man first begins to philosophize when the necessities of life are supplied” (Metaphysics, I. 2); because since Philosophy is a free and not self-seeking activity, cravings of want must have disappeared, a strength, elevation and inward fortitude of mind must have appeared, passions must be subdued and consciousness so far advanced, before what is universal can be thought of. Philosophy may thus be called a kind of luxury, in so far as luxury signifies those enjoyments and pursuits which do not belong to external necessity as such. Philosophy in this respect seems more capable of being dispensed with than anything else; but that depends on what is called indispensable. From the point of view of mind, Philosophy may even be said to be that which is most essential.

b. The commencement in History of an intellectual necessity for Philosophy.

However much Philosophy, as the thought and conception of the Mind of a particular time, is à priori, it is at the same time just as really a result, since the thought produced and, indeed, the life and action are produced to produce themselves. This activity contains the essential element of a negation, because to produce is also to destroy; Philosophy in producing itself, has the natural as its starting point in order to abrogate it again. Philosophy thus makes its appearance at a time when the Mind of a people has worked its way out of the indifference and stolidity of the first life of nature, as it has also done from the standpoint of the emotional, so that the individual aim has blotted itself out. But as Mind passes on from its natural form, it also proceeds from its exact code of morals and the robustness of life to reflection and conception. The result of this is that it lays hold of and troubles this real, substantial kind of existence, this morality and faith, and thus[52] the period of destruction commences. Further progress is then made through the gathering up of thought within itself. It may be said that Philosophy first commences when a race for the most part has left its concrete life, when separation and change of class have begun, and the people approach toward their fall; when a gulf has arisen between inward strivings and external reality, and the old forms of Religion, &c., are no longer satisfying; when Mind manifests indifference to its living existence or rests unsatisfied therein, and moral life becomes dissolved. Then it is that Mind takes refuge in the clear space of thought to create for itself a kingdom of thought in opposition to the world of actuality, and Philosophy is the reconciliation following upon the destruction of that real world which thought has begun. When Philosophy with its abstractions paints grey in grey, the freshness and life of youth has gone, the reconciliation is not a reconciliation in the actual, but in the ideal world. Thus the Greek philosophers held themselves far removed from the business of the State and were called by the people idlers, because they withdrew themselves within the world of thought.

This holds good throughout all the history of Philosophy. It was so with Ionic Philosophy in the decline of the Ionic States in Asia Minor. Socrates and Plato had no more pleasure in the life of the State in Athens, which was in the course of its decline; Plato tried to bring about something better with Dionysius. Thus in Athens, with the ruin of the Athenian people, the period was reached when Philosophy appeared. In Rome, Philosophy first expanded in the decline of the Republic and of Roman life proper, under the despotism of the Roman Emperors: a time of misfortune for the world and of decay in political life, when earlier religious systems tottered and everything was in the process of struggle and disintegration. With the decline of the Roman Empire, which was so great, rich and glorious, and yet inwardly dead, the height and indeed the zenith of[53] ancient Philosophy is associated through the Neo-Platonists at Alexandria. It was also in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, when the Teutonic life of the Middle Ages acquired another form, that Philosophy first became taught, though it was later on that it attained to independence. Before that, political life still existed in unity with Religion, or if the State fought against the Church, the Church still kept the foremost place, but now the gulf between Church and State came into existence. Philosophy thus comes in at a certain epoch only in the development of the whole.

c. Philosophy as the thought of its time.

But men do not at certain epochs, merely philosophize in general, for there is a definite Philosophy which arises among a people, and the definite character of the standpoint of thought is the same character which permeates all the other historical sides of the spirit of the people, which is most intimately related to them, and which constitutes their foundation. The particular form of a Philosophy is thus contemporaneous with a particular constitution of the people amongst whom it makes its appearance, with their institutions and forms of government, their morality, their social life and the capabilities, customs and enjoyments of the same; it is so with their attempts and achievements in art and science, with their religious, warfares and external relationships, likewise with the decadence of the States in which this particular principle and form had maintained its supremacy, and with the origination and progress of new States in which a higher principle finds its manifestation and development. Mind in each case has elaborated and expanded in the whole domain of its manifold nature the principle of the particular stage of self-consciousness to which it has attained. Thus the Mind of a people in its richness is an organization, and, like a Cathedral, is divided into numerous vaults, passages, pillars[54] and vestibules, all of which have proceeded out of one whole and are directed to one end. Philosophy is one form of these many aspects. And which is it? It is the fullest blossom, the Notion of Mind in its entire form, the consciousness and spiritual essence of all things, the spirit of the time as spirit present in itself. The multifarious whole is reflected in it as in the single focus, in the Notion which knows itself.

The Philosophy which is essential within Christianity could not be found in Rome, for all the various forms of the whole are only the expression of one and the same determinate character. Hence political history, forms of government, art and religion are not related to Philosophy as its causes, nor, on the other hand, is Philosophy the ground of their existence—one and all have the same common root, the spirit of the time. It is one determinate existence, one determinate character which permeates all sides and manifests itself in politics and in all else as in different elements; it is a condition which hangs together in all its parts, and the various parts of which contain nothing which is really inconsistent, however diverse and accidental they may appear to be, and however much they may seem to contradict one another. This particular stage is the product of the one preceding. But to show how the spirit of a particular time moulds its whole actuality and destiny in accordance with its principle, to show this whole edifice in its conception, is far from us—for that would be the object of the whole philosophic world-history. Those forms alone concern us which express the principle of the Mind in a spiritual element related to Philosophy.

This is the position of Philosophy amongst its varying forms, from which it follows that it is entirely identical with its time. But if Philosophy does not stand above its time in content, it does so in form, because, as the thought and knowledge of that which is the substantial spirit of its time, it makes that spirit its object. In as far as Philosophy[55] is in the spirit of its time, the latter is its determined content in the world, although as knowledge, Philosophy is above it, since it places it in the relation of object. But this is in form alone, for Philosophy really has no other content. This knowledge itself undoubtedly is the actuality of Mind, the self-knowledge of Mind which previously was not present: thus the formal difference is also a real and actual difference. Through knowledge, Mind makes manifest a distinction between knowledge and that which is; this knowledge is thus what produces a new form of development. The new forms at first are only special modes of knowledge, and it is thus that a new Philosophy is produced: yet since it already is a wider kind of spirit, it is the inward birthplace of the spirit which will later arrive at actual form. We shall deal further with this in the concrete below, and we shall then see that what the Greek Philosophy was, entered, in the Christian world, into actuality.

2. Separation of Philosophy from other allied departments of Knowledge.

The history of the other Sciences, of culture and above all the history of art and of religion are, partly in regard to the elements contained in them, and partly to their particular objects, related to the history of Philosophy. It is through this relationship that the treatment of the history of Philosophy has been so confused. If it is to concern itself with the possession of culture generally and then with scientific culture, and then again with popular myths and the dogmas contained only in them, and yet farther with the religious reflections which are already thoughts of a speculative kind, and which make their appearance in them, no bounds are left to Philosophy at all. This is so, partly on account of the amount of material itself and the labour required in working it up and preparing it, and partly because it is in immediate connection with so much else. But the separation[56] must not be made arbitrarily or as by chance, but must be derived from fundamental determinations. If we merely look at the name of Philosophy, all this matter will pertain to its history.

I shall speak of this material from three points of view, for three related aspects are to be eliminated and separated from Philosophy. The first of these is that which is generally considered to be the domain of science, and in which are found the beginnings of understanding thought. The second region is that of mythology and religion; the relation of Philosophy to them seems often to be inimical both in the time of the Greeks and of the Christians. The third is that of philosophizing and the metaphysics of the understanding. While we distinguish what is related to Philosophy, we must also take note of the elements in this related matter which belong to the Notion of Philosophy, but which appear to us to be partially separated from it: and thus we may become acquainted with the Notion of Philosophy.

a. Relation of Philosophy to Scientific Knowledge.

Knowledge and thought certainly form the element of whatever has to do with particular sciences as they form the element of Philosophy; but their subjects are mainly finite subjects and appearance. A collection of facts known about this content is by its nature excluded from Philosophy: neither this content nor such a form has anything to do with it. But even if the sciences are systematic and contain universal principles and laws from which they proceed, they are still related to a limited circle of objects. The ultimate principles are assumed as are the objects themselves; that is, the outward experience or the feelings of the heart, natural or educated sense of right and duty, constitute the source from which they are created. Logic and the determinations and principles of thought in general are in their methods assumed.


The forms of thought or the points of view and principles which hold good in the sciences and constitute the ultimate support of all their matter, are not peculiar to them, but are common to the condition and culture of the time and of the people. This culture consists mainly in the general ideas and aims, in the whole extent of the particular intellectual powers dominating consciousness and life. Our consciousness has these ideas and allows them to be considered ultimate determinations; it makes use of them as guiding and connecting links, but does not know them and does not even make them the objects of its consideration. To give an abstract example, each act of consciousness has and requires the whole abstract thought-determination of Being. “The sun is in the heavens, the bunch of grapes is ripe,” and so on into infinitude. Again, in a higher culture, such relations as those of cause and effect are involved, as also those of force and its manifestation. All its knowledge and ideas are permeated and governed by a metaphysic such as this; it is the net in which all the concrete matter which occupies mankind in action and in impulses, is grasped. But this web and its knots in our ordinary consciousness are sunk into a manifold material, for it contains the objects and interests which we know and which we have before us. These common threads are not drawn up and made explicitly the objects of our reflection.

We Germans seldom now count general scientific knowledge as Philosophy. And yet traces of this are found, as for instance, in the fact that the philosophic Faculty contains all the Sciences which have not as their immediate aim the Church and State. In connection with this, the significance of the name of Philosophy, which is even now an important matter of discussion in England, comes in question. Natural Sciences are in England called Philosophy. A “Philosophic Journal” in England, edited by Thompson, treats of Chemistry, Agriculture, Manuring, Husbandry, Technology, like Hermbstädt’s Journal, and gives inventions connected[58] therewith. The English call physical instruments, such as the barometer and thermometer, philosophical instruments. Theories too, and especially morality and the moral sciences, which are derived from the feelings of the human heart or from experience, are called Philosophy, and finally this is also so with the theories and principles of Political Economy. And thus at least in England, is the name of Philosophy respected. Some time ago a banquet took place under the presidency of Lord Liverpool, at which the minister Canning was also present. The latter in returning thanks congratulated England in having philosophic principles of government there brought into operation. There, at least, Philosophy is no by-word.

In the first beginnings of culture, however, we are more often met by this admixture of Philosophy and general knowledge. There comes a time to a nation when mind applies itself to universal objects, when, for example, in seeking to bring natural things under general modes of understanding, it tries to learn their causes. Then it is said that a people begins to philosophize, for this content has thought in common with Philosophy. At such a time we find deliverances about all the common events of Nature, as we also find intellectual maxims, moral sentences, general principles respecting morality, the will, duty, and the like, and those who expressed them have been called wise men or philosophers. Thus in the beginnings of Greek Philosophy we find the seven sages and the Ionic Philosophers. From them a number of ideas and discoveries are conveyed to us which seem like philosophic propositions. Thus Thales, amongst others, has explained that the eclipse of sun and moon is due to the intervention of the moon or earth. This is called a theorem. Pythagoras found out the principle of the harmony of sounds. Others have had ideas about the stars: the heavens were supposed to be composed of perforated metal, by which we see throughout the empyrean region, the eternal fire which surrounds[59] the world. Such propositions as products of the understanding, do not belong to the history of Philosophy, although they imply that the merely sensuous gaze has been left behind, as also the representation of those objects by the imagination only. Earth and heaven thus become unpeopled with gods, because the understanding distinguishes things in their outward and natural qualities from Mind.

In a later time the epoch of the revival in the sciences is as noteworthy in this respect. General principles regarding the state, &c., were given expression to, and in them a philosophic side cannot be mistaken. To this place the philosophic systems of Hobbes and Descartes belong: the writings of the latter contain philosophic principles, but his Philosophy of Nature is quite empirical. Hugo Grotius composed an international law in which what was historically held by the people as law, the consensus gentium, was a main element. Though, earlier, medicine was a collection of isolated facts and a theosophic combination mixed up with astrology, &c. (it is not so long ago since cures were effected by sacred relics), a mode of regarding nature came into vogue according to which men went forth to discover the laws and forces of Nature. The à priori reasoning regarding natural things, according to the metaphysics of the Scholastic Philosophy or to Religion, has now been given up. The Philosophy of Newton contains nothing but Natural Science, that is, the knowledge of the laws, forces, and general constitution of Nature, derived from observation and from experience. However much this may seem to be contrary to the principle of Philosophy, it has in common with it the fact that the bases of both are universal, and still further that I have made this experience, that it rests on my consciousness and obtains its significance through me.

This form is in its general aspect antagonistic to the positive, and has come forward as particularly opposed to Religion and to that which is positive in it. If, in the[60] Middle Ages, the Church had its dogmas as universal truths, man, on the contrary, has now obtained from the testimony of his “own thought,” feeling and ideas, a mistrust of these. It is merely to be remarked of this that “my own thought” is in itself a pleonasm, because each individual must think for himself, and no one can do so for another. Similarly this principle has turned against the recognized constitutions and has sought different principles instead, by them to correct the former. Universal principles of the State have now been laid down, while earlier, because religion was positive, the ground of obedience of subjects to princes and of all authority were also so. Kings, as the anointed of the Lord, in the sense that Jewish kings were so, derived their power from God, and had to give account to Him alone, because all authority is given by God. So far theology and jurisprudence were on the whole fixed and positive sciences, wherever this positive character might have been derived. Against this external authority reflection has been brought to bear, and thus, especially in England, the source of public and civil law became no longer mere authority derived from God like the Mosaic Law. For the authority of kings other justification was sought, such as the end implied in the State, the good of the people. This forms quite another source of truth, and it is opposed to that which is revealed, given and positive. This substitution of another ground than that of authority has been called philosophizing.

The knowledge was then a knowledge of what is finite—the world of the content of knowledge. Because this content proceeded through the personal insight of human reason, man has become independent in his actions. This independence of the Mind is the true moment of Philosophy, although the Notion of Philosophy through this formal determination, which limits it to finite objects, has not yet been exhausted. This independent thought is respected, has been called human wisdom or worldly wisdom, for[61] it has had what is earthly as its object, and it took its origin in the world. This was the meaning of Philosophy, and men did rightly to call it worldly wisdom. Frederick von Schlegel revived this by-name for Philosophy, and desired to indicate by it that what concerns higher spheres, such as religion, must be kept apart; and he had many followers. Philosophy, indeed, occupies itself with finite things, but, according to Spinoza, as resting in the divine Idea: it has thus the same end as religion. To the finite sciences which are now separated also from Philosophy, the Churches objected that they led men away from God, since they have as objects only what is finite. This defect in them, conceived of from the point of view of content, leads us to the second department allied to Philosophy,—that is, to Religion.

b. Relation of Philosophy to Religion.

As the first department of knowledge was related to Philosophy principally by means of formal and independent knowledge, Religion, though in its content quite different from this first kind or sphere of knowledge, is through it related to Philosophy. Its object is not the earthly and worldly, but the infinite. In the case of art and still more in that of Religion, Philosophy has in common a content composed entirely of universal objects; they constitute the mode in which the highest Idea is existent for the unphilosophical feeling, the perceiving and imagining consciousness. Inasmuch as in the progress of culture in time the manifestation of Religion precedes the appearance of Philosophy, this circumstance must really be taken account of, and the conditions requisite for beginning the History of Philosophy have to depend on this, because it has to be shown in how far what pertains to Religion is to be excluded from it, and that a commencement must not be made with Religion.


In Religion, races of men have undoubtedly expressed their idea of the nature of the world, the substance of nature and of intellect and the relation of man thereto. Absolute Being is here the object of their consciousness; and as such, is for them pre-eminently the “other,” a “beyond,” nearer or further off, more or less friendly or frightful and alarming. In the act and forms of worship this opposition is removed by man, and he raises himself to the consciousness of unity with his Being, to the feeling of, or dependence on, the Grace of God, in that God has reconciled mankind to Himself. In conception, with the Greeks, for instance, this existence is to man one which is already in and for itself and friendly, and thus worship is but the enjoyment of this unity. This existence is now reason which is existent in and for itself, the universal and concrete substance, the Mind whose first cause is objective to itself in consciousness; it thus is a representation of this last in which not only reason in general, but the universal infinite reason is. We must, therefore, comprehend Religion, as Philosophy, before everything else, which means to know and apprehend it in reason; for it is the work of self-revealing reason and is the highest form of reason. Such ideas as that priests have framed a people’s Religion in fraud and self-interest are consequently absurd; to regard Religion as an arbitrary matter or a deception is as foolish as it is perverted. Priests have often profaned Religion—the possibility of which is a consequence of the external relations and temporal existence of Religion. It can thus, in this external connection, be laid hold of here and there, but because it is Religion, it is really that which stands firm against finite ends and their complications and constitutes a region exalted high above them. This region of Mind is really the Holy place of Truth itself, the Holy place in which are dissolved the remaining illusions of the sensuous world, of finite ideas and ends, and of the sphere of opinion and caprice.


Inasmuch as it really is the content of religions, this rational matter might now seem to be capable of being abstracted and expressed as a number of historical theorems. Philosophy stands on the same basis as Religion and has the same object—the universal reason existing in and for itself; Mind desires to make this object its own, as is done with Religion in the act and form of worship. But the form, as it is present in Religion, is different from what is found to be contained in Philosophy, and on this account a history of Philosophy is different from a history of Religion. Worship is only the operation of reflection; Philosophy attempts to bring about the reconciliation by means of thinking knowledge, because Mind desires to take up its Being into itself. Philosophy is related in the form of thinking consciousness to its object; with Religion it is different. But the distinction between the two should not be conceived of so abstractly as to make it seem that thought is only in Philosophy and not in Religion. The latter has likewise ideas and universal thoughts. Because both are so nearly related, it is an old tradition in the history of Philosophy to deduce Philosophy from Persian, Indian, or similar philosophy, a custom which is still partly retained in all histories of Philosophy. For this reason, too, it is a legend universally believed, that Pythagoras, for instance, received his Philosophy from India and Egypt; the fame of the wisdom of these people, which wisdom is understood also to contain Philosophy, is an old one. The Oriental ideas and religious worship which prevailed throughout the West up to the time of the Roman Empire, likewise bear the name of Oriental Philosophy. The Christian Religion and Philosophy are thought of in the Christian world, as more definitely divided; in these Eastern days, on the other hand, Religion and Philosophy are still conceived of as one in so far as that the content has remained in the form in which it is Philosophy. Considering the prevalence of these ideas and in order to have[64] a definite limit to the relations between a history of Philosophy and religious ideas, it is desirable to note some further considerations as to the form which separates religious ideas from philosophical theorems.

Religion has not only universal thought as inward content implicite contained in its myths, ideas, imaginations and in its exact and positive histories, so that we require first of all to dig this content out of such myths in the form of theorems, but it often has its content explicite in the form of thought. In the Persian and Indian Religions very deep, sublime and speculative thoughts are even expressed. Indeed, in Religion we even meet philosophies directly expressed, as in the Philosophy of the Fathers. The scholastic Philosophy really was Theology; there is found in it a union or, if you will, a mixture of Theology and Philosophy which may very well puzzle us. The question which confronts us on the one side is, how Philosophy differs from Theology, as the science of Religion, or from Religion as consciousness? And then, in how far have we in the history of Philosophy to take account of what pertains to Religion? For the reply to this last question three aspects have again to be dealt with; first of all the mythical and historical aspect of Religion and its relation to Philosophy; in the second place the theorems and speculative thoughts directly expressed in Religion; and in the third place we must speak of Philosophy within Theology.

α. Difference between Philosophy and Religion.

The consideration of the mythical aspect of Religion or the historical and positive side generally, is interesting, because from it the difference in respect of form will show in what this content is antagonistic to Philosophy. Indeed, taken in its connections, its difference passes into apparent inconsistency. This diversity is not only found in our contemplation[65] but forms a very definite element in history. It is required by Philosophy that it should justify its beginning and its manner of knowledge, and Philosophy has thus placed itself in opposition to Religion. On the other hand Philosophy is combated and condemned by Religion and by the Churches. The Greek popular religion indeed, proscribed several philosophers; but the opposition is even more apparent in the Christian Church. The question is thus not only whether regard is to be paid to Religion in the history of Philosophy, for it has been the case that Philosophy has paid attention to Religion, and the latter to the former. Since neither of the two has allowed the other to rest undisturbed, we are not permitted to do so either. Of their relations, therefore, we must speak definitely, openly and honestly—aborder la question, as the French say. We must not hesitate, as if such a discussion were too delicate, nor try to help ourselves out by beating about the bush; nor must we seek to find evasions or shifts, so that in the end no one can tell what we mean. We must not seem to wish to leave Religion alone. This is nothing else than to appear to wish to conceal the fact that Philosophy has directed its efforts against Religion. Religion, that is, the theologians, are indeed the cause of this; they ignore Philosophy, but only in order that they may not be contradicted in their arbitrary reasoning.

It may appear as if Religion demanded that man should abstain from thinking of universal matters and Philosophy because they are merely worldly wisdom and represent human operations. Human reason is here opposed to the divine. Men are, indeed, well accustomed to a distinction between divine teaching and laws and human power and inventions, such that under the latter everything is comprehended which in its manifestation proceeds from the consciousness, the intelligence or the will of mankind; which makes all this opposed to the knowledge of God and to things rendered divine by divine revelation. But the[66] depreciation of what is human expressed by this opposition is then driven further still, inasmuch as while it implies the further view that man is certainly called upon to admire the wisdom of God in Nature, and that the grain, the mountains, the cedars of Lebanon in all their glory, the song of the birds in the bough, the superior skill and the domestic instincts of animals are all magnified as being the work of God, it also implies that the wisdom, goodness and justice of God is, indeed, pointed out in human affairs, but not so much in the disposition or laws of man or in actions performed voluntarily and in the ordinary progress of the world, as in human destiny, that is, in that which is external and even arbitrary in relation to knowledge and free-will. Thus what is external and accidental is regarded as emphatically the work of God, and what has its root in will and conscience, as the work of man. The harmony between outward relations, circumstances and events and the general aims of man is certainly something of a higher kind, but this is the case only for the reason that this harmony is considered with respect to ends which are human and not natural—such as those present in the life of a sparrow which finds its food. But if the summit of everything is found in this, that God rules over Nature, what then is free-will? Does He not rule over what is spiritual, or rather since He himself is spiritual, in what is spiritual? and is not the ruler over or in the spiritual region higher than a ruler over or in Nature? But is that admiration of God as revealed in natural things as such, in trees and animals as opposed to what is human, far removed from the religion of the ancient Egyptians, which derived its knowledge of what is divine from the ibis, or from cats and dogs? or does it differ from the deplorable condition of the ancient and the modern Indians, who held and still hold cows and apes in reverence, and are scrupulously concerned for the maintenance and nourishment of these animals, while they allow men to suffer hunger; who would commit a crime by removing[67] the pangs of starvation through their slaughter or even by partaking of their food?

It seems to be expressed by such a view that human action as regards Nature is ungodly; that the operations of Nature are divine operations, but what man produces is ungodly. But the productions of human reason might, at least, be esteemed as much as Nature. In so doing, however, we cede less to reason than is permitted to us. If the life and the action of animals be divine, human action must stand much higher, and must be worthy to be called divine in an infinitely higher sense. The preeminence of human thought must forthwith be avowed. Christ says on this subject (Matt. vi. 26-80), “Behold the fowls of the air,” (in which we may also include the Ibis and the Kokilas,) “are ye not much better than they? Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to-day is, and to-morrow is cast into the oven, shall He not much more clothe you?” The superiority of man, of the image of God, to animals and plants is indeed implicitly and explicitly established, but in asking wherein the divine element is to be sought and seen—in making use of such expressions—none of the superior, but only the inferior nature, is indicated. Similarly, in regard to the knowledge of God, it is remarkable that Christ places the knowledge of and faith in Him not in any admiration of the creatures of nature nor in marvelling at any so-called dominion, over them, nor in signs and wonders, but in the witness of the Spirit. Spirit is infinitely high above Nature, in it the Divine Nature manifests itself more than in Nature.

But the form in which the universal content which is in and for itself, first belongs to Philosophy is the form of Thought, the form of the universal itself. In Religion, however, this content is for immediate and outward perception, and further for idea and sensation through art. The import is for the sensuous nature; it is the evidence of the Mind which comprehends that content. To[68] make this clearer, the difference must be recollected between that which we are and have, and how we know the same—that is, in what manner we know it and have it as our object. This distinction is an infinitely important matter, and it alone is concerned in the culture of races and of individuals. We are men and have reason; what is human, or above all, what is rational vibrates within us, both in our feelings, mind and heart and in our subjective nature generally. It is in this corresponding vibration and in the corresponding motion effected that a particular content becomes our own and is like our own. The manifold nature of the determinations which it contains is concentrated and wrapt up within this inward nature—an obscure motion of Mind in itself and in universal substantiality. The content is thus directly identical with the simple abstract certainty of ourselves and with self-consciousness. But Mind, because it is Mind, is as truly consciousness. What is confined within itself in its simplicity must be objective to itself and must come to be known. The whole difference lies in the manner and method of this objectivity, and hence in the manner and method of consciousness.

This method and manner extends from the simple expression of the dulness of mere feeling to the most objective form, to that which is in and for itself objective, to Thought. The most simple, most formal objectivity is the expression of a name for that feeling and for the state of mind according with it, as seen in these words, worship, prayer, etc. Such expressions as “Let us pray” and “Let us worship” are simply the recalling of that feeling. But “Let us think about God” brings with it something more; it expresses the absolutely embracing content of that substantial feeling, and the object, which differs from mere sensation as subjective self-conscious activity; or which is content distinguished from this activity as form. This object, however, comprehending in itself the whole substantial content, is itself still undeveloped and entirely undetermined.[69] To develop that content, to comprehend, express and bring to consciousness its relations, is the commencement, creation and manifestation of Religion. The form in which this developed content first possesses objectivity is that of immediate perception, of sensuous idea or of a more defined idea deduced from natural, physical or mental manifestations and conditions.

Art brings about this consciousness, in that it gives permanence and cohesion to the fleeting visible appearance through which objectivity passes in sensation. The shapeless, sacred stone, the mere place, or whatever it is to which the desire for objectivity first attaches itself, receives from art, form, feature, determinate character and content which can be known and which is now present for consciousness. Art has thus become the instructress of the people. This was the case with Homer and Hesiod for instance, who, according to Herodotus (II. 53), “Made the Greeks their Theogony,” because they elevated and consolidated ideas and traditions in unison with the spirit of the people, wherever and in whatever confusion they might be found, into definite images and ideas. This is not the art which merely gives expression in its own way to the content, already perfectly expressed, of a Religion which in thought, idea and words has already attained complete development; that is to say, which puts its matter into stone, canvas, or words as is done by modern art, which, in dealing either with religious or with historical objects, takes as its groundwork ideas and thoughts which are already there. The consciousness of this Religion is rather the product of thinking imagination, or of thought which comprehends through the organ of imagination alone and finds expression in its forms.

If the infinite Thought, the absolute Mind, has revealed and does reveal itself in true Religion, that in which it reveals itself is the heart, the representing consciousness and the understanding of what is finite. Religion is[70] not merely directed to every sort of culture. “To the poor is the Gospel preached,” but it must as being Religion expressly directed towards heart and mind, enter into the sphere of subjectivity and consequently into the region of finite methods of representation. In the perceiving and, with reference to perceptions, reflecting consciousness, man possesses for the speculative relations belonging to the absolute, only finite relations, whether taken in an exact or in a symbolical sense, to serve him to comprehend and express those qualities and relationships of the infinite.

In Religion as the earliest and the immediate revelations of God, the form of representation and of reflecting finite thought cannot be the only form in which He gives existence to Himself in consciousness, but it must also appear in this form, for such alone is comprehensible to religious consciousness. To make this clearer, something must be said as to what is the meaning of comprehension. On the one hand, as has been remarked above, there is in it the substantial basis of content, which, coming to Mind as its absolute Being, affects it in its innermost, finds an answering chord, and thereby obtains from it confirmation. This is the first absolute condition necessary to comprehension; what is not implicitly there cannot come within it or be for it—that is, a content which is infinite and eternal. For the substantial as infinite, is just that which has no limitations in that to which it is related, for else it would be limited and not the true substantial. And Mind is that alone which is not implicit, which is finite and external; for what is finite and external is no longer what is implicit but what is for another, what has entered into a relation. But, on the other hand, because the true and eternal must be for Mind become known, that is, enter into finite consciousness, the Mind for which it is, is finite and the manner of its consciousness consists in the ideas and forms of finite things and relations. These[71] forms are familiar and well known to consciousness, the ordinary mode of finality, which mode it has appropriated to itself, having constituted it the universal medium of its representation, into which everything that comes to consciousness must be resolved in order that it may have and know itself therein.

The assertion of Religion is that the manifestation of Truth which is revealed to us through it, is one which is given to man from outside, and on this account it is also asserted that man has humbly to assent to it, because human reason cannot attain to it by itself. The assertion of positive Religion is that its truths exist without having their source known, so that the content as given, is one which is above and beyond reason. By means of some prophet or other divine instrument, the truth is made known: just as Ceres and Triptolemus who introduced agriculture and matrimony, for so doing were honoured by the Greeks, men have rendered thanks to Moses and to Mahomed. Through whatever individual the Truth may have been given, the external matter is historical, and this is indifferent to the absolute content and to itself, since the person is not the import of the doctrine. But the Christian Religion has this characteristic that the Person of Christ in His character of the Son of God, Himself partakes of the nature of God. If Christ be for Christians only a teacher like Pythagoras, Socrates or Columbus, there would be here no universal divine content, no revelation or knowledge imparted about the Nature of God, and it is regarding this alone that we desire to obtain knowledge.

Whatever stage it may itself have reached, the Truth must undoubtedly in the first place come to men from without as a present object, sensuously represented, just as Moses saw God in the fiery bush, and as the Greek brought the god into conscious being by means of sculpture or other representations. But there is the further fact, that neither in Religion nor in Philosophy does this[72] external form remain, nor can it so remain. A form of the imagination or an historical form, such as Christ, must for the spirit be spiritual; and thus it ceases to be an external matter, seeing that the form of externality is dead. We must know God “in Spirit and in Truth.” He is the absolute and actual Spirit. The relation borne by the human spirit to this Spirit involves the following considerations.

When man determines to adopt a Religion he asks himself, “What is the ground of my faith?” The Christian Religion replies—“The Spirit’s witness to its content.” Christ reproved the Pharisees for wishing to see miracles; the Spirit alone comprehends Spirit, the miracle is only a presentiment of that Spirit; and if the miracle be the suspension of natural laws, Spirit itself is the real miracle in the operations of nature. Spirit in itself is merely this comprehension of itself. There is only one Spirit, the universal divine Spirit. Not that it is merely everywhere; it is not to be comprehended as what is common to everything, as an external totality, to be found in many or in all individuals, which are essentially individuals; but it must be understood as that which permeates through everything, as the unity of itself and of a semblance of its “other,” as of the subjective and particular. As universal, it is object to itself, and thus determined as a particular, it is this individual: but as universal it reaches over this its “other,” so that its “other” and itself are comprised in one. The true universality seems, popularly expressed, to be two—what is common to the universal itself and to the particular. A division is formed in the understanding of itself, and the Spirit is the unity of what is understood and the understanding person. The divine Spirit which is comprehended, is objective; the subjective Spirit comprehends. But Spirit is not passive, or else the passivity can be momentary only; there is one spiritual substantial unity. The subjective Spirit is the active, but the objective Spirit is itself[73] this activity; the active subjective Spirit is that which comprehends the divine, and in its comprehension of it it is itself the divine Spirit. The relation of Spirit to self alone is the absolute determination; the divine Spirit lives in its own communion and presence. This comprehension has been called Faith, but it is not an historical faith; we Lutherans—I am a Lutheran and will remain the same—have only this original faith. This unity is not the Substance of Spinoza, but the apprehending Substance in self-consciousness which makes itself eternal and relates to universality. The talk about the limitations of human thought is futile; to know God is the only end of Religion. The testimony of the Spirit to the content of Religion is itself Religion; it is a testimony that both bears witness and at the same time is that witness. The Spirit proves itself, and does so first in the proof; it is only proved because it proves itself and shows or manifests itself.

It has further to be said, that this testimony, this inward stirring and self-consciousness, reveals itself, while in the enshrouded consciousness of devotion it does not arrive at the proper consciousness of an object, but only at the consciousness of immersion in absolute Being. This permeating and permeated Spirit now enters into conception; God goes forth into the “other” and makes Himself objective. All that pertains to revelation and its reception, and which comes before us in mythology, here appears; everything which is historical and which belongs to what is positive has here its proper place. To speak more definitely, we now have the Christ who came into the world nearly two thousand years ago. But He says, “I am with you even unto the ends of the earth; where two or three are gathered together in My Name, there will I be in the midst.” I shall not be seen of you in the flesh, but “The Spirit of Truth will guide you into all Truth.” The external is not the true relation; it will disappear.

The two stages have here been given, the first of which[74] is the stage of devotion, of worship, such as that reached in partaking of the Communion. That is the perception of the divine Spirit in the community in which the present, indwelling, living Christ as self-consciousness has attained to actuality. The second stage is that of developed consciousness, when the content becomes the object; here this present, indwelling Christ retreats two thousand years to a small corner of Palestine, and is an individual historically manifested far away at Nazareth or Jerusalem. It is the same thing in the Greek Religion where the god present in devotion changes into prosaic statues and marble; or in painting, where this externality is likewise arrived at, when the god becomes mere canvas or wood. The Supper is, according to the Lutheran conception, of Faith alone; it is a divine satisfaction, and is not adored as if it were the Host. Thus a sacred image is no more to us than is a stone or thing. The second point of view must indeed be that with which consciousness begins; it must start from the external comprehension of this form: it must passively accept report and take it up into memory. But if it remain where it is, that is the unspiritual point of view; to remain fixed in this second standpoint in this dead far-away historic distance, is to reject the Spirit. The sins of him who lies against the Holy Ghost cannot be forgiven. That lie is the refusal to be a universal, to be holy, that is to make Christ become divided, separated, to make Him only another person as this particular person in Judea; or else to say that He now exists, but only far away in Heaven, or in some other place, and not in present actual form amongst His people. The man who speaks of the merely finite, of merely human reason, and of the limits to mere reason, lies against the Spirit, for the Spirit as infinite and universal, as self-comprehension, comprehends itself not in a “merely” nor in limits, nor in the finite as such. It has nothing to do with this, for it comprehends itself within itself alone, in its infinitude.


If it be said of Philosophy that it makes reality the subject of its knowledge, the principal point is that the reality should not be one outside of that of which it is the reality. For example, if from the real content of a book, I abstract the binding, paper, ink, language, the many thousand letters that are contained in it, the simple universal content as reality, is not outside of the book. Similarly law is not outside of the individual, but it constitutes the true Being of the individual. The reality of my Mind is thus in my Mind itself and not outside of it; it is my real Being, my own substance, without which I am without existence. This reality is, so to speak, the combustible material which may be kindled and lit up by the universal reality as such as objective; and only so far as this phosphorus is in men, is comprehension, the kindling and lighting up, possible. Feeling, anticipation, knowledge of God, are only thus in men; without such, the divine Mind would not be the in and for itself Universal. Reality is itself a real content and not the destitute of content and undetermined; yet, as the book has other content besides, there is in the individual mind also a great amount of other matter which belongs only to the manifestation of this reality, and the individual surrounded with what is external, must be separated from this existence. Since reality is itself Spirit and not an abstraction, “God is not a God for the dead but for the living,” and indeed for living spirits.

The great Creator was alone
And experienced desire,
Therefore He created Spirits,
Holy mirrors of His holiness.
The noblest Being He found no equal;
From out the bowl of all the spiritual world,
There sparkled up to Him infinitude.

Religion is also the point of view from which this existence is known. But as regards the different forms of knowledge existing in Religion and Philosophy, Philosophy[76] appears to be opposed to the conception in Religion that the universal mind first shows itself as external, in the objective mode of consciousness. Worship, commencing with the external, then turns against and abrogates it as has just been said, and thus Philosophy is justified through the acts and forms of worship, and only does what they do. Philosophy has to deal with two different objects; first as in the Religion present in worship, with the substantial content, the spiritual soul, and secondly with bringing this before consciousness as object, but in the form of thought. Philosophy thinks and conceives of that which Religion represents as the object of consciousness, whether it is as the work of the imagination or as existent facts in history. The form of the knowledge of the object is, in religious consciousness, such as pertains to the ordinary idea, and is thus more or less sensuous in nature. In Philosophy we do not say that God begot a Son, which is a relation derived from natural life. Thought, or the substance of such a relation, is therefore still recognized in Philosophy. Since Philosophy thinks its object, it has the advantage of uniting the two stages of religious consciousness—which in Religion are different moments—into one unity in philosophic thought.

It is these two forms which are different from one another and which, as opposed, may therefore seem to be mutually conflicting; and it is natural and it necessarily seems to be the case, that on first definitely coming to view they are so to speak conscious of their diversity, and hence at first appear as inimical to one another. The first stage in the order of manifestation is definite existence, or a determinate Being-for-self as opposed to the other. The later form is that Thought embraces itself in the concrete, immerses itself in itself, and Mind, as such, comes in it to consciousness. In the earlier stage, Mind is abstract, and in this constraint it knows itself to be different, and in opposition to the other. When it embraces itself in the concrete, it is no[77] more simply confined in determinate existence, only knowing or possessing itself in that diversity, but it is the Universal which, inasmuch as it determines itself, contains its “other” within itself. As concrete intelligence, Mind thus comprehends the substantial in the form which seemed to differ from it, of which it had only grasped the outward manifestation and had turned away from it; it recognizes itself in its inward content, and so it for the first time grasps its object, and deals justice to its opposite.

Generally speaking, the course of this antithesis in history is that Thought first of all comes forth within Religion, as not free and in separate manifestations. Secondly, it strengthens itself, feels itself to be resting upon itself, holds and conducts itself inimically towards the other form, and does not recognize itself therein. In the third place, it concludes by acknowledging itself as in this other. Or else Philosophy has to begin with carrying on its work entirely on its own account, isolating Thought from all popular beliefs, and taking for itself quite a different field of operation, a field for which the world of ordinary ideas lies quite apart, so that the two exist peacefully side by side, or, to put it better, so that no reflection on their opposition is arrived at. Just as little did the thought of reconciling them occur, since in the popular beliefs the same content appeared as in any external form other than the notion—the thought that is, of explaining and justifying popular belief, in order thus to be able again to express the conceptions of free thought in the form of popular religion.

Thus we see Philosophy first restrained and confined within the range of the Greek heathen world; then resting upon itself, it goes forth against popular religion and takes up an unfriendly attitude to it, until it grasps that religion in its innermost and recognizes itself therein. Thus the ancient Greek philosophers generally respected the popular religion, or at least they did not oppose it, or reflect upon it. Those coming later, including even Xenophanes,[78] handled popular ideas most severely, and thus many so-called atheists made their appearance. But as the spheres of popular conception, and abstract thought stood peacefully side by side, we also find Greek philosophers of even a later period in development, in whose case speculative thought and the act of worship, as also the pious invocation upon and sacrifice to the gods, coexist in good faith, and not in mere hypocrisy. Socrates was accused of teaching other gods than those belonging to the popular religion; his δαιμόνιον was indeed opposed to the principles of Greek morals and religion, but at the same time he followed quite honestly the usages of his religion, and we know besides that his last request was to ask his friends to offer a cock to Æsculapius—a desire quite inconsistent with his conclusions regarding the existence of God and above all regarding morality. Plato declaimed against the poets and their gods. It was in a much later time that the Neo-platonists first recognized in the popular mythology rejected earlier by the philosophers, the universal content; they transposed and translated it into what is significant for thought, and thus used mythology itself as a symbolical imagery for giving expression to their formulas.

Similarly do we see in the Christian Religion, thought which is not independent first placing itself in conjunction with the form belonging to this Religion and acting within it—that is to say, taking the Religion as its groundwork, and proceeding from the absolute assumption of the Christian doctrine. We see later on the opposition between so-called faith and so-called reason; when the wings of thought have become strengthened, the young eaglet flies away for himself to the sun of Truth; but like a bird of prey he turns upon Religion and combats it. Latest of all Philosophy permits full justice to be done to the content of Religion through the speculative Notion, which is through Thought itself. For this end the Notion must have grasped itself in the concrete and penetrated to concrete spirituality.[79] This must be the standpoint of the Philosophy of the present time; it has begun within Christianity and can have no other content than the world-spirit. When that spirit comprehends itself in Philosophy, it also comprehends itself in that form which formerly was inimical to Philosophy.

Thus Religion has a content in common with Philosophy the forms alone being different; and the only essential point is that the form of the Notion should be so far perfected as to be able to grasp the content of Religion. The Truth is just that which has been called the mysteries of Religion. These constitute the speculative element in Religion such as were called by the Neo-platonists μυεῖν, μυεῖσθαι (being initiated), or being occupied with speculative Notions. By mysteries is meant, superficially speaking, the secret, what remains such and does not arrive at being known. But in the Eleusinian mysteries there was nothing unknown; all Athenians were initiated into them, Socrates alone shut himself out. Openly to make them known to strangers was the one thing forbidden, as indeed it was made a crime in the case of certain people. Such matters however, as being holy, were not to be spoken of. Herodotus often expressly says (e.g. ii. 45-47) that he would speak of the Egyptian Divinities and mysteries in as far as it was pious so to do: he knew more, but it would be impious to speak of them. In the Christian Religion dogmas are called mysteries. They are that which man knows about the Nature of God. Neither is there anything mysterious in this; it is known by all those who are partakers in that Religion, and these are thus distinguished from the followers of other Religions. Hence mystery here signifies nothing unknown, since all Christians are in the secret. Mysteries are in their nature speculative, mysterious certainly to the understanding, but not to reason; they are rational, just in the sense of being speculative. The understanding does not comprehend the speculative which simply is the concrete because it holds to[80] the differences in their separation; their contradiction is indeed contained in the mystery, which, however, is likewise the resolution of the same.

Philosophy, on the contrary, is opposed to the so-called Rationalism of the new Theology which for ever keeps reason on its lips, but which is dry understanding only; no reason is recognizable in it as the moment of independent thought which really is abstract thought and that alone. When the understanding which does not comprehend the truths of Religion, calls itself the illuminating reason and plays the lord and master, it goes astray. Rationalism is opposed to Philosophy in content and form, for it has made the content empty as it has made the heavens, and has reduced all that is, to finite relations—in its form it is a reasoning process which is not free and which has no conceiving power. The supernatural in Religion is opposed to rationalism, and if indeed the latter is related in respect of the real content to Philosophy, yet it differs from it in form, for it has become unspiritual and wooden, looking for its justification to mere external authority. The scholastics were not supernaturalists in this sense; they knew the dogmas of the Church in thought and in conception. If Religion in the inflexibility of its abstract authority as opposed to thought, declares of it that “the gates of Hell shall not triumph over it,” the gates of reason are stronger than the gates of Hell, not to overcome the Church but to reconcile itself to the Church. Philosophy, as the conceiving thought of this content, has as regards the idea of Religion, the advantage of comprehending both sides—it comprehends Religion and also comprehends both rationalism and supernaturalism and itself likewise. But this is not the case on the other side. Religion from the standpoint of idea, comprehends only what stands on the same platform as itself, and not Philosophy, the Notion, the universal thought determinations. Often no injustice is done to a Philosophy when its opposition to Religion has been made[81] matter of reproach; but often, too, a wrong has been inflicted where this is done from the religious point of view.

The form of Religion is necessary to Mind as it is in and for itself; it is the form of truth as it is for all men, and for every mode of consciousness. This universal mode is first of all for men in the form of sensuous consciousness, and then, secondly, in the intermingling of the form of the universal with sensuous manifestation or reflection—the representing consciousness, the mythical, positive and historical form, is that pertaining to the understanding. What is received in evidence of Mind only becomes object to consciousness when it appears in the form of the understanding, that is to say, consciousness must first be already acquainted with these forms from life and from experience. Now, because thinking consciousness is not the outward universal form for all mankind, the consciousness of the true, the spiritual and the rational, must have the form of Religion, and this is the universal justification of this form.

We have here laid down the distinction between Philosophy and Religion, but taking into account what it is we wish to deal with in the history of Philosophy, there is something still which must be remarked upon, and which partly follows from what has been already said. There is the question still confronting us as to what attitude we must take in reference to this matter in the history of Philosophy.

β. The religious element to be excluded from the content of the History of Philosophy.

αα. Mythology first meets us, and it seems as if it might be drawn within the history of Philosophy. It is indeed a product of the imagination, but not of caprice, although that also has its place here. But the main part of mythology is the work of the imaginative reason, which makes reality its object, but yet has no other means[82] of so doing, than that of sensuous representation, so that the gods make their appearance in human guise. Mythology can now be studied for art, &c. But the thinking mind must seek out the substantial content, the thought and the theory implicitly contained therein, as reason is sought in Nature. This mode of treating mythology was that of the Neo-platonists; in recent times it has for the most part become the work of my friend Creuzer in symbolism. This method of treatment is combated and condemned by others. Man, it is said, must set to work historically alone, and it is not historic when a theory unthought of by the ancients, is read into a myth, or brought out of it. In one light, this is quite correct, for it points to a method adopted by Creuzer, and also by the Alexandrians who acted in a similar way. In conscious thought the ancients had not such theories before them, nor did anyone maintain them, yet to say that such content was not implicitly present, is an absurd contention. As the products of reason, though not of thinking reason, the religions of the people, as also the mythologies, however simple and even foolish they may appear, indubitably contain as genuine works of art, thoughts, universal determinations and truth, for the instinct of reason is at their basis. Bound up with this is the fact that since mythology in its expression takes sensuous forms, much that is contingent and external becomes intermingled, for the representation of the Notion in sensuous forms always possesses a certain incongruity, seeing that what is founded on imagination cannot express the Idea in its real aspect. This sensuous form produced as it is by an historic or natural method, must be determined on many sides, and this external determination must, more or less, be of such a nature as not to express the Idea. It may also be that many errors are contained in that explanation, particularly when a single one is brought within our notice; all the customs, actions, furnishings, vestments, and offerings[83] taken together, may undoubtedly contain something of the Idea in analogy, but the connection is far removed, and many contingent circumstances must find their entrance. But that there is a Reason there, must certainly be recognized, and it is essential so to comprehend and grasp mythology.

But Mythology must remain excluded from our history of Philosophy. The reason of this is found in the fact that in Philosophy we have to do not with theorems generally, or with thoughts which only are implicite contained in some particular form or other, but with thoughts which are explicit, and only in so far as they are explicit and in so far as a content such as that belonging to Religion, has come to consciousness in the form of Thought. And this is just what forms the immense distinction which we saw above, between capacity and actuality. The theorems which are implicite contained within Religion do not concern us; they must be in the form of thoughts, since Thought alone is the absolute form of the Idea.

In many mythologies, images are certainly used along with their significance, or else the images are closely attended by their interpretation. The ancient Persians worshipped the sun, or fire, as being the highest existence; the first cause in the Persian Religion is Zervane Akerene—unlimited time, eternity. This simple eternal existence possesses according to Diogenes Lærtius (I. 8), “the two principles Ormuzd (Ὠρομάσδης) and Ahriman (Ἀρειμάνος), the rulers over good and evil.” Plutarch in writing on Isis and Osiris (T. II. p. 369, ed. Xyl.) says, “It is not one existence which holds and rules the whole, but good is mingled with evil; nature as a rule brings forth nothing pure and simple; it is not one dispenser, who, like a host, gives out and mixes up the drink from two different barrels. But through two opposed and inimical principles of which the one impels towards what is right, and the other in the opposite direction, if not the whole world, at[84] least this earth is influenced in different ways. Zoroaster has thus emphatically set up the one principle (Ormuzd) as being the Light, and the other (Ahriman) as the Darkness. Between the two (μέσος δὲ ἀμφοῖν) is Mithra, hence called by the Persians the Mediator (μεσίτης).” Mithra is then likewise substance, the universal existence, the sun raised to a totality. It is not the mediator between Ormuzd and Ahriman by establishing peace and leaving each to remain as it was; it does not partake of good and evil both, like an unblest middle thing, but it stands on the side of Ormuzd and strives with him against the evil. Ahriman is sometimes called the first-born son of the Light, but Ormuzd only remained within the Light. At the creation of the visible world, Ormuzd places on the earth in his incomprehensible kingdom of Light, the firm arches of the heavens which are above yet surrounded on every side with the first original Light. Midway to the earth is the high hill Albordi, which reaches into the source of Light. Ormuzd’s empire of Light extended uninterruptedly over the firm vault of the heavens and the hill Albordi, and over the earth too, until the third age was reached. Then Ahriman, whose kingdom of night was formerly bound beneath the earth, broke in upon Ormuzd’s corporeal world and ruled in common with him. Now the space between heaven and earth was divided into light and night. As Ormuzd had formerly only a spiritual kingdom of light, Ahriman had only one of night, but now that they were intermingled he placed the terrestrial light thus created in opposition to the terrestrial night. From this time on, two corporeal worlds stand opposed, one pure and good, and one impure and evil, and this opposition permeates all nature. On Albordi, Ormuzd created Mithra as mediator for the earth. The end of the creation of the bodily world is none other than to reinstate existence, fallen from its creator, to make it good again, and thus to make the evil disappear for ever. The bodily world is the battle-ground[85] between good and evil; but the battle between light and darkness is not in itself an absolute and irreconcilable opposition, but one which can be conquered, and in it Ormuzd, the principle of Light, will be the conqueror.

I would remark of this, that when we consider the elements in these ideas which bear some further connection with Philosophy, the universal of that duality with which the Notion is necessarily set forth can alone be interesting and noteworthy to us; for in it the Notion is just the immediate opposite of itself, the unity of itself with itself in the “other:” a simple existence in which absolute opposition appears as the opposition of existence, and the sublation of that opposition. Because properly the Light principle is the only existence of both, and the principle of Darkness is the null and void,—the principle of Light identifies itself with Mithra, which was before called the highest existence. The opposition has laid aside the appearance of contingency, but the spiritual principle is not separate from the physical, because the good and evil are both determined as Light and Darkness. We thus here see thought breaking forth from actuality, and yet not such a separation as only takes place in Religion, when the supersensuous is itself again represented in a manner sensuous, notionless and dispersed, for the whole of what is dispersed in sensuous form is gathered together in the one single opposition, and activity is thus simply represented. These determinations lie much nearer to Thought; they are not mere images or symbols, but yet these myths do not concern Philosophy. In them Thought does not take the first place, for the myth-form remains predominant. In all religions this oscillation between form and thought is found, and such a combination still lies outside Philosophy.

This is also so in the Sanchuniathonic Cosmogony of the Phœnicians. These fragments, which are found in Eusebius (Præpar. Evang. I. 10), are taken from the translation of the Sanchuniathon from Phœnician into[86] Greek made by a Grammarian named Philo from Biblus. Philo lived in the time of Vespasian and ascribes great antiquity to the Sanchuniathon. It is there said, “The principles of things are found in Chaos, in which the elements exist undeveloped and confused, and in a Spirit of Air. The latter permeated the chaos, and with it engendered a slimy matter or mud (ἰλύν) which contained within it the living forces and the germs of animals. By mingling this mud with the component matter of chaos and the resulting fermentation, the elements separated themselves. The fire elements ascended into the heights and formed the stars. Through their influence in the air, clouds were formed and the earth was made fruitful. From the mingling of water and earth, through the mud converted into putrefying matter, animals took their origin as imperfect and senseless. These again begot other animals perfect and endowed with senses. It was the crash of thunder in a thunder-storm that caused the first animals still sleeping in their husks to waken up to life.”[7]

The fragments of Berosus of the Chaldeans were collected from Josephus, Syncellus and Eusebius under the title Berosi Chaldaica, by Scaliger, as an appendix to his work De emendatione temporum, and they are found complete in the Greek Library of Fabricius (T. xiv. pp. 175-211). Berosus lived in the time of Alexander, is said to have been a Priest of Bel and to have drawn upon the archives of the temple at Babylon. He says, “The original god is Bel and the goddess Omoroka (the sea), but beside them there were yet other gods. Bel divided Omoroka in two, in order to create from her parts heaven and earth. Hereupon he cut off his own head and the human race originated from the drops of his divine blood. After the creation of man, Bel banished the darkness, divided heaven and earth, and formed the world into its natural shape. Since certain parts of the[87] earth seemed to him to be insufficiently populated, he compelled another god to lay hands upon himself, and from his blood more men and more kinds of animals were created. At first the men lived a wild and uncultivated life, until a monster” (called by Berosus, Oannes) “joined them into a state, taught them arts and sciences, and in a word brought Humanity into existence. The monster set about this end with the rising of the sun out of the sea, and with its setting he again hid himself under the waves.”

ββ. What belongs to Mythology may in the second place make a pretence of being a kind of Philosophy. It has produced philosophers who availed themselves of the mythical form in order to bring their theories and systems more prominently before the imagination, for they made the thoughts the content of the myth. But the myth is not a mere cloak in the ancient myths; it is not merely that the thoughts were there and were concealed. This may happen in our reflecting times; but the first poetry does not start from a separation of prose and poetry. If philosophers used myths, it was usually the case that they had the thoughts and then sought for images appropriate to them; Plato has many beautiful myths of this kind. Others likewise have spoken in myths, as for example, Jacobi, whose Philosophy took the form of the Christian Religion, through which he gave utterance to matter of a highly speculative nature. But this form is not suitable to Philosophy. Thought which has itself as object, must have raised itself to its own form, to the form of thought. Plato is often esteemed on account of his myths; he is supposed to have evinced by their means greater genius than other philosophers were capable of. It is contended here that the myths of Plato are superior to the abstract form of expression, and Plato’s method of representation is certainly a wonderful one. On closer examination we find that it is partly the impossibility of expressing himself after the manner of pure thought that makes Plato put his meaning so, and[88] also such methods of expression are only used by him in introducing a subject. When he comes to the matter in point, Plato expresses himself otherwise, as we see in the Parmenides, where simple thought determinations are used without imagery. Externally these myths may certainly serve when the heights of speculative thought are left behind, in order to present the matter in an easier form, but the real value of Plato does not rest in his myths. If thought once attains power sufficient to give existence to itself within itself and in its element, the myth becomes a superfluous adornment, by which Philosophy is not advanced. Men often lay hold of nothing but these myths. Hence Aristotle has been misunderstood just because he intersperses similes here and there; the simile can never be entirely in accord with thought, for it always carries with it something more. The difficulty of representing thoughts as thoughts always attaches to the expedient of expression in sensuous form. Thought, too, ought not to be concealed by means of the myth, for the object of the mythical is just to give expression to and to reveal thought. The symbol is undoubtedly insufficient for this expression; thought concealed in symbols is not yet possessed, for thought is self-revealing, and hence the myth does not form a medium adequate for its conveyance. Aristotle (Metaph. III. 4) says, “It is not worth while to treat seriously of those whose philosophy takes a mythical form.” Such is not the form in which thought allows itself to be stated, but only is a subordinate mode.

Connected with this, there is a similar method of representing the universal content by means of numbers, lines and geometric figures. These are figurative, but not concretely so, as in the case of myths. Thus it may be said that eternity is a circle, the snake that bites its own tail. This is only an image, but Mind does not require such a symbol. There are people who value such methods of representation, but these forms do not go far. The most[89] abstract determinations can indeed be thus expressed, but any further progress brings about confusion. Just as the freemasons have symbols which are esteemed for their depth of wisdom—depth as a brook is deep when one cannot see the bottom—that which is hidden very easily seems to men deep, or as if depth were concealed beneath. But when it is hidden, it may possibly prove to be the case that there is nothing behind. This is so in freemasonry, in which everything is concealed to those outside and also to many people within, and where nothing remarkable is possessed in learning or in science, and least of all in Philosophy. Thought is, on the contrary, simply its manifestation; clearness is its nature and itself. The act of manifestation is not a condition which may be or may not be equally, so that thought may remain as thought when it is not manifested, but its manifestation is itself, its Being. Numbers, as will be remarked in respect of the Pythagoreans, are unsuitable mediums for expressing thoughts; thus μονάς, δυάς, τριάς are, with Pythagoras, unity, difference, and unity of the unity and of the difference. The two first of the three are certainly united by addition; this kind of union is, however, the worst form of unity. In Religion the three make their appearance in a deeper sense as the Trinity, and in Philosophy as the Notion, but enumeration forms a bad method of expression. There is the same objection to it as would exist to making the mensuration of space the medium for expressing the absolute. People also quote the Philosophy of the Chinese, of the Foï, in which it is said that thoughts are represented by numbers. Yet the Chinese have explained their symbols and hence have made their meaning evident. Universal simple abstractions have been present to all people who have arrived at any decree of culture.

γγ. We have still to remark in the third place, that Religion, as such, does not merely form its representations after the manner of art; and also that Poetry likewise contains[90] actual thoughts. In the case of the poets whose art has speech as medium, we find all through deep universal thought regarding reality; these are more explicitly expressed in the Indian Religion, but with the Indians everything is mixed up. Hence it is said that such races have also had a Philosophy proper to themselves; but the universal thoughts of interest in Indian books limit themselves to what is most abstract, to the idea of rising up and passing away, and thus of making a perpetual round. The story of the Phœnix is well known as an example of this; it is one which took its origin in the East. We are able similarly to find thoughts about life and death and of the transition of Being into passing away; from life comes death and from death comes life; even in Being, in what is positive, the negation is already present. The negative side must indeed contain within it the positive, for all change, all the process of life is founded on this. But such reflections only occasionally come forth; they are not to be taken as being proper philosophic utterances. For Philosophy is only present when thought, as such, is made the absolute ground and root of everything else, and in these modes of representation this is not so.

Philosophy does not reflect on any particular thing or object already existing as a first substratum; its content is just Thought, universal thought which must plainly come first of all; to put it otherwise, the Absolute must in Philosophy be in the form of thought. In the Greek Religion we find the thought-determination “eternal necessity;” which means an absolute and clearly universal relation. But such thought has other subjects besides; it only expresses a relation, the necessity to be the true and all-embracing Being. Thus neither must we take this form into our consideration. We might speak in that way of a philosophy of Euripides, Schiller or Goethe. But all such reflection respecting, or general modes of representing[91] what is true, the ends of men, morality and so on, are in part only incidentally set forth, and in part they have not reached the proper form of thought, which implies that what is so expressed must be ultimate, thus constituting the Absolute.

γ. Particular theories found in Religion.

In conclusion, the philosophy which we find within Religion does not concern us. We find deep, speculative thoughts regarding the nature of God not only in the Indian Religions, but also in the Fathers and the Schoolmen. In the history of dogmatism there is a real interest in becoming acquainted with these thoughts, but they do not belong to the history of Philosophy. Nevertheless more notice must be taken of the Schoolmen than of the Fathers, for they were certainly great philosophers to whom the culture of Christendom owes much. But their speculations belong in part to other philosophies such as to that of Plato, which must in so far be considered for themselves; partly, too, they emanate from the speculative content of Religion itself which already exists as independent truth in the doctrine of the Church, and belongs primarily to faith. Thus such modes of thought rest on an hypothesis and not on Thought itself; they are not properly speaking themselves Philosophy or thought which rests on itself, but as ideas already firmly rooted, they act on its behalf either in refuting other ideas and conclusions or in philosophically vindicating against them their own religious teaching. Thought in this manner does not represent and know itself as the ultimate and absolute culmination of the content, or as the inwardly self-determining Thought. Hence, too, when the Fathers, seeing that the content of the Christian Religion can only be grasped after the speculative form, did, within the teaching of the Church, produce thoughts of a highly speculative nature, the ultimate justification of these was not found in Thought as[92] such, but in the teaching of the Church. Philosophic teaching here finds itself within a strongly bound system and not as thought which emanates freely from itself. Thus with the scholastics, too, Thought does not construct itself out of itself, but depends upon hypotheses; and although it ever rests more and more upon itself, it never does so in opposition to the doctrine of the Church. Both must and do agree, since Thought has to prove from itself what the Church has already verified.

c. Philosophy proper distinguished from Popular Philosophy.

Of the two departments of knowledge allied to Philosophy we found that the one, that of the special sciences, could not be called a philosophy in that it, as independent seeing and thinking immersed in finite matter, and as the active principle in becoming acquainted with the finite, was not the content, but simply the formal and subjective moment. The second sphere, Religion, is deficient in that it only had the content or the objective moment in common with Philosophy. In it independent thought was an essential moment, since the subject had an imaginary or historical form. Philosophy demands the unity and intermingling of these two points of view; it unites the Sunday of life when man in humility renounces himself, and the working-day when he stands up independently, is master of himself and considers his own interests. A third point of view seems to unite both elements, and that is popular Philosophy. It deals with universal objects and philosophizes as to God and the world; and thought is likewise occupied in learning about these matters. Yet this Philosophy must also be cast aside. The writings of Cicero may be put under this category; they contain a kind of philosophy that has its own place and in which excellent things are said. Cicero formed many experiences both in the affairs of life and mind, and from them and after observing what takes place in the world, he deduced the truth. He expresses himself with[93] culture on the concerns most important to man, and hence his great popularity. Fanatics and mystics may from another point of view be reckoned as in this category. They give expression to a deep sense of devotion, and have had experiences in the higher regions. They are able to express the highest content, and the result is attractive. We thus find the brightest gleams of thought in the writings of a Pascal—as we do in his Pensées.

But the drawback that attaches to this Philosophy is that the ultimate appeal—even in modern times—is made to the fact that men are constituted such as they are by nature, and with this Cicero is very free. Here the moral instinct comes into question, only under the name of feeling; Religion now rests not on what is objective but on religious feeling, because the immediate consciousness of God by men is its ultimate ground. Cicero makes copious use of the consensus gentium; in more modern times this appeal has been more or less left alone, since the individual subject has to rest upon himself. Feeling is first of all laid hold of, then comes reasoning from what is given, but in these we can appeal to what is immediate only. Independent thought is certainly here advanced; the content too, is taken from the self; but we must just as necessarily exclude this mode of thinking from Philosophy. For the source from which the content is derived is of the same description as in the other cases. Nature is the source in finite sciences, and in Religion it is Spirit; but here the source is in authority; the content is given and the act of worship removes but momentarily this externality. The source of popular Philosophy is in the heart, impulses and capacities, our natural Being, my impression of what is right and of God; the content is in a form which is of nature only. I certainly have everything in feeling, but the whole content is also in Mythology, and yet in neither is it so in veritable form. The laws and doctrines of Religion are that in which this content always comes[94] to consciousness in a more definite way, while in feeling there still is intermingled the arbitrary will of that which is subjective.

3. Commencement of Philosophy and of its History.

Now that we have thus defined the Notion of Philosophy to be the Thought which, as the universal content, is complete Being, it will be shown in the history of Philosophy how the determinations in this content make their appearance little by little. At first we only ask where Philosophy and its History begin.

a. Freedom of Thought as a first condition.

The general answer is in accordance with what has been said. Philosophy begins where the universal is comprehended as the all-embracing existence, or where the existent is laid hold of in a universal form, and where thinking about thought first commences. Where, then, has this occurred? Where did it begin? That is a question of history. Thought must be for itself, must come into existence in its freedom, liberate itself from nature and come out of its immersion in mere sense-perception; it must as free, enter within itself and thus arrive at the consciousness of freedom. Philosophy is properly to be commenced where the Absolute is no more in the form of ordinary conception, and free thought not merely thinks the Absolute but grasps its Idea. That is to say where Thought grasps as Thought, the Being (which may be Thought itself), which it recognizes as the essence of things, the absolute totality and the immanent essence of everything, and does so as an external Being. The simple existence which is not sensuous and which the Jews thought of as God (for all Religion is thinking), is thus not a subject to be treated of by Philosophy, but just such a proposition as that “The existence or principle of things is water, fire or thought.”

Thought, this universal determination which sets forth[95] itself, is an abstract determinateness; it is the beginning of Philosophy, but this beginning is at the same time in history, the concrete form taken by a people, the principle of which constitutes what we have stated above. If we say that the consciousness of freedom is connected with the appearance of Philosophy, this principle must be a fundamental one with those with whom Philosophy begins; a people having this consciousness of freedom founds its existence on that principle seeing that the laws and the whole circumstances of the people are based only on the Notion that Mind forms of itself, and in the categories which it has. Connected with this on the practical side, is the fact that actual freedom develops political freedom, and this only begins where the individual knows himself as an independent individual to be universal and real, where his significance is infinite, or where the subject has attained the consciousness of personality and thus desires to be esteemed for himself alone. Free, philosophic thought has this direct connection with practical freedom, that as the former supplies thought about the absolute, universal and real object, the latter, because it thinks itself, gives itself the character of universality. Thinking means the bringing of something into the form of universality; hence Thought first treats of the universal, or determines what is objective and individual in the natural things which are present in sensuous consciousness, as the universal, as an objective Thought. Its second attribute is that in recognizing and knowing this objective and infinite universal, I, at the same time, remain confronting it from the standpoint of objectivity.

On account of this general connection between political freedom and the freedom of Thought, Philosophy only appears in History where and in as far as free institutions are formed. Since Mind requires to separate itself from its natural will and engrossment in matter if it wishes to enter upon Philosophy, it cannot do so in the form with[96] which the world-spirit commences and which takes precedence of that separation. This stage of the unity of Mind with Nature which as immediate is not the true and perfect state, is mainly found in the Oriental conception of existence, therefore Philosophy first begins in the Grecian world.

b. Separation of the East and its Philosophy.

Some explanations have to be given regarding this first form. Since Mind in it, as consciousness and will, is but desire, self-consciousness still stands upon its first stage in which the sphere of its idea and will is finite. As intelligence is thus finite too, its ends are not yet a universal for themselves; but if a people makes for what is moral, if laws and justice are possessed, the character of universality underlies its will. This presupposes a new power in Mind with which it commences to be free, for the universal will as the relation of thought to thought or as the universal, contains a thought which is at home with itself. If a people desire to be free, they will subordinate their desires to universal laws, while formerly that which was desired was only a particular. Now finitude of the will characterizes the orientals, because with them the will has not yet grasped itself as universal, for thought is not yet free for itself. Hence there can but be the relation of lord and slave, and in this despotic sphere fear constitutes the ruling category. Because the will is not yet free from what is finite, it can therein be comprehended and the finite can be shown forth as negative. This sensation of negation, that something cannot last, is just fear as distinguished from freedom which does not consist in being finite but in being for itself, and this cannot be laid hold of. Religion necessarily has this character, since the fear of the Lord is the essential element beyond which we cannot get. “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” is indeed a true saying; man must begin with this in order to know[97] the finite ends in their negative character. But man must also have overcome fear through the relinquishment of finite ends, and the satisfaction which that Religion affords is confined to what is finite, seeing that the chief means of reconciliation are natural forms which are impersonated and held in reverence.

The oriental consciousness raises itself, indeed, above the natural content to what is infinite; but it only knows itself as accidental in reference to the power which makes the individual fear. This subordination may take two forms and must indeed from one extreme pass to the other. The finite, which is for consciousness, may have the form of finitude as finite, or it may become the infinite, which is however an abstraction. The man who lives in fear, and he who rules over men through fear, both stand upon the same platform; the difference between them is only in the greater power of will which can go forth to sacrifice all that is finite for some particular end. The despot brings about what his caprice directs, including certainly what is good, not as law, but as arbitrary will: the passive will, like that of slavery, is converted into the active energy of will, which will, however, is arbitrary still. In Religion we even find self-immersion in the deepest sensuality represented as the service of God, and then there follows in the East a flight to the emptiest abstraction as to what is infinite, as also the exaltation attained through the renunciation of everything, and this is specially so amongst the Indians, who torture themselves and enter into the most profound abstraction. The Indians look straight before them for ten years at a time, are fed by those around, and are destitute of other spiritual content than that of knowing what is abstract, which content therefore is entirely finite. This, then, is not the soil of freedom.

In the East, Mind indeed begins to dawn, but it is still true of it that the subject is not presented as a person, but appears in the objectively substantial, which is represented[98] as partly supersensuous and partly, and even more, material, as negative and perishing. The highest point attainable by the individual, the everlasting bliss, is made an immersion into substance, a vanishing away of consciousness, and thus of all distinction between substance and individuality—hence an annihilation. A spiritually dead relation thus comes into existence, since the highest point there to be reached is insensibility. So far, however, man has not attained that bliss, but finds himself to be a single existent individual, distinguished from the universal substance. He is thus outside the unity, has no significance, and as being what is accidental and without rights, is finite only; he finds himself limited through Nature—in caste for instance. The will is not here the substantial will; it is the arbitrary will given up to what is outwardly and inwardly contingent, for substance alone is the affirmative. With it greatness, nobility, or exaltitude of character, are certainly not excluded, but they are only present as the naturally determined or the arbitrary will, and not in the objective forms of morality and law to which all owe respect, which hold good for all, and in which for that same reason all are recognized. The oriental subject thus has the advantage of independence, since there is nothing fixed; however undetermined is the substance of the Easterns, as undetermined, free and independent may their character be. What for us is justice and morality is also in their state, but in a substantial, natural, patriarchal way, and not in subjective freedom. Conscience does not exist nor does morality. Everything is simply in a state of nature, which allows the noblest to exist as it does the worst.

The conclusion to be derived from this is that no philosophic knowledge can be found here. To Philosophy belongs the knowledge of Substance, the absolute Universal, that whether I think it and develop it or not, confronts me still as for itself objective; and whether this is to me substantial or not, still just in that I think it, it is mine, that in[99] which I possess my distinctive character or am affirmative: thus my thoughts are not mere subjective determinations or opinions, but, as being my thoughts, are also thoughts of what is objective, or they are substantial thoughts. The Eastern form must therefore be excluded from the History of Philosophy, but still, upon the whole, I will take some notice of it. I have touched on this elsewhere,[8] for some time ago we for the first time reached a position to judge of it. Earlier a great parade was made about the Indian wisdom without any real knowledge of what it was; now this is for the first time known, and naturally it is found to be in conformity with the rest.

c. Beginnings of Philosophy in Greece.

Philosophy proper commences in the West. It is in the West that this freedom of self-consciousness first comes forth; the natural consciousness, and likewise Mind disappear into themselves. In the brightness of the East the individual disappears; the light first becomes in the West the flash of thought which strikes within itself, and from thence creates its world out of itself. The blessedness of the West is thus so determined that in it the subject as such endures and continues in the substantial; the individual mind grasps its Being as universal, but universality is just this relation to itself. This being at home with self, this personality and infinitude of the “I” constitutes the Being of Mind; it is thus and can be none else. For a people to know themselves as free, and to be only as universal, is for them to be; it is the principle of their whole life as regards morality and all else. To take an example, we only know our real Being in so far as personal freedom is its first condition, and hence we never can be slaves. Were the mere arbitrary will of[100] the prince a law, and should he wish slavery to be introduced, we would have the knowledge that this could not be. To sleep, to live, to have a certain office, is not our real Being, and certainly to be no slave is such, for that has come to mean the being in nature. Thus in the West we are upon the soil of a veritable Philosophy.

Because in desire I am subject to another, and my Being is in a particularity, I am, as I exist, unlike myself; for I am “I,” the universal complete, but hemmed in by passion. This last is self-will or formal freedom, which has desire as content. Amongst the Greeks we first find the freedom which is the end of true will, the equitable and right, in which I am free and universal, and others, too, are free, are also “I” and like me; where a relationship between free and free is thus established with its actual laws, determinations of the universal will, and justly constituted states. Hence it is here that Philosophy began.

In Greece we first see real freedom flourish, but still in a restricted form, and with a limitation, since slavery was still existent, and the states were by its means conditioned. In the following abstractions we may first of all superficially describe the freedom of the East, of Greece, and of the Teutonic world. In the East only one individual is free, the despot; in Greece the few are free; in the Teutonic world the saying is true that all are free, that is, man is free as man. But since the one in Eastern countries cannot be free because that would necessitate the others also being free to him, impulse, self-will, and formal freedom, can there alone be found. Since in Greece we have to deal with the particular, the Athenians, and the Spartans, are free indeed, but not the Messenians or the Helots. The principle of the “few” has yet to be discovered, and this implies some modifications of the Greek point of view which we must consider in connection with the History of Philosophy. To take these into consideration means simply to proceed to the dividing up of Philosophy.


Division, Sources, and Method adopted in treating of the History of Philosophy.

1. Division of the History of Philosophy.

Since we set to work systematically this division must present itself as necessary. Speaking generally, we have properly only two epochs to distinguish in the history of Philosophy, as in ancient and modern art—these are the Greek and the Teutonic. The Teutonic Philosophy is the Philosophy within Christendom in so far as it belongs to the Teutonic nations; the Christian-European people, inasmuch as they belong to the world of science, possess collectively Teutonic culture; for Italy, Spain, France, England, and the rest, have through the Teutonic nations, received a new form. The influence of Greece also reaches into the Roman world, and hence we have to speak of Philosophy in the territory of the Roman world; but the Romans produced no proper Philosophy any more than any proper poets. They have only received from and imitated others, although they have often done this with intelligence; even their religion is derived from the Greek, and the special character that it has, makes no approach to Philosophy and Art, but is unphilosophical and inartistic.

A further description of these two outstanding opposites must be given. The Greek world developed thought as far as to the Idea; the Christian Teutonic world, on the contrary, has comprehended Thought as Spirit; Idea and Spirit are thus the distinguishing features. More particularly the facts are as follows. Because God, the still undetermined and immediate Universal, Being, or objective Thought, jealously allowing nothing to exist beside Him, is the substantial groundwork of all Philosophy, which never alters, but ever sinks more deeply within itself, and through the development of determinations manifests itself and brings to consciousness, we may designate the particular[102] character of the development in the first period of Philosophy by saying that this development is a simple process of determinations, figurations, abstract qualities, issuing from the one ground that potentially already contains the whole.

The second stage in this universal principle is the gathering up of the determinations manifested thus, into ideal, concrete unity, in the mode of subjectivity. The first determinations as immediate, were still abstractions, but now the Absolute, as the endlessly self-determining Universal, must furthermore be comprehended as active Thought, and not as the Universal in this determinate character. Hence it is manifested as the totality of determinations and as concrete individuality. Thus, with the νοῦς of Anaxagoras, and still more with Socrates, there commences a subjective totality in which Thought grasps itself, and thinking activity is the fundamental principle.

The third stage, then, is that this totality, which is at first abstract, in that it becomes realized through the active, determining, distinguishing thought, sets itself forth even in the separated determinations, which, as ideal, belong to it. Since these determinations are contained unseparated in the unity, and thus each in it is also the other, these opposed moments are raised into totalities. The quite general forms of opposition are the universal and the particular, or, in another form, Thought as such, external reality, feeling or perception. The Notion is the identity of universal and particular; because each of these is thus set forth as concrete in itself, the universal is in itself at once the unity of universality and particularity, and the same holds good of particularity. Unity is thus posited in both forms, and the abstract moments can be made complete through this unity alone; thus it has come to pass that the differences themselves are each raised up to a system of totality, which respectively confront one another as the Philosophy of Stoicism and of Epicureanism.[103] The whole concrete universal is now Mind; and the whole concrete individual, Nature. In Stoicism pure Thought develops into a totality; if we make the other side from Mind—natural being or feeling—into a totality, Epicureanism is the result. Each determination is formed into a totality of thought, and, in accordance with the simple mode which characterizes this sphere, these principles seem to be for themselves and independent, like two antagonistic systems of Philosophy. Implicitly both are identical, but they themselves take up their position as conflicting, and the Idea is also, as it is apprehended, in a one-sided determinateness.

The higher stage is the union of these differences. This may occur in annihilation, in scepticism; but the higher point of view is the affirmative, the Idea in relation to the Notion. If the Notion is, then, the universal—that which determines itself further within itself, but yet remains there in its unity and in the ideality and transparency of its determinations which do not become independent—the further step is, on the other hand, the reality of the Notion in which the differences are themselves brought to totalities. Thus the fourth stage is the union of the Idea, in which all these differences, as totalities, are yet at the same time blended into one concrete unity of Notion. This comprehension first takes place without constraint, since the ideal is itself only apprehended in the element of universality.

The Greek world got as far as this Idea, since they formed an ideal intellectual world; and this was done by the Alexandrian Philosophy, in which the Greek Philosophy perfected itself and reached its end. If we wish to represent this process figuratively, A. Thought, is (α) speaking generally abstract, as in universal or absolute space, by which empty space is often understood; (β) then the most simple space determinations appear, in which we commence with the point in order that we may arrive at the line and angle; (γ) what comes third is their union into the triangle, that which is indeed concrete, but which is still[104] retained in this abstract element of surface, and thus is only the first and still formal totality and limitation which corresponds to the νοῦς. B. The next point is, that since we allow each of the enclosing lines of the triangle to be again surface, each forms itself into the totality of the triangle and into the whole figure to which it belongs; that is the realization of the whole in the sides as we see it in Scepticism or Stoicism. C. The last stage of all is, that these surfaces or sides of the triangle join themselves into a body or a totality; the body is for the first time the perfect spacial determination, and that is a reduplication of the triangle. But in as far as the triangle which forms the basis is outside of the pyramid, this simile does not hold good.

Grecian Philosophy in the Neo-platonists finds its end in a perfect kingdom of Thought and of bliss, and in a potentially existent world of the ideal, which is yet unreal because the whole only exists in the element of universality. This world still lacks individuality as such, which is an essential moment in the Notion; actuality demands that in the identity of both sides of the Idea, the independent totality shall be also posited as negative. Through this self-existent negation, which is absolute subjectivity, the Idea is first raised into Mind. Mind is the subjectivity of self-knowledge; but it is only Mind inasmuch as it knows what is object to itself, and that is itself, as a totality, and is for itself a totality. That is to say, the two triangles which are above and below in the prism must not be two in the sense of being doubled, but they must be one intermingled unity. Or, in the case of body, the difference arises between the centre and the peripheral parts. This opposition of real corporeality and centre as the simple existence, now makes its appearance, and the totality is the union of the centre and the substantial—not, however, the simple union, but a union such that the subjective knows itself as subjective in relation to the objective and substantial. Hence the Idea is this totality, and the Idea[105] which knows itself is essentially different from the substantial; the former manifests itself independently, but in such a manner that as such it is considered to be for itself substantial. The subjective Idea is at first only formal, but it is the real possibility of the substantial and of the potentially universal; its end is to realize itself and to identify itself with substance. Through this subjectivity and negative unity, and through this absolute negativity, the ideal becomes no longer our object merely, but object to itself, and this principle has taken effect in the world of Christianity. Thus in the modern point of view the subject is for itself free, man is free as man, and from this comes the idea that because he is Mind he has from his very nature the eternal quality of being substantial. God becomes known as Mind which appears to itself as double, yet removes the difference that it may in it be for and at home with itself. The business of the world, taking it as a whole, is to become reconciled with Mind, recognizing itself therein, and this business is assigned to the Teutonic world.

The first beginning of this undertaking is found in the Religion which is the contemplation of and faith in this principle as in an actual existence before a knowledge of the principle has been arrived at. In the Christian Religion this principle is found more as feeling and idea; in it man as man is destined to everlasting bliss, and is an object of divine grace, pity and interest, which is as much as saying that man has an absolute and infinite value. We find it further in that dogma revealed through Christ to men, of the unity of the divine and human nature, according to which the subjective and the objective Idea—man and God—are one. This, in another form, is found in the old story of the Fall, in which the serpent did not delude man, for God said, “Behold, Adam has become as one of us, to know good and evil.” We have to deal with this unity of subjective principle and of substance; it constitutes the[106] process of Mind that this individual one or independent existence of subject should put aside its immediate character and bring itself forth as identical with the substantial. Such an aim is pronounced to be the highest end attainable by man. We see from this that religious ideas and speculation are not so far asunder as was at first believed, and I maintain these ideas in order that we may not be ashamed of them, seeing that we still belong to them, and so that if we do get beyond them, we may not be ashamed of our progenitors of the early Christian times, who held these ideas in such high esteem.

The first principle of that Philosophy which has taken its place in Christendom is thus found in the existence of two totalities. This is a reduplication of substance which now, however, is characterized by the fact that the two totalities are no longer external to one another, but are clearly both required through their relation to one another. If formerly Stoicism and Epicureanism, whose negativity was Scepticism, came forth as independent, and if finally the implicitly existent universality of both was established, these moments are now known as separate totalities, and yet in their opposition they have to be thought of as one. We have here the true speculative Idea, the Notion in its determinations, each of which is brought into a totality and clearly relates to the other. We thus have really two Ideas, the subjective Idea as knowledge, and then the substantial and concrete Idea; and the development and perfection of this principle and its coming to the consciousness of Thought, is the subject treated by modern Philosophy. Thus the determinations are in it more concrete than with the ancients. This opposition in which the two sides culminate, grasped in its widest significance, is the opposition between Thought and Being, individuality and substance, so that in the subject himself his freedom stands once more within the bounds of necessity; it is the opposition between subject and object, and[107] between Nature and Mind, in so far as this last as finite stands in opposition to Nature.

The Greek Philosophy is free from restraint because it does not yet have regard to the opposition between Being and Thought, but proceeds from the unconscious presupposition that Thought is also Being. Certainly certain stages in the Greek Philosophy are laid hold of which seem to stand on the same platform as the Christian philosophies. Thus when we see, for instance, in the Philosophy of the Sophists, the new Academics, and the Sceptics, that they maintain the doctrine that the truth is not capable of being known, they might appear to accord with the later subjective philosophies in asserting that all thought-determinations were only subjective in character, and that hence from these no conclusions could be arrived at as regards what is objective. But there is really a difference. In the case of ancient philosophies, which said that we know only the phenomenal, everything is confined to that; it is as regards practical life that the new Academy and the Sceptics also admitted the possibility of conducting oneself rightly, morally and rationally, when one adopts the phenomenal as one’s rule and guide in life. But though it is the phenomenal that lies at the foundation of things, it is not asserted that there is likewise a knowledge of the true and existent, as in the case of the merely subjective idealists of a more modern day. These last still keep in the background a potentiality, a beyond which cannot be known through thought or through conception. This other knowledge is an immediate knowledge—a faith in, a view of, and a yearning after, the beyond such as was evinced by Jacobi. The ancients have no such yearning; on the contrary, they have perfect satisfaction and rest in the certitude that only that which appears is for Knowledge. Thus it is necessary in this respect to keep strictly to the point of view from which we start, else through the similarity of the results, we come to see in that old Philosophy[108] all the determinate character of modern subjectivity. Since in the simplicity of ancient philosophy the phenomenal was itself the only sphere, doubts as to objective thought were not present to it.

The opposition defined, the two sides of which are in modern times really related to one another as totalities, also has the form of an opposition between reason and faith, between individual perception and the objective truth which must be taken without reason of one’s own, and even with a complete disregard for such reason. This is faith as understood by the church, or faith in the modern sense, i.e. a rejection of reason in favour of an inward revelation, called a direct certainty or perception, or an implicit and intuitive feeling. The opposition between this knowledge, which has first of all to develop itself, and that knowledge which has already developed itself inwardly, arouses a peculiar interest. In both cases the unity of thought or subjectivity and of Truth or objectivity is manifested, only in the first form it is said that the natural man knows the Truth since he intuitively believes it, while in the second form the unity of knowledge and Truth is shown, but in such a way that the subject raises itself above the immediate form of sensuous consciousness and reaches the Truth first of all through Thought.

The final end is to think the Absolute as Mind, as the Universal, that which, when the infinite bounty of the Notion in its reality freely emits its determinations from itself, wholly impresses itself upon and imparts itself to them, so that they may be indifferently outside of or in conflict with one another, but so that these totalities are one only, not alone implicitly, (which would simply be our reflection) but explicitly identical, the determinations of their difference being thus explicitly merely ideal. Hence if the starting-point of the history of Philosophy can be expressed by saying that God is comprehended as the immediate and not yet developed universality, and[109] that its end—the grasping of the Absolute as Mind through the two and a half thousand years’ work of the thus far inert world-spirit—is the end of our time, it makes it easy for us from one determination to go on through the manifestation of its needs, to others. Yet in the course of history this is difficult.

We thus have altogether two philosophies—the Greek and the Teutonic. As regards the latter we must distinguish the time when Philosophy made its formal appearance as Philosophy and the period of formation and of preparation for modern times. We may first begin Teutonic philosophy where it appears in proper form as Philosophy. Between the first period and those more recent, comes, as an intermediate period, that fermentation of a new Philosophy which on the one side keeps within the substantial and real existence and does not arrive at form, while on the other side, it perfects Thought, as the bare form of a presupposed truth, until it again knows itself as the free ground and source of Truth. Hence the history of Philosophy falls into three periods—that of the Greek Philosophy, the Philosophy of the Middle Ages and the modern Philosophy. Of these the first is speaking generally, regulated by Thought, the second falls into the opposition between existence and formal reflection, but the third has the Notion as its ground. This must not be taken to mean that the first contains Thought alone; it also has conceptions and ideas, just as the latter begins from abstract thoughts which yet constitute a duality.

First Period.—This commences at the time of Thales, about 600 B.C., and goes on to the coming to maturity of the Neo-platonic philosophy with Plotinus in the third century; from thence to its further progress and development with Proclus in the fifth century until the time when all philosophy was extinguished. The Neo-platonic philosophy then made its entrance into Christianity later on, and many philosophies within Christianity have this philosophy as[110] their only groundwork. This is a space of time extending to about 1000 years, the end of which coincides with the migration of the nations and the decline of the Roman Empire.

Second Period.—The second period is that of the Middle Ages. The Scholastics are included in it, and Arabians and Jews are also historically to be noticed, but this philosophy mainly falls within the Christian Church. This period is of something over 1000 years’ duration.

Third Period.—The Philosophy of modern times made its first independent appearance after the Thirty Years’ War, with Bacon, Jacob Böhm and Descartes; it begins with the distinction contained in: cogito ergo sum. This period is one of a couple of centuries and the philosophy is consequently still somewhat modern.

2. Sources of the History of Philosophy.

We have to seek for sources of another kind in this than in political history. There historians are the fountainheads, which again have as sources the deeds and sayings of individuals; and the historians who are not original have over and above performed their work at secondhand. But historians always have the deeds already present in history, that is to say, here brought into the form of ordinary conception; for the name of history has two meanings: it signifies on the one hand the deeds and events themselves, and on the other, it denotes them in so far as they are formed through conception for conception. In the history of Philosophy there are, on the contrary, not any sources which can be derived from historians, but the deeds themselves lie before us, and these—the philosophic operations themselves—are the true sources. If we wish to study the history of Philosophy in earnest, we must go to such springs as these. Yet these operations form too wide a field to permit of our keeping to it alone in this history.[111] In the case of many philosophers it is absolutely necessary to confine oneself to the original authors, but in many periods, in which we cannot obtain original sources, seeing that they have not been preserved to us, (as, for instance, in that of the older Greek philosophy) we must certainly confine our attention simply to historians and other writers. There are other periods, too, where it is desirable that others should have read the works of the philosophers and that we should receive abstracts therefrom. Several schoolmen have left behind them works of sixteen, twenty-four and twenty-six folios, and hence we must in their case confine ourselves to the researches of others. Many philosophic works are also rare and hence difficult to obtain. Many philosophers are for the most part important from an historic or literary point of view only, and hence we may limit ourselves to the compilations in which they are dealt with. The most noteworthy works on the history of Philosophy are, however, the following, regarding which I refer for particulars to the summary of Tennemann’s History of Philosophy, by A. Wendt, since I do not wish to give any complete list.

1. One of the first Histories of Philosophy, which is only interesting as an attempt, is the “History of Philosophy,” by Thomas Stanley (London, 1655, folio ed. III., 1701, 4. translated into Latin by Godofr. Olearius, Lipsiæ, 1711, 4). This history is no longer much used, and only contains the old philosophic schools in the form of sects and as if no new ones had existed. That is to say, it keeps to the old belief commonly held at that time, that there only were ancient philosophies and that the period of philosophy came to an end with Christianity, as if Philosophy were something belonging to heathendom and the truth only could be found in Christianity. In it a distinction was drawn between Truth as it is created from the natural reason in the ancient philosophies, and the revealed truth of the Christian religion, in which there was[112] consequently no longer any Philosophy. In the time of the Revival of Learning there certainly were no proper philosophies, and above all in Stanley’s time systems of Philosophy proper were too young for the older generations to have the amount of respect for them necessary to allow of their being esteemed as realities.

2. Jo. Jac. Bruckeri Historia critica philosophiæ, Lipsiæ, 1742-1744, four parts, or five volumes in four, for the fourth part has two volumes. The second edition, unaltered, but with the addition of a supplement, 1766-1767, four parts in six quartos, the last of which forms the supplement. This is an immense compilation which is not formed straight from the original sources, but is mixed with reflections after the manner of the times. As we have seen from an example above (p. 43) the accounts given are in the highest degree inaccurate. Brucker’s manner of procedure is entirely unhistoric, and yet nowhere ought we to proceed in a more historic manner than in the history of Philosophy. This work is thus simply so much useless ballast. An epitome of the same is Jo. Jac. Bruckeri Institutiones historiæ philosophicæ, usui academicæ juventutis adornatæ, Lipsiæ, 1747, 8; second edition, Leipzig, 1756; third edition prepared by Born, Leipzig, 1790, 8.

3. Dietrich Tiedmann’s Geist der Speculativen Philosophie, Marburg, 1791-1797, 6 vols., 8. He treats of political history diffusely, but without any life, and the language is stiff and affected. The whole work is a melancholy example of how a learned professor can occupy his whole life with the study of speculative philosophy, and yet have no idea at all of speculation. His argumenta to the Plato of Brucker are of the same description. In every history he makes abstracts from the philosophers so long as they keep to mere ratiocination, but when the speculative is arrived at, he becomes irate, declaring it all to be composed of empty subtleties, and stops short with the words “we know better.” His merit is that he has supplied valuable abstracts[113] from rare books belonging to the Middle Ages and from cabalistic and mystical works of that time.

4. Joh. Gottlieb Buhle: Lehrbuch der Geschichte der Philosophie und einer kritischen Literatur derselben, Göttingen, 1796 to 1804, eight parts, 8. Ancient philosophy is treated with disproportionate brevity; the further Buhle went on, the more particular he became. He has many good summaries of rare works, as for instance those of Giordano Bruno, which were in the Göttingen Library.

5. Wilh. Gottl. Tennemann’s Geschichte der Philosophie, Leipzig, 1798—1819, eleven parts, 8. The eighth part, the Scholastic Philosophy, occupies two volumes. The philosophies are fully described, and the more modern times are better done than the ancient. The philosophies of recent times are easier to describe, since it is only necessary to make an abstract or to interpret straight on, for the thoughts contained in them lie nearer to ours. It is otherwise with the ancient philosophers, because they stand in another stage of the Notion, and on this account they are likewise more difficult to grasp. That is to say, what is old is easily overthrown by something else more familiar to us, and where Tennemann comes across such he is almost useless. In Aristotle, for instance, the misinterpretation is so great, that Tennemann foists upon him what is directly opposite to his beliefs, and thus from the adoption of the opposite to what Tennemann asserts to be Aristotle’s opinion, a correct idea of Aristotelian philosophy is arrived at. Tennemann is then candid enough to place the reference to Aristotle underneath the text, so that the original and the interpretation often contradict one another. Tennemann thinks that it is really the case that the historian should have no philosophy, and he glories in that; yet he really has a system and he is a critical philosopher. He praises philosophers, their work and their genius, and yet the end of the lay is that all of them will be pronounced to be wanting in that they have one defect, which is not to[114] be Kantian philosophers and not yet to have sought the source of knowledge. From this the result is that the Truth could not be known.

Of compendiums, three have to be noticed. 1. Frederick Aft’s Grundriss einer Geschichte der Philosophie. (Landshut, 1807, 8; second edition, 1825) is written from a better point of view; the Philosophy is that of Schelling for the most part, but it is somewhat confused. Aft by some formal method has distinguished ideal philosophy from real. 2. Professor Wendt’s Göttingen edition of Tennemann (fifth edition, Leipzig, 1828, 8). It is astonishing to see what is represented as being Philosophy, without any consideration as to whether it has any meaning or not. Such so-called new philosophies grow like mushrooms out of the ground. There is nothing easier than to comprehend in harmony with a principle; but it must not be thought that hence something new and profound has been accomplished. 3. Rirner’s Handbuch der Geschichte der Philosophie, 3 vols., Sulzbach, 1822-1823, 8 (second amended edition, 1829) is most to be commended, and yet I will not assert that it answers all the requirements of a History of Philosophy. There are many points which leave much to desire, but the appendices to each volume in which the principal original authorities are quoted, are particularly excellent for their purpose. Selected extracts, more specially from the ancient philosophers, are needed, and these would not be lengthy, since there are not very many passages to be given from the philosophers before Plato.

3. Method of Treatment adopted in this History of Philosophy.

As regards external history I shall only touch upon that which is the concern of universal history, the spirit or the principle of the times, and hence I will treat of conditions of life in reference to the outstanding philosophers. Of philosophies, however, only those are to be made mention[115] of the principles of which have caused some sensation, and through which science has made an advance; hence I shall put aside many names which would be taken up in a learned treatise, but which are of little value in respect to Philosophy. The history of the dissemination of a doctrine, its fate, those who have merely taught a particular doctrine, I pass over, as the deduction of the whole world from one particular principle.

The demand that in Philosophy an historian should have no system, should put into the philosophy nothing of his own, nor assail it with his ideas, seems a plausible one. The history of Philosophy should show just this impartiality, and it seems in so far that to give only summaries of the philosophers proves a success. He who understands nothing of the matter, and has no system, but merely historic knowledge, will certainly be impartial. But political history has to be carefully distinguished from the history of Philosophy. That is to say, though in the former, one is not indeed at liberty to limit oneself to representing the events chronologically only, one can yet keep to what is entirely objective, as is done in the Homeric epic. Thus Herodotus and Thucydides, as free men, let the objective world do freely and independently as it would; they have added nothing of their own, neither have they taken and judged before their tribunal the actions which they represented. Yet even in political history there is also a particular end kept in view. In Livy the main points are the Roman rule, its enlargement, and the perfecting of the constitution; we see Rome arise, defend itself, and exercise its mastery. It is thus that the self-developing reason in the history of Philosophy makes of itself an end, and this end is not foreign or imported, but is the matter itself, which lies at the basis as universal, and with which the individual forms of themselves correspond. Thus when the history of Philosophy has to tell of deeds in history, we first ask, what a deed in Philosophy is; and whether any particular thing[116] is philosophic or not. In external history everything is in action—certainly there is in it what is important and that which is unimportant—but action is the idea immediately placed before us. This is not the case in Philosophy, and on this account the history of Philosophy cannot be treated throughout without the introduction of the historian’s views.



The first Philosophy in order is the so-called Oriental, which, however, does not enter into the substance or range of our subject as represented here. Its position is preliminary, and we only deal with it at all in order to account for not treating of it at greater length, and to show in what relation it stands to Thought and to true Philosophy. The expression Eastern philosophy is specially employed in reference to the period in which this great universal Oriental conception aroused the East—the land of circumscription and of limitation, where the spirit of subjectivity reigns. More particularly in the first centuries of Christendom—that significant period—did these great Oriental ideas penetrate into Italy; and in the Gnostic philosophy they began to force the idea of the illimitable into the Western mind, until in the Church the latter again succeeded in obtaining the ascendency and hence in firmly establishing the Divine. That which we call Eastern Philosophy is more properly the religious mode of thought and the conception of the world belonging generally to the Orientals and approximates very closely to Philosophy; and to consider the Oriental idea of religion just as if it were religious philosophy, is to give the main reason why it is so like.

We do not similarly maintain that the Roman, Greek and Christian Religions constitute Philosophy. These bear all the less similarity thereto in that the Greek and Roman gods as also Christ and the God of the Jews, on account of the principle of individual freedom which penetrates the Greek and still more the Christian element, make their appearance immediately as the explicit, personal forms, which, being mythological or Christian, must first[118] be themselves interpreted and changed into a philosophic form. In the case of Eastern Religion, on the contrary, we are much more directly reminded of the philosophic conception, for since in the East the element of subjectivity has not come forth, religious ideas are not individualized, and we have predominating a kind of universal ideas, which hence present the appearance of being philosophic ideas and thoughts. The Orientals certainly have also individual forms, such as Brahma, Vishnu and Civa, but because freedom is wanting the individuality is not real, but merely superficial. And so much is this the case, that when we suppose that we have to deal with a human form, the same loses itself again and expands into the illimitable. Just as we hear amongst the Greeks of a Uranus and Chronos—of Time individualized—we find with the Persians, Zeroane Akerene, but it is Time unlimited. We find Ormuzd and Ahriman to be altogether general forms and ideas; they appear to be universal principles which thus seem to bear a relationship to Philosophy or even seem to be themselves philosophic.

Just as the content of the Eastern religions, God, the essentially existent, the eternal, is comprehended somewhat in the light of universal, we find the relative positions of individuals to Him to be the same. In the Eastern religions the first condition is that only the one substance shall, as such, be the true, and that the individual neither can have within himself, nor can he attain to any value in as far as he maintains himself as against the being in and for itself. He can have true value only through an identification with this substance in which he ceases to exist as subject and disappears into unconsciousness. In the Greek and Christian Religion, on the other hand, the subject knows himself to be free and must be maintained as such; and because the individual in this way makes himself independent, it is undoubtedly much more difficult for Thought to free itself from this individuality and to constitute itself[119] in independence. The higher point of view implicitly contained in the Greek individual freedom, this happier, larger life, makes more difficult the work of Thought, which is to give due value to the universal. In the East, on the contrary, the substantial in Religion is certainly on its own view the principal matter, the essential—and with it lawlessness, the absence of individual consciousness is immediately connected—and this substance is undoubtedly a philosophic idea. The negation of the finite is also present, but in such a manner that the individual only reaches to its freedom in this unity with the substantial. In as far as in the Eastern mind, reflection, consciousness come through thought to distinction and to the determination of principles, there exist such categories and such definite ideas not in unity with the substantial. The destruction of all that is particular either is an illimitable, the exaltitude of the East, or, in so far as that which is posited and determined for itself is known, it is a dry, dead understanding, which cannot take up the speculative Notion into itself. To that which is true, this finite can exist only as immersed in substance; if kept apart from this it remains dead and arid. We thus find only dry understanding amongst the Easterns, a mere enumeration of determinations, a logic like the Wolffian of old. It is the same as in their worship, which is complete immersion in devotion and then an endless number of ceremonials and of religious actions; and this on the other side is the exaltitude of that illimitable in which everything disappears.

There are two Eastern nations with which I wish just now to deal—the Chinese and the Indian.

A. Chinese Philosophy.

It is true of the Chinese as well as of the Indians that they have a great reputation for culture; but this, as well as the amount of Indian literature which exists, has largely diminished through a further knowledge of it. The great[120] knowledge of these people bears upon such subjects as Religion, Science, the constitution and administration of the state, poetry, handicrafts and commerce. But when we compare the laws and constitution of China with the European, we find that we can only do so in respect of what is formal, for the content is very different. It is also felt, however consistently they may be constituted as to form, that they cannot find their place with us, that we could not allow of their giving us satisfaction, and that they take the place of law, or rather that they put an end to it. It is the same thing when we compare Indian poetry with European; considered as a mere play of the imagination it is as brilliant, rich and cultured as that of any other people. But in poetry we have to do with content, and that is the important part of it. Even the Homeric poetry is not serious for us, and hence such poetry cannot last. It is not the lack of genius in the Oriental poetry; the amount of genius is the same and the form may be very much developed, but the content remains confined within certain bounds and cannot satisfy us, nor can it be our content. This is at outset a fact applying universally to such comparisons, inasmuch as men let themselves be dazzled by form, making it equal with, or even preferring it to ours.

1. Confucius. The first subject of remark with regard to the Chinese respects the teaching of Confucius (500 years before Christ) which made a great sensation in Liebnitz’ time; this teaching is a moral philosophy. Confucius has, besides, commented upon the old traditional principles of the Chinese; his high moral teaching, however, gave him his great fame, and that teaching is the authority most esteemed in China. Confucius’ Biography has been translated by French missionaries from the original Chinese; from this he appears to have been almost contemporaneous with Thales, to have been for a considerable time Minister, to have then fallen into disfavour, lost his place and lived and philosophized amongst his own friends, while still being often asked to[121] give advice. We have conversations between Confucius and his followers in which there is nothing definite further than a commonplace moral put in the form of good, sound doctrine, which may be found as well expressed and better, in every place and amongst every people. Cicero gives us De Officiis, a book of moral teaching more comprehensive and better than all the books of Confucius. He is hence only a man who has a certain amount of practical and worldly wisdom—one with whom there is no speculative philosophy. We may conclude from his original works that for their reputation it would have been better had they never been translated. The treatise which the Jesuits produced[9] is, however, more a paraphrase than a translation.

2. The Philosophy of the Y-king. A second matter of remark is that the Chinese have also taken up their attention with abstract thoughts and with pure categories. The old book Y-king, or the Book of Principles, serves as the foundation for such; it contains the wisdom of the Chinese, and its origin is attributed to Fohi. That which is there by him related passes into what is quite mythological, fabulous and even senseless. The main point in it is the ascription to him of the discovery of a table with certain signs or figures (Ho-tu) which he saw on the back of a horse-dragon as it rose out of the river.[10] This table contains parallel lines above one another, which have a symbolical signification; and the Chinese say that these lines are the foundation of their characters as also of their philosophy. These symbols are quite abstract categories, and consequently the most superficial determinations of the understanding. It must certainly be considered that pure thoughts are brought to consciousness, but in this case we make no advance, merely remaining stationary so[122] far as they are concerned. The concrete is not conceived of speculatively, but is simply taken from ordinary ideas, inasmuch as it is expressed in accordance with their forms of representation and of perception. Hence in this collection of concrete principles there is not to be found in one single instance a sensuous conception of universal natural or spiritual powers.

To satisfy the curious, I will give these principles in greater detail. The two fundamental, figures are a horizontal line (, Yang) and the one which is broken into two equal parts (, Yin). The first which is the perfect, the father, the manlike, the unity, such as is represented by the Pythagoreans, represents the affirmative; the second is the imperfect, the mother, the womanly, the duality and the negation. These signs are held in high esteem, for they are considered to be the Principles of things. First of all they are placed in combination of two from which four figures result:, , , , or the great Yang, the little Yang, the little Yin, and the great Yin. The signification of these four representations is matter as perfect and imperfect. The two Yangs are perfect matter: the first is in the category of youth and power; the second is the same matter, but as old and powerless. The third and fourth images, where Yin constitutes the basis, are imperfect matter, which has again the two determinations of youth and age, strength and weakness. These lines are further united in sets of three, and thus eight figures result, which are called Kua, , , , , , , , . I will give the interpretation of these Kua just to show how superficial it is. The first sign, containing the great Yang and the Yang is the Heavens (Tien) or the all-pervading ether. The Heavens to the Chinese means what is highest, and it has been a great source of division amongst the missionaries whether they ought to call the Christian God, Tien, or not. The second[123] sign is pure water (Tui), the third pure fire (Li), the fourth thunder (Tschin), the fifth wind (Siun), the sixth common water (Kan), the seventh mountains (Ken), the eighth the earth (Kuen). We should not place heaven, thunder, wind and mountains on the same footing. We may thus obtain a philosophic origin for everything out of these abstract thoughts of absolute unity and duality. All symbols have the advantage of indicating thoughts and of calling up significations, and in this way such are likewise present there. Thought thus forms the first beginning, but afterwards it goes into the clouds, and Philosophy does likewise. Therefore if Windischmann[11] in his commentary recognizes in this system of Confucius, a “thorough interconnection between all Kua in the whole series,” it should be remembered that not a particle of the Notion is to be found in it.

United further in sets of four, the lines produce sixty-four figures, which the Chinese consider to be the origin of their characters, since there have been added to these straight lines those which are perpendicular and inclined in different directions.

In Schuking there is also a chapter on Chinese wisdom, where the five elements from which everything is made make their appearance. These are fire, water, wood, metal and earth, which exist all in confusion, and which we should no more than we did before, allow to be principles. The first canon in the law is found in the Schuking, as the naming of the five elements; the second, considerations upon the last, and so it goes on.[12] Universal abstraction with the Chinese thus goes on to what is concrete, although in accordance with an external kind of order only, and without containing anything that is sensuous. This is the principle of all Chinese wisdom and of all the objects of study in China.


3. The Sect of the Tao-See. There is yet another separate sect, that of the Tao-See, the followers of which are not mandarins and attached to the state religion, nor are they Buddhists or Lamaics. The originator of this philosophy and the one who was closely connected with it in his life, is Lao-Tsö, who was born in the end of the seventh century before Christ and who was older than Confucius, for this representative of the more political school went to him in order to ask his advice. The book of the Lao-Tsö, Tao-king, is certainly not included in the proper Kings and has not their authority, but it is an important work amongst the Taosts or the followers of reason, who call their rule in life Tao-Tao, which means the observation of the dictates or the laws of reason. They dedicate their lives to the study of reason, and maintain that he who knows reason in its source will possess universal science, remedies for every ill and all virtue; he will also have obtained a supernatural power of being able to fly to heaven and of not dying.[13]

His followers say of Lao-Tsö himself that he is Buddha who as man became the ever-existent God. We still have his principal writings; they have been taken to Vienna, and I have seen them there myself. One special passage is frequently taken from them: “Without a name Tao[14] is the beginning of Heaven and Earth, and with a name she is the Mother of the Universe. It is only in her imperfect state that she is considered with affection; who desires to know her must be devoid of passions.” Abel Rémusat says that taken at its best this might be expressed by the Greek in όογος. The celebrated passage which is often[125] quoted by the ancients is this,[15] “Reason has brought forth the one; the one has brought forth the two; the two have brought forth the three; and the three have produced the whole world.” In this men have tried to find a reference to the Trinity. “The Universe rests upon the principle of Darkness, the universe embraces the principle of Light,” or “it is embraced by ether;” it can be thus reversed, because the Chinese language has no case inflection, the words merely standing in proximity. Another passage in the same place has this sense, “He whom ye look at and do not see, is named I; thou hearkenest to him and hearest him not, and he is called Hi; thou seekest for him with thy hand and touchest him not, and his name is Weï. Thou meetest him and seest not his head; thou goest behind him and seest not his back.” These contradictory expressions are called the “chain of reason.” One naturally thinks in quoting these passages of יהרה and of the African kingly name of Juba and also of Jovis. This I-hi-weï or I-H-W[16] is further made to signify an absolute vacuity and that which is Nothing; to the Chinese what is highest and the origin of things is nothing, emptiness, the altogether undetermined, the abstract universal, and this is also called Tao or reason. When the Greeks say that the absolute is one, or when men in modern times say that it is the highest existence, all determinations are abolished, and by the merely abstract Being nothing has been expressed excepting this same negation, only in an affirmative form. But if Philosophy has got no further than to such expression, it still stands on its most elementary stage. What is there to be found in all this learning?

B. Indian Philosophy.

If we had formerly the satisfaction of believing in the antiquity of the Indian wisdom and of holding it in respect,[126] we now have ascertained through being acquainted with the great astronomical works of the Indians, the inaccuracy of all figures quoted. Nothing can be more confused, nothing more imperfect than the chronology of the Indians; no people which has attained to culture in astronomy, mathematics, &c., is as incapable for history; in it they have neither stability nor coherence. It was believed that such was to be had in the time of Wikramaditya, who was supposed to have lived about 50 B.C., and under whose reign the poet Kalidasa, author of Sakontala, lived. But further research discovered half a dozen Wikramadityas and careful investigation has placed this epoch in our eleventh century. The Indians have lines of kings and an enormous quantity of names, but everything is vague.

We know how the ancient glory of this land was held in the highest estimation even by the Greeks, just as they knew about the Gymnosophists, who were excellent men, though people ventured to call them otherwise—men who having dedicated themselves to a contemplative life, lived in abstraction from external life, and hence, wandering about in hordes, like the Cynics renounced all ordinary desires. These latter in their capacity as philosophers, were also more especially known to the Greeks, inasmuch as Philosophy is also supposed to exist in this abstraction, in which all the relationships of ordinary life are set aside; and this abstraction is a feature which we wish to bring into prominence and consider.

Indian culture is developed to a high degree, and it is imposing, but its Philosophy is identical with its Religion, and the objects to which attention is devoted in Philosophy are the same as those which we find brought forward in Religion. Hence the holy books or Vedas also form the general groundwork for Philosophy. We know the Vedas tolerably well; they contain principally prayers addressed to the many representations of God, direction[127] as to ceremonials, offerings, &c. They are also of the most various periods; many parts are very ancient, and others have taken their origin later, as, for instance, that which treats of the service of Vishnu. The Vedas even constitute the basis for the atheistical Indian philosophies; these, too, are not wanting in gods, and they pay genuine attention to the Vedas. Indian Philosophy thus stands within Religion just as scholastic Philosophy stands within Christian dogmatism, having at its basis and presupposing the doctrines of the church. Mythology takes the form of incarnation or individualization, from which it might be thought that it would be opposed to Philosophy in its universality and ideality; incarnation is not, however, here taken in so definite a sense, for almost everything is supposed to partake of it, and the very thing that seems to define itself as individuality falls back directly within the mist of the universal. The idea of the Indians more appropriately expressed, is that there is one universal substance which may be laid hold of in the abstract or in the concrete, and out of which everything takes its origin. The summit of man’s attainment is that he as consciousness should make himself identical with the substance, in Religion by means of worship, offerings, and rigid acts of expiation, and in Philosophy through the instrumentality of pure thought.

It is quite recently that we first obtained a definite knowledge of Indian Philosophy; in the main we understand by it religious ideas, but in modern times men have learned to recognize real philosophic writings. Colebrooke,[17] in particular, communicated abstracts to us from two Indian philosophic works, and this forms the first contribution we have had in reference to Indian Philosophy. What Frederick von Schlegel says about the wisdom of the Indians is taken[128] from their religious ideas only. He is one of the first Germans who took up his attention with Indian philosophy, yet his work bore little fruit because he himself read no more than the index to the Ramayana. According to the abstract before mentioned, the Indians possess ancient philosophic systems; one part of these they consider to be orthodox, and those which tally with the Vedas are particularly included; the others are held to be heterodox and as not corresponding with the teaching of the holy books. The one part, which really is orthodox, has no other purpose than to make the deliverances of the Vedas clearer, or to derive from the text of these original treatises an ingeniously thought-out Psychology. This system is called Mimansa, and two schools proceed from it. Distinguished from these there are other systems, amongst which the two chief are those of the Sanc’hya and Nyaya. The former again divides into two parts which are, however, different in form only. The Nyaya is the most developed; it more particularly gives the rules for reasoning, and may be compared to the Logic of Aristotle. Colebrooke has made abstracts from both of these systems, and he says that there are many ancient treatises upon them, and that the versus memoriales from them are very extensive.

1. The Sanc’hya Philosophy of Capila. The originator of the Sanc’hya is called Capila, and he was an ancient sage of whom it was said that he was a son of Brahma, and one of the seven great Holy men; others say that he was an incarnation of Vishnu, like his disciple Asuri, and that he was identified with fire. As to the age of the Aphorisms (Sutras) of Capila, Colebrooke can say nothing; he merely mentions that they were already mentioned in other very ancient books, but he does not feel able to say anything definite in the matter. The Sanc’hya is divided into different schools, of which there are two or three, which, however, differ from one another only in a few particulars. It is held to be partly heterodox and partly orthodox.


The real aim of all Indian schools and systems of Philosophy, whether atheistic or theistic, is to teach the means whereby eternal happiness can be attained before, as well as after, death. The Vedas say, “What has to be known is the Soul; it must be distinguished from nature, and hence it will never come again.” That means that it is exempt from metempsychosis and likewise from bodily form, so that it does not after death make its appearance in another body. This blessed condition therefore is, according to the Sanc’hya, a perfect and eternal release from every kind of ill. It reads:—“Through Thought, the true Science, this freedom can be accomplished; the temporal and worldly means of procuring enjoyment and keeping off spiritual or bodily evil are insufficient; even the methods advocated by the Vedas are not effectual for the purpose, and these are found in the revealed form of worship, or in the performance of religious ceremonies as directed in the Vedas.” The offering up of animals is specially valuable as such a means; and in this regard the Sanc’hya rejects the Vedas; such an offering is not pure, because it is connected with the death of animals, and the main tenet in the former is not to injure any animal. Other methods of deliverance from evil are in the excessive acts of penance performed by the Indians, to which a retreat within themselves is added. Now when the Indian thus internally collects himself, and retreats within his own thoughts, the moment of such pure concentration is called Brahma, the one and the clearly supersensuous state, which the understanding calls the highest possible existence. When this is so with me, then am I Brahma. Such a retreat into Thought takes place in the Religion as well as in the Philosophy of the Indians, and they assert with reference to this state of bliss that it is what is highest of all, and that even the gods do not attain to it. Indra, for example, the god of the visible heavens, is much lower than the soul in this life of internal contemplation; many thousand Indras have passed away, but the soul is[130] exempt from every change. The Sanc’hya only differs from Religion in that it has a complete system of thought or logic, and that the abstraction is not made a reduction to what is empty, but is raised up into the significance of a determinate thought. This science is stated to subsist in the correct knowledge of the principles—which may be outwardly perceptible or not—of the material and of the immaterial world.

The Sanc’hya system separates itself into three parts: the method of knowledge, the object of knowledge, and the determinate form of the knowledge of principles.

a. As regards the methods of obtaining knowledge, the Sanc’hya says that there are three kinds of evidence possible: first of all, that of perception; secondly, that of inference; thirdly, that of affirmation, which is the origin of all others, such as reverence for authority, a teachable disposition, and tradition. Perception is said to require no explanation. Inference is a conclusion arrived at from the operation of cause and effect, by which one determination merely passes over into a second. There are three forms, because inferences are made either from cause to effect, from effect to cause, or in accordance with different relations of cause and effect. Rain, we may say, is foretold when a cloud is seen to be gathering; fire, when a hill is seen to be smoking; or the movement of the moon is inferred when, at different times, it is observed to be in different places. These are simple, dry relations, originating from the understanding. Under affirmation, tradition or revelation is understood, such as that of the orthodox Vedas; in a wider sense, immediate certainty or the affirmation in my consciousness, and in a less wide sense, an assurance through verbal communication or through tradition is so denominated.

b. Of objects of knowledge or of principles, the Sanc’hya gives five-and-twenty; and these I will mention to show the want of order that is in them.

1. Nature, as the origin of everything, is said to be the[131] universal, the material cause, eternal matter, undistinguished and undistinguishable, without parts, productive but without production, absolute substance. 2. Intelligence, the first production of Nature and itself producing other principles, distinguishable as three gods through the efficacy of three qualities, which are Goodness, Foulness and Darkness. These form one person and three gods, namely, Brahma, Vishnu, and Maheswara. 3. Consciousness, personality, the belief that in all perceptions and meditations I am present, that the objects of sense, as well as of intelligence, concern me, in short that I am I. It issues from the power of intelligence, and itself brings forth the following principles. 4-8. Five very subtle particles, rudiments or atoms, which are only perceptible to an existence of a higher order, and not through the senses of men; these proceed from the principle of consciousness, and bring forth on their own account the five elements—space and the first origination of earth, water, fire and air. 9-19. The eleven succeeding principles are the organs of feeling, which are produced by the personality. There are ten external organs, comprising the five senses and five active organs—the organs of the voice, hands and feet, the excretory and genital organs. The eleventh organ is that of the inward sense. 20 to 24. These principles are the five elements brought forth from the earlier-named rudiments—the ether which takes possession of space, air, fire, water and earth. 25. The soul. In this very unsystematic form we see only the first beginnings of reflection, which seem to be put together as a universal. But this arrangement is, to say nothing of being unsystematic, not even intelligent.

Formerly the principles were outside of and successive to one another; their unity is found in the Soul. It is said of the latter that it is not produced, and is not productive; it is individual, and hence there are many souls; it is sentient, eternal, immaterial and unchangeable. Colebrooke here distinguishes between the theistic and atheistic systems[132] of the Sanc’hya, since the former not only admits of individual souls, but also upholds God (Iswara) as the ruler of the world. The knowledge of the soul still remains the principal point. It is through the consideration of nature and through abstraction from nature that the unity of the soul with nature is brought about, just as the lame man and the blind are brought together for the purposes of transport and of guidance—the one being the bearer and being directed (nature?), the other being borne and guiding (soul?). Through the union of Soul and Nature, the creation is effected, and this consists in the development of intelligence and of other principles. This unity is the actual support for that which is, and the means by which it is so maintained. It is at the same time an important consideration that the negation of the object which is contained in thought, is necessary in order to comprehend; this reflection has far more depth than the ordinary talk about immediate consciousness. The view is superficial and perverted which maintains the Easterns to have lived in unity with nature; the soul in its activity, mind, is indeed undoubtedly in relation with nature and in unity with the truth of nature. But this true unity essentially contains the moment of the negation of nature as it is in its immediacy; such an immediate unity is merely the life of animals, the life and perception of the senses. The idea which is present to the Indians is thus indeed the unity of nature and of soul, but the spiritual is only one with nature in so far as it is within itself, and at the same time manifests the natural as negative. As regards the creation, this is further signified. The soul’s desire and end is for satisfaction and freedom, and with this view it is endowed with a subtle environment, in which all the above-mentioned principles are contained, but only in their elementary development. Something of our ideal, or of the implicit is present in this idea; it is like the blossom which is ideally in the bud, and yet is not actual and real. The expression for this is Lingam, the generative[133] power of nature, which holds a high place in the estimation of all Indians. This subtle form, says the Sanc’hya, also assumes a coarse bodily shape, and clothes itself in several garbs; and as a means of preventing the descent into a coarse materiality, philosophic contemplation is recommended.

Hitherto we have observed the abstract principles; the following is to be noticed regarding the creation of the concrete actuality of the universe. The bodily creation consists of the soul habited in a material body; it comprehends eight orders of higher beings and five orders of lower beings, which constitute—with men, who form a single class—fourteen orders, and these are divided into three worlds or classes. The first eight orders have appellations which appear in Indian mythology, viz. Brahma, Prajapatis, Indra, &c.; there are both gods and demi-gods, and Brahma himself is represented here as if he were created. The five lower orders are composed of animals: the four-footed animals are in two classes, birds come third, reptiles, fishes, and insects fourth, and, finally, vegetable and inorganic nature comes fifth. The abode of the eight higher classes is in heaven; they are, it is said, in the enjoyment of that which is good and virtuous, and consequently are happy, though still they are but imperfect and transient; underneath is the seat of darkness or delusion, where beings of the lower orders live; and between is the world of men, where untruth or passion reigns.

Against these three worlds, which have their place in the material creation, the system places yet another creation, and that is the Intellectual, consisting of the powers of understanding and the senses. These last are again divided into four classes, viz. those determinations which impede, those which incapacitate, those which satisfy, and those which perfect the intelligence. 1. Sixty-two of the impeding determinations are adduced; eight kinds of error, as many of opinion or of illusion, ten of passion as being illusion carried to extremity, eighteen of hate or sullenness,[134] and the same of grief. Here there is shown somewhat of an empirical, psychological, and observing mode of treatment. 2. The incapacity of intelligence has again eight-and-twenty variations: injury, want of organs, &c. 3. Satisfaction is either inward or outward. The inward satisfaction is fourfold; the first concerns nature, the whole universal or substantial, and is set forth in the opinion that philosophic knowledge is a modification of the principle of nature itself, with which there is immediately united the anticipation of a liberty given through the act of nature; yet the true liberty is not to be expected as an act of nature, for it is the soul which has to bring forth that liberty through itself and through its thinking activity. The second satisfaction is in the belief of securing liberty through ascetic exercises, pains, torments, and penances. The third has to do with time—the idea that liberty will come in the course of time and without study. The fourth satisfaction is obtained in a belief in luck—in believing that liberty depends on fate. The external mode of obtaining satisfaction relates to continence from enjoyment, but continence from sensuous motives, such as dislike to the unrest of acquisition, and fear of the evil consequences of enjoyment. 4. There are, again, several means of perfecting the intelligence adduced, and, amongst others, there is the direct psychological mode of perfecting mind, as is seen in the act of reasoning, in friendly converse, and so on. This we may find, indeed, in our applied logic.

There is still somewhat to be remarked as to the main points of the system. The Sanc’hya, and likewise the other Indian systems of Philosophy, occupy themselves particularly with the three qualities (Guna) of the absolute Idea, which are represented as substances and as modifications of nature. It is noteworthy that in the observing consciousness of the Indians it struck them that what is true and in and for itself contains three determinations, and the Notion of the Idea is perfected in three moments. This[135] sublime consciousness of the trinity, which we find again in Plato and others, then went astray in the region of thinking contemplation, and retains its place only in Religion, and there but as a Beyond. Then the understanding penetrated through it, declaring it to be senseless; and it was Kant who broke open the road once more to its comprehension. The reality and totality of the Notion of everything, considered in its substance, is absorbed by the triad of determinations; and it has become the business of our times to bring this to consciousness. With the Indians, this consciousness proceeded from sensuous observation merely, and they now further define these qualities as follows: The first and highest is with them the Good (Sattva); it is exalted and illuminating—allied to joy and felicity—and piety predominates within it. It prevails in fire, and therefore flames rise up and sparks fly upwards; if it has ascendency in men, as it does have in the eight higher orders, it is the origin of virtue. This also is the universal—throughout and in every aspect the affirmative—in abstract form. The second and mediate quality is deceit or passion (Najas, Tejas) which for itself is blind; it is that which is impure, harmful, hateful; it is active, vehement, and restless, allied to evil and misfortune, being prevalent in the air, on which account the wind moves transversely; amongst living beings it is the cause of vice. The third and last quality is darkness (Tamas); it is inert and obstructive, allied to care, dullness, and disappointment, predominating in earth and water, and hence these fall down and tend ever downwards. With living beings stupidity takes its origin in this. The first quality is thus the unity with itself; the second the manifestation or the principle of difference, desire, disunion, as wickedness; the third, however, is mere negation, as in mythology it is concretely represented in the form of Siva, Mahadeva, or Maheswara, the god of change or destruction. As far as we are concerned, the important distinction is that the third principle[136] is not the return to the first which Mind and Idea demand, and which is effected by the removal of the negation in order to effect a reconciliation with itself and to go back within itself. With the Indians the third is still change and negation.

These three qualities are represented as the essential being of nature. The Sanc’hya says, “We speak of them as we do of the trees in a wood.” Yet this is a bad simile, for the wood is but an abstract universal, in which the individuals are independent. In the religious ideas of the Vedas, where these qualities also appear as Trimurti, they are spoken of as if they were successive modifications, so that “Everything was darkness first, then received the command to transform itself, and in this manner the form”—which, however, is a worse one—“of movement and activity (foulness) was assumed, until finally, by yet another command from Brahma, the form of goodness was adopted.”

Further determinations of the intelligence in respect of these qualities follow. It is said that eight kinds of intelligence are counted, of which four pertain to what is good:—virtue first, science and knowledge second, thirdly, freedom from passion, which, may have either an external and sensuous motive—the repugnance to disturbance—or be of an intellectual nature, and emanate from the conviction that nature is a dream, a mere jugglery and sham; the fourth is power. This last is eight-fold, and hence eight special qualities are given as being present; viz. the power to contract oneself into a quite small form, for which everything shall be penetrable; the power to expand into a gigantic body; the power to become light enough to be able to mount to the sun on a sunbeam; the possession of unlimited power of action in the organs, so that with the finger-tips the moon may be touched; irresistible will, so that, for instance, one may dive into the earth as easily as in the water; mastery over all living[137] and lifeless existence; the power to change the course of nature; and the power to perform everything that is wished. “The feeling that such transcendent power,” Colebrooke goes on, “is within the reach of man in his life is not peculiar to the Sanc’hya sect, but is common to all systems and religious ideas, and such a power is in good faith ascribed to many holy men and Brahmins in dramas and popular narratives.” Sensuous evidence is of no account as opposed to this, for with the Indian, perception of the senses is, generally speaking, absent: everything adopts the form of imaginary images, every dream is esteemed just as much as truth and actuality. The Sanc’hya ascribes this power to man, in so far as he elevates himself through the working of his thought into inward subjectivity. Colebrooke says, “The Yoga-sastra names in one of its four chapters a number of acts by which such power may be attained; these are exemplified by a profound meditation, accompanied by holding back the breath and inactivity of the senses, while a fixed position is constantly preserved. By means of such acts the adept reaches the knowledge of all that is past as well as future; he has learned to divine the thoughts of others, to have the strength of elephants, the courage of lions, the swiftness of the wind, the power to fly in the air, to swim in the water, to dive into the earth, to behold every possible world in one moment, and to accomplish other wonderful deeds. But the quickest mode of reaching happiness through deep contemplation is that worship of God which consists in ever murmuring the mystic name of God, ‘Om.’” This idea is a very general one.

Colebrooke deals more particularly with the theistic and atheistic divisions of the Sanc’hya as distinguished. While in the theistic system, Iswara, the chief ruler of the world, is a soul or spirit distinguished from the other souls, Capila, in the atheistic Sanc’hya, disowns Iswara, the originator of the world by volition, alleging that there[138] is no proof of the existence of God, since it is not shown by perception, nor is it possible that it should be deduced from argument. He recognizes, indeed, an existence proceeding from nature which is Absolute Intelligence, the source of all individual intelligences and the origin of all other existences, which gradually develop out of it: about the Creator of the world, understanding this to be creation, he emphatically remarks that “the truth of such an Iswara is proved.” But, he says, “the existence of effects depends on the soul, on consciousness, and not on Iswara. Everything proceeds from the great Principle, which is Intelligence;” to this the individual soul belongs, and through this it is brought about.

c. As to the third division of the Sanc’hya, the more particular consideration of the forms of knowledge as regards the principle, I shall make a few more remarks, which may perhaps have some interest. Of the various kinds of knowledge already given, that of reasoning, of the connection existing with the conclusion through the relation of cause and effect, remains the chief, and I will show how the Indians comprehend this relation. The understanding and all other principles derived from it are to them effects, and from these they reason to their causes; in one respect this is analogous to our inference, but in another different. They perceive that “effects exist even before the operation of the causes; for what does not exist cannot be made explicit in existence through causality.” Colebrooke says, “This means that effects are educts rather than products.” But the question is just what products are. As an example of how the effect is already contained in the cause, the following is given:—Oil is already existent in the seeds of sesamum before it is pressed out; rice is in the husk before it is thrashed; milk is in the udder of the cow before it is milked. Cause and effect are in reality the same; a piece of a dress is not really different from the yarn from which it is woven, for the material is the same. This[139] is how this relation is understood. A consequence derived from it was the eternity of the world, for the saying “Out of nothing there comes nothing,” which Colebrooke also mentions, is opposed to the belief in a creation of the world from nothing in our religious sense. As a matter of fact, it must also be said, “God creates the world not out of nothing, but out of Himself; it is His own determination, by Him brought into existence.” The distinction between cause and effect is only a formal distinction; it is the understanding that keeps them separate, and not reason. Moisture is the same as rain; or again we speak in mechanics of different movements, whereas motion has the same velocity before as after impact. The ordinary consciousness cannot comprehend the fact that there is no real distinction between cause and effect.

The Indians infer the existence of “a universal cause which is undistinguishable, while determinate things are finite,” and on this account there must be a cause permeating through them. Even intelligence is an effect of this cause, which is the soul in so far as it is creative in this identity with nature after its abstraction from it. Effect proceeds from cause, yet, on the other hand, this last is not independent, but goes back into universal cause. General destruction is postulated along with what is called the creation of the three worlds. Just as the tortoise stretches out its limbs and then draws them back again within its shell, the five elements, earth, &c., which constitute the three worlds, are in the general ruin and dissolution of things which takes place within a certain time, again drawn back in the reverse order to that in which they emerged from the original principle, because they return, step by step, to their first cause—that is, to what is highest and inseparable, which is Nature. To this the three qualities, goodness, passion, and darkness, are attributed; the further attributes of these determinations may be very interesting, but they are understood in a very superficial way. For it is said[140] that nature operates through the admixture of these three qualities; each thing has all three within itself, like three streams which flow together; it also works by means of modifications, just as water which is soaked in through the roots of plants and led up into the fruit, obtains a special flavour. There are hence only the categories of admixture and of modification present. The Indians say:—“Nature has these three qualities in her own right as her forms and characteristics; other things have them only because they are present in them as effects of the former.”

We still have to consider the relation of nature to spirit. “Nature, although it is quite inanimate, performs the office of preparing the soul for its freedom, just as it is the function of milk—of a substance having no sensation—to nourish the calf.” The Sanc’hya makes the following simile. Nature is like a bajadere showing herself to the soul as to an audience; she is abused for her impudence in exposing herself too often to the rude gaze of the spectators. “But she retires when she has shown herself sufficiently; she does so because she has been seen, and the audience retires because it has seen. Nature has no further use as regards the soul, and yet the union remains a lasting one.” With the attainment of intellectual knowledge through the study of principles, the final, incontrovertible, single truth is learnt, that “I neither am, nor is anything mine, nor do I exist.” That is, the personality is still distinguished from the soul, and finally personality and self-consciousness disappear for the Indian. “Everything that comes forth in consciousness is reflected by the soul, but like an image which does not dull the crystal of the soul, and does not belong to it. In possession of this self-knowledge” (without personality) “the soul contemplates nature at its ease, thus exempt from all terrible variation, and freed from every other form and operation of the understanding, with the exception of this spiritual knowledge.” This is a mediate spiritual knowledge of the[141] likewise spiritualized content—a knowledge without personality and consciousness. “The soul still indeed remains for some time in bodily garb, but this is only so after the same manner as the potter’s wheel, when the jar is perfected, still turns round from the effect of the previously given impulse.” The soul thus has, according to the Indians, nothing further to do with the body, and its connection therewith is therefore a superfluous one. “But when the separation of the already prepared soul from its body at length comes to pass, and nature is done with soul, the absolute and final liberation is accomplished.” Here we find the crowning moments in the Sanc’hya philosophy.

2. The Philosophy of Gotama and Canade. The philosophy of Gotama and that of Canade belong to one another.[18] The philosophy of Gotama is called Nyaya (reasoning), and that of Canade, Vaiseshica (particular). The first is a specially perfect dialectic, and the second, on the other hand, occupies itself with physics, that is, with particular or sensuous objects. Colebrooke says:—“No department of science or of literature has taken up the attention of the Indians more than the Nyaya; and the fruit of this study is an infinite number of writings, included in which there may be found the works of very celebrated men of learning. The system which Gotama and Canade observe is that indicated in one part of the Vedas as being the path which must be trodden in the pursuit of learning and study; viz., enunciation, definition, and investigation. Enunciation is the specification of a thing by its name, that is, by the expression denoting it, as revelation directs; for language is considered as revealed to man. Definition sets forth the particular quality which constitutes the real character of a thing. Investigation consists in an inquiry into the[142] adequacy and sufficiency of the definition. In conformity with this, the teachers of philosophy presuppose scientific terms, proceed to definitions and then come to the investigation of the thus premised subjects.” By the name, the ordinary conception is indicated, and with it what is given in definition is compared in investigation. What comes next is the object to be contemplated. “Gotama here adduces sixteen points, amongst which proof, evidence” (which is formal), “and what has to be proved, are the principal; the others are merely subsidiary and accessory, as contributing to the knowledge and confirmation of the truth. The Nyaya concurs with the other psychological schools in this, that it promises happiness, final excellence, and freedom from evil as the reward of a perfect knowledge of the principles which it teaches, that is to say, of the Truth, meaning the conviction of the eternal existence of the soul as separable from body,” which makes spirit independent. Soul then is itself the object which is to be known and proved. This has still to be shown more particularly.

a. The first point of importance, the evidence brought forth as proof, is said to be divided into four kinds:—first of all, perception; secondly, inference, of which there are three kinds, viz. inference from result to cause, that from cause to effect, and that derived from analogy. The third kind of evidence is comparison, the fourth, trustworthy authority, including both tradition and the revelation implied in it. These kinds of proof are much brought forward, both in the ancient Treatise ascribed to Gotama and in innumerable commentaries.

b. The second point of importance is found in the subjects which have to be proved, and which have to be made evident; and of these twelve are here given. The first and most important is, however, the soul, as the seat, distinguished from the body and from the senses, of feeling and of knowledge, the existence of which is proved through inclination, disinclination, will, &c. It has fourteen qualities:[143] number, size, individuality, connection, separation, intelligence, pleasure, pain, desire, dislike, will, merit, fault, and imagination. We see in this first commencement of reflection, which is quite without order, neither connection nor any totality of determinations. The second object of knowledge is body; the third, the organs of sensation, as the five outward senses are called. These are not modifications of consciousness, as the Sanc’hya asserts, but matter constructed out of the elements, which respectively consist of earth, water, light, air, and ether. The pupil of the eye is not, they say, the organ of sight, nor the ear of hearing, but the organ of seeing is a ray of light that proceeds from the eye to the object; the organ of hearing is the ether that in the cavity of the ear communicates with the object heard, through the ether that is found between. The ray of light is usually invisible, just as a light is not seen at mid-day, but in certain circumstances it is visible. In taste, a watery substance like saliva is the organ, and so on. We find something similar to what is here said about sight in Plato’s Timæus (pp. 45, 46, Steph.; pp. 50-53, Bekk.); there are interesting remarks upon the phosphorus of the eyes in a paper by Schultz, contained in Goethe’s Morphology. Examples of men seeing at night, so that their eyes lighted up the object, are brought forward in numbers, but the demonstration certainly demands particular conditions. The objects of sense form the fourth subject. Here Cesava, a commentator, inserts the categories of Canade, of which there are six. The first of these is substance, and of this there are nine kinds: earth, water, light, air, ether, time, space, soul, understanding. The fundamental elements of material substances are by Canade regarded as if they were original atoms, and afterwards aggregates of the same; he maintains the everlasting nature of atoms, and thus much is adduced about the union of atoms, by which means motes are also produced. The second category is[144] that of Quality, and of it there are twenty-four kinds, viz. 1, colour; 2, taste; 3, smell; 4, tangibility; 5, numbers; 6, size; 7, individuality; 8, conjunction; 9, separation; 10, priority; 11, posteriority; 12, weight; 13, fluidity; 14, viscidity; 15, sound; 16, intelligence; 17, pleasure; 18, pain; 19, desire; 20, dislike; 21, will; 22, virtue; 23, vice; 24, a capacity which includes three different qualities, viz. celerity, elasticity, and power of imagination. The third category is action; the fourth, association of qualities; the fifth, distinction; the sixth, is aggregation, and, according to Canade, this is the last; other writers add negation as the seventh. This is the manner in which philosophy is regarded by the Indians.

c. The philosophy of Gotama makes doubt the third topic, succeeding those of the evidence of knowledge, and the subjects of interest to knowledge. Another topic is regular proof, formal reasoning, or the perfect syllogism (Nyaya), which consists of five propositions:—1, the proposition; 2, the reason; 3, the instance; 4, the application; 5, the conclusion. To take examples:—1. This hill is burning; 2, because it smokes; 3, what smokes is burning, like a kitchen fire; 4, accordingly the hill smokes; 5, therefore it is on fire. This is propounded as syllogisms are with us, but in the manner adopted, the matter which is in point is propounded first. We should, on the contrary, begin with the general. This is the ordinary form, and these examples may satisfy us, yet we shall recapitulate the matter once more.

We have seen that in India the point of main importance is the soul’s drawing itself within itself, raising itself up into liberty, or thought, which constitutes itself for itself. This becoming explicit of soul in the most abstract mode may be called intellectual substantiality, but here it is not the unity of mind and nature that is present, but directly the opposite. To mind, the consideration of nature is only the vehicle of thought or its exercise,[145] which has as its aim the liberation of mind. Intellectual substantiality is in India the end, while in Philosophy it is in general the true commencement; to philosophize is the idealism of making thought, in its own right, the principle of truth. Intellectual substantiality is the opposite of the reflection, understanding, and the subjective individuality of the European. With us it is of importance that I will, know, believe, think this particular thing according to the grounds that I have for so doing, and in accordance with my own free will; and upon this an infinite value is set. Intellectual substantiality is the other extreme from this; it is that in which all the subjectivity of the “I” is lost; for it everything objective has become vanity, there is for it no objective truth, duty or right, and thus subjective vanity is the only thing left. The point of interest is to reach intellectual substantiality in order to drown in it that subjective vanity with all its cleverness and reflection. This is the advantage of arriving at this point of view.

The defect in such a view is that because intellectual substantiality, while represented as end and aim for the subject, as a condition that has to be produced in the interest of the subject, even though it be most objective, is yet only quite abstractly objective; and hence the essential form of objectivity is wanting to it. That intellectual substantiality that thus remaining in abstraction, has as its existence the subjective soul alone. Just as in empty vanity, where the subjective power of negation alone remains, everything disappears, this abstraction of intellectual substantiality only signifies an escape into what is empty and without determination, wherein everything vanishes. Therefore what remains to be done is to force forward the real ground of the inwardly self-forming and determining objectivity—the eternal form within itself, which is what men call Thought. Just as this Thought in the first place, as subjective, is mine, because I think, but in the[146] second place is universality which comprehends intellectual substantiality, it is likewise in the third place forming activity, the principle of determination. This higher kind of objectivity that unfolds itself, alone gives a place to the particular content, allows it to have free scope and receives it into itself. If in the Oriental view, the particular shakes and is destined to fall, it still has its place grounded on thought. It is able to root itself in itself, it is able to stand firm, and this is the hard European understanding. Such Eastern ideas tend to destroy it, but it is preserved active in the soil of thought; it cannot exist when regarded as independent, but must exist only as a moment in the whole system. In the Eastern Philosophy we have also discovered a definite content, which is brought under our consideration; but the consideration is destitute of thought or system because it comes from above and is outside of the unity. On that side there stands intellectual substantiality, on this side it appears dry and barren; the particular thus only has the dead form of simple reason and conclusion, such as we find in the Scholastics. Based on the ground of thought, on the other hand, the particular may receive its dues; it may be regarded and grasped as a moment in the whole organization. The Idea has not become objective in the Indian Philosophy; hence the external and objective has not been comprehended in accordance with the Idea. This is the deficiency in Orientalism.

The true, objective ground of thought finds its basis in the real freedom of the subject; the universal or substantial must itself have objectivity. Because thought is this universal, the ground of the substantial and likewise “I”—thought is the implicit and exists as the free subject—the universal has immediate existence and actual presence; it is not only an end or condition to be arrived at, but the absolute character is objective. It is this[147] principle that we find in the Greek world, and the object of our further consideration is its development. The universal first appears as quite abstract, and as such it confronts the concrete world; but its value is both for the ground of the concrete world and for that which is implicit. It is not a beyond, for the value of the present lies in the fact that it exists in the implicit; or that which is implicit, the universal, is the truth of present objects.







The name of Greece strikes home to the hearts of men of education in Europe, and more particularly is this so with us Germans. Europeans have taken their religion, the life to come, the far-off land, from a point somewhat further off than Greece—they took it from the East, and more especially from Syria. But the here, the present, art and science, that which in giving liberty to our spiritual life, gives it dignity as it likewise bestows upon it ornament, we know to have proceeded from Greece either directly or indirectly—through the circuitous road of Rome. The latter of these two ways was the earlier form in which this culture came to us; it also came from the formerly universal church which derived its origin as such from Rome, and has retained its speech even until now. The sources of authority in addition to the Latin Gospels have been the Fathers. Our law, too, boasts of deriving its most perfect forms from Rome. Teutonic strength of mind has required to pass through the hard discipline of the church and law which came to us from Rome, and to be kept in check; it is in this way that the European character first obtained its pliability and capacity for freedom. Thus it was after European manhood came to be at home with itself and to look upon the present, that the historical and that which is of foreign derivation was[150] given. When man began to be at home with himself, he turned to the Greeks to find enjoyment in it. Let us leave the Latin and the Roman to the church and to jurisprudence. Higher, freer philosophic science, as also the beauty of our untrammelled art, the taste for, and love of the same, we know to have taken their root in Greek life and to have created therefrom their spirit. If we were to have an aspiration, it would be for such a land and such conditions.

But what makes us specially at home with the Greeks is that they made their world their home; the common spirit of homeliness unites us both. In ordinary life we like best the men and families that are homely and contented in themselves, not desiring what is outside and above them, and so it is with the Greeks. They certainly received the substantial beginnings of their religion, culture, their common bonds of fellowship, more or less from Asia, Syria and Egypt; but they have so greatly obliterated the foreign nature of this origin, and it is so much changed, worked upon, turned round, and altogether made so different, that what they, as we, prize, know, and love in it, is essentially their own. For this reason, in the history of Greek life, when we go further back and seem constrained so to go back, we find we may do without this retrogression and follow within the world and manners of the Greeks, the beginnings, the germination and the progress of art and science up to their maturity, even seeing the origin of their decay—and this completely comprehended within their own range. For their spiritual development requires that which is received or foreign, as matter or stimulus only; in such they have known and borne themselves as men that were free. The form which they have given to the foreign principle is this characteristic breath of spirituality, the spirit of freedom and of beauty which can in the one aspect be regarded as form, but which in another and higher sense is simply substance.

They have thus not only themselves created the substantial[151] in their culture and made their existence their own, but they have also held in reverence this their spiritual rebirth, which is their real birth. The foreign origin they have so to speak thanklessly forgotten, putting it in the background—perhaps burying it in the darkness of the mysteries which they have kept secret from themselves. They have not only done this, that is they have not only used and enjoyed all that they have brought forth and formed, but they have become aware of and thankfully and joyfully placed before themselves this at-homeness [Heimathlichkeit] in their whole existence, the ground and origin of themselves, not merely existing in it, possessing and making use of it. For their mind, when transformed in this spiritual new birth, is just the living in their life, and also the becoming conscious of that life as it has become actual. They represent their existence as an object apart from themselves, which manifests itself independently and which in its independence is of value to them; hence they have made for themselves a history of everything which they have possessed and have been. Not only have they represented the beginning of the world—that is, of gods and men, the earth, the heavens, the wind, mountains and rivers—but also of all aspects of their existence, such as the introduction of fire and the offerings connected with it, the crops, agriculture, the olive, the horse, marriage, property, laws, arts, worship, the sciences, towns, princely races, &c. Of all these it is pleasingly represented through tales how they have arisen in history as their own work.

It is in this veritable homeliness, or, more accurately, in the spirit of homeliness, in this spirit of ideally being-at-home-with-themselves in their physical, corporate, legal, moral and political existence; it is in the beauty and the freedom of their character in history, making what they are to be also a sort of Mnemosyne with them, that the kernel of thinking liberty rests; and hence it was requisite that Philosophy should arise amongst them.[152] Philosophy is being at home with self, just like the homeliness of the Greek; it is man’s being at home in his mind, at home with himself. If we are at home with the Greeks, we must be at home more particularly in their Philosophy; not, however, simply as it is with them, for Philosophy is at home with itself, and we have to do with Thought, with what is most specially ours, and with what is free from all particularity. The development and unfolding of thought has taken place with them from its earliest beginning, and in order to comprehend their Philosophy we may remain with them without requiring to seek for further and external influences.

But we must specify more particularly their character and point of view. The Greeks have a starting-point in history as truly as they have arisen from out of themselves: this starting-point, comprehended in thought, is the oriental substantiality of the natural unity between the spiritual and the natural. To start from the self, to live in the self, is the other extreme of abstract subjectivity, when it is still empty, or rather has made itself to be empty; such is pure formalism, the abstract principle of the modern world. The Greeks stand between both these extremes in the happy medium; this therefore is the medium of beauty, seeing that it is both natural and spiritual, but yet that the spiritual still remains the governing, determining subject. Mind immersed in nature is in substantial unity with it, and in so far as it is consciousness, it is essentially sensuous perception: as subjective consciousness it is certainly form-giving though it is devoid of measure. For the Greeks, the substantial unity of nature and spirit was a fundamental principle, and thus being in the possession and knowledge of this, yet not being overwhelmed in it, but having retired into themselves, they have avoided the extreme of formal subjectivity, and are still in unity with themselves. Thus it is a free subject which still possesses that original unity in content, essence and substratum,[153] and fashions its object into beauty. The stage reached by Greek consciousness is the stage of beauty. For beauty is the ideal; it is the thought which is derived from Mind, but in such a way that the spiritual individuality is not yet explicit as abstract subjectivity that has then in itself to perfect its existence into a world of thought. What is natural and sensuous still pertains to this subjectivity, but yet the natural form has not equal dignity and rank with the other, nor is it predominant as is the case in the East. The principle of the spiritual now stands first in rank, and natural existence has no further value for itself, in its existent forms, being the mere expression of the Mind shining through, and having been reduced to be the vehicle and form of its existence. Mind, however, has not yet got itself as a medium whereby it can represent itself in itself, and from which it can form its world.

Thus free morality could and necessarily did find a place in Greece, for the spiritual substance of freedom was here the principle of morals, laws and constitutions. Because the natural element is, however, still contained in it, the form taken by the morality of the state is still affected by what is natural; the states are small individuals in their natural condition, which could not unite themselves into one whole. Since the universal does not exist in independent freedom, that which is spiritual still is limited. In the Greek world what is potentially and actually eternal is realized and brought to consciousness through Thought; but in such a way that subjectivity confronts it in a determination which is still accidental, because it is still essentially related to what is natural; and in this we find the reason as promised above, for the fact that in Greece the few alone are free.

The measureless quality of substance in the East is brought, by means of the Greek mind, into what is measurable and limited; it is clearness, aim, limitation of forms, the reduction of what is measureless, and of infinite splendour and[154] riches, to determinateness and individuality. The riches of the Greek world consist only of an infinite quantity of beautiful, lovely and pleasing individualities in the serenity which pervades all existence; those who are greatest amongst the Greeks are the individualities, the connoisseurs in art, poetry, song, science, integrity and virtue. If the serenity of the Greeks, their beautiful gods, statues, and temples, as well as their serious work, their institutions and acts, may seem—compared to the splendour and sublimity, the colossal forms of oriental imagination, the Egyptian buildings of Eastern kingdoms—to be like child’s play, this is the case yet more with the thought that comes into existence here. Such thought puts a limit on this wealth of individualities as on the oriental greatness, and reduces it into its one simple soul, which, however, is in itself the first source of the opulence of a higher ideal world, of the world of Thought.

“From out of thy passions, oh, man,” exclaimed an ancient, “thou hast derived the materials for thy gods,” just as the Easterns, and especially the Indians, did from the elements, powers and forms of Nature. One may add, “out of Thought thou takest the element and material for God.” Thus Thought is the ground from which God comes forth, but it is not Thought in its commencement that constitutes the first principle from which all culture must be grasped. It is quite the other way. In the beginning, thought comes forth as altogether poor, abstract, and of a content which is meagre in comparison to that given to his subject by the oriental; for as immediate, the beginning is just in the form of nature, and this it shares with what is oriental. Because it thus reduces the content of the East to determinations which are altogether poor, these thoughts are scarcely worth observation on our part, since they are not yet proper thoughts, neither being in the form of, or determined as thought, but belonging really to Nature. Thus Thought is the Absolute, though not as Thought. That is, we have always two[155] things to distinguish, the universal or the Notion, and the reality of this universal, for the question here arises as to whether the reality is itself Thought or Nature. We find in the fact that reality at first has still the immediate form and is only Thought potentially, the reason for commencing with the Greeks and from the natural philosophy of the Ionic school.

As regards the external and historical condition of Greece at this time, Greek philosophy commences in the sixth century before Christ in the time of Cyrus, and in the period of decline in the Ionic republics in Asia Minor. Just because this world of beauty which raised itself into a higher kind of culture went to pieces, Philosophy arose. Crœsus and the Lydians first brought Ionic freedom into jeopardy; later on the Persians were those who destroyed it altogether, so that the greater part of the inhabitants sought other spots and created colonies, more particularly in the West. At the time of the decline in Ionic towns, the other Greece ceased to be under its ancient lines of kings; the Pelopideans and the other, and for the most part foreign, princely races had passed away. Greece had in many ways come into touch with the outside world and the Greek inhabitants likewise sought within themselves for a bond of fellowship. The patriarchal life was past, and in many states it came to be a necessity that they should constitute themselves as free, organized and regulated by law. Many individuals come into prominence who were no more rulers of their fellow-citizens by descent, but who were by means of talent, power of imagination and scientific knowledge, marked out and reverenced, and such individuals came into many different relations with their fellows. Part of them became advisers, but their advice was frequently not followed; part of them were hated and despised by their fellow-citizens, and they drew back from public affairs; others became violent, if not fierce governors of the other citizens, and others again finally became the administrators of liberty.


The Seven Sages. Amongst these men just characterized, the seven sages—in modern times excluded from the history of Philosophy—take their place. In as far as they may be reckoned as milestones in the history of Philosophy, something about their character should, in the commencement of Philosophy, be shortly said. They came into prominence, partly as taking part in the battles of the Ionic towns, partly as expatriated, and partly as individuals of distinction in Greece. The names of the seven are given differently: usually, however, as Thales, Solon, Periander, Cleobulus, Chilon, Bias, Pittacus. Hermippus in Diogenes Laertius (1, 42) specifies seventeen, and, amongst these, various people pick out seven in various ways. According to Diogenes Laertius (1, 41) Dicæarchus, who came still earlier in history, only names four, and these are placed amongst the seven by all; they are Thales, Bias, Pittacus and Solon. Besides these, Myson, Anacharsis, Acusilaus, Epimenides, Pherecydes, &c., are mentioned. Dicæarchus in Diogenes (1, 40), says of them that they are neither wise men (σοφούς) nor philosophers, but men of understanding (συνετξύς) and law-givers; this judgment has become the universal one and is held to be just. They come in a period of transition amongst the Greeks—a transition from a patriarchal system of kings into one of law or force. The fame of the wisdom of these men depends, on the one hand, on the fact that they grasped the practical essence of consciousness, or the consciousness of universal morality as it is in and for itself, giving expression to it in the form of moral maxims and in part in civil laws, making these actual in the state; on the other hand it depends on their having, in theoretic form, expressed the same in witty sayings. Some of these sayings could not merely be regarded as thoughtful or good reflections, but in so far, as philosophic and speculative; they have a comprehensive, universal significance ascribed to them, which, however, does not explain them. These men have not[157] really made science and Philosophy their aim; it is expressly said of Thales that it was in the latter part of his life that he first took to Philosophy. What had relation to politics appeared most frequently; they were practical men, men of affairs, but not in our sense of the word; with us practical activity devotes itself to a special line of administration or to a particular business, or to economics, &c. They lived in democratic states and thus shared the responsibilities of the general administration and rule. They were not statesmen like the great Greek personalities, like Miltiades, Themistocles, Pericles and Demosthenes, but they were statesmen in a time when safety, preservation and, indeed, the whole well-being, disposition and well nigh the very foundation of civic life were in question; and certainly when this was so with the foundations of legally established institutions.

Thales and Bias thus appear as the representatives of the Ionic towns. Herodotus (I. 169-171) speaks of both, and says of Thales that he advised even before the overthrow of the Ionians (apparently through Crœsus), that they should constitute a supreme council (ἓν βουλευτήριον) in Teos, in the centre of the Ionian people, and thus make a federal state with a capital and principal federal town, so that they might still remain separate nations (δῆμοι) as before. However, they did not follow this advice, and this isolated and weakened them, and the result was their conquest; it has always been a difficult thing for the Greeks to give up their individuality. Later on, when Harpagus, the general of Cyrus who accomplished their overthrow, pressed in upon them, the Ionians took no better the most excellent advice of Bias of Priene, given them at the decisive moment when they were assembled at Panionium, “to go in a common fleet to Sardinia, there to found an Ionic state. By so doing they would escape servitude, be happy, and, inhabiting the largest island, subdue the others. But if they remained in Ionia there was no hope of liberty to[158] be seen for them.” Herodotus gives his corroboration to this advice—“If they had followed him they would have been the happiest of Greeks.” Such things take place, but through force and not voluntarily.

We find the other sages under similar conditions. Solon was an administrator in Athens, and thereby became famous; few men have attained the honourable position of being a law-giver. Solon shares it with Moses, Lycurgus, Zaleucus, Numa, &c., alone. No individuals can be found amongst Teutonic peoples who possess the distinction of being the law-givers of their people. Nowadays there can be law-givers no longer; legal institutions and regulations are in modern times always ready to hand, and the little that can still be done by means of the law-giver and by law-making assemblies is simply the further modification of details or making very insignificant additions. What is dealt with is the compilation, wording and perfecting of the particular only; and yet neither Solon and Lycurgus did more than respectively bring the Ionic mind and the Doric character—being that which had been given them and which was implicitly present—into the form of consciousness, and obviate the temporary inconvenience of disorder through effective laws. Solon was thus not a perfect statesman; this is manifest from the sequel of his history. A constitution which allowed Pisistratus in Solon’s own time to raise himself into the Tyranny, showing itself to be so destitute of strength and organization that it could not prevent its own overthrow, (and by what a power!) manifests some inward want. This may seem strange, for a constitution must be able to afford resistance to such an attack. But let us see what Pisistratus did.

What the so-called tyrants really were, is most clearly shown by the relation borne by Solon to Pisistratus. When orderly institutions and laws were necessary to the Greeks, we find law-givers and regents of states appearing, who laid down laws, and ruled accordingly. The law, as universal,[159] seemed and still seems now to the individual to be force, inasmuch as he does not have regard to or comprehend the law: it applies first to all the people, and then only, to the individual; it is essential first of all to use constraint until the individual attains discernment, and law to him becomes his law, and ceases to be something foreign. Most of the law-givers and administrators of states undertook themselves to constrain the people and to be their tyrants. In states where they did not undertake it, it had to be done by other individuals, for it was essential. According to Diogenes Laertius’ account (I. 48-50), we find Solon—whom his friends advised to secure the mastery for himself since the people held to him (προσεῖχον), and would have liked to see him become tyrant—repulse them, and try to prevent any such occurrence, when he became suspicious of Pisistratus’ intentions. What he did when he remarked upon the attitude of Pisistratus, was to come into the assembly of the people, and tell them the design of Pisistratus, accoutred in armour and shield; this was then unusual, for Thucydides (1, 6) makes it a distinguishing feature between Greeks and Barbarians, that the former, and pre-eminently the Athenians, put aside their arms in time of peace. He said, “Men of Athens, I am wiser than some and braver than others: I am wiser than those who do not see the deceit of Pisistratus, braver than those who certainly see it, but say nothing from fear.” As he could not do anything, he left Athens. Pisistratus is said to have then written a most honourable letter to Solon in his absence, which Diogenes (I. 53, 54) has preserved for us, inviting him to return to Athens, and live with him as a free citizen. “Not only am I not the only one of the Greeks to have seized the tyranny, but I have not taken anything which was not my due, for I am of the race of Codrus. I have only taken back to myself what the Athenians swore they would preserve to Codrus and his race, and yet took from them. Moreover I am doing no evil toward gods and[160] men, but as thou hast given laws to the Athenians, I take care (ἐπιτροπῶ) that in civil life they shall carry them out (πολιτεύειν.) His son Hippias did the same. And these relations are carried out better than they would be in a democracy, for I allow nobody to do evil (ὑβρίζειν), and as Tyrant, I lay claim to no more (πλεῖόν τι φέρομαι) than such consideration and respect and specified gifts (τὰ ῥητὰ γέρα) as would have been offered to the kings in earlier times. Every Athenian gives the tenth part of his revenue, not to me, but towards the cost of the public offering, and besides for the commonwealth, and for use in case of war. I am not angry that thou hast disclosed my project. For thou didst it more out of love to the people than hate against me, and because thou didst not know how I would conduct my rule. For if thou hadst known this, thou wouldst have submitted to it willingly, and wouldst not have taken flight;” and so he goes on. Solon, in the answer given by Diogenes, (I. 66, 67) says, that he “has not a personal grudge against Pisistratus, and he must call him the best of tyrants; but to turn back does not befit him. For he made equality of rights essential in the Athenian constitution, and himself refused the tyranny. By his return he would condone what was done by Pisistratus.” The rule of Pisistratus accustomed the Athenians to the laws of Solon, and brought them into usage, so that after this usage came to be general, supremacy was superfluous; his sons were hence driven out of Athens, and for the first time the constitution of Solon upheld itself. Solon undoubtedly gave the laws, but it is another thing to make such regulations effectual in the manners, habits and life of a people. What was separate in Solon and Pisistratus, we find united in Periander in Corinth, and Pittacus in Mitilene.

This may be enough about the outward life of the seven sages. They are also famed for the wisdom of the sayings which have been preserved to us; these sayings seem in[161] great measure, however, to be superficial and hackneyed. The reason for this is found in the fact that, to our reflection, general propositions are quite usual; much in the Proverbs of Solomon seems to us to be superficial and commonplace for the same reason. But it is quite another thing to bring to the ordinary conception for the first time this same universal in the form of universality. Many distichs are ascribed to Solon which we still retain; their object is to express in maxims general obligations towards the gods, the family and the country. Diogenes (I. 58) tells us that Solon said: “Laws are like a spider’s web; the small are caught, the great tear it up: speech is the image of action,” &c. Such sayings are not philosophy, but general reflections, the expression of moral duties, maxims, necessary determinations. The wisdom of the sages is of this kind; many sayings are insignificant, but many seem to be more insignificant than they are. For instance, Chilon says: “Stand surety, and evil awaits thee” (ἐγγύα, πάρα δ̓ ἄτα). On the one hand this is quite a common rule of life and prudence, but the sceptics gave to this proposition a much higher universal significance, which is also accredited to Chilon. This sense is, “Ally thyself closely to any particular thing, and unhappiness will fall upon thee.” The sceptics adduced this proposition independently, as demonstrating the principle of scepticism, which is that nothing is finite and definite in and for itself, being only a fleeting, vacillating phase which does not last. Cleobulus says, μέτρον ἄριστον, another μηδὲν ἄγαν, and this has likewise a universal significance which is that limitation, the πέρας of Plato as opposed to the ἄπειρον—-the self-determined as opposed to undetermined—is what is best; and thus it is that in Being limit or measure is the highest determination.

One of the most celebrated sayings is that of Solon in his conversation with Crœsus, which Herodotus (I. 30-33) has in his own way given us very fully. The result arrived[162] at is this:—“Nobody is to be esteemed happy before his death.” But the noteworthy point in this narrative is that from it we can get a better idea of the standpoint of Greek reflection in the time of Solon. We see that happiness is put forward as the highest aim, that which is most to be desired and which is the end of man; before Kant, morality, as eudæmonism, was based on the determination of happiness. In Solon’s sayings there is an advance over the sensuous enjoyment which is merely pleasant to the feelings. Let us ask what happiness is and what there is within it for reflection, and we find that it certainly carries with it a certain satisfaction to the individual, of whatever sort it be—whether obtained through physical enjoyment or spiritual—the means of obtaining which lie in men’s own hands. But the fact is further to be observed that not every sensuous, immediate pleasure can be laid hold of, for happiness contains a reflection on the circumstances as a whole, in which we have the principle to which the principle of isolated enjoyment must give way. Eudæmonism signifies happiness as a condition for the whole of life; it sets up a totality of enjoyment which is a universal and a rule for individual enjoyment, in that it does not allow it to give way to what is momentary, but restrains desires and sets a universal standard before one’s eyes. If we contrast it with Indian philosophy, we find eudæmonism to be antagonistic to it. There the liberation of the soul from what is corporeal, the perfect abstraction, the necessity that the soul shall, in its simplicity, be at home with itself, is the final end of man. With the Greeks the opposite is the case; the satisfaction there is also satisfaction of the soul, but it is not attained through flight, abstraction, withdrawal within self, but through satisfaction in the present, concrete satisfaction in relation to the surroundings. The stage of reflection that we reach in happiness, stands midway between mere desire and the other extreme, which is right as right and duty as duty. In happiness, the individual enjoyment has disappeared; the[163] form of universality is there, but the universal does not yet come forth on its own account, and this is the issue of the conversation between Crœsus and Solon. Man as thinking, is not solely engrossed with present enjoyment, but also with the means for obtaining that to come. Crœsus points out to him these means, but Solon still objects to the statement of the question of Crœsus. For in order that any one should be conceived of as happy, we must await his death, for happiness depends upon his condition to the end, and upon the fact that his death should be a pious one and be consistent with his higher destiny. Because the life of Crœsus had not yet expired, Solon could not deem him happy. And the history of Crœsus bears evidence that no momentary state deserves the name of happiness. This edifying history holds in its embrace the whole standpoint of the reflection of that time.

Division of the Subject. In the consideration of Greek philosophy we have now to distinguish further three important periods:—in the first place the period from Thales to Aristotle; secondly, Greek philosophy in the Roman world; thirdly, the Neo-platonic philosophy.

1. We begin with thought, as it is in a quite abstract, natural or sensuous form, and we proceed from this to the Idea as determined. This first period shows the beginning of philosophic thought, and goes on to its development and perfection as a totality of knowledge in itself; this takes place in Aristotle as representing the unity of what has come before. In Plato there is just such a union of what came earlier, but it is not worked out, for he only represents the Idea generally. The Neo-platonists have been called eclectics, and Plato was said to have brought about the unity; they were not, however, eclectics, but they had a conscious insight into the necessity for uniting these philosophies.

2. After the concrete Idea was reached, it came forth as if in opposites, perfecting and developing itself. The second period is that in which science breaks itself up into[164] different systems. A one-sided principle is carried through the whole conception of the world; each side is in itself formed into a totality, and stands in the relation of one extreme to another. The philosophical systems of Stoicism and Epicureanism are such; scepticism forms the negative to their dogmatism, while the other philosophies disappear.

3. The third period is the affirmative, the withdrawal of the opposition into an ideal world or a world of thought, a divine world. This is the Idea developed into totality, which yet lacks subjectivity as the infinite being-for-self.



First Period, from Thales to Aristotle

In this first period we shall again make three divisions:—

1. The first extends from Thales to Anaxagoras, from abstract thought which is in immediate determinateness to the thought of the self-determining Thought. Here a beginning is made with the absolutely simple, in which the earliest methods of determination manifest themselves as attempts, until the time of Anaxagoras; he determines the true as the νοῦς, and as active thought which no longer is in a determinate character, but which is self-determining.

2. The second division comprises the Sophists, Socrates, and the followers of Socrates. Here the self-determining thought is conceived of as present and concrete in me; that constitutes the principle of subjectivity if not also of infinite subjectivity, for thought first shows itself here only partly as abstract principle and partly as contingent subjectivity.

3. The third division, which deals with Plato and Aristotle, is found in Greek science where objective thought, the Idea, forms itself into a whole. The concrete, in itself determining Thought, is, with Plato, the still abstract Idea, but in the form of universality; while with Aristotle that Idea was conceived of as the self-determining, or in the determination of its efficacy or activity.


Period I.—Division I.—Thales to Anaxagoras

Since we possess only traditions and fragments of this epoch, we may speak here of the sources of these.

1. The first source is found in Plato, who makes copious reference to the older philosophers. For the reason that he makes the earlier and apparently independent philosophies, which are not so far apart when once their Notion is definitely grasped, into concrete moments of one Idea, Plato’s philosophy often seems to be merely a clearer statement of the doctrines of the older philosophers, and hence it draws upon itself the reproach of plagiarism. Plato was willing to spend much money in procuring the writings of the older philosophers, and, from his profound study of these, his conclusions have much weight. But because in his writings he never himself appeared as teacher, but always represented other people in his dialogues as the philosophers, a distinction never has been made between what really belonged to them in history and what was added by him through the further development which he effected in their thoughts. In the Parmenides, for instance, we have the Eleatic philosophy, and yet the working out of this doctrine belongs peculiarly to Plato.

2. Aristotle is our most abundant authority; he studied the older philosophers expressly and most thoroughly, and he has, in the beginning of his Metaphysics especially, and also to a large extent elsewhere, dealt with them, in historical order: he is as philosophic as erudite, and we may[167] rely upon him. We can do no better in Greek philosophy than study the first book of his Metaphysics. When the would-be-wise man depreciates Aristotle, and asserts that he has not correctly apprehended Plato, it may be retorted that as he associated with Plato himself, with his deep and comprehensive mind, perhaps no one knew him better.

3. Cicero’s name may also occur to us here—although he certainly is but a troubled spring—since he undoubtedly gives us much information; yet because he was lacking in philosophic spirit, he understood Philosophy rather as if it were a matter of history merely. He does not seem to have himself studied its first sources, and even avows that, for instance, he never understood Heraclitus; and because this old and deep philosophy did not interest him, he did not give himself the trouble to study it. His information bears principally on later philosophers—the Stoics, Epicureans, the new Academy, and the Peripatetics. He saw what was ancient through their medium, and, generally speaking, through a medium of reasoning and not of speculation.

4. Sextus Empiricus, a later sceptic, has importance through his writings, Hypotyposes Pyrrhonicæ and adversus Mathematicos. Because, as a sceptic, he both combated the dogmatic philosophy and also adduced other philosophers as testifying to scepticism (so that the greater part of his writings is filled with the tenets of other philosophers), he is the most abundant source we have for the history of ancient philosophy, and he has retained for our use many valuable fragments.

5. The book of Diogenes Laertius (De vitis, &c., Philoss. lib. x., ed. Meibom. c. notis Menagii, Amstel. 1692) is an important compilation, and yet it brings forward copious evidence without much discrimination. A philosophic spirit cannot be ascribed to it; it rambles about amongst bad anecdotes extraneous to the matter in hand. For the[168] lives of philosophers, and here and there for their tenets, it is useful.

6. Finally, we must speak of Simplicius, a later Greek, from Cilicia, living under Justinian, in the middle of the sixth century. He is the most learned and acute of the Greek commentators of Aristotle, and of his writings there is much still unpublished: to him we certainly owe our thanks.

I need give no more references, for they may be found without trouble in any compendium. In the progress of Greek philosophy men were formerly accustomed to follow the order that showed, according to ordinary ideas, an external connection, and which is found in one philosopher having had another as his teacher—this connection is one which might show him to be partly derived from Thales and partly from Pythagoras. But such a connection is in part defective in itself, and in part it is merely external. The one set of philosophic sects, or of philosophers classed together, which is considered as belonging to a system—that which proceeds from Thales—pursues its course in time and mind far separate from the other. But, in truth, no such series ever does exist in this isolation, nor would it do so even though the individuals were consecutive and had been externally connected as teacher and taught, which never is the case; mind follows quite another order. These successive series are interwoven in spirit just as much as in their particular content.

We come across Thales first amongst the Ionic people, to whom the Athenians belonged, or from whom the Ionians of Asia Minor, as a whole, derived their origin. The Ionic race appears earlier in Peloponnesus, but seems to have been removed from thence. It is, however, not known what nations belonged to it, for, according to Herodotus (I. 143), the other Ionians, and even the Athenians, laid aside the name. According to Thucydides (I. 2 and 12), the Ionic colonies in Asia Minor and the islands proceeded[169] principally from Athens, because the Athenians, on account of the over-population of Attica, migrated there. We find the greatest activity in Greek life on the coasts of Asia Minor, in the Greek islands, and then towards the west of Magna Græcia; we see amongst these people, through their internal political activity and their intercourse with foreigners, the existence of a diversity and variety in their relations, whereby narrowness of vision is done away with, and the universal rises in its place. These two places, Ionia and Greater Greece, are thus the two localities where this first period in the history of Philosophy plays its part until the time when, that period being ended, Philosophy plants itself in Greece proper, and there makes its home. Those spots were also the seat of early commerce and of an early culture, while Greece itself, so far as these are concerned, followed later.

We must thus remark that the character of the two sides into which these philosophies divide, the philosophy of Asia Minor in the east and that of Grecian Italy in the west, partakes of the character of the geographical distinction. On the Asia Minor side, and also in the islands, we find Thales, Anaximander, Anaximenes, Heraclitus, Leucippus, Democritus, Anaxagoras, and Diogenes from Crete. On the other side are the inhabitants of Italy: Pythagoras from Samos, who lived in Italy, however; Xenophanes, Parmenides, Zeno, Empedocles; and several of the Sophists also lived in Italy. Anaxagoras was the first to come to Athens, and thus his science takes a middle place between both extremes, and Athens was made its centre. The geographical distinction makes its appearance in the manifestation of Thought, in the fact that, with the Orientals a sensuous, material side is dominant, and in the west, Thought, on the contrary, prevails, because it is constituted into the principle in the form of thought. Those philosophers who turned to the east knew the absolute in a real determination of nature, while towards Italy there[170] is the ideal determination of the absolute. These explanations will be sufficient for us here; but Empedocles, whom we find in Sicily, is somewhat of a natural philosopher, while Gorgias, the Sicilian sophist, remains faithful to the ideal side.

We now have to consider further:—1, The Ionians, viz. Thales, Anaximander, Anaximenes; 2, Pythagoras and his followers; 3, the Eleatics, viz. Xenophanes, Parmenides, &c.; 4, Heraclitus; 5, Empedocles, Leucippus and Democritus; 6, Anaxagoras. We have to trace and point out the progression of this philosophy also. The first and altogether abstract determinations are found with Thales and the other Ionians; they grasped the universal in the form of a natural determination, as water and air. Progression must thus take place by leaving behind the merely natural determination; and we find that this is so with the Pythagoreans. They say that number is the substance or the essence of things; number is not sensuous, nor is it pure thought, but it is a non-sensuous object of sense. It was with the Eleatics that pure thought appeared, and that its forcible liberation from the sensuous form and the form of number came to pass; and thus from them proceeds the dialectic movement of thought, which negates the definite particular in order to show that it is not the many but only the one that is true. Heraclitus declares the Absolute to be this very process, which, according to the Eleatics, was still subjective; he arrived at objective consciousness, since in it the Absolute is that which moves or changes. Empedocles, Leucippus, and Democritus, on the contrary, rather go to the opposite extreme, to the simple, material, stationary principle, to the substratum which underlies the process; and thus this last, as being movement, is distinguished from it. With Anaxagoras it is the moving, self-determining thought itself that is then known as existence, and this is a great step forward.


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 Crœsus. Through his overthrow (Ol. 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 (I. 22, 37), stated to be the Phœnician 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 Crœsus and partly in Miletus. Herodotus quotes him several times, and tells (I. 75) that, according to the narratives of the Greeks, when Crœsus 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 (I. 25) says further of him as regards his relations to his country, that he restrained the men of Miletus from allying themselves with Crœsus when he went against Cyrus, and that hence, after the conquest of Crœsus, when[172] the other Ionic States were subdued by the Persians, the inhabitants of Miletus alone remained undisturbed. Diogenes records, moreover (I. 23), that he soon withdrew his attention from the affairs of the State and devoted himself entirely to science.

Voyages to Phœnicia are recorded of him, which, however, rest on vague tradition; but that he was in Egypt in his old age seems undoubted.[19] There he was said to have learned geometry, but this would appear not to have been much, judging from the anecdote, which Diogenes (I. 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 (I. 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.[20] We have some further isolated instances of, and anecdotes about his astronomical knowledge and works.[21] “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,[173] according to Diogenes (I. 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 (I. 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 (I. 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 Laertius (I. 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. I. 3), he says: “Since it is clear that we must acquire the science of first causes (ἐξ ἀρχῆς αἰτίν), 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 (ἐν ὕλης εἴδει), 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 (οὐσία), ever remains the same and only changes in its particular qualities (πάθεσι); and this is called the element (στοιχεῖον) 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 (τὸ ὑποκείμενον), 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[175] maintains its existence” (σωζομένης ἐκείνης), 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 (εἶδος); 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 ὑποκείμενον, the first ground, and, according to Seneca’s statement (Quæst. 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 over all. No more do we know anything further of Anaximander, Anaximenes and Diogenes than their principles. Aristotle brings forward a conjecture as to how Thales derived everything directly out of water, “Perhaps (ἴσως) 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[176] 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. I. 3), have taken Thales’ assertion as positive and not hypothetical; Tiedmann (Geist der spec. Phil. vol. I. p. 36) remarks with great reason that Plutarch omits the “perhaps.” For Plutarch says, “Thales suggests (στοχάζεται) 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 (εἰκός) 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, (α) 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. (β) 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. (γ) 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 (τῆς γενέσεως), and water,[177] 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 be speculative universality, however, would necessitate its being Notion and having what is sensuous removed.[178] Here we have the strife between sensuous universality and universality of the Notion. The real essence of nature has 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[179] 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.[180] 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 (πυκνότητι καὶ μανότητι), or, as it may be better put, through[181] greater or less intensity. Tennemann (vol. I. 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 cælo, 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.[22] 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, I. 2, also 5) is this: “Thales seems, according to what is said of him,[183] 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 Laertius (I. 24) adds amber to this, from which we see that even Thales knew about electricity, although another explanation of it is that ἤλεκτρον 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 (I. 27), “The world is animated and full of demons,” and Plutarch (De plac. phil. I. 7) says, “He called God the Intelligence (νοῦς) of the world.” But all the ancients, and particularly Aristotle, ascribe this expression unanimously to Anaxagoras as the one who first said that the νοῦς 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. Deor. I. 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 νοῦς 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[184] 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[185] 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. Quaest. 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. I. p. 413), it is put in Olympiad 42, 3 (610 B.C.), while Diogenes Laertius (II. I, 2) says, taking his information from Apollodorus, an Athenian, that in Ol. 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 (πρίμετρον) of land and sea; he also made other mathematical inventions, such as a sun-dial that he put up in Lacedæmon, 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[186] in the passage quoted before: “He adduced the Infinite” (τὸ ἄπειρον, 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. (α.) “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.”[23] (β.) 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.[24] That is, everything is really contained therein in possibility (δυνάμει), “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 Laertius adds (II. 1): “The parts of the Infinite change, but it itself is unchangeable.” (γ.) 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.[25] 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[187] 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.[26] Plutarch reproaches Anaximander “for not saying what (τι) 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.”[27] 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 held 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.[28] Development comes also into prominence in[188] 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 Stobæus (Eclog. Phys. c. 24, p. 500); this Aristotle (Metaphys. I. 5) first ascribed to Parmenides. Eusebius (De præp. Evang. I. 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 Stobæus (Ecl. 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[189] 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 Laertius says neither with consideration nor consistency (II. 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. I. 3) says: “Out of it everything comes forth, and into it everything is again resolved.” According to Cicero (De Nat. Deor. I. 10), “he defined it as immeasurable, infinite, and in constant motion.” Diogenes Laertius expresses this in the passage already quoted: “The principle is air and the infinite” (οὖτος ἀρχὴν ἀέρα εἶπε καὶ τὸ ἄπειρον) as if there were two principles; however, ἀρχὴν καὶ ἄπειρον may be taken together as subject, and ἀέρα 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,[190] 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—and resolve itself therein, better thus: “As our soul, which is air, holds us together (συγρατεῖ), one spirit (πνεῦμα) and air together likewise hold (περιέχει) 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 Laertius (I. 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[191] been a theogony of which he wrote. The first words, still preserved to us, are: “Jupiter and Time and what is terrestrial (χθών) were from eternity (εἰς ἀεί); the name of earthly (χθονίῃ) was given to the terrestrial sphere when Zeus granted to it gifts.”[29] How it goes on is not known, but this cannot be deemed a great loss. Hermias tells us only this besides:[30] “He maintained Zeus or Fire (αἰθέρα), 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. I. 8) remarks, “called earth the principle, because it appears to be the most complex element” (διὰ τὴν μεγαλομέρειαν); 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, fire, 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[192] 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. I. 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 (τὸ ὑποκείμενον) 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, as we would say, is[193] 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 comes 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 (λόγῳ) 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[194] were the first, says Aristotle, (Metaph. I. 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: (α) The original essence is water; (β) Anaximander’s infinite is descriptive of movement, simple going out of and coming back into the simple, universal aspects of form—condensation and rarefaction; (γ) 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.

B. Pythagoras and the Pythagoreans.

The later Neo-Pythagoreans have written many extensive biographies of Pythagoras, and are especially diffuse as regards the Pythagorean brotherhood. But it must be taken into consideration that these often distorted statements must not be regarded as historical. The life of Pythagoras thus first comes to us in history through the medium of the ideas belonging to the first centuries after Christ, and more or less in the style in which the life of Christ is written, on the ground of ordinary actuality, and not in a poetic atmosphere; it appears to be the intermingling of many marvellous and extravagant tales, and to take its origin in part from eastern ideas and in part from western. In acknowledging the remarkable nature of his life and genius and of the life which he inculcated on his followers, it was added that his dealings were not with right things, and that he was a magician and one who had intercourse with higher beings. All the ideas of magic, that medley of unnatural and natural, the mysteries which pervade a clouded,[195] miserable imagination, and the wild ideas of distorted brains, have attached themselves to him.

However corrupt the history of his life, his philosophy is as much so. Everything engendered by Christian melancholy and love of allegory has been identified with it. The treatment of Plato in Christian times has quite a different character. Numbers have been much used as the expression of ideas, and this on the one hand has a semblance of profundity. For the fact that another significance than that immediately presented is implied in them, is evident at once; but how much there is within them is neither known by him who speaks nor by him, who seeks to understand; it is like the witches’ rhyme (one time one) in Goethe’s “Faust.” The less clear the thoughts, the deeper they appear; what is most essential, but most difficult, the expression of oneself in definite conceptions, is omitted. Thus Pythagoras’ philosophy, since much has been added to it by those who wrote of it, may similarly appear as the mysterious product of minds as shallow and empty as they are dark. Fortunately, however, we have a special knowledge of the theoretic, speculative side of it, and that, indeed, from Aristotle and Sextus Empiricus, who have taken considerable trouble with it. Although later Pythagoreans disparage Aristotle on account of his exposition, he has a place above any such disparagement, and therefore to them no attention must be given.

In later times a quantity of writings were disseminated and foisted upon Pythagoras. Diogenes Laertius (VIII. 6, 7) mentions many which were by him, and others which were set down to him in order to obtain authority for them. But in the first place we have no writings by Pythagoras, and secondly it is doubtful whether any ever did exist. We have quotations from these in unsatisfactory fragments, not from Pythagoras, but from Pythagoreans. It cannot be decisively determined which developments and interpretations belonged to the ancients and which to the moderns; yet[196] with Pythagoras and the ancient Pythagoreans the determinations were not worked out in so concrete a way as later.

As to the life of Pythagoras, we hear from Diogenes Laertius (VIII. 1-3, 45) that he flourished about the 60th Olympiad (540 B.C.). His birth is usually placed in the 49th or 50th Olympiad (584 B.C.); by Larcher in Tennemann (Vol. I., pp. 413, 414), much earlier—in the 43rd Olympiad (43, 1, i.e. 608 B.C.). He was thus contemporaneous with Thales and Anaximander. If Thales’ birth were in the 38th Olympiad and that of Pythagoras in the 43rd, Pythagoras was only twenty-one years younger than he; he either only differed by a couple of years from Anaximander (Ol. 42, 3) in age, or the latter was twenty-six years older. Anaximenes was from twenty to twenty-five years younger than Pythagoras. His birthplace was the Island of Samos, and hence he belonged to the Greeks of Asia Minor, which place we have hitherto found to be the seat of philosophy. Pythagoras is said by Herodotus (IV., 93 to 96) to have been the son of Mnesarchus, with whom Zalmoxis served as slave in Samos; Zalmoxis obtained freedom and riches, became ruler of the Getæ, and asserted that he and his people would not die. He built a subterranean habitation and there withdrew himself from his subjects; after four years he re-appeared;[31] hence the Getans believed in immortality. Herodotus thinks, however, that Zalmoxis was undoubtedly much older than Pythagoras.

His youth was spent at the court of Polycrates, under whose rule Samos was brought, not only to wealth, but also to the possession of culture and art. In this prosperous period, according to Herodotus (III., 39), it possessed a fleet of a hundred ships. His father was an artist or engraver, but reports vary as to this, as also as to his country, some saying that his family was of Tyrrhenian origin and did not go to Samos till after Pythagoras’ birth. That may be as it will, for his youth was spent in Samos and he[197] must hence have been naturalized there, and to it he belongs. He soon journeyed to the main land of Asia Minor and is said there to have become acquainted with Thales. From thence he travelled to Phœnicia and Egypt, as Iamblichus (III., 13, 14) says in his biography of Pythagoras. With both countries Asia Minor had many links, commercial and political, and it is related that he was recommended by Polycrates to King Amasis, who, according to Herodotus (II. 154), attracted many Greeks to the country, and had Greek troops and colonies. The narratives of further journeys into the interior of Asia, to the Persian magicians and Indians, seem to be altogether fabulous, although travelling, then as now, was considered to be a means of culture. As Pythagoras travelled with a scientific purpose, it is said that he had himself initiated into nearly all the mysteries of Greeks and of Barbarians, and thus he obtained admission into the order or caste of the Egyptian priesthood.

These mysteries that we meet with amongst the Greeks, and which are held to be the sources of much wisdom, appear in their religion to have stood in the relationship of doctrine to worship. This last existed in offerings and solemn festivals only, but to ordinary conceptions, to a consciousness of these conceptions, there is no transition visible unless they were preserved in poems as traditions. The doctrines themselves, or the act of bringing the actual home to the conception, seems to have been confined to the mysteries; we find it to be the case, however, that it is not only the ideas as in our teaching, but also the body that is laid claim to—that there was brought home to man by sending him to wander amongst his fellow-men, both the abandonment of his sensuous consciousness and the purification and sanctification of the body. Of philosophic matter, however, there is as little openly declared as possible, and just as we know the system of freemasonry, there is no secret in those mysteries.


His alliance with the Egyptian priesthood had a most important influence upon Pythagoras, not through the derivation of profound speculative wisdom therefrom, but by the idea obtained through it of the realization of the moral consciousness of man; the individual, he learned, must attend to himself, if inwardly and to the outer world he is to be meritorious and to bring himself, morally formed and fashioned, into actuality. This is a conception which he subsequently carried out, and it is as interesting a matter as his speculative philosophy. Just as the priests constituted a particular rank and were educated for it, they also had a special rule, which was binding throughout the whole moral life. From Egypt Pythagoras thus without doubt brought the idea of his Order, which was a regular community brought together for purposes of scientific and moral culture, which endured during the whole of life. Egypt at that time was regarded as a highly cultured country, and it was so when compared with Greece; this is shown even in the differences of caste which assumes a division amongst the great branches of life and work, such as the industrial, scientific and religious. But beyond this, we need not seek great scientific knowledge amongst the Egyptians, nor think that Pythagoras got his science there. Aristotle (Metaph. I.) only says that “in Egypt mathematical sciences first commenced, for there the nation of priests had leisure.”[32]

Pythagoras stayed a long time in Egypt, and returned from thence to Samos; but he found the internal affairs of his own country in confusion, and left it soon after. According to Herodotus’ account (III. 45-47), Polycrates had—not as tyrant—banished many citizens from Samos, who sought and found support amongst the Lacedæmonians, and a civil war had broken out. The Spartans had, at an earlier period, given assistance to the others,[199] for, as Thucydides says (I. 18), to them thanks were generally ascribed for having abolished the rule of the few, and caused a reversion to the system of giving public power to the people; later on they did the opposite, abolishing democracy and introducing aristocracy. Pythagoras’ family was necessarily involved in these unpleasant relations, and a condition of internal strife was not congenial to Pythagoras, seeing that he no longer took an interest in political life, and that he saw in it an unsuitable soil for carrying out his plans. He traversed Greece, and betook himself from thence to Italy, in the lower parts of which Greek colonies from various states and for various motives had settled, and there flourished as important trading towns, rich in people and possessions.

In Crotona he settled down, and lived in independence, neither as a statesman, warrior, nor political law-giver to the people, so far as external life was concerned, but as a public teacher, with the provision that his teaching should not be taken up with mere conviction, but should also regulate the whole moral life of the individual. Diogenes Laertius says that he first gave himself the name φιλόσοφος, instead of σοφός; and men called this modesty, as if he thereby expressed, not the possession of wisdom, but only the struggle towards it, as towards an end which cannot be attained.[33] But σοφός at the same time means a wise man, who is also practical, and that not in his own interest only, for that requires no wisdom, seeing that every sincere and moral man does what is best from his own point of view. Thus φιλόσοφος signifies more particularly the opposite to participation in practical matters, that is in public affairs. Philosophy is thus not the love of wisdom, as of something which one sets oneself to acquire; it is no unfulfilled desire. Φιλόσοφος means a man whose relation to wisdom is that of making it his object; this[200] relationship is contemplation, and not mere Being; but it must be consciously that men apply themselves to this. The man who likes wine (φίλοινος) is certainly to be distinguished from the man who is full of wine, or a drunkard. Then does φίλοινος signify only a futile aspiration for wine?

What Pythagoras contrived and effected in Italy is told us by later eulogists, rather than by historians. In the history of Pythagoras by Malchus (this was the Syrian name of Porphyry) many strange things are related, and with the Neo-Platonists the contrast between their deep insight and their belief in the miraculous is surprising. For instance, seeing that the later biographers of Pythagoras had already related a quantity of marvels, they now proceeded to add yet more to these with reference to his appearance in Italy. It appears that they were exerting themselves to place him, as they afterwards did with Apollonius of Tyana, in opposition to Christ. For the wonders which they tell of him seem partly to be an amplification of those in the New Testament, and in part they are altogether absurd. For instance, they make Pythagoras begin his career in Italy with a miracle. When he landed in the Bay of Tarentum, at Crotona, he encountered fishermen on the way to the town who had caught nothing. He called upon them to draw their nets once more, and foretold the number of fishes that would be found in them. The fishermen, marvelling at this prophecy, promised him that if it came true they would do whatever he desired. It came to pass as he said, and Pythagoras then desired them to throw the fishes alive back into the sea, for the Pythagoreans ate no flesh. And it is further related as a miracle which then took place, that none of the fishes whilst they were out of the water died during the counting. This is the kind of miracle that is recorded, and the stories with which his biographers fill his life are of the same silly nature. They then make him effect such a general impression[201] upon the mind of Italy, that all the towns reformed upon their luxurious and depraved customs, and the tyrants partly gave up their powers voluntarily, and partly they were driven out. They thereby, however, commit such historical errors as to make Charondas and Zaleucus, who lived long before Pythagoras, his disciples; and similarly to ascribe the expulsion and death of the tyrant Phalaris to him, and to his action.[34]

Apart from these fables, there remains as an historic fact, the great work which he accomplished, and this he did chiefly by establishing a school, and by the great influence of his order upon the principal part of the Greco-Italian states, or rather by means of the rule which was exercised in these states through this order, which lasted for a very long period of time. It is related of him that he was a very handsome man, and of a majestic appearance, which captivated as much as it commanded respect. With this natural dignity, nobility of manners, and the calm propriety of his demeanour, he united external peculiarities, through which he seemed a remarkable and mysterious being. He wore a white linen garment, and refrained from partaking of certain foods.[35] Particular personality, as also the externalities of dress and the like, are no longer of importance; men let themselves be guided by general custom and fashion, since it is a matter outside of and indifferent to them not to have their own will here; for we hand over the contingent to the contingent, and only follow the external rationality that consists in identity and universality. To this outward personality there was added great eloquence and profound perception; not only did he undertake to impart this to his individual friends, but he proceeded to bring a general influence to bear on public culture,[202] both in regard to understanding and to the whole manner of life and morals. He not merely instructed his friends, but associated them in a particular life in order to constitute them into persons and make them skilful in business and eminent in morals. The Institute of Pythagoras grew into a league, which included all men and all life in its embrace; for it was an elaborately fashioned piece of work, and excellently plastic in design.

Of the regulations of Pythagoras’ league, we have descriptions from his successors, more especially from the Neo-Platonists, who are particularly diffuse as regards its laws. The league had, on the whole, the character of a voluntary priesthood, or a monastic order of modern times. Whoever wished to be received was proved in respect of his education and obedience, and information was collected about his conduct, inclinations, and occupations. The members were subject to a special training, in which a difference was made amongst those received, in that some were exoteric and some esoteric. These last were initiated into the highest branches of science, and since political operations were not excluded from the order, they were also engaged in active politics; the former had to go through a novitiate of five years. Each member must have surrendered his means to the order, but he received them again on retiring, and in the probationary period silence was enjoined (ἐχεμυθία).[36]

This obligation to cease from idle talk may be called an essential condition for all culture and learning; with it men must begin if they wish to comprehend the thoughts of others and relinquish their own ideas. We are in the habit of saying that the understanding is cultivated through questioning, objecting and replying, &c., but, in fact, it is not thus formed, but made from without.[203] What is inward in man is by culture got at and developed; hence though he remains silent, he is none the poorer in thought or denser of mind. He rather acquires thereby the power of apprehension, and comes to know that his ideas and objections are valueless; and as he learns that such ideas are valueless, he ceases to have them. Now the fact that in Pythagoras there is a separation between those in the course of preparation and those initiated, as also that silence is particularly enjoined, seems most certainly to indicate that in his brotherhood both were formal elements and not merely as present in the nature of things, as might occur spontaneously in the individual without any special law or the application of any particular consideration. But here it is important to remark that Pythagoras may be regarded as the first instructor in Greece who introduced the teachings of science; neither Thales, who was earlier than he, nor his contemporary Anaximander taught scientifically, but only imparted their ideas to their friends. There were, generally speaking, no sciences at that time; there was neither a science of philosophy, mathematics, jurisprudence or anything else, but merely isolated propositions and facts respecting these subjects. What was taught was the use of arms, theorems, music, the singing of Homer’s or Hesiod’s songs, tripod chants, &c., or other arts. This teaching is accomplished in quite another way. Now if we said that Pythagoras had introduced the teaching of science amongst a people who, though like the Greeks, untaught therein, were not stupid but most lively, cultured and loquacious, the external conditions of such teaching might in so far be given as follows:—(α) He would distinguish amongst those who as yet had no idea of the process of learning a science, so that those who first began should be excluded from that which was to be imparted to those further on; and (β) he would make them leave the unscientific mode of speaking of such matters, or their idle[204] prattle, alone, and for the first time study science. But the fact that this action both appeared to be formal and likewise required to be made such, was, on account of its unwonted character, a necessary one, just because the followers of Pythagoras were not only numerous, necessitating a definite form and order, but also, generally speaking, they lived continually together. Thus a particular form was natural to Pythagoras, because it was the very first time that a teacher in Greece arrived at a totality, or a new principle, through the cultivation of the intelligence, mind and will. This common life had not only the educational side and that founded on the exercise of physical ingenuity or skill, but included also that of the moral culture of practical men. But even now everything relating to morality appears and is or becomes altogether formal, or rather this is so in as far as it is consciously thought of as in this relation, for to be formal is to be universal, that which is opposed to the individual. It appears so particularly to him who compares the universal and the individual and consciously reflects over both, but this difference disappears for those living therein, to whom it is ordinary habit.

Finally, we have sufficient and full accounts of the outward forms observed by the Pythagoreans in their common life and also of their discipline. For much of this, however, we are indebted to the impressions of later writers. In the league, a life regulated in all respects was advocated. First of all, it is told us, that the members made themselves known by a similar dress—the white linen of Pythagoras. They had a very strict order for each day, of which each hour had its work. The morning, directly after rising, was set aside for recalling to memory the history of the previous day, because what is to be done in the day depends chiefly on the previous day; similarly the most constant self-examination was made the duty of the evening in order to find whether the deeds done in the day were right or[205] wrong. True culture is not the vanity of directing so much attention to oneself and occupying oneself with oneself as an individual, but the self-oblivion that absorbs oneself in the matter in hand and in the universal; it is this consideration of the thing in hand that is alone essential, while that dangerous, useless, anxious state does away with freedom. They had also to learn by heart from Homer and from Hesiod; and all through the day they occupied themselves much with music—one of the principal parts of Greek education and culture.[37] Gymnastic exercises in wrestling, racing, throwing, and so on, were with them also enforced by rule. They dined together, and here, too, they had peculiar customs, but of these the accounts are different. Honey and bread were made their principal food, and water the principal, and indeed only, drink; they must thus have entirely refrained from eating meat as being associated with metempsychosis. A distinction was also made regarding vegetables—beans, for example, being forbidden. On account of this respect for beans, they were much derided, yet in the subsequent destruction of the political league, several Pythagoreans, being pursued, preferred to die than to damage a field of beans.[38]

The order, the moral discipline which characterized them, the common intercourse of men, did not, however, endure long; for even in Pythagoras’ life-time the affairs of his league must have become involved, since he found enemies who forcibly overthrew him. He drew down upon him, it is said, the envy of others, and was accused of thinking differently from what he seemed to indicate, and thus of having an arrière pensée. The real fact of the case was that the individual belonged, not entirely[206] to his town, but also to another. In this catastrophe, Pythagoras himself, according to Tennemann (Vol. I. p. 414), met his death in the 69th Olympiad (504, B.C.) in a rising of the people against these aristocrats; but it is uncertain whether it happened in Crotona or in Metapontum, or in a war between the Syracusans and the Agrigentines. There is also much difference of opinion about the age of Pythagoras, for it is given sometimes as 80, and sometimes as 104.[39] For the rest, the unity of the Pythagorean school, the friendship of the members, and the connecting bond of culture have even in later times remained, but not in the formal character of a league, because what is external must pass away. The history of Magna Græcia is in general little known, but even in Plato’s[40] time we find Pythagoreans appearing at the head of states or as a political power.

The Pythagorean brotherhood had no relation with Greek public and religious life, and therefore could not endure for long: in Egypt and in Asia exclusiveness and priestly influence have their home, but Greece, in its freedom, could not let the Eastern separation of caste exist. Freedom here is the principle of civic life, but still it is not yet determined as principle in the relations of public and private law. With us the individual is free since all are alike before the law; diversity in customs, in political relations and opinions may thus exist, and must indeed so do in organic states. In democratic Greece, on the contrary, manners, the external mode of life, necessarily preserved a certain similarity, and the stamp of similarity remained impressed on these wider spheres; for the exceptional condition of the Pythagoreans, who could not take their part as free citizens, but were dependent on the plans and ends of a combination and led an exclusive religious life, there was no place in[207] Greece. The preservation of the mysteries certainly belonged to the Eumolpidæ, and other special forms of worship to other particular families, but they were not regarded in a political sense as of fixed and definite castes, but as priests usually are, politicians, citizens, men like their fellows; nor, as with the Christians, was the separation of religious persons driven to the extreme of monastic rule. In ordinary civic life in Greece, no one could prosper or maintain his position who held peculiar principles, or even secrets, and differed in outward modes of life and clothing; for what evidently united and distinguished them was their community of principles and life—whether anything was good for the commonwealth or not, was by them publicly and openly discussed. The Greeks are above having particular clothing, maintaining special customs of washing, rising, practising music, and distinguishing between pure and impure foods. This, they say, is partly the affair of the particular individual and of his personal freedom, and has no common end in view, and partly it is a general custom and usage for everybody alike.

What is most important to us is the Pythagorean philosophy—not the philosophy of Pythagoras so much as that of the Pythagoreans, as Aristotle and Sextus express it. The two must certainly be distinguished, and from comparing what is given out as Pythagorean doctrine, many anomalies and discrepancies become evident, as we shall see. Plato bears the blame of having destroyed Pythagorean philosophy through absorbing what is Pythagorean in it into his own. But the Pythagorean philosophy itself developed to a point which left it quite other than what at first it was. We hear of many followers of Pythagoras in history who have arrived at this or that conclusion, such as Alcmæon and Philolaus; and we see in many cases the simple undeveloped form contrasted with the further stages of development in which thought comes forth in definiteness and power. We need, however, go no further[208] into the historical side of the distinction, for we can only consider the Pythagorean philosophy generally; similarly we must separate what is known to belong to the Neo-Platonists and Neo-Pythagoreans, and for this end we have sources to draw from which are earlier than this period, namely the express statements found in Aristotle and Sextus.

The Pythagorean philosophy forms the transition from realistic to intellectual philosophy. The Ionic school said that essence or principle is a definite material. The next conclusion is (α) that the absolute is not grasped in natural form, but as a thought determination. (β) Then it follows that determinations must be posited while the beginning was altogether undetermined. The Pythagorean philosophy has done both.

1. The System of Numbers. Thus the original and simple proposition of the Pythagorean philosophy is, according to Aristotle (Metaph. I. 5), “that number is the reality of things, and the constitution of the whole universe in its determinations is an harmonious system of numbers and of their relations.” In what sense is this statement to be taken? The fundamental determination of number is its being a measure; if we say that everything is quantitatively or qualitatively determined, the size and measure is only one aspect or characteristic which is present in everything, but the meaning here is that number itself is the essence and the substance of things, and not alone their form. What first strikes us as surprising is the boldness of such language, which at once sets aside everything which to the ordinary idea is real and true, doing away with sensuous existence and making it to be the creation of thought. Existence is expressed as something which is not sensuous, and thus what to the senses and to old ideas is altogether foreign, is raised into and expressed as substance and as true Being. But at the same time the necessity is shown for making number to be likewise Notion, to manifest it as the activity of its unity[209] with Being, for to us number does not seem to be in immediate unity with the Notion.

Now although this principle appears to us to be fanciful and wild, we find in it that number is not merely something sensuous, therefore it brings determination with it, universal distinctions and antitheses. The ancients had a very good knowledge of these. Aristotle (Metaph. I. 6) says of Plato: “He maintained that the mathematical elements in things are found outside of what is merely sensuous, and of ideas, being between both; it differs from what is sensuous in that it is eternal and unchangeable, and from ideas, in that it possesses multiplicity, and hence each can resemble and be similar to another, while each idea is for itself one alone.” That is, number can be repeated; thus it is not sensuous, and still not yet thought. In the life of Pythagoras, this is further said by Malchus (46, 47): “Pythagoras propounded philosophy in this wise in order to loose thought from its fetters. Without thought nothing true can be discerned or known; thought hears and sees everything in itself, the rest is lame and blind. To obtain his end, Pythagoras makes use of mathematics, since this stands midway between what is sensuous and thought, as a kind of preliminary to what is in and for itself.” Malchus quotes further (48, 53) a passage from an early writer, Moderatus: “Because the Pythagoreans could not clearly express the absolute and the first principles through thought, they made use of numbers, of mathematics, because in this form determinations could be easily expressed.” For instance, similarity could be expressed as one, dissimilarity as two. “This mode of teaching through the use of numbers, whilst it was the first philosophy, is superseded on account of its mysterious nature. Plato, Speusippus, Aristotle, &c., have stolen the fruits of their work from the Pythagoreans by making a simple use of their principle.” In this passage a perfect knowledge of numbers is evident.


The enigmatic character of the determination through number is what most engages our attention. The numbers of arithmetic answers to thought-determinations, for number has the “one” as element and principle; the one, however, is a category of being-for-self, and thus of identity with self, in that it excludes all else and is indifferent to what is “other.” The further determinations of number are only further combinations and repetitions of the one, which all through remains fixed and external; number, thus, is the most utterly dead, notionless continuity possible; it is an entirely external and mechanical process, which is without necessity. Hence number is not immediate Notion, but only a beginning of thought, and a beginning in the worst possible way; it is the Notion in its extremest externality, in quantitative form, and in that of indifferent distinction. In so far, the one has within itself both the principle of thought and that of materiality, or the determination of the sensuous. In order that anything should have the form of Notion, it must immediately in itself, as determined, relate itself to its opposite, just as positive is related to negative; and in this simple movement of the Notion we find the ideality of differences and negation of independence to be the chief determination. On the other hand, in the number three, for instance, there are always three units, of which each is independent; and this is what constitutes both their defect and their enigmatic character. For since the essence of the Notion is innate, numbers are the most worthless instruments for expressing Notion-determinations.

Now the Pythagoreans did not accept numbers in this indifferent way, but as Notion. “At least they say that phenomena must be composed of simple elements, and it would be contrary to the nature of things if the principle of the universe pertained to sensuous phenomena. The elements and principles are thus not only intangible and invisible, but altogether incorporeal.”[41] But how they have[211] come to make numbers the original principle or the absolute Notion, is better shown from what Aristotle says in his Metaphysics (I. 5), although he is shorter than he would have been, because he alleges that elsewhere (infra., p. 214) he has spoken of it. “In numbers they thought that they perceived much greater similitude to what is and what takes place than in fire, water, or earth; since a certain property of numbers (τοιονδὶ πάθος) is justice, so is it with (τοιονδὶ) the soul and understanding; another property is opportunity, and so on. Since they further saw the conditions and relations of what is harmonious present in numbers, and since numbers are at the basis of all natural things, they considered numbers to be the elements of everything, and the whole heavens to be a harmony and number.” In the Pythagoreans we see the necessity for one enduring universal idea as a thought-determination. Aristotle (Met. XII. 4), speaking of ideas, says: “According to Heraclitus, everything sensuous flows on, and thus there cannot be a science of the sensuous; from this conviction the doctrine of ideas sprang. Socrates is the first to define the universal through inductive methods; the Pythagoreans formerly concerned themselves merely with a few matters of which they derived the notions from numbers—as, for example, with what opportuneness, or right, or marriage are.” It is impossible to discern what interest this in itself can have; the only thing which is necessary for us as regards the Pythagoreans, is to recognize any indications of the Idea, in which there may be a progressive principle.

This is the whole of the Pythagorean philosophy taken generally. We now have to come to closer quarters, and to consider the determinations, or universal significance. In the Pythagorean system numbers seem partly to be themselves allied to categories—that is, to be at once the thought-determinations of unity, of opposition and of the unity of these two moments. In part, the Pythagoreans[212] from the very first gave forth universal ideal determinations of numbers as principles, and recognized, as Aristotle remarks (Metaph. I. 5), as the absolute principles of things, not so much immediate numbers in their arithmetic differences, as the principles of number, i.e. their rational differences. The first determination is unity generally, the next duality or opposition. It is most important to trace back the infinitely manifold nature of the forms and determinations of finality to their universal thoughts as the most simple principles of all determination. These are not differences of one thing from another, but universal and essential differences within themselves. Empirical objects distinguish themselves by outward form; this piece of paper can be distinguished from another, shades are different in colour, men are separated by differences of temperament and individuality. But these determinations are not essential differences; they are certainly essential for the definite particularity of the things, but the whole particularity defined is not an existence which is in and for itself essential, for it is the universal alone which is the self-contained and the substantial. Pythagoras began to seek these first determinations of unity, multiplicity, opposition, &c. With him they are for the most part numbers; but the Pythagoreans did not remain content with this, for they gave them the more concrete determinations, which really belong to their successors. Necessary progression and proof are not to be sought for here; comprehension, the development of duality out of unity are wanting. Universal determinations are only found and established in a quite dogmatic form, and hence the determinations are dry, destitute of process or dialectic, and stationary.

a. The Pythagoreans say that the first simple Notion is unity (μονάς); not the discrete, multifarious, arithmetic one, but identity as continuity and positivity, the entirely universal essence. They further say, according to Sextus[213] (adv. Math. X. 260, 261): “All numbers come under the Notion of the one; for duality is one duality and triplicity is equally a ‘one,’ but the number ten is the one chief number. This moved Pythagoras to assert unity to be the principle of things, because, through partaking of it, each is called one.” That is to say, the pure contemplation of the implicit being of a thing is the one, the being like self; to all else it is not implicit, but a relationship to what is other. Things, however, are much more determined than being merely this dry “one.” The Pythagoreans have expressed this remarkable relationship of the entirely abstract one to the concrete existence of things through “simulation” (μίμησις). The same difficulty which they here encounter is also found in Plato’s Ideas; since they stand over against the concrete as species, the relation of concrete to universal is naturally an important point. Aristotle (Metaph. I. 6) ascribes the expression “participation” (μέθεξις) to Plato, who took it in place of the Pythagorean expression “simulation.” Simulation is a figurative, childish way of putting the relationship; participation is undoubtedly more definite. But Aristotle says, with justice, that both are insufficient; that Plato has not here arrived at any further development, but has only substituted another name. “To say that ideas are prototypes and that other things participate in them is empty talk and a poetic metaphor; for what is the active principle that looks upon the ideas?” (Metaph. I. 9). Simulation and participation are nothing more than other names for relation; to give names is easy, but it is another thing to comprehend.

b. What comes next is the opposition, the duality (δυάς), the distinction, the particular; such determinations have value even now in Philosophy; Pythagoras merely brought them first to consciousness. Now, as this unity relates to multiplicity, or this being-like-self to being another, different applications are possible, and the Pythagoreans have[214] expressed themselves variously as to the forms which this first opposition takes.

(α) They said, according to Aristotle (Metaph. I. 5): “The elements of number are the even and the odd; the latter is the finite” (or principle of limitation) “and the former is the infinite; thus the unity proceeds from both and out of this again comes number.” The elements of immediate number are not yet themselves numbers: the opposition of these elements first appears in arithmetical form rather than as thought. But the one is as yet no number, because as yet it is not quantity; unity and quantity belong to number. Theon of Smyrna[42] says: “Aristotle gives, in his writings on the Pythagoreans, the reason why, in their view, the one partakes of the nature of even and odd; that is, one, posited as even, makes odd; as odd, it makes even. This is what it could not do unless it partook of both natures, for which reason they also called the one, even-odd” (ἀρτιοπέριττον).

(β) If we follow the absolute Idea in this first mode, the opposition will also be called the undetermined duality (ἀόριστος δυάς). Sextus speaks more definitely (adv. Math. X. 261, 262) as follows: “Unity, thought of in its identity with itself (κατ̓ αὐτότητα ἑαυτῆς), is unity; if this adds itself to itself as something different (καθ̓ ἑτερότητα), undetermined duality results, because no one of the determined or otherwise limited numbers is this duality, but all are known through their participation in it, as has been said of unity. There are, according to this, two principles in things; the first unity, through participation in which all number-units are units, and also undetermined duality through participation in which all determined dualities are dualities.” Duality is just as essential a moment in the Notion as is unity. Comparing them with one another, we may either consider the unity to[215] be form and duality matter, or the other way; and both appear in different modes. (αα) Unity, as the being-like-self, is the formless; but in duality, as the unlike, there comes division or form. (ββ) If, on the other hand, we take form as the simple activity of absolute form, the one is what determines; and duality as the potentiality of multiplicity, or as multiplicity not posited, is matter. Aristotle (Met. I. 6) says that it is characteristic of Plato that “he makes out of matter many, but with him the form originates only once; whereas out of one matter only one table proceeds, whoever brings form to matter, in spite of its unity, makes many tables.” He also ascribes this to Plato, that “instead of showing the undetermined to be simple (ἀντὶ τοῦ ἀπείρου ὡς ἑνός), he made of it a duality—the great and small.”

(γ) Further consideration of this opposition, in which Pythagoreans differ from one another, shows us the imperfect beginning of a table of categories which were then brought forward by them, as later on by Aristotle. Hence the latter was reproached for having borrowed these thought-determinations from them; and it certainly was the case that the Pythagoreans first made the opposite to be an essential moment in the absolute. They further determined the abstract and simple Notions, although it was in an inadequate way, since their table presents a mixture of antitheses in the ordinary idea and the Notion, without following these up more fully. Aristotle (Met. I. 5) ascribes these determinations either to Pythagoras himself, or else to Alcmæon “who flourished in the time of Pythagoras’ old age,” so that “either Alcmæon took them from the Pythagoreans or the latter took them from him.” Of these antitheses or co-ordinates to which all things are traced, ten are given, for, according to the Pythagoreans, ten is a number of great significance:—

1. The finite and the infinite.
2. The odd and the even.
3. The one and the many.[216]
4. The right and the left.
5. The male and the female.
6. The quiescent and the moving.
7. The straight and the crooked.
8. Light and darkness.
9. Good and evil.
10. The square and the parallelogram.

This is certainly an attempt towards a development of the Idea of speculative philosophy in itself, i.e. in Notions; but the attempt does not seem to have gone further than this simple enumeration. It is very important that at first only a collection of general thought-determinations should be made, as was done by Aristotle; but what we here see with the Pythagoreans is only a rude beginning of the further determination of antitheses, without order and sense, and very similar to the Indian enumeration of principles and substances.

(δ) We find the further progress of these determinations in Sextus (adv. Math. X. 262-277), when he speaks about an exposition of the later Pythagoreans. It is a very good and well considered account of the Pythagorean theories, which has some thought in it. The exposition follows these lines: “The fact that these two principles are the principles of the whole, is shown by the Pythagoreans in manifold ways.”

א. “There are three methods of thinking things; firstly, in accordance with diversity, secondly, with opposition, and thirdly, according to relation. (αα) What is considered in its mere diversity, is considered for itself; this is the case with those subjects in which each relates only to itself, such as horse, plant, earth, air, water and fire. Such matters are thought of as detached and not in relation to others.” This is the determination of identity with self or of independence. (ββ) “In reference to opposition, the one is determined as evidently contrasting[217] with the other; we have examples of this in good and evil, right and wrong, sacred and profane, rest and movement, &c. (γγ) According to relation (πρός τι), we have the object which is determined in accordance with its relationship to others, such as right and left, over and under, double and half. One is only comprehensible from the other; for I cannot tell which is my left excepting by my right.” Each of these relations in its opposition, is likewise set up for itself in a position of independence. “The difference between relationship and opposition is that in opposition the coming into existence of the ‘one’ is at the expense of the ‘other,’ and conversely. If motion is taken away, rest commences; if motion begins, rest ceases; if health is taken away, sickness begins, and conversely. In a condition of relationship, on the contrary, both take their rise, and both similarly cease together; if the right is removed, so also is the left; the double goes and the half is destroyed.” What is here taken away is taken not only as regards its opposition, but also in its existence. “A second difference is that what is in opposition has no middle; for example, between sickness and health, life and death, rest and motion, there is no third. Relativity, on the contrary, has a middle, for between larger and smaller there is the like; and between too large and too small the right size is the medium.” Pure opposition passes through nullity to opposition; immediate extremes, on the other hand, subsist in a third or middle state, but in such a case no longer as opposed. This exposition shows a certain regard for universal, logical determinations, which now and always have the greatest possible importance, and are moments in all conceptions and in everything that is. The nature of these opposites is, indeed, not considered here, but it is of importance that they should be brought to consciousness.

ב. “Now since these three represent three different genera, the subjects and the two-fold opposite, there must[218] be a higher genus over each of them which takes the first place, since the genus comes before its subordinate kinds. If the universal is taken away, so is the kind; on the other hand, if the kind, not the genus, for the former depends on the latter, but not the contrary way.” (αα) “The Pythagoreans have declared the one to be the highest genus of what is considered as in and for itself” (of subjects in their diversity); this is, properly speaking, nothing more than translating the determinations of the Notion into numbers. (ββ) “What is in opposition has, they say, as its genus the like and the unlike; rest is the like, for it is capable of nothing more and nothing less; but movement is the unlike. Thus what is according to nature is like itself; it is a point which is not capable of being intensified (ἀνεπίτατος); what is opposed to it is unlike. Health is like, sickness is unlike. (γγ) The genus of that which is in an indifferent relationship is excess and want, the more and the less;” in this we have the quantitative relation just as we formerly had the qualitative.

ג. We now come for the first time to the two opposites: “These three genera of what is for itself, in opposition and in relationship, must now come under”—yet simpler, higher—“genera,” i.e. thought-determinations. “Similarity reduces itself to the determination of unity.” The genus of the subjects is the very being on its own account. “Dissimilarity, however, consists of excess and want, but both of these come under undetermined duality;” they are the undetermined opposition, opposition generally. “Thus from all these relationships the first unity and the undetermined duality proceed;” the Pythagoreans said that such are found to be the universal modes of things. “From these, there first comes the ‘one’ of numbers and the ‘two’ of numbers; from the first unity, the one; from the unity and the undetermined duality the two; for twice the one is two. The other numbers take their origin in a similar way, for the unity over moves forward,[219] and the undetermined duality generates the two.” This transition of qualitative into quantitative opposition is not clear. “Hence underlying these principles, unity is the active principle” or form, “but the two is the passive matter; and just as they make numbers arise from them, so do they make the system of the world and that which is contained in it.” The nature of these determinations is to be found in transition and in movement. The deeper significance of this reflection rests in the connection of universal thought-determinations with arithmetic numbers—in subordinating these and making the universal genus first.

Before I say anything of the further sequence of these numbers, it must be remarked that they, as we see them represented here, are pure Notions. (α) The absolute, simple essence divides itself into unity and multiplicity, of which the one sublates the other, and at the same time it has its existence in the opposition. (β) The opposition has at the same time subsistence, and in this is found the manifold nature of equivalent things. (γ) The return of absolute essence into itself is the negative unity of the individual subject and of the universal or positive. This is, in fact, the pure speculative Idea of absolute existence; it is this movement: with Plato the Idea is nothing else. The speculative makes its appearance here as speculative; whoever does not know the speculative, does not believe that in indicating simple Notions such as these, absolute essence is expressed. One, many, like, unlike, more or less, are trivial, empty, dry moments; that there should be contained in them absolute essence, the riches and the organization of the natural, as of the spiritual world, does not seem possible to him who, accustomed to ordinary ideas, has not gone back from sensuous existence into thought. It does not seem to such a one that God is, in a speculative sense, expressed thereby—that what is most sublime can be put in those common words, what is[220] deepest, in what is so well known, self-evident and open, and what is richest, in the poverty of these abstractions.

It is at first in opposition to common reality that this idea of reality as the manifold of simple essence, has in itself its opposition and the subsistence of the same; this essential, simple Notion of reality is elevation into thought, but it is not flight from what is real, but the expression of the real itself in its essence. We here find the Reason which expresses its essence; and absolute reality is unity immediately in itself. Thus it is pre-eminently in relation to this reality that the difficulties of those who do not think speculatively have become so intense. What is its relation to common reality? What has taken place is just what happens with the Platonic Ideas, which approximate very closely to these numbers, or rather to pure Notions. That is to say, the first question is, “Numbers, where are they? Dispersed through space, dwelling in independence in the heaven of ideas? They are not things immediately in themselves, for a thing, a substance, is something quite other than a number: a body bears no similarity to it.” To this we may answer that the Pythagoreans did not signify anything like that which we understand by prototypes—as if ideas, as the laws and relations of things, were present in a creative consciousness as thoughts in the divine understanding, separated from things as are the thoughts of an artist from his work. Still less did they mean only subjective thoughts in our consciousness, for we use the absolute antithesis as the explanation of the existence of qualities in things, but what determines is the real substance of what exists, so that each thing is essentially just its having in it unity, duality, as also their antithesis and connection. Aristotle (Met. I. 5, 6) puts it clearly thus: “It is characteristic of the Pythagoreans that they did not maintain the finite and the infinite and the One, to be, like fire, earth, &c., different natures or to have another reality than things; for the Infinite and the[221] abstract One are to them, the substance of the things of which they are predicated. Hence too, they said, Number is the essence of all things. Thus they do not separate numbers from things, but consider them to be things themselves. Number to them is the principle and matter of things, as also their qualities and forces;” hence it is thought as substance, or the thing as it is in the reality of thought.

These abstract determinations then became more concretely determined, especially by the later philosophers, in their speculations regarding God. We may instance Iamblichus, for example, in the work θεολογούμενα ἀριθμητικῆς, ascribed to him by Porphyry and Nicomachus. Those philosophers sought to raise the character of popular religion, for they inserted such thought-determinations as these into religious conceptions. By Monas they understood nothing other than God; they also call it Mind, the Hermaphrodite (which contains both determinations, odd as well as even), and likewise substance, reason, chaos (because it is undetermined), Tartarus, Jupiter, and Form. They called the duad by similar names, such as matter, and then the principle of the unlike, strife, that which begets, Isis, &c.

c. The triad (τριάς) has now become a most important number, seeing that in it the monad has reached reality and perfection. The monad proceeds through the duad, and again brought into unity with this undetermined manifold, it is the triad. Unity and multiplicity are present in the triad in the worst possible way—as an external combination; but however abstractly this is understood, the triad is still a profound form. The triad then is held to be the first perfect form in the universal. Aristotle (De Cœlo I. 1) puts this very clearly: “The corporeal has no dimension outside of the Three; hence the Pythagoreans also say that the all and everything is determined through triplicity,” that is, it has absolute form. “For the number[222] of the whole has end, middle, and beginning; and this is the triad.” Nevertheless there is something superficial in the wish to bring everything under it, as is done in the systematization of the more modern natural philosophy. “Therefore we, too, taking this determination from nature, make use of it in the worship of the gods, so that we believe them to have been properly apostrophized only when we have called upon them three times in prayer. Two we call both, but not all; we speak first of three as all. What is determined through three is the first totality (πᾶν); what is in triple form is perfectly divided. Some is merely in one, other is only in two, but this is All.” What is perfect, or has reality, is its identity, opposition and unity, like number generally; but in triplicity this is actual, because it has beginning, middle, and end. Each thing is simple as beginning; it is other or manifold as middle, and its end is the return of its other nature into unity or mind; if we take this triplicity from a thing, we negate it and make of it an abstract construction of thought.

It is now comprehensible that Christians sought and found the Trinity in this threefold nature. It has often been made a superficial reason for objecting to them; sometimes the idea of the Trinity as it was present to the ancients, was considered as above reason, as a secret, and hence, too high; sometimes it was deemed too absurd. But from the one cause or from the other, they did not wish to bring it into closer relation to reason. If there is a meaning in this Trinity, we must try to understand it. It would be an anomalous thing if there were nothing in what has for two thousand years been the holiest Christian idea; if it were too holy to be brought down to the level of reason, or were something now quite obsolete, so that it would be contrary to good taste and sense to try to find a meaning in it. It is the Notion of the Trinity alone of which we can speak, and not of the idea of Father and[223] Son, for we am not dealing with these natural relationships.

d. The Four (τετράς) is the triad but more developed, and hence with the Pythagoreans it held a high position. That the tetrad should be considered to be thus complete, reminds one of the four elements, the physical and the chemical, the four continents, &c. In nature four is found to be present everywhere, and hence this number is even now equally esteemed in natural philosophy. As the square of two, the fourfold is the perfection of the two-fold in as far as it—only having itself as determination, i.e. being multiplied with itself—returns into identity with itself. But in the triad the tetrad is in so far contained, as that the former is the unity, the other-being, and the union of both these moments, and thus, since the difference, as posited, is a double, if we count it, four moments result. To make this clearer, the tetrad is comprehended as the τετρακτύς, the efficient, active four (from τέτταρα and ἄγω); and afterwards this is by the Pythagoreans made the most notable number. In the fragments of a poem of Empedocles, who originally was a Pythagorean, it is shown in what high regard this tetraktus, as represented by Pythagoras, was held:

“If thou dost this,

It will lead thee in the path of holy piety. I swear it
By the one who to our spirit has given the Tetraktus,
Which has in it eternal nature’s source and root.”[43]

e. From this the Pythagoreans proceed to the ten, another form of this tetrad. As the four is the perfect form of three, this fourfold, thus perfected and developed so that all its moments shall be accepted as real differences, is the number ten (δεκάς), the real tetrad. Sextus (adv. Math. IV. 3; VII. 94, 95) says: “Tetraktus means the[224] number which, comprising within itself the four first numbers, forms the most perfect number, that is the number ten; for one and two and three and four make ten. When we come to ten, we again consider it as a unity and begin once more from the beginning. The tetraktus, it is said, has the source and root of eternal nature within itself, because it is the Logos of the universe, of the spiritual and of the corporeal.” It is an important work of thought to show the moments not merely to be four units, but complete numbers; but the reality in which the determinations are laid hold of, is here, however, only the external and superficial one of number; there is no Notion present although the tetraktus does not mean number so much as idea. One of the later philosophers, Proclus, (in Timæum, p. 269) says, in a Pythagorean hymn:—

“The divine number goes on,”...

“Till from the still unprofaned sanctuary of the Monad
It reaches to the holy Tetrad, which creates the mother of all that is;
Which received all within itself, or formed the ancient bounds of all,
Incapable of turning or of wearying; men call it the holy Dekad.”

What we find about the progression of the other numbers is more indefinite and unsatisfying, and the Notion loses itself in them. Up to five there may certainly be a kind of thought in numbers, but from six onwards they are merely arbitrary determinations.

2. Application of the System to the Universe. This simple idea and the simple reality contained therein, must now, however, be further developed in order to come to reality as it is when put together and expanded. The question now meets us as to how, in this relation, the Pythagoreans passed from abstract logical determinations to forms which indicate the concrete use of numbers. In what pertains to space or music, determinations of objects formed by the Pythagoreans through numbers, still bear a somewhat closer relation to the thing, but when they enter the region of the concrete in nature and in mind, numbers become purely formal and empty.


a. To show how the Pythagoreans constructed out of numbers the system of the world, Sextus instances (adv. Math. X. 277-283), space relations, and undoubtedly we have in them to do with such ideal principles, for numbers are, in fact, perfect determinations of abstract space. That is to say, if we begin with the point, the first negation of vacuity, “the point corresponds to unity; it is indivisible and the principle of lines, as the unity is that of numbers. While the point exists as the monad or One, the line expresses the duad or Two, for both become comprehensible through transition; the line is the pure relationship of two points and is without breadth. Surface results from the threefold; but the solid figure or body belongs to the fourfold, and in it there are three dimensions present. Others say that body consists of one point” (i.e. its essence is one point), “for the flowing point makes the line, the flowing line, however, makes surface, and this surface makes body. They distinguish themselves from the first mentioned, in that the former make numbers primarily proceed from the monad and the undetermined duad, and then points and lines, plane surfaces and solid figures, from numbers, while they construct all from one point.” To the first, distinction is opposition or form set forth as duality; the others have form as activity. “Thus what is corporeal is formed under the directing influence of numbers, but from them also proceed the definite bodies, water, air, fire, and the whole universe generally, which they declare to be harmonious. This harmony is one which again consists of numeral relations only, which constitute the various concords of the absolute harmony.”

We must here remark that the progression from the point to actual space also has the signification of occupation of space, for “according to their fundamental tenets and teaching,” says Aristotle (Metaph. I. 8), “they speak of sensuously perceptible bodies in nowise differently from those which are mathematical.” Since lines and surfaces are only[226] abstract moments in space, external construction likewise proceeds from here very well. On the other hand, the transition from the occupation of space generally to what is determined, to water, earth, &c., is quite another thing and is more difficult; or rather the Pythagoreans have not taken this step, for the universe itself has, with them, the speculative, simple form, which is found in the fact of being represented as a system of number-relations. But with all this, the physical is not yet determined.

b. Another application or exhibition of the essential nature of the determination of numbers is to be found in the relations of music, and it is more especially in their case that number constitutes the determining factor. The differences here show themselves as various relations of numbers, and this mode of determining what is musical is the only one. The relation borne by tones to one another is founded on quantitative differences whereby harmonies may be formed, in distinction to others by which discords are constituted. The Pythagoreans, according to Porphyry (De vita Pyth. 30), treated music as something soul-instructing and scholastic [Psychagogisches und Pädagogisches]. Pythagoras was the first to discern that musical relations, these audible differences, are mathematically determinable, that what we hear as consonance and dissonance is a mathematical arrangement. The subjective, and, in the case of hearing, simple feeling which, however, exists inherently in relation, Pythagoras has justified to the understanding, and he attained his object by means of fixed determinations. For to him the discovery of the fundamental tones of harmony are ascribed, and these rest on the most simple number-relations. Iamblichus (De vita Pyth. XXVI. 115) says that Pythagoras, in passing by the workshop of a smith, observed the strokes that gave forth a particular chord; he then took into consideration the weight of the hammer giving forth a certain harmony, and from that determined mathematically the tone as related[227] thereto.[44] And finally he applied the same, and experimented in strings, by which means there were three different relations presented to him—Diapason, Diapente, and Diatessaron. It is known that the tone of a string, or, in the wind instrument, of its equivalent, the column of air in a reed, depends on three conditions; on its length, on its thickness, and on the amount of tension. Now if we have two strings of equal thickness and length, a difference in tension brings about a difference in sound. If we want to know what tone any string has, we have only to consider its tension, and this may be measured by the weight depending from the string, by means of which it is extended. Pythagoras here found that if one string were weighted with twelve pounds, and another with six (λόγος διπλάσιος, 1 : 2) it would produce the musical chord of the octave (διὰ πασῶν); the proportion of 8 : 12, or of 2 : 3 (λόγος ἡμιόλιος) would give the chord of the fifth (διὰ πέντε); the proportion of 9 : 12, or 3 : 4 (λόγος ἐπίτριτος), the fourth (διὰ τεσσάρων).[45] A different number of vibrations in like times determines the height and depth of the tone, and this number is likewise proportionate to the weight, if thickness and length are equal. In the first case, the more distended string makes as many vibrations again as the other; in the second case, it makes three vibrations for the other’s two, and so it goes on. Here number is the real factor which determines the difference, for tone, as the vibration of a body, is only a quantitatively determined quiver or movement, that is, a determination made through space and time. For there can be no determination for the difference excepting that of number or the amount of vibrations in one time; and hence a determination made through numbers is nowhere more in place than here.[228] There certainly are also qualitative differences, such as those existing between the tones of metals and catgut strings, and between the human voice and wind instruments; but the peculiar musical relation borne by the tone of one instrument to another, in which harmony is to be found, is a relationship of numbers.

From this point the Pythagoreans enter into further applications of the theory of music, in which we cannot follow them. The à priori law of progression, and the necessity of movement in number-relations, is a matter which is entirely dark; minds confused may wander about at will, for everywhere ideas are hinted at, and superficial harmonies present themselves and disappear again. But in all that treats of the further construction of the universe as a numerical system, we have the whole extent of the confusion and turbidity of thought belonging to the later Pythagoreans. We cannot say how much pains they took to express philosophic thought in a system of numbers, and also to understand the expressions given utterance to by others, and to put in them all the meaning possible. When they determined the physical and the moral universe by means of numbers, everything came into indefinite and insipid relationships in which the Notion disappeared. In this matter, however, so far as the older Pythagoreans are concerned, we are acquainted with the main principles only. Plato exemplifies to us the conception of the universe as a system of numbers, but Cicero and the ancients always call these numbers the Platonic, and it does not appear that they were ascribed to the Pythagoreans. It was thus later on that this came to be said; even in Cicero’s time they had become proverbially dark, and there is but little after all that is really old.

c. The Pythagoreans further constructed the heavenly bodies of the visible universe by means of numbers, and here we see at once the barrenness and abstraction present in the determination of numbers. Aristotle says (Met. I.[229] 5), “Because they defined numbers to be the principles of all nature, they brought under numbers and their relationships all determinations and all sections, both of the heavens and of all nature; and where anything did not altogether conform, they sought to supply the deficiency in order to bring about a harmony. For instance, as the Ten or dekad appeared to them to be the perfect number, or that which embraces the whole essence of numbers, they said that the spheres moving in the heavens must be ten; but as only nine of these are visible, they made out a tenth, the Antichthone (ἀντίχθονα).” These nine are, first the milky way, or the fixed stars, and after that the seven stars which were then all held to be planets: Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, Venus, Mercury, the Sun, Moon, and in the last and ninth place, the Earth. The tenth is thus the Antichthone, and in regard to this it must remain uncertain whether the Pythagoreans considered it to be the side of the Earth which is turned away, or as quite another body.

Aristotle says, in reference to the specially physical character of these spheres (De cœlo II. 13 and 9), “Fire was by the Pythagoreans placed in the middle, but the Earth was made a star that moved around this central body in a circle.” This circle is, then, a sphere, which, as the most perfect of figures, corresponds to the dekad. We here find a certain similarity to our ideas of the solar system, but the Pythagoreans did not believe the fire to be the sun. “They thus,” says Aristotle, “rely, not on sensuous appearance, but on reasons,” just as we form conclusions in accordance with reasons as opposed to sensuous appearances; and indeed this comes to us still as the first example of things being in themselves different from what they appear. “This fire, that which is in the centre, they called Jupiter’s place of watch. Now these ten spheres make, like all that is in motion, a tone; but each makes a different one, according to the difference in its size and[230] velocity. This is determined by means of the different distances, which bear an harmonious relationship to one another, in accordance with musical intervals; by this means an harmonious sound arises in the moving spheres”—a universal chorus.

We must acknowledge the grandeur of this idea of determining everything in the system of the heavenly spheres through number-relations which have a necessary connection amongst themselves, and have to be conceived of as thus necessarily related; it is a system of relations which must also form the basis and essence of what can be heard, or music. We have, comprehended here in thought, a system of the universe; the solar system is alone rational to us, for the other stars are devoid of interest. To say that there is music in the spheres, and that these movements are tones, may seem just as comprehensible to us as to say that the sun is still and the earth moves, although both are opposed to the dictates of sense. For, seeing that we do not see the movement, it may be that we do not hear the notes. And there is little difficulty in imagining a universal silence in these vast spheres, since we do not hear the chorus, but it is more difficult to give a reason for not hearing this music. The Pythagoreans say, according to the last quoted passage of Aristotle, that we do not hear it because we live in it, like the smith who gets accustomed to the blows of his hammer. Since it belongs to our substance and is identical with ourselves, nothing else, such as silence, by which we might know the other, comes into relationship with us, for we are conceived of as entirely within the movement. But the movement does not become a tone, in the first place, because pure space and time, the elements in movement, can only raise themselves into a proper voice, unstimulated from without, in an animate body, and movement first reaches this definite, characteristic individuality in the animal proper; and, in the next place, because the heavenly bodies are not related to one another as bodies[231] whose sound requires for its production, contact, friction, or shock, in response to which, and as the negation of its particularity its own momentary individuality resounds in elasticity; for heavenly bodies are independent of one another, and have only a general, non-individual, free motion.

We may thus set aside sound; the music of the spheres is indeed a wonderful conception, but it is devoid of any real interest for us. If we retain the conception that motion, as measure, is a necessarily connected system of numbers, as the only rational part of the theory, we must maintain that nothing further has transpired to the present day. In a certain way, indeed, we have made an advance upon Pythagoras. We have learned from Kepler about laws, about eccentricity, and the relation of distances to the times of revolution, but no amount of mathematics has as yet been able to give us the laws of progression in the harmony through which the distances are determined. We know empirical numbers well enough, but everything has the semblance of accident and not of necessity. We are acquainted with an approximate rule of distances, and thus have correctly foretold the existence of planets where Ceres, Vesta, Pallas, &c., were afterwards discovered—that is, between Mars and Jupiter. But astronomy has not as yet found in it a consistent sequence in which there is rationality; on the other hand, it even looks with disdain on the appearance of regularity presented by this sequence, which is, however, on its own account, a most important matter, and one which should not be forgotten.

d. The Pythagoreans also applied their principle to the Soul, and thus determined what is spiritual as number. Aristotle (De anim. I. 2) goes on to tell that they thought that solar corpuscles are soul, others, that it is what moves them; they adopted this idea because the corpuscles are ever moving, even in perfect stillness, and hence they must have motion of their own. This does not signify much, but it is evident from it that the determination of self-movement[232] was sought for in the soul. The Pythagoreans made a further application of number-conceptions to the soul after another form, which Aristotle describes in the same place as follows:—“Thought is the one, knowledge or science is the two, for it comes alone out of the one. The number of the plane is popular idea, opinion; the number of the corporeal is sensuous feeling. Everything is judged of either by thought, or science, or opinion, or feeling.” In these ideas, which we must, however, ascribe to later Pythagoreans, we may undoubtedly find some adequacy, for while thought is pure universality, knowledge deals with something “other,” since it gives itself a determination and a content; but feeling is the most developed in its determinateness. “Now because the soul moves itself, it is the self-moving number,” yet we never find it said that it is connected with the monad.

This is a simple relationship to number-determinations. Aristotle instances (De anim. I. 3) one more intricate from Timæus: “The soul moves itself, and hence also the body because it is bound up with body; it consists of elements and is divided according to harmonic numbers, and hence it has feeling and an immediately indwelling (σύμφυτον) harmony. In order that the whole may have an harmonious movement, Timæus has bent the straight line of harmony (εὐθυωρίαν) into a circle, and again divided off from the whole circle two circles, which are doubly connected; and the one of these circles is again divided into seven circles, so that the movements of the soul may resemble those of the heavens.” The more definite significance of these ideas Aristotle unfortunately has not given; they contain a profound knowledge of the harmony of the whole, but yet they are forms which themselves remain dark, because they are clumsy and unsuitable. There is always a forcible turning and twisting, a struggle with the material part of the representation, as there is in mythical and distorted forms: nothing has the pliability of thought but[233] thought itself. It is remarkable that the Pythagoreans have grasped the soul as a system which is a counterpart of the system of the heavens. In Plato’s Timæus this same idea is more definitely brought forward. Plato also gives further number-relations, but not their significance as well; even to the present day no one has been able to make any particular sense out of them. An arrangement of numbers such as this is easy, but to give to it a real significance is difficult, and, when done, it always must be arbitrary.

There is still something worthy of attention in what is said by the Pythagoreans in reference to the soul, and this is their doctrine of the transmigration of souls. Cicero (Tusc. Quæst. I. 16) says: “Pherecydes, the teacher of Pythagoras, first said that the souls of men were immortal.” The doctrine of the transmigration of souls extends even to India, and, without doubt, Pythagoras took it from the Egyptians; indeed Herodotus (II. 123) expressly says so. After he speaks of the mythical ideas of the Egyptians as to the lower world, he continues: “The Egyptians were the first to say that the soul of man is immortal, and that, when the body disappears, it goes into another living being; and when it has gone through all the animals of land and sea, and likewise birds, it again takes the body of a man, the period being completed in 3000 years.” Diogenes Laertius says in this connection (VIII. 14) that the soul, according to Pythagoras, goes through a circle. “These ideas,” proceeds Herodotus, “are also found amongst the Greeks; there are some who, earlier or later, have made use of this particular doctrine, and have spoken of it as if it were their own; I know their names very well, but I will not mention them.” He undoubtedly meant Pythagoras and his followers. In the sequel, much that is given utterance to is fictitious: “Pythagoras himself is said to have stated that his former personality was known to him. Hermes granted him a knowledge of his circumstances before his birth. He lived[234] as the son of Hermes, Æthalides, and then in the Trojan war as Euphorbus, the son of Panthous, who killed Patroclus, and was killed by Menelaus; in the third place he was Hermotimus; fourthly, Pyrrhus, a fisherman of Delos; in all he lived 207 years. Euphorbus’ shield was offered up to Apollo by Menelaus, and Pythagoras went to the temple and, from the mouldering shield, showed the existence of signs, hitherto not known of, by which it was recognized.”[46] We shall not treat further of these very various and foolish stories.

As in the case of the brotherhood copied from the Egyptian priesthood, so must we here set aside this oriental and un-Greek idea of the transmigration of souls. Both were too far removed from the Greek spirit to have had a place and a development there. With the Greeks, the consciousness of a higher, freer individuality has become too strong to allow any permanence to the idea of metempsychosis, according to which, man, this independent and self-sufficing Being, takes the form of a beast. They have, indeed, the conception of men as becoming springs of water, trees, animals, &c., but the idea of degradation which comes as a consequence of sin, lies at its root. Aristotle (De anim. I. 3) shortly and in his own manner deals with and annihilates this idea of the Pythagoreans. “They do not say for what reason soul dwells in body, nor how the latter is related to it. For owing to their unity of nature when one acts the other suffers: one moves and the other is moved, but none of this happens in what is mutually contingent. According to the Pythagorean myths any soul takes to any body, which is much like making architects take to flutes. For crafts must necessarily have tools and soul body; but each tool must have its proper form and kind.” It is implied in the transmigration of souls that the organization of the body is something[235] accidental to the human soul; this refutation by Aristotle is complete. The eternal idea of metempsychosis had philosophic interest only as the inner Notion permeating all these forms, the oriental unity which appears in everything; we have not got this signification here, or at best we have but a glimmering of it. If we say that the particular soul is, as a definite thing, to wander about throughout all, we find firstly, that the soul is not a thing such as Leibnitz’ Monad, which, like a bubble in the cup of coffee, is possibly a sentient, thinking soul; in the second place an empty identity of the soul-thing such as this has no interest in relation to immortality.

3. Practical Philosophy. As regards the practical philosophy of Pythagoras, which is closely connected with what has gone before, there is but little that is philosophic known to us. Aristotle (Magn. Moral. I. 1) says of him that “he first sought to speak of virtue, but not in the right way, for, because he deduced the virtues from numbers, he could not form of them any proper theory.” The Pythagoreans adopted ten virtues as well as ten heavenly spheres. Justice, amongst others, is described as the number which is like itself in like manner (ἴσακις ἴσος); it is an even number, which remains even when multiplied with itself. Justice is pre-eminently what remains like itself; but this is an altogether abstract determination, which applies to much that is, and which does not exhaust the concrete, thus remaining quite indeterminate.

Under the name of the “Golden words,” we have a collection of hexameters which are a succession of moral reflections, but which are rightly ascribed to later Pythagoreans. They are old, well-known, moral maxims, which are expressed in a simple and dignified way, but which do not contain anything remarkable. They begin with the direction “to honour the immortal gods as they are by law established,” and further, “Honour the oath and then the illustrious heroes;” elsewhere they go on to direct[236] “honour to be paid to parents and to relatives,” &c.[47] Such matter does not deserve to be regarded as philosophy, although it is of importance in the process of development.

The transition from the form of outward morals to morality as existent, is more important. As in Thales’ time, law-givers and administrators of states were preeminent in possessing a physical philosophy, so we see that with Pythagoras practical philosophy is advocated as the means of constituting a moral life. There we have the speculative Idea, the absolute essence, in its reality, and in a definite, sensuous existence; and similarly the moral life is submerged in actuality as the universal spirit of a people, and as their laws and rule. In Pythagoras, on the contrary, we have the reality of absolute essence raised, in speculation, out of sensuous reality, and expressed, though still imperfectly, as the essence of thought. Morality is likewise partly raised out of actuality as ordinarily known; it is certainly a moral disposition of all actuality, but as a brotherhood, and not as the life of a people. The Pythagorean League is an arbitrary existence and not a part of the constitution recognized by public sanction; and in his person Pythagoras isolated himself as teacher, as he also did his followers. The universal consciousness, the spirit of a people, is the substance of which the accident is the individual consciousness; the speculative is thus the fact that pure, universal law is absolute, individual consciousness, so that this last, because it draws therefrom its growth and nourishment, becomes universal self-consciousness. These two sides do not, however, come to us in the form of the opposition; it is first of all in morality that there is properly this Notion of the absolute individuality of consciousness which does everything on its own account. But we see that it was really present to the mind of[237] Pythagoras that the substance of morality is the universal, from an example in Diogenes Laertius (VIII. 16). “A Pythagorean answered to the question of a father who inquired as to the best education he could give his son, that it should be that which would make him the citizen of a well-regulated State.” This answer is great and true; to the great principle of living in the spirit of one’s people, all other circumstances are subordinate. Nowadays men try to keep education free from the spirit of the times, but they cannot withdraw themselves from this supreme power, the State, for even if they try to separate themselves, they unconsciously remain beneath this universal. The speculative meaning of the practical philosophy of Pythagoras thus is, that in this signification, the individual consciousness shall obtain a moral reality in the brotherhood. But as number is a middle thing between the sensuous and Notion, the Pythagorean brotherhood is a middle between universal, actual morality and maintaining that in true morality the individual, as an individual, is responsible for his own behaviour; this morality ceases to be universal spirit. If we wish to see practical philosophy reappear, we shall find it; but, on the whole, we shall not see it become really speculative until very recent times.

We may satisfy ourselves with this as giving us an idea of the Pythagorean system. I will, however, shortly give the principal points of the criticism which Aristotle (Met. I. 8) makes upon the Pythagorean number-form. He says justly, in the first place: “If only the limited and the unlimited, the even and odd are made fundamental ideas, the Pythagoreans do not explain how movement arises, and how, without movement and change there can be coming into being and passing away, or the conditions and activities of heavenly objects.” This defect is significant; arithmetical numbers are dry forms and barren principles in which life and movement are deficient. Aristotle says[238] secondly, “From number no other corporeal determinations, such as weight and lightness, are conceivable;” or number thus cannot pass into what is concrete. “They say that there is no number outside of those in the heavenly spheres.” For instance, a heavenly sphere and a virtue, or a natural manifestation in the earth, are determined as one and the same number. Each of the first numbers may be exhibited in each thing or quality; but in so far as number is made to express a further determination, this quite abstract, quantitative difference becomes altogether formal; it is as if the plant were five because it has five stamens. This is just as superficial as are determination through elements or through particular portions of the globe; it is a method as formal as that by which men now try to apply the categories of electricity, magnetism, galvanism, compression and expansion, of manly and of womanly, to everything. It is a purely empty system of determination where reality should be dealt with.

To Pythagoras and his disciples there are, moreover, many scientific conclusions and discoveries ascribed, which, however, do not concern us at all. Thus, according to Diogenes Laertius (VIII. 14, 27), he is said to have known that the morning and evening star is the same, and that the moon derives her light from the sun. We have already mentioned what he says of music. But what is best known is the Pythagorean Theorem; it really is the main proposition in geometry, and cannot be regarded like any other theorem. According to Diogenes, (VIII. 12), Pythagoras, on discovering the theorem, sacrificed a hecatomb, so important did he think it; and it may indeed seem remarkable that his joy should have gone so far as to ordain a great feast to which rich men and all the people were invited. It was worth the trouble; it was a rejoicing, a feast of spiritual cognition—at the cost of the oxen.

Other ideas which are brought forward by the Pythagoreans casually and without any connection, have no[239] philosophic interest, and need only be mentioned. Aristotle, for instance, says (Phys. IV. 6) that “the Pythagoreans believed in an empty space which the heavens inspire, and an empty space which separates natural things and brings about the distinction between continuous and discrete; it first exists in numbers and makes them to be different.” Diogenes Laertius (VIII. 26-28) says much more, all of which is dull; this is like the later writers, who, generally speaking, take up what is external and devoid of any intellectual meaning. “The air which encircles the earth is immovable” (ἄσειστον, at least through itself) “and diseased, and all that is in it is mortal; but what is highest is in continual movement, pure and healthy, and in it everything is immortal—divine. Sun, moon and the other stars are gods, for in them warmth has predominance and is the cause of life. Man is related to the gods because he participates in warmth, and hence God cares for us. A ray penetrates from the sun through the thick and cold ether and gives life to everything; they call air, cold ether, the sea and moisture, thick ether. The soul is a detached portion of ether.”

C. The Eleatic School.

The Pythagorean philosophy has not yet got the speculative form of expression for the Notion. Numbers are not pure Notion, but Notion in the form of ordinary idea or sensuous perception, and hence a mixture of both. This expression of absolute essence in what is a pure Notion or something thought, and the movement of the Notion or of Thought, is that which we find must come next, and this we discover in the Eleatic school. In it we see thought becoming free for itself; and in that which the Eleatics express as absolute essence, we see Thought grasp itself in purity, and the movement of Thought in Notions. In the physical philosophy we saw movement represented[240] as an objective movement, as an origination and passing away. The Pythagoreans similarly did not reflect upon these Notions, and also treated their essence, Number, as fleeting. But since alteration is now grasped in its highest abstraction as Nothing, this objective movement changes into a subjective one, comes over to the side of consciousness, and existence becomes the unmoved. We here find the beginning of dialectic, i.e. simply the pure movement of thought in Notions; likewise we see the opposition of thought to outward appearance or sensuous Being, or of that which is implicit to the being-for-another of this implicitness, and in the objective existence we see the contradiction which it has in itself, or dialectic proper. When we reflect in anticipation on how the course of pure thought must be formed, we find (α) that pure thought (pure Being, the One) manifests itself immediately in its rigid isolation and self-identity, and everything else as null; (β) that the hitherto timid thought—which after it is strengthened, ascribes value to the “other” and constitutes itself therefrom—shows that it then grasps the other in its simplicity and even in so doing shows its nullity; (γ) finally, Thought manifests the other in the manifold nature of its determinations. We shall see this in the development and culture of the Eleatics in history. These Eleatic propositions still have interest for Philosophy, and are moments which must necessarily there appear.

Xenophanes, Parmenides, Melissus and Zeno are to be reckoned as belonging to this school. Xenophanes may be regarded as the founder of it; Parmenides is supposed to have been his pupil, and Melissus, and especially Zeno, are called the pupils of Parmenides. In fact, they are to be taken together as forming the Eleatic school; later on it lost the name, being then called Sophistic, and its locality was transferred to Greece proper. What Xenophanes began, Parmenides and Melissus developed further, and similarly Zeno perfected what these two taught. Aristotle (Metaph. I. 5)[241] characterizes the first three thus: “Parmenides seems to comprehend the one as Notion (κατὰ τὸν λόγον), Melissus as matter (κατὰ τὴν ὕλην); hence the former says that it is limited (πεπερασμένον) and the latter that it is unlimited (ἄπειρον). But Xenophanes, who was the first of them to express the theory of the One, made the matter no plainer (διεσαφήνισεν), nor did he deal with either of these aspects (φύσεως), but looking into the heavens”—as we say, into the blue—“said, God is the One. Xenophanes and Melissus are on the whole less civilized (μικρὸν ἀγροικότεροι); Parmenides, however, is more acute (μᾶλλον βλέπων).” There is less to say of Xenophanes and Melissus, and what has come to us from the latter in particular—in fragments and derived from the sayings of others—is still in a state of ferment, and in his case there is least knowledge obtainable. On the whole, philosophic utterances and Notions are still poor, and it was in Zeno that Philosophy first attained to a purer expression of itself.

1. Xenophanes.

The period at which he lived is clear enough, and as this suffices, it is a matter of indifference that the year of his birth and of his death is unknown. According to Diogenes Laertius (IX. 18), he was contemporary with Anaximander and Pythagoras. Of his circumstances further than this, it is only known that he, for reasons which are unknown, escaped from his native town, Colophon, in Asia Minor, to Magna Græcia, and resided for the most part at Zancle, (now Messina) and Catana (still called Catania) in Sicily. I find it nowhere said by the ancients that he lived at Elea, although all recent writers on the history of Philosophy repeat it, one after the other. Tennemann, in particular, says (Vol. I. pp. 151 and 414), that about the 61st Olympiad (536 B.C.), he repaired from Colophon to Elea. Diogenes Laertius (IX. 20), however, only says that he flourished about the 60th Olympiad and that he made two thousand[242] verses on the colonization of Elea, from which it might be easily concluded that he was also born at Elea. Strabo says this in the beginning of his sixth book—when describing Elea—of Parmenides and Zeno only, and these he called Pythagoreans; hence, according to Cicero (Acad. Quæst. IV. 42) the Eleatic school took its name from these two. Xenophanes was nearly a hundred years old, and lived to see the Median wars: it is said that he became so poor that he had not the means of having his children buried, and was obliged to do so with his own hands. Some say that he had no teacher; others name Archelaus, which is a chronological error.

He wrote a book “On Nature,” the general subject and title of Philosophy at that time; some verses have been preserved to us which so far show no powers of reasoning. Professor Brandis of Bonn collected them together, with the fragments of Parmenides and Melissus, under the title “Commentationum Eleaticarum, P. 1,” Altonæ, 1813. The older philosophers wrote in verse, for prose comes much later on; on account of the awkward and confused mode of expression in Xenophanes’ poems, Cicero calls them (Acad. Quæst. IV. 23): minus boni versus.

As to his philosophy, Xenophanes in the first place maintained absolute existence to be the one, and likewise called this God. “The all is One and God is implanted in all things; He is unchangeable, without beginning, middle or end.”[48] In some verses by Xenophanes found in Clemens of Alexandria (Strom. V. 14, p. 714, ed. Potter), it is said:

“One God is greatest amongst gods and men.
Neither like unto mortals in spirit or in form;”

and in Sextus Empiricus (adv. Math. IX. 144):

“He sees everywhere, thinks everywhere, and hears everywhere,”

to which words Diogenes Laertius (IX, 19) adds:[243] “Thought and reason are everything and eternal.” By this Xenophanes denied the truth of the conceptions of origination and of passing away, of change, movement, &c., seeing that they merely belong to sensuous perception. “He found,” says Tennemann (Vol. I. p. 156) “all origination to be inconceivable:” the One as the immediate product of pure thought, is, in its immediacy, Being.

For us the determination of Being is already known and trivial, but if we know about Being, the One, we place this, as a particular determination, in a line with all the rest. Here, on the contrary, it signifies that all else has no reality and is only a semblance. We must forget our own ideas; we know of God as Spirit. But, because the Greeks only had before them the sensuous world, these gods of their imagination, and found in them no satisfaction, they rejected all as being untrue, and thus came to pure thought. This is a wonderful advance, and thought thus becomes for the first time free for itself in the Eleatic school. Being, the One of the Eleatic school, is just this immersion in the abyss of the abstract identity of the understanding. Just as this comes first, so it also comes last, as that to which the understanding comes back, and this is proved in recent times when God is grasped only as the highest Being. If we say of God that this the highest Being is outside of and over us, we can know nothing more of it but that it is, and thus it is the undetermined; for if we knew of determinations, this would be to possess knowledge. The truth then simply is that God is the One, not in the sense that there is one God (this is another determination), but only that He is identical with Himself; in this there is no other determination, any more than in the utterance of the Eleatic school. Modern thought has, indeed, passed through a longer path, not only through what is sensuous, but also through philosophic ideas and predicates of God, to this all negating abstraction; but the content, the result arrived at is the same.


With this the dialectic reasoning of the Eleatics is closely connected in respect that they have also proved that nothing can originate or pass away. This deduction is to be found in Aristotle’s work, De Xenophane, Zenone et Gorgia, c. 3. “It is impossible, he says,[49] that if anything is, it arises (and he even applies this to the Godhead); for it must arise either from the like or from the unlike. But both are equally impossible: for it is no more probable that the like should be engendered from the like, than that it should engender it, for the like must have determinations identical with one another.” In acknowledging similarity, the distinction between begetting and begotten falls away. “Just as little can unlike arise from unlike, for if from the weaker the stronger takes its rise; or from the smaller, the greater; or from the worse, the better: or if, conversely, the worse proceeds from the better, non-being would result from Being: this is impossible, and thus God is eternal.” The same thing has been expressed as Pantheism or Spinozaism, which rests on the proposition ex nihilo fit nihil. The unity of God is further proved by Xenophanes: “If God is the mightiest, He must be One; for were He two or more, He would not have dominion over the others, but, not having dominion over the others, He could not be God. Thus were there several, they would be relatively more powerful or weaker, and thus they would not be gods, for God’s nature is to have nothing mightier than He. Were they equal, God would no longer possess the quality of being the mightiest, for the like is neither worse nor better than the like”—or it does not differ[245] therefrom. “Hence if God is, and is such as this, He is only one; He could not, were there several, do what He willed. Since He is one, He is everywhere alike. He hears, sees and has also the other senses everywhere, for were this not the case, the parts of God would be one more powerful than the other, which is impossible. Since God is everywhere alike, He has a spherical form, for He is not here thus and elsewhere different, but is everywhere the same. Since He is eternal and one and spherical in form, He is neither unlimited nor limited. To be unlimited is non-being; for that has neither middle, beginning, end, nor part; and what is unlimited corresponds to this description. But whatever non-being is, Being is not. Mutual limitation would take place if there were several, but since there is only One, it is not limited. The one does not move itself, nor is it unmoved; to be unmoved is non-being, for to it none other comes, nor does it go into another; but to be moved must mean to be several, for one must move into another. Thus the One neither rests nor is it moved, for it is neither non-being nor is it many. In all this God is thus indicated; He is eternal and One, like Himself and spherical, neither unlimited nor limited, neither at rest nor moved.” From this result, that nothing can arise from the like or from the unlike, Aristotle (De Xenophane, Zenone et Gorgia c. 4) draws this conclusion: “that either there is nothing excepting God, or all else is eternal.”

We here see a dialectic which may be called metaphysical reasoning, in which the principle of identity is fundamental. “The nothing is like nothing and does not pass into Being or conversely; thus nothing can originate from like.” This, the oldest mode of argument, holds its place even to the present day, as, for example, in the so-called proof of the unity of God. This proceeding consists of making presuppositions such as the power of God, and from them drawing conclusions and denying the existence of predicates; that is the usual course in our mode of reasoning. In respect[246] of determinations, it must be remarked that they, as being negative, are all kept apart from the positive and merely real being. We reach this abstraction by a more ordinary way, and do not require a dialectic such as that of the Eleatic school: we say God is unchangeable, change concerns finite things alone (which we represent as an empirical proposition); on the one hand we thus have finite things and change, and on the other, unchangeableness in this abstract absolute unity with itself. It is the same separation, only that we also allow the finite to be Being, which the Eleatics deny. Or else we too proceed from finite things to kinds and genera, leaving the negative out bit by bit; and the highest order of all is God, who, as the highest Being, is affirmative only, but devoid of any determination. Or we pass from what is finite to the infinite, for we say that the finite as limited must have its basis in the infinite. In all these different forms which are quite familiar to us, there is the same difficult question which exists in reference to the Eleatic thought. Whence comes determination and how is it to be grasped—how is it in the one, leaving the finite aside, and also how does the infinite pass out into the finite? The Eleatics in their reflections were distinguished from this our ordinary reflecting thought, in that they went speculatively to work (the speculative element being that change does not exist at all) and that they thus showed that, as Being was presupposed, change in itself is contradictory and inconceivable. For from the one, from Being, the determination of the negative, of the manifold, is withdrawn. Thus while we, in our conception, allow the actuality of the finite world, the Eleatics are more consistent, in that they proceeded to say that only the One exists and that the negative does not exist at all;—a consequence which, if it necessarily arouses in us surprise, still none the less remains a great abstraction.

Sceptics saw in this the point of view of the uncertainty of[247] all things, and Sextus several times[50] quotes verses such as these:—

“No man at any time knew clearly and truly; nor will he ever know
What of the gods I say, as also of the universe.
For what he thinks to speak most perfectly
He knows that not at all; his own opinions cleave to all.”

Sextus, generalizing, explains this in the first passage thus: “Let us imagine that in a house in which are many valuables, there were those who sought for gold by night; in such a case everyone would think that he had found the gold, but would not know certainly whether he actually had found it. Thus philosophers come into this world as into a great house to seek the truth, but were they to reach it, they could not tell whether they really had attained to it.” The indefinite expressions of Xenophanes might also merely mean that none knows that which he (Xenophanes) here makes known. In the second passage Sextus puts it thus: “Xenophanes does not make all knowledge void, but only the scientific and infallible; opinionative knowledge is, however, left. He expresses this in saying that opinion cleaves to all. So that with him the criterion is made to be opinion, i.e. the apparent, and not that which is firm and sure; Parmenides, on the contrary, condemns opinion.” But from his doctrine of the One, there follows the annihilation of ordinary ideas, which is what he did in the foregoing dialectic; it is evident, however, that nobody could know the truth which he hereby utters. If a thought such as this passed through one’s head, one could not tell that it was true, and in such a case it would only be an opinion.

We here find in Xenophanes a double consciousness; a pure consciousness and consciousness of Being, and a consciousness of opinion. The former was to him the[248] consciousness of the divine, and it is the pure dialectic, which is negatively related to all that is determined and which annuls it. The manner in which he expresses himself towards the sensuous world and finite thought-determinations is seen most clearly in his allusions to the Greek mythological conceptions of the gods. He says, amongst other things, according to Brandis (Comment. Eleat. P. I. p. 68):—

“Did beasts and lions only have hands,
Works of art thereby to bring forth, as do men,
They would, in creating divine forms, give to them
What in image and size belongs to themselves.”

He also animadverts on the ideas of the gods held by Homer and Hesiod in verses which Sextus (adv. Math. IX. 193) has preserved to us:—

“Hesiod and Homer have attached to the gods
All that which brings shame and censure to men;
Stealing, adultery, and mutual deceit.”

As, on the one hand, he defined absolute Being to be simple, making that which is, however, break through and be immediately present in it, on the other hand he philosophizes on appearances; in reference to this certain fragments only are transmitted to us, and such physical opinions as these can have no great interest. They are meant to have no speculative significance any more than are those of our own physicists. When he says in this connection

“Out of the earth comes all, and returns to it again,
We all have come from earth and water alike,
Thus all that grows and takes its rise is only earth and water,”[51]

this does not signify existence, physical principles, as did the water of Thales. For Aristotle expressly says, that no one regarded the earth as the absolute principle.


2. Parminides.

Parmenides is a striking figure in the Eleatic school, and he arrives at more definite conceptions than does Xenophanes. He was, according to Diogenes (IX. 21), born at Elea of a rich and honourable race. Of his life, however, little is known; Aristotle only says (Met. I. 5) from tradition that he was a scholar of Xenophanes. Sextus Empiricus (adv. Math. VII. 111) calls him a friend (γνώριμος) of Xenophanes. Diogenes Laertius further states: “He heard Anaximander and Xenophanes also, but did not follow the latter” (which seems only to refer to his place of abode), “but he lived with Aminias and Diochartes the Pythagorean, attached himself to the latter, and by the former, and not by Xenophanes, was prevailed upon to lead a quiet life.” That the period in which his life falls comes between Xenophanes and Zeno—so that he is contemporaneous with them, though younger than the former and older than the latter—is ascertained. According to Diogenes (IX. 23) he flourished about the 69th Olympiad (504-501 B.C.). What is most important is his journey to Athens with Zeno, where Plato makes them talk with Socrates. This may be accepted generally, but what is strictly historical in it cannot be ascertained. In the Thætetus Plato makes Socrates reply to the invitation to examine the Eleatic system: “For Melissus and the others who assert the All to be One at rest, I have a certain respect; I have even more for Parmenides. For, to speak in Homeric language, he seems to me both venerable and strong. I knew him when he was an old man and I was still quite young, and I heard wonderful things from him.”[52] And in the Platonic Dialogue Parmenides (p. 127. Steph. p. 4. Bekk.) where, as is well known, the conversation is carried on by Parmenides and Socrates, the historic circumstances[250] of this interview are related in detail. “Parmenides was very old, had hair which was quite grey, was beautiful in countenance, about sixty-five years old, and Zeno almost forty.” Tennemann (Vol. I. p. 415) places the journey in the 80th Olympiad (460-457 B.C.). Thus Socrates, since he was born in Olympiad 77, 4 (469 B.C.), would seem to have been still too young to have carried on a dialogue such as Plato describes, and the principal matter of this dialogue, which is written in the spirit of the Eleatic school, belongs to Plato himself. Besides, we know from Parmenides’ life, that he stood in high respect with his fellow-citizens at Elea, whose prosperity must be chiefly ascribed to the laws which Parmenides gave them.[53] We also find in the πίναξ of Cebes (towards the beginning) “a Parmenidian life” used synonymously with a moral life.

It must be remarked that here, where the Eleatic school is definitely treated of, Plato does not speak of Xenophanes at all, but only of Melissus and Parmenides. The fact that Plato, in one of his dialogues, likewise accords the chief part to Parmenides, and puts in his mouth the most lofty dialectic that ever was given, does not concern us here. If with Xenophanes, by the proposition that out of nothing nothing comes, origination and what depends upon or can be traced back to it is denied, the opposition between Being and non-being makes its appearance still more clearly with Parmenides, though still unconsciously. Sextus Empiricus and Simplicius have preserved to us the most important fragments from the poems of Parmenides; for Parmenides also propounded his philosophy as a poem. The first long fragment in Sextus (adv. Math. VII. 111) is an allegorical preface to his poem on Nature. This preface is majestic; it is written after the manner of the times, and in it all there is an energetic, impetuous soul which strives with Being to grasp and to express it. We can show[251] Parmenides’ philosophy best in his own words. The introduction runs thus:—

“Horses that bore me, impelled by their courage,
Brought me to the much-famed streets of the goddess
Who leads the wise man to every kind of knowledge.
Maidens point out the way.
The axle sings hot as the daughters of Helios quickly approach,
Leaving the dwelling of night, pressing on to the light,
With mighty hands raising the sheltering veil.”

The maidens are, according to Sextus (adv. Math. VII. 112, 113), the senses, and Helios’ daughters are more especially the eyes:—

“These are the gates of the pathways of night and of day.
Now the heavenly maidens approach the great doors,
Whose lock double-turned the punishing Dice protects.
To this one soft words were by the maidens addressed
Subtly persuading her the barriers of oak from the gates,
Now to withdraw. Yet these,
Directly the yawning breadth of the doors was revealed,
Drove the horses and waggon, on through the gate.
The goddess received me in friendship, seized with her one hand my right,
And turning towards me, she said:
‘Oh, thou, who with guides all immortal and horses,
Camest here in my palace,—be welcome, young man.
For no evil fate has led thee into this path,
(Indeed it lies far from the ways of a man)
But Themis and Dice. Now shalt thou all things explore,
The heart never-flinching of the truth that persuades,
The transient opinions which are not to be trusted.
But from such paths keep the inquiring soul far away.
On this way let not the much followed custom
Cause thee to take the rash eye as thy guide,
Or the confused sounding ear and the tongue. Ponder considerately
With thy reason alone, the doctrine much and often examined,
Which I will proclaim. For there lacks but desire on your way.’”

The goddess develops everything from the double knowledge (α) of thought, of the truth, and (β) of opinion; these make up the two parts of the poem. In another fragment taken from Simplicius’ Commentary on Aristotle’s Physics[252] (p. 25; 19 a) and from Proclus on the Timæus (p. 29 b), we have the principal part of what is here related preserved to us. “Understand,” says the goddess, “which are the two roads of knowledge. The one which is only Being, and which is not non-being, is the path of conviction, the truth is in it. The other that is not Being, and which is necessarily non-being, is, I must tell you, a path quite devoid of reason, for thou canst neither know, or attain to, or express, non-being.” The nothing, in fact, turns into something, since it is thought or is said: we say something, think something, if we wish to think and say the nothing. “It is necessary that saying and thinking should be Being; for Being is, but nothing is not at all.” There the matter is stated in brief; and in this nothing, falls negation generally, or in more concrete form, limitation, the finite, restriction: determinatio est negatio is Spinoza’s great saying. Parmenides says, whatever form the negation may take, it does not exist at all. To consider the nothing as the true is “the way of error in which the ignorant and double-minded mortals wander. Perplexity of mind sways the erring sense. Those who believe Being and non-being to be the same, and then again not the same, are like deaf and blind men surprised, like hordes confusedly driven.” The error is to confuse them and to ascribe the same value to each, or to distinguish them as if non-being were the limited generally. “Whichever way is taken, it leads back to the point from which it started.” It is a constantly self-contradictory and disintegrating movement. To human ideas, now this is held to be reality and now its opposite, and then again a mixture of both.

Simplicius quotes further, in writing on Aristotle’s Physics (p. 17 a; 31, 19): “But the truth is only the ‘is’; this is neither begotten of anything else, nor transient, entire, alone in its class (μουνογενές), unmoved and without end; it neither was, nor will be, but is at once the all. For what birth wouldst thou seek for it? How and whence should[253] it be augmented? That it should be from that which is not, I shall allow thee neither to say nor to think, for neither can it be said or thought that the ‘is’ is not. What necessity had either later or earlier made it begin from the nothing? Thus must it throughout only be or not be; nor will any force of conviction ever make something else arise out of that which is not. Thus origination has disappeared, and decease is incredible. Being is not separable, for it is entirely like itself; it is nowhere more, else would it not hold together, nor is it less, for everything is full of Being. The all is one coherent whole, for Being flows into unison with Being: it is unchangeable and rests securely in itself; the force of necessity holds it within the bounds of limitation. It cannot hence be said that it is imperfect; for it is without defect, while non-existence is wanting in all.” This Being is not the undetermined (ἄπειρον) for it is kept within the limits of necessity; we similarly find in Aristotle that limitation is ascribed to Parmenides. The sense in which the expression “limit” is to be taken is uncertain. According to Parmenides, however, this absolute limitation is as Δίκη, absolute necessity clearly determined in itself; and it is an important fact that he went beyond the uncultured conception of the infinite. “Thought, and that on account of which thought is, are the same. For not without that which is, in which it expresses itself (ἐν ᾦ πεφατισμένον ἐστίν), wilt thou find Thought, seeing that it is nothing and will be nothing outside of that which is.” That is the main point. Thought produces itself, and what is produced is a Thought. Thought is thus identical with Being, for there is nothing beside Being, this great affirmation. Plotinus, in quoting (V. Ennead. I. 8) this last fragment says: “Parmenides adopted this point of view, inasmuch as he did not place Being in sensuous things; identifying Being with Thought, he maintained it to be unchangeable.” The Sophists concluded from this: “All is truth; there is no[254] error, for error is the non-existent, that which is not to be thought.”

Since in this an advance into the region of the ideal is observable, Parmenides began Philosophy proper. A man now constitutes himself free from all ideas and opinions, denies their truth, and says necessity alone, Being, is the truth. This beginning is certainly still dim and indefinite, and we cannot say much of what it involves; but to take up this position certainly is to develop Philosophy proper, which has not hitherto existed. The dialectic that the transient has no truth, is implied in it, for if these determinations are taken as they are usually understood, contradictions ensue. In Simplicius (in Arist. Phys. p. 27 b.; 31 b.) we have further metaphorical images from Parmenides. “Since the utmost limit of Being is perfect, it resembles on every side the form of a well rounded sphere, which from its centre extends in all directions equally, for it can be neither larger or smaller in one part or another. There is no non-being which prevents it from attaining to the like”—from coming into unity with itself—“and there is no Being where it was devoid of Being, here more and there less. Because the all is without defect, it is in all places in the same way like itself in its determinations.” Plotinus in the passage quoted says: “He compares Being with the spherical form, because it comprehends all in itself, and Thought is not outside of this, but is contained in it.” And Simplicius says: “We must not wonder at him, for on account of the poetic form, he adopts a mythological fiction (πλάσματος).” It immediately strikes us that the sphere is limited, and furthermore in space, and hence another must be above it; but then the Notion of the sphere is the similarity of withholding the different, notwithstanding that even the undifferentiated must be expressed; hence this image is inconsistent.

Parmenides adds to this doctrine of the truth, the doctrine of human opinions, the illusive system of the world. Simplicius,[255] writing on Aristotle’s Physics (p. 7 b; 39 a), tells us that he says: “Men have two forms of opinion, one of which should not be, and in it they are mistaken; they set them in opposition to one another in form and symbol. The one, the ethereal fire of the flame, is quite fine, identical with itself throughout, but not identical with the other, for that is also for itself; on the other hand there is what belongs to night, or thick and ponderous existence.” By the former, warmth, softness, lightness is expressed, and by the latter, cold. “But since everything is called light and night, and their qualities are suited both to the one kind of things and the other, everything alike is filled with light and dark night; both are alike since nothing exists without both.” Aristotle (Met. I. 3 and 5), and the other historians, likewise unanimously attribute to Parmenides the fact that he sets forth two principles for the system of manifest things, warmth and cold, through the union of which everything is. Light, fire, is the active and animate; night, cold, is called the passive.

Parmenides also speaks like a Pythagorean—he was called ἀνὲρ Πυθαγορεῖος by Strabo—in the following, and likewise mythological conception: “There are circlets wound round one another, one of which is of the rare element and the other of the dense, between which others are to be found, composed of light and darkness mingled. Those which are less are of impure fire, but those over them of night, through which proceed the forces of the flames. That which holds this all together, however, is something fixed, like a wall, under which there is a fiery wreath, and the most central of the rare spheres again is fiery. The most central of those mixed is the goddess that reigns over all, the Divider (κληροῦχος), Dice and Necessity. For she is the principle of all earthly produce and intermingling, which impels the male to mix with the female, and conversely; she took Love to help her, creating him first amongst the gods. The air is an exhalation (ἀναπνοή) of the earth; the sun[256] and the milky way, the breath of fire; and the moon is air and fire mingled, &c.”[54]

It still remains to us to explain the manner in which Parmenides regarded sensation and thought, which may undoubtedly at first sight seem to be materialistic. Theophrastus,[55] for example, remarks in this regard: “Parmenides said nothing more than that there are two elements. Knowledge is determined according to the preponderance of the one or of the other; for, according as warmth or cold predominate, thought varies; it becomes better and purer through warmth, and yet it requires also a certain balance.”

“For as in each man there still is in his dispersive limbs an intermingling,
So is the understanding of man; for that
Which is thought by men, is the nature of the limbs,
Both in one and all; for thought is indeed the most.”[56]

He thus takes sensation and thought to be the same, and makes remembrance and oblivion to arise from these through mingling them, but whether in the intermingling they take an equal place, whether this is thought or not, and what condition this is, he leaves quite undetermined. But that he ascribes sensation to the opposites in and for themselves is[257] clear, because he says: “The dead do not feel light or warmth or hear voices, because the fire is out of them; they feel cold, stillness and the opposite, however, and, speaking generally, each existence has a certain knowledge.” In fact, this view of Parmenides is really the opposite of materialism, for materialism consists in putting together the soul from parts, or independent forces (the wooden horse of the senses).

3. Melissus.

There is little to tell about the life of Melissus. Diogenes Laertius (IX. 24) calls him a disciple of Parmenides, but the discipleship is uncertain; it is also said of him that he associated with Heraclitus. He was born in Samos, like Pythagoras, and was besides a distinguished statesman amongst his people. It is said by Plutarch (in Pericle, 26) that, as admiral of the Samians, he gained in battle a victory over the Athenians. He flourished about the 84th Olympiad (444 B.C.).

In regard to his philosophy, too, there is little to say. Aristotle, where he mentions him, places him always with Parmenides, as resembling him in mode of thought. Simplicius, writing on Aristotle’s Physics (p. 7 sqq.), has preserved several fragments of his prose writings on Nature, which show the same kind of thoughts and arguments as we find in Parmenides, but, in part, somewhat more developed. It was a question whether the reasoning in which it is shown that change does not exist, or contradicts itself, which, by Aristotle in his incomplete, and, in some parts, most corrupt work on Xenophanes, Zeno, and Gorgias (c. 2.), was ascribed to Xenophanes, did not really belong to Melissus.[57]


Since the beginning, in which we are told whose reasoning it is, is wanting, conjecture only applies it to Xenophanes. The writing begins with the words “He says,” without any name being given. It thus depends on the superscription alone whether Aristotle speaks of the philosophy of Xenophanes or not, and it must be noticed that different hands have put different superscriptions. Indeed, there is in this work (c. 2) an opinion of Xenophanes mentioned in such a way that it appears as though had what was previously quoted by Aristotle been by him ascribed to Xenophanes, the expression would have been different. It is possible that Zeno is meant, as the internal evidence abundantly shows. There is in it a dialectic more developed in form, more real reflexion, than from the verses could be expected, not from Xenophanes alone, but even from Parmenides. For Aristotle expressly says that Xenophanes does not yet determine with precision; thus the cultured reasoning contained in Aristotle must certainly be denied to Xenophanes; at least, it is so far certain that Xenophanes himself did not know how to express his thoughts in a manner so orderly and precise as that found here. We find it said:—

“If anything is, it is eternal (ἀΐδιον).” Eternity is an awkward word, for it immediately makes us think of time and mingle past and future as an infinite length of time; but what is meant is that ἀΐδιον is the self-identical, supersensuous, unchangeable, pure present, which is without any time-conception. It is, origination and change are shut out; if it commences, it does so out of nothing or out of Being. “It is impossible that anything should arise from the nothing. If everything could have arisen, or could it merely not have been everything eternally, it would equally have arisen out of nothing. For, if everything had arisen, nothing would once have existed. If some were alone the existent out of which the rest sprang, the one would be more and greater. But the more and greater would thus[259] have arisen out of the nothing of itself, for in the less there is not its more, nor in the smaller its greater.”

Simplicius makes this note to the Physics of Aristotle (p. 22 b): “No more can anything arise out of the existent, for the existent already is, and thus does not first arise from the existent.”

“As eternal, the existent also is unlimited, since it has no beginning from which it came, nor end in which it ceases. The infinite all is one, for, if there were two or more, they would limit one another,” and thus have a beginning and end. The one would be the nothing of the other and come forth from this nothing. “This one is like itself; for if it were unlike it would no longer be the one that was posited, but many. This one is likewise immovable, inasmuch as it does not move itself, since it does not pass out into anything. In passing out, it would require to do so into what is full or what is empty; it could not be into the full, for that is an impossibility, and just as little could it be into what is empty, for that is the nothing. The one, therefore, is in this way devoid of pain or suffering, not changing in position or form, or mingling with what is different. For all these determinations involve the origination of non-being and passing away of Being, which is impossible.” Thus here again the contradiction which takes place when origination and passing away are spoken of, is revealed.

Now Melissus places opinion in opposition to this truth. The change and multiplicity extinguished in Being appears on the other side, in consciousness, as in what is opinionative; it is necessary to say this if only the negative side, the removal of these moments, the Absolute as destitute of predicate, is laid hold of. “In sensuous perception the opposite is present for us; that is to say, a number of things, their change, their origination and passing away, and their intermingling. Thus that first knowledge must take its place beside this second, which has as much certainty for ordinary consciousness as the first.” Melissus does not seem to have[260] decided for the one or the other, but, oscillating between both, to have limited the knowledge of the truth to the statement that, speaking generally, between two opposite modes of presentation, the more probable opinion is to be preferred, but that what is so preferred is only to be regarded as the stronger opinion, and not as truth. This is what Aristotle says of him.

Since Aristotle, in distinguishing his philosophy from the philosophy of Parmenides, maintains that in the first place Parmenides seems to understand the One as the principle of thought, and Melissus as matter, we must remark that this distinction falls away in pure existence, Being, or the One. Pure matter, as also pure thought (if I am to speak of such a distinction), are not present to Parmenides and Melissus, since they are abrogated; and it must only be in the manner of his expression that one of them—according to Aristotle (Phys. I. 2), on account of his clumsier mode of treatment (μᾶλλον φορτικός)—could seem to have conceived of the other sense. If the difference consisted secondly in the fact that Parmenides regarded the one as limited and Melissus as unlimited, this limitation of the one would, in effect, immediately contradict the philosophy of Parmenides; for since limit is the non-being of Being, non-being would thus be posited. But when Parmenides speaks of limit, we see that his poetic language is not altogether exact; limit, however, as pure limit, is just simple Being and absolute negativity, in which all else said and set forth is sublated. Necessity, as this pure negativity and movement within itself, although impassive thought, is absolutely bound to its opposite. In the third place it may be said that Parmenides set forth a concomitant philosophy of opinion or reality, to which Being as existence for thought was thus more opposed than was the case with Melissus.


4. Zeno.

What specially characterizes Zeno is the dialectic which, properly speaking, begins with him; he is the master of the Eleatic school in whom its pure thought arrives at the movement of the Notion in itself and becomes the pure soul of science. That is to say, in the Eleatics hitherto considered, we only have the proposition: “The nothing has no reality and is not at all, and thus what is called origin and decease disappears.” With Zeno, on the contrary, we certainly see just such an assertion of the one and removal of what contradicts it, but we also see that this assertion is not made the starting point; for reason begins by calmly demonstrating in that which is established as existent, its negation. Parmenides asserts that “The all is immutable, for, in change, the non-being of that which is would be asserted, but Being only is; in saying that non-being is, the subject and the predicate contradict themselves.” Zeno, on the other hand, says: “Assert your change; in it as change there is the negation to it, or it is nothing.” To the former change existed as motion, definite and complete. Zeno protested against motion as such, or pure motion. “Pure Being is not motion; it is rather the negation of motion.” We find it specially interesting that there is in Zeno the higher consciousness, the consciousness that when one determination is denied, this negation is itself again a determination, and then in the absolute negation not one determination, but both the opposites must be negated. Zeno anticipated this, and because he foresaw that Being is the opposite of nothing, he denied of the One what must be said of the nothing. But the same thing must occur with all the rest. We find this higher dialectic in Plato’s Parmenides; here it only breaks forth in respect to some determinations, and not to the determination of the One and of Being. The higher consciousness[262] is the consciousness of the nullity of Being as of what is determined as against the nothing, partly found in Heraclitus and then in the Sophists; with them it never has any truth, it has no existence in itself, but is only the for-another, or the assurance of the individual consciousness, and assurance as refutation, i.e. the negative side of dialectic.

According to Diogenes Laertius, (IX. 25) Zeno was likewise an Eleat; he is the youngest, and lived most in company with Parmenides. The latter became very fond of him and adopted him as a son; his own father was called Telentagoras. Not in his State alone was his conduct held in high respect, for his fame was universal, and he was esteemed particularly as a teacher. Plato mentions that men came to him from Athens and other places, in order to profit from his learning.[58] Proud self-sufficiency is ascribed to him by Diogenes (IX. 28) because he—with the exception of a journey made to Athens—continued to reside in Elea, and did not stay a longer time in the great, mighty Athens, and there attain to fame. In very various narratives his death was made for ever celebrated for the strength of his mind evinced in it; it was said that he freed a State (whether his own home at Elea or in Sicily, is not known) from its Tyrant (the name is given differently, but an exact historical account has not been recorded) in the following way, and by the sacrifice of his life. He entered into a plot to overthrow the Tyrant, but this was betrayed. When the Tyrant now, in face of the people, caused him to be tortured in every possible way to get from him an avowal of his confederates, and when he questioned him about the enemies of the State, Zeno first named to the Tyrant all his friends as participators in the plot, and then spoke of the Tyrant himself as the pest of the State. The powerful remonstrances or the horrible tortures and death[263] of Zeno aroused the citizens, inspired them with courage to fall upon the Tyrant, kill him, and liberate themselves. The manner of the end, and his violent and furious state of mind, is very variously depicted. He is said to have pretended to wish to say something into the Tyrant’s ear, and then to have bitten his ear, and thus held him fast until he was slain by the others. Others say that he seized him by the nose between his teeth; others that as on his reply great tortures were applied, he bit off his tongue and spat it into the Tyrant’s face, to show him that he could get nothing from him, and that he then was pounded in a mortar.[59]

It has just been noticed that Zeno had the very important character of being the originator of the true objective dialectic. Xenophanes, Parmenides, and Melissus, start with the proposition: “Nothing is nothing; the nothing does not exist at all, or the like is real existence,” that is, they make one of the opposed predicates to be existence. Now when they encounter the opposite in a determination, they demolish this determination, but it is only demolished through another, through my assertion, through the distinction that I form, by which one side is made to be the true, and the other the null. We have proceeded from a definite proposition; the nullity of the opposite does not appear in itself; it is not that it abrogates itself, i.e. that it contains a contradiction in itself. For instance, I assert of something that it is the null; then I show this by hypothesis in motion, and it follows that it is the null. But another consciousness does not assert this; I declare one thing to be directly true; another has the right of asserting something else as directly true, that is to say, motion. Similarly what seems to be the case when one philosophic system contradicts another, is that the first is pre-established, and that men starting from this point of[264] view, combat the other. The matter is thus easily settled by saying: “The other has no truth, because it does not agree with me,” and the other has the right to say the same. It does not help if I prove my system or my proposition and then conclude that thus the opposite is false; to this other proposition the first always seems to be foreign and external. Falsity must not be demonstrated through another, and as untrue because the opposite is true, but in itself; we find this rational perception in Zeno.

In Plato’s Parmenides (pp. 127, 128, Steph., pp. 6, 7, Bekk.) this dialectic is very well described, for Plato makes Socrates say of it: “Zeno in his writings asserts fundamentally the same as does Parmenides, that All is One, but he would feign delude us into believing that he was telling something new. Parmenides thus shows in his poems that All is One; Zeno, on the contrary, shows that the Many cannot be.” Zeno replies, that “He wrote thus really against those who try to make Parmenides’ position ridiculous, for they try to show what absurdities and self-contradictions can be derived from his statements; he thus combats those who deduce Being from the many, in order to show that far more absurdities arise from this than from the statements of Parmenides.” That is the special aim of objective dialectic, in which we no longer maintain simple thought for itself, but see the battle fought with new vigour within the enemy’s camp. Dialectic has in Zeno this negative side, but it has also to be considered from its positive side.

According to the ordinary ideas of science, where propositions result from proof, proof is the movement of intelligence, a connection brought about by mediation. Dialectic is either (α) external dialectic, in which this movement is different from the comprehension of the movement, or (β) not a movement of our intelligence only, but what proceeds from the nature of the thing itself, i.e. from the pure Notion of the content. The former is a manner[265] of regarding objects in such a way that reasons are revealed and new light thrown, by means of which all that was supposed to be firmly fixed, is made to totter; there may be reasons which are altogether external too, and we shall speak further of this dialectic when dealing with the Sophists. The other dialectic, however, is the immanent contemplation of the object; it is taken for itself, without previous hypothesis, idea or obligation, not under any outward conditions, laws or causes; we have to put ourselves right into the thing, to consider the object in itself, and to take it in the determinations which it has. In regarding it thus, it shows from itself that it contains opposed determinations, and thus breaks up; this dialectic we more especially find in the ancients. The subjective dialectic, which reasons from external grounds, is moderate, for it grants that: “In the right there is what is not right, and in the false the true.” True dialectic leaves nothing whatever to its object, as if the latter were deficient on one side only; for it disintegrates itself in the entirety of its nature. The result of this dialectic is null, the negative; the affirmative in it does not yet appear. This true dialectic may be associated with the work of the Eleatics. But in their case the real meaning and quality of philosophic understanding was not great, for they got no further than the fact that through contradiction the object is a nothing.

Zeno’s dialectic of matter has not been refuted to the present day; even now we have not got beyond it, and the matter is left in uncertainty. Simplicius, writing on the Physics of Aristotle (p. 30), says: “Zeno proves that if the many is, it must be great and small; if great, the many must be infinite in number” (it must have gone beyond the manifold, as indifferent limit, into the infinite; but what is infinite is no longer large and no longer many, for it is the negation of the many). “If small, it must be so small as to have no size,” like atoms. “Here he shows that what has neither size, thickness nor mass, cannot be. For if it[266] were added to another, it would not cause its increase; were it, that is to say, to have no size and be added thereto, it could not supplement the size of the other and consequently that which is added is nothing. Similarly were it taken away, the other would not be made less, and thus it is nothing. If what has being is, each existence necessarily has size and thickness, is outside of one another, and one is separate from the other; the same applies to all else (περὶ τοῦ προὔχοντος), for it, too, has size, and in it there is what mutually differs (προέξει αὐτοῦ τι). But it is the same thing to say something once and to say it over and over again; in it nothing can be a last, nor will there not be another to the other. Thus if many are, they are small and great; small, so that they have no size; great, so that they are infinite.”

Aristotle (Phys. VI. 9) explains this dialectic further; Zeno’s treatment of motion was above all objectively dialectical. But the particulars which we find in the Parmenides of Plato are not his. For Zeno’s consciousness we see simple unmoved thought disappear, but become thinking movement; in that he combats sensuous movement, he concedes it. The reason that dialectic first fell on movement is that the dialectic is itself this movement, or movement itself the dialectic of all that is. The thing, as self-moving, has its dialectic in itself, and movement is the becoming another, self-abrogation. If Aristotle says that Zeno denied movement because it contains an inner contradiction, it is not to be understood to mean that movement did not exist at all. The point is not that there is movement and that this phenomenon exists; the fact that there is movement is as sensuously certain as that there are elephants; it is not in this sense that Zeno meant to deny movement. The point in question concerns its truth. Movement, however, is held to be untrue, because the conception of it involves a contradiction; by that he meant to say that no true Being can be predicated of it.


Zeno’s utterances are to be looked at from this point of view, not as being directed against the reality of motion, as would at first appear, but as pointing out how movement must necessarily be determined, and showing the course which must be taken. Zeno now brings forward four different arguments against motion; the proofs rest on the infinite divisibility of space and time.

(a) This is his first form of argument:—“Movement has no truth, because what is in motion must first reach the middle of the space before arriving at the end.” Aristotle expresses this thus shortly, because he had earlier treated of and worked out the subject at length. This is to be taken as indicating generally that the continuity of space is presupposed. What moves itself must reach a certain end, this way is a whole. In order to traverse the whole, what is in motion must first pass over the half, and now the end of this half is considered as being the end; but this half of space is again a whole, that which also has a half, and the half of this half must first have been reached, and so on into infinity. Zeno here arrives at the infinite divisibility of space; because space and time are absolutely continuous, there is no point at which the division can stop. Every dimension (and every time and space always have a dimension) is again divisible into two halves, which must be measured off; and however small a space we have, the same conditions reappear. Movement would be the act of passing through these infinite moments, and would therefore never end; thus what is in motion cannot reach its end. It is known how Diogenes of Sinope, the Cynic, quite simply refuted these arguments against movement; without speaking he rose and walked about, contradicting them by action.[60] But when reasons are disputed, the only valid refutation is one derived from reasons; men have not merely to satisfy themselves by[268] sensuous assurance, but also to understand. To refute objections is to prove their non-existence, as when they are made to fall away and can hence be adduced no longer; but it is necessary to think of motion as Zeno thought of it, and yet to carry this theory of motion further still.

We have here the spurious infinite or pure appearance, whose simple principle Philosophy demonstrates as universal Notion, for the first time making its appearance as developed in its contradiction; in the history of Philosophy a consciousness of this contradiction is also attained. Movement, this pure phenomenon, appears as something thought and shown forth in its real being—that is, in its distinction of pure self-identity and pure negativity, the point as distinguished from continuity. To us there is no contradiction in the idea that the here of space and the now of time are considered as a continuity and length; but their Notion is self-contradictory. Self-identity or continuity is absolute cohesion, the destruction of all difference, of all negation, of being for self; the point, on the contrary, is pure being-for-self, absolute self-distinction and the destruction of all identity and all connection with what is different. Both of these, however, are, in space and time, placed in one; space and time are thus the contradiction; it is necessary, first of all, to show the contradiction in movement, for in movement that which is opposed is, to ordinary conceptions, inevitably manifested. Movement is just the reality of time and space, and because this appears and is made manifest, the apparent contradiction is demonstrated, and it is this contradiction that Zeno notices. The limitation of bisection which is involved in the continuity of space, is not absolute limitation, for that which is limited is again continuity; however, this continuity is again not absolute, for the opposite has to be exhibited in it, the limitation of bisection; but the limitation of continuity is still not thereby established, the half is still continuous,[269] and so on into infinity. In that we say “into infinity,” we place before ourselves a beyond, outside of the ordinary conception, which cannot reach so far. It is certainly an endless going forth, but in the Notion it is present, it is a progression from one opposed determination to others, from continuity to negativity, from negativity to continuity; but both of these are before us. Of these moments one in the process may be called the true one; Zeno first asserts continuous progression in such a way that no limited space can be arrived at as ultimate, or Zeno upholds progression in this limitation.

The general explanation which Aristotle gives to this contradiction, is that space and time are not infinitely divided, but are only divisible. But it now appears that, because they are divisible—that is, in potentiality—they must actually be infinitely divided, for else they could not be divided into infinity. That is the general answer of the ordinary man in endeavouring to refute the explanation of Aristotle. Bayle (Tom. IV. art. Zénon, not. E.) hence says of Aristotle’s answer that it is “pitoyable: C’est se moquer du monde que de se servir de cette doctrine; car si la matière est divisible à l’infini, elle contient un nombre infini de parties. Ce n’est donc point un infini en puissance, c’est un infini, qui existe réellement, actuellement. Mais quand-même on accorderait cet infini en puissance, qui deviendrait un infini par la division actuelle de ses parties, on ne perdrait pas ses avantages; car le mouvement est une chose, qui a la même vertu, que la division. Il touche une partie de l’espace sans toucher l’autre, et il les touche toutes les unes après les autres. N’est-ce pas les distinguer actuellement? N’est-ce pas faire ce que ferait un géomètre sur une table en tirant des lignes, qui désignassent tous les demi-pouces? Il ne brise pas la table en demi-pouces, mais il y fait néanmoins une division, qui marque la distinction actuelle des parties; et je ne crois pas qu’Aristote eut voulu nier, que si l’on tirait une infinité de lignes sur un[270] pouce de matière, on n’y introduisît une division, qui réduirait en infini actuel ce qui n’était selon lui qu’un infini virtual.” This si is good! Divisibility is, as potentiality, the universal; there is continuity as well as negativity or the point posited in it—but posited as moment, and not as existent in and for itself. I can divide matter into infinitude, but I only can do so; I do not really divide it into infinitude. This is the infinite, that no one of its moments has reality. It never does happen that, in itself, one or other—that absolute limitation or absolute continuity—actually comes into existence in such a way that the other moment disappears. There are two absolute opposites, but they are moments, i.e. in the simple Notion or in the universal, in thought, if you will; for in thought, in ordinary conception, what is set forth both is and is not at the same time. What is represented either as such, or as an image of the conception, is not a thing; it has no Being, and yet it is not nothing.

Space and time furthermore, as quantum, form a limited extension, and thus can be measured off; just as I do not actually divide space, neither does the body which is in motion. The partition of space as divided, is not absolute discontinuity [Punktualität], nor is pure continuity the undivided and indivisible; likewise time is not pure negativity or discontinuity, but also continuity. Both are manifested in motion, in which the Notions have their reality for ordinary conception—pure negativity as time, continuity as space. Motion itself is just this actual unity in the opposition, and the sequence of both moments in this unity. To comprehend motion is to express its essence in the form of Notion, i.e., as unity of negativity and continuity; but in them neither continuity nor discreteness can be exhibited as the true existence. If we represent space or time to ourselves as infinitely divided, we have an infinitude of points, but continuity is present therein as a space which comprehends them: as Notion, however, continuity is the fact that all these are alike, and thus in reality they do not appear one out of[271] the other like points. But both these moments make their appearance as existent; if they are manifested indifferently, their Notion is no longer posited, but their existence. In them as existent, negativity is a limited size, and they exist as limited space and time; actual motion is progression through a limited space and a limited time and not through infinite space and infinite time.

That what is in motion must reach the half is the assertion of continuity, i.e. the possibility of division as mere possibility; it is thus always possible in every space, however small. It is said that it is plain that the half must be reached, but in so saying, everything is allowed, including the fact that it never will be reached; for to say so in one case, is the same as saying it an infinite number of times. We mean, on the contrary, that in a larger space the half can be allowed, but we conceive that we must somewhere attain to a space so small that no halving is possible, or an indivisible, non-continuous space which is no space. This, however, is false, for continuity is a necessary determination; there is undoubtedly a smallest in space, i.e. a negation of continuity, but the negation is something quite abstract. Abstract adherence to the subdivision indicated, that is, to continuous bisection into infinitude, is likewise false, for in the conception of a half, the interruption of continuity is involved. We must say that there is no half of space, for space is continuous; a piece of wood may be broken into two halves, but not space, and space only exists in movement. It might equally be said that space consists of an endless number of points, i.e. of infinitely many limits and thus cannot be traversed. Men think themselves able to go from one indivisible point to another, but they do not thereby get any further, for of these there is an unlimited number. Continuity is split up into its opposite, a number which is indefinite; that is to say, if continuity is not admitted, there is no motion. It is false to assert that it is possible when one is reached, or that which is not continuous; for motion[272] is connection. Thus when it was said that continuity is the presupposed possibility of infinite division, continuity is only the hypothesis; but what is exhibited in this continuity is the being of infinitely many, abstractly absolute limits.

(b) The second proof, which is also the presupposition of continuity and the manifestation of division, is called “Achilles, the Swift.” The ancients loved to clothe difficulties in sensuous representations. Of two bodies moving in one direction, one of which is in front and the other following at a fixed distance and moving quicker than the first, we know that the second will overtake the first. But Zeno says, “The slower can never be overtaken by the quicker.” And he proves it thus: “The second one requires a certain space of time to reach the place from which the one pursued started at the beginning of the given period.” Thus during the time in which the second reached the point where the first was, the latter went over a new space which the second has again to pass through in a part of this period; and in this way it goes into infinity.

c d e f g

B, for instance, traverses two miles (c d) in an hour, A in the same time, one mile (d e); if they are two miles (c d) removed from one another, B has in one hour come to where A was at the beginning of the hour. While B, in the next half hour, goes over the distance crossed by A of one mile (d e), A has got half a mile (e f) further, and so on into infinity. Quicker motion does not help the second body at all in passing over the interval of space by which he is behind: the time which he requires, the slower body always has at its avail in order to accomplish some, although an ever shorter advance; and this, because of the continual division, never quite disappears.

Aristotle, in speaking of this, puts it shortly thus. “This proof asserts the same endless divisibility, but it is[273] untrue, for the quick will overtake the slow body if the limits to be traversed be granted to it.” This answer is correct and contains all that can be said; that is, there are in this representation two periods of time and two distances, which are separated from one another, i.e. they are limited in relation to one another; when, on the contrary, we admit that time and space are continuous, so that two periods of time or points of space are related to one another as continuous, they are, while being two, not two, but identical. In ordinary language we solve the matter in the easiest way, for we say: “Because the second is quicker, it covers a greater distance in the same time as the slow; it can therefore come to the place from which the first started and get further still.” After B, at the end of the first hour, arrives at d and A at e, A in one and the same period, that is, in the second hour, goes over the distance e g, and B the distance d g. But this period of time which should be one, is divisible into that in which B accomplishes d e and that in which B passes through e g. A has a start of the first, by which it gets over the distance e f, so that A is at f at the same period as B is at e. The limitation which, according to Aristotle, is to be overcome, which must be penetrated, is thus that of time; since it is continuous, it must, for the solution of the difficulty, be said that what is divisible into two spaces of time is to be conceived of as one, in which B gets from d to e and from e to g, while A passes over the distance e g. In motion two periods, as well as two points in space, are indeed one.

If we wish to make motion clear to ourselves, we say that the body is in one place and then it goes to another; because it moves, it is no longer in the first, but yet not in the second; were it in either it would be at rest. Where then is it? If we say that it is between both, this is to convey nothing at all, for were it between both, it would be in a place, and this presents the same difficulty. But movement means to be in this place and not to be in[274] it, and thus to be in both alike; this is the continuity of space and time which first makes motion possible. Zeno, in the deduction made by him, brought both these points into forcible opposition. The discretion of space and time we also uphold, but there must also be granted to them the overstepping of limits, i.e. the exhibition of limits as not being, or as being divided periods of time, which are also not divided. In our ordinary ideas we find the same determinations as those on which the dialectic of Zeno rests; we arrive at saying, though unwillingly, that in one period two distances of space are traversed, but we do not say that the quicker comprehends two moments of time in one; for that we fix a definite space. But in order that the slower may lose its precedence, it must be said that it loses its advantage of a moment of time, and indirectly the moment of space.

Zeno makes limit, division, the moment of discretion in space and time, the only element which is enforced in the whole of his conclusions, and hence results the contradiction. The difficulty is to overcome thought, for what makes the difficulty is always thought alone, since it keeps apart the moments of an object which in their separation are really united. It brought about the Fall, for man ate of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil; but it also remedies these evils.

(c) The third form, according to Aristotle, is as follows:—Zeno says: “The flying arrow rests, and for the reason that what is in motion is always in the self-same Now and the self-same Here, in the indistinguishable;” it is here and here and here. It can be said of the arrow that it is always the same, for it is always in the same space and the same time; it does not get beyond its space, does not take in another, that is, a greater or smaller space. That, however, is what we call rest and not motion. In the Here and Now, the becoming “other” is abrogated, limitation indeed being established, but only as moment; since[275] in the Here and Now as such, there is no difference, continuity is here made to prevail against the mere belief in diversity. Each place is a different place, and thus the same; true, objective difference does not come forth in these sensuous relations, but in the spiritual.

This is also apparent in mechanics; of two bodies the question as to which moves presents itself before us. It requires more than two places—three at least—to determine which of them moves. But it is correct to say this, that motion is plainly relative; whether in absolute space the eye, for instance, rests, or whether it moves, is all the same. Or, according to a proposition brought forward by Newton, if two bodies move round one another in a circle, it may be asked whether the one rests or both move. Newton tries to decide this by means of an external circumstance, the strain on the string. When I walk on a ship in a direction opposed to the motion of the ship, this is in relation to the ship, motion, and in relation to all else, rest.

In both the first proofs, continuity in progression has the predominance; there is no absolute limit, but an overstepping of all limits. Here the opposite is established; absolute limitation, the interruption of continuity, without however passing into something else; while discretion is presupposed, continuity is maintained. Aristotle says of this proof: “It arises from the fact that it is taken for granted that time consists of the Now; for if this is not conceded, the conclusions will not follow.”

(d) “The fourth proof,” Aristotle continues, “is derived from similar bodies which move in opposite directions in the space beside a similar body, and with equal velocity, one from one end of the space, the other from the middle. It necessarily results from this that half the time is equal to the double of it. The fallacy rests in this, that Zeno supposes that what is beside the moving body, and what is beside the body at rest, move through an equal[276] distance in equal time with equal velocity, which, however, is untrue.”

In a definite space such as a table (A B) let us suppose two bodies of equal length with it and with one another, one of which (C D) lies with one end (C) on the middle (g) of the table, and the other (E F), being in the same direction, has the point (E) only touching the end of the table (h); and supposing they move in opposite directions, and the former (C D) reaches in an hour the end (h) of the table; we have the result ensuing that the one (E F) passes in the half of the time through the same space (i k) which the other does in the double (g h); hence the half is equal to the double. That is to say, this second passes (let us say, in the point l) by the whole of the first C D. In the first half-hour l goes from m to i, while k only goes from g to n.

In the second half-hour l goes past o to k, and altogether passes from m to k, or the double of the distance.

This fourth form deals with the contradiction presented in opposite motion; that which is common is given entirely to one body, while it only does part for itself. Here the distance travelled by one body is the sum of the distance travelled by both, just as when I go two feet east, and[277] from the same point another goes two feet west, we are four feet removed from one another; in the distance moved both are positive, and hence have to be added together. Or if I have gone two feet forwards and two feet backwards, although I have walked four feet, I have not moved from the spot; the motion is then nil, for by going forwards and backwards an opposition ensues which annuls itself.

This is the dialectic of Zeno; he had a knowledge of the determinations which our ideas of space and time contain, and showed in them their contradiction; Kant’s antinomies do no more than Zeno did here. The general result of the Eleatic dialectic has thus become, “the truth is the one, all else is untrue,” just as the Kantian philosophy resulted in “we know appearances only.” On the whole the principle is the same; “the content of knowledge is only an appearance and not truth,” but there is also a great difference present. That is to say, Zeno and the Eleatics in their proposition signified “that the sensuous world, with its multitudinous forms, is in itself appearance only, and has no truth.” But Kant does not mean this, for he asserts: “Because we apply the activity of our thought to the outer world, we constitute it appearance; what is without, first becomes an untruth by the fact that we put therein a mass of determinations. Only our knowledge, the spiritual, is thus appearance; the world is in itself absolute truth; it is our action alone that ruins it, our work is good for nothing.” It shows excessive humility of mind to believe that knowledge has no value; but Christ says, “Are ye not better than the sparrows?” and we are so inasmuch as we are thinking; as sensuous we are as good or as bad as sparrows. Zeno’s dialectic has greater objectivity than this modern dialectic.

Zeno’s dialectic is limited to Metaphysics; later, with the Sophists, it became general. We here leave the Eleatic school, which perpetuates itself in Leucippus and,[278] on the other side, in the Sophists, in such a way that these last extended the Eleatic conceptions to all reality, and gave to it the relation of consciousness; the former, however, as one who later on worked out the Notion in its abstraction, makes a physical application of it, and one which is opposed to consciousness. There are several other Eleatics mentioned, to Tennemann’s surprise, who, however, cannot interest us. “It is so unexpected,” he says (Vol. I., p. 190), “that the Eleatic system should find disciples; and yet Sextus mentions a certain Xeniades.”

D. Heraclitus.

If we put aside the Ionics, who did not understand the Absolute as Thought, and the Pythagoreans likewise, we have the pure Being of the Eleatics, and the dialectic which denies all finite relationships. Thought to the latter is the process of such manifestations; the world in itself is the apparent, and pure Being alone the true. The dialectic of Zeno thus lays hold of the determinations which rest in the content itself, but it may, in so far, also be called subjective dialectic, inasmuch as it rests in the contemplative subject, and the one, without this movement of the dialectic, is abstract identity. The next step from the existence of the dialectic as movement in the subject, is that it must necessarily itself become objective. If Aristotle blames Thales for doing away with motion, because change cannot be understood from Being, and likewise misses the actual in the Pythagorean numbers and Platonic Ideas, taken as the substances of the things which participate in them, Heraclitus at least understands the absolute as just this process of the dialectic. The dialectic is thus thre-fold: (α) the external dialectic, a reasoning which goes over and over again without ever reaching the soul of the thing; (β) immanent dialectic of the object, but falling within the contemplation of the subject;[279] (γ) the objectivity of Heraclitus which takes the dialectic itself as principle. The advance requisite and made by Heraclitus is the progression from Being as the first immediate thought, to the category of Becoming as the second. This is the first concrete, the Absolute, as in it the unity of opposites. Thus with Heraclitus the philosophic Idea is to be met with in its speculative form; the reasoning of Parmenides and Zeno is abstract understanding. Heraclitus was thus universally esteemed a deep philosopher and even was decried as such. Here we see land; there is no proposition of Heraclitus which I have not adopted in my Logic.

Diogenes Laertius says (IX. 1) that Heraclitus flourished about the 69th Olympiad (500 B.C.), and that he was of Ephesus and in part contemporaneous with Parmenides: he began the separation and withdrawal of philosophers from public affairs and the interests of the country, and devoted himself in his isolation entirely to Philosophy. We have thus three stages: (α) the seven sages as statesmen, regents and law-givers; (β) the Pythagorean aristocratic league; (γ) an interest in science for its own sake. Little more is known of Heraclitus’ life than his relations to his countrymen the Ephesians, and according to Diogenes Laertius (IX. 15, 3), these were for the most part found in the fact that they despised him and were yet more profoundly despised by him—a relationship such as we have now-a-days, when each man exists for himself, and despises everyone else. In the case of this noble character, the disdain and sense of separation from the crowd emanates from the deep sense of the perversity of the ordinary ideas and life of his people: in reference to this, isolated expressions used on various occasions are still preserved. Cicero (Tusc. Quæst. V. 36) and Diogenes Laertius (IX. 2) relate that Heraclitus said: “The Ephesians all deserve to have their necks broken as they grow up, so that the town should be left to minors” (people now say that only youth knows how to govern),[280] “because they drove away his friend Hermodorus, the best of them all, and gave as their reason for so doing that amongst them none should be more excellent than the rest; and if any one were so, it should be elsewhere and amongst others.” It was for the same reason that in the Athenian Democracy great men were banished. Diogenes adds: “His fellow-citizens asked him to take part in the administration of public affairs, but he declined, because he did not like their constitution, laws and administration.” Proclus (T. III. pp. 115, 116, ed. Cousin) says: “The noble Heraclitus blamed the people for being devoid of understanding or thought. ‘What is,’ he says, ‘their understanding or their prudence? Most of them are bad, and few are good.’” Diogenes Laertius (IX. 6) furthermore says: “Antisthenes cites, as a proof of Heraclitus’ greatness, that he left his kingdom to his brother.” He expresses in the strongest manner his contempt for what is esteemed to be truth and right, in the letter preserved to us by Diogenes (IX. 13, 14), in which, to the invitation of Darius Hystaspes, “to make him acquainted with Greek wisdom—for his work on Nature contains a very forcible theory of the world, but it is in many passages obscure—to come to him and explain to him what required explanation” (this is certainly not very probable if Heraclitus’ turn of mind was also Oriental), he is said to have replied: “All mortal men depart from truth and justice and are given over to excess and vain opinions according to their evil understandings. But I, since I have attained to an oblivion of all evil, and shun the overpowering envy that follows me, and the vanity of high position, shall not come to Persia. I am content with little and live in my own way.”

The only work that he wrote, and the title of which, Diogenes tells us, was by some stated to be “The Muses” and by others “On Nature,” he deposited in the temple of Diana at Ephesus. It seems to have been preserved until modern times; the fragments which have come down to us are collected together in Stephanus’ Poësis philosophica[281] (p. 129, seq.). Schleiermacher also collected them and arranged them in a characteristic way. The title is “Heraclitus, the Dark, of Ephesus, as represented in fragments of his work and by the testimony of the ancients,” and it is to be found in Wolf and Buttmann’s “Museum of ancient Learning,” vol. I. (Berlin, 1807) pp. 315-533. Seventy-three passages are given. Kreuzer made one hope that he would work at Heraclitus more critically and with a knowledge of the language. He made a more complete collection, particularly from grammarians; however, as, for lack of time, he left it to be worked up by a younger scholar, and as the latter died, it never came before the public. Compilations of the kind are as a rule too copious: they contain a mass of learning and are more easily written than read. Heraclitus has been considered obscure, and is indeed celebrated for this; it also drew upon him the name of σκοτεινός. Cicero (De Nat. Deor. I. 26; III. 14; De Finib. II. 5) takes up a wrong idea, as often happens to him; he thinks that Heraclitus purposely wrote obscurely. Any such design would, however, be a very shallow one, and it is really nothing but the shallowness of Cicero himself ascribed by him to Heraclitus. Heraclitus’ obscurity is rather a result of neglecting proper composition and of imperfect language; this is what was thought by Aristotle (Rhet. III. 5), who, from a grammatical point of view, ascribed it to a want of punctuation: “We do not know whether a word belongs to what precedes or what succeeds.” Demetrius is of the same opinion (De Elocutione, § 192, p. 78, ed. Schneider). Socrates, as Diogenes Laertius relates (II. 22; IX. 11-12), said of this book: “What he understood of it was excellent, and what he did not understand he believed to be as good, but it requires a vigorous (Δηλίου) swimmer to make his way through it.” The obscurity of this philosophy, however, chiefly consists in there being profound speculative thought contained in it; the Notion, the Idea, is foreign to the understanding and[282] cannot be grasped by it, though it may find mathematics quite simple.

Plato studied the philosophy of Heraclitus with special diligence; we find much of it quoted in his works, and he got his earlier philosophic education most indubitably from this source, so that Heraclitus may be called Plato’s teacher. Hippocrates, likewise, is a philosopher of Heraclitus’ school. What is preserved to us of Heraclitus’ philosophy at first seems very contradictory, but we find the Notion making its appearance, and a man of profound reflection revealed. Zeno began to abrogate the opposed predicates, and he shows the opposition in movement, an assertion of limitation and an abrogation of the same; Zeno expressed the infinite, but on its negative side only, in reference to its contradiction as being the untrue. In Heraclitus we see the perfection of knowledge so far as it has gone, a perfecting of the Idea into a totality, which is the beginning of Philosophy, since it expresses the essence of the Idea, the Notion of the infinite, the potentially and actively existent, as that which it is, i.e. as the unity of opposites. From Heraclitus dates the ever-remaining Idea which is the same in all philosophers to the present day, as it was the Idea of Plato and of Aristotle.

1. The Logical Principle. Concerning the universal principle, this bold mind, Aristotle tells us (Metaph. IV. 3 and 7), first uttered the great saying: “Being and non-being are the same; everything is and yet is not.” The truth only is as the unity of distinct opposites and, indeed, of the pure opposition of being and non-being; but with the Eleatics we have the abstract understanding that Being is alone the truth. We say, in place of using the expression of Heraclitus, that the Absolute is the unity of being and non-being. When we understand that proposition as that “Being is and yet is not,” this does not seem to make much sense, but only to imply complete negation and want of thought. But we have another sentence that gives the meaning of the principle[283] better. For Heraclitus says: “Everything is in a state of flux; nothing subsists nor does it ever remain the same.” And Plato further says of Heraclitus: “He compares things to the current of a river: no one can go twice into the same stream,”[61] for it flows on and other water is disturbed. Aristotle tells us (Met. IV. 5) that his successors even said “it could not once be entered,” for it changed directly; what is, is not again. Aristotle (De Cœlo, III. 1) goes on to say that Heraclitus declares that “there is only one that remains, and from out of this all else is formed; all except this one is not enduring (παγίως).”

This universal principle is better characterized as Becoming, the truth of Being; since everything is and is not, Heraclitus hereby expressed that everything is Becoming. Not merely does origination belong to it, but passing away as well; both are not independent, but identical. It is a great advance in thought to pass from Being to Becoming, even if, as the first unity of opposite determinations, it is still abstract. Because in this relationship both must be unrestful and therefore contain within themselves the principle of life, the lack of motion which Aristotle has demonstrated in the earlier philosophies is supplied, and this last is even made to be the principle. This philosophy is thus not one past and gone; its principle is essential, and is to be found in the beginning of my Logic, immediately after Being and Nothing. The recognition of the fact that Being and non-being are abstractions devoid of truth, that the first truth is to be found in Becoming, forms a great advance. The understanding comprehends both as having truth and value in isolation; reason, on the other hand, recognizes the one in the other, and sees that in the one its “other” is contained. If we do not take the conception of existence as complete, the pure Being of simple thought[284] in which everything definite is denied, is the absolute negative; but nothing is the same, or just this self-identity. We here have an absolute transition into the opposite which Zeno did not reach, for he remained at the proposition, “From nothing, comes nothing.” With Heraclitus, however, the moment of negativity is immanent, and the Notion of Philosophy as complete is therefore dealt with.

In the first place we have here the abstract idea of Being and non-being in a form altogether immediate and general; but when we look closer, we find that Heraclitus also conceived of the opposites and their unification in a more definite manner. He says: “The opposites are combined in the self-same one, just as honey is both sweet and bitter.” Sextus remarks of this (Pyrrh. Hyp. I. 29, §§ 210, 211; II. 6, § 63): “Heraclitus, like the Sceptics, proceeds from ordinary ideas; no one will deny that healthy men call honey sweet, while those who are sick will say it is bitter.” If it is only sweet, it cannot alter its nature in another individual; it would in all places and even to the jaundiced patient be sweet. Aristotle (De mundo, 5) quotes this from Heraclitus: “Join together the complete whole and the incomplete” (the whole makes itself the part, and the meaning of the part is to become the whole), “what coincides and what conflicts, what is harmonious and what discordant, and from out of them all comes one, and from one, all.” This one is not an abstraction, but the activity of dividing itself into opposites; the dead infinite is a poor abstraction as compared with the depths of Heraclitus. All that is concrete, as that God created the world, divided Himself, begot a Son, is contained in this determination. Sextus Empiricus mentions (adv. Math. IX. 337) that Heraclitus said: “The part is something different from the whole and is yet the same as the whole; substance is the whole and the part, the whole in the universe and the part in this living being.” Plato says in his Symposium (p. 187, Steph.; p. 397, Bekk.) of Heraclitus’ principle: “The one, separated[285] from itself, makes itself one with itself like the harmony of the bow and the lyre.” He then makes Eryximachus, who speaks in the Symposium, criticize this thus: “In harmony there is discord, or it arises from opposites; for harmony does not arise from height and depth in that they are different, but from their union through the art of music.” But this does not contradict Heraclitus, who means the same thing. That which is simple, the repetition of a tone, is no harmony; difference is clearly necessary to harmony, or a definite antithesis; for it is the absolute becoming and not mere change. The real fact is that each particular tone is different from another—not abstractly so from any other, but from its other—and thus it also can be one. Each particular only is, in so far as its opposite is implicitly contained in its Notion. Subjectivity is thus the “other” of objectivity and not of a piece of paper, which would be meaningless; since each is the “other” of the “other” as its “other,” we here have their identity. This is Heraclitus’ great principle; it may seem obscure, but it is speculative. And this to the understanding which maintains the independence of Being and non-being, the subjective and objective, the real and the ideal, is always difficult and dim.

2. Natural Philosophy. In his system Heraclitus did not rest content with thus expressing himself in Notions, or with what is purely logical. But in addition to this universal form in which he advanced his principle, he gave his idea a real and more natural form, and hence he is still reckoned as belonging to the Ionic school of natural philosophers. However, as regards this form of reality, historians are at variance; most of them, and amongst others, Aristotle (Met. I. 3, 8), say that he maintained fire to be the existent principle; others, according to Sextus (adv. Math. IX. 360; X. 233), say it was air, and others again assert that he made vapour to be the principle rather than air;[62] even time is, in Sextus (adv.[286] Math. X. 216), given as the primary existence. The question arises as to how this diversity is to be comprehended. It must not be believed that all these accounts are to be ascribed to the inaccuracy of historians, for the witnesses are of the best, like Aristotle and Sextus Empiricus, who do not speak casually of these forms, but definitely, without, however, remarking upon any such differences and contradictions. We seem to have a better reason in the obscurity of the writing of Heraclitus, which might, by the confusion of its expression, give occasion to misunderstanding. But when regarded closer, this difficulty, which is evident when merely looked at superficially, disappears; it is in the profoundly significant conceptions of Heraclitus that the true way out of this difficulty manifests itself. Heraclitus could no longer, like Thales, express water, air or anything similar as an absolute principle—he could no longer do so in the form of a primeval element from which the rest proceeds—because he thought of Being as identical with non-being, or the infinite Notion; thus the existent, absolute principle cannot with him come forth as a definite and actual thing such as water, but must be water in alteration, or as process only.

a. Understanding the abstract process as time, Heraclitus said: “Time is the first corporeal existence,” as Sextus (adv. Math. X. 231, 232) puts it. Corporeal is an unfortunate expression; the Sceptics frequently pick out the crudest expressions or make thoughts crude in the first place so that they may afterwards dispense with them. Corporeal here means abstract sensuousness; time, as the first sensuous existence, is the abstract representation of process. It is because Heraclitus did not rest at the logical expression of Becoming, but gave to his principle the form of the existent, that it was necessary that time should first present itself to him as such; for in the sensuously perceptible it is the first form of Becoming. Time is pure Becoming as perceived, the pure Notion, that which is[287] simple, and the harmony issuing from absolute opposites; its essential nature is to be and not to be in one unity, and besides this, it has no other character. It is not that time is or is not, for time is non-being immediately in Being and Being immediately in non-being: it is the transition out of Being into non-being, the abstract Notion, but in an objective form, i.e. in so far as it is for us. In time there is no past and future, but only the now, and this is, but is not as regards the past; and this non-being, as future, turns round into Being. If we were to say how that which Heraclitus recognized as principle, might, in the pure form in which he recognized it, exist for consciousness, we could mention nothing else but time; and it quite accords with the principle of thought in Heraclitus to define time as the first form of Becoming.

b. But this pure, objective Notion must realize itself more fully, and thus we find in fact, that Heraclitus determined the process in a more markedly physical manner. In time we have the moments of Being and non-being manifested as negative only, or as vanishing immediately; if we wish to express both these moments as one independent totality, the question is asked, which physical existence corresponds to this determination. To Heraclitus the truth is to have grasped the essential being of nature, i.e. to have represented it as implicitly infinite, as process in itself; and consequently it is evident to us that Heraclitus could not say that the primary principle is air, water, or any such thing. They are not themselves process, but fire is process; and thus he maintains fire to be the elementary principle, and this is the real form of the Heraclitean principle, the soul and substance of the nature-process. Fire is physical time, absolute unrest, absolute disintegration of existence, the passing away of the “other,” but also of itself; and hence we can understand how Heraclitus, proceeding from his fundamental determination, could quite logically call fire the Notion of the process.


c. He further made this fire to be a real process; because its reality is for itself the whole process, the moments have become concretely determined. Fire, as the metamorphosis of bodily things, is the transformation and exhalation of the determinate; for this process Heraclitus used a particular word—evaporation (ἀναθυμίασις)—but it is rather transition. Aristotle (De anim. I. 2) says of Heraclitus in this regard, that, according to his view, “the soul is the principle because it is evaporation, the origination of everything; it is what is most incorporeal and always in a state of flux.” This is quite applicable to the primary principle of Heraclitus.

Furthermore he determined the real process in its abstract moments by separating two sides in it—“the way upwards (ὁδὸς ἄνω) and the way downwards (ὁδὸς κάτω)”—the one being division, in that it is the existence of opposites, and the other the unification of these existent opposites. Corresponding to these, he had, according to Diogenes (IX. 8), the further determinations “of enmity and strife (πόλεμος, ἔρις), and friendship and harmony (ὁμολογία, εἰρήνη); of these two, enmity and strife is that which is the principle of the origination of differences; but what leads to combustion is harmony and peace.” In enmity amongst men, the one sets himself up independently of the other, or is for himself and realizes himself; but unity and peace is sinking out of independence into indivisibility or non-reality. Everything is thre-fold and thereby real unity; nature is the never-resting, and the all is the transition out of the one into the other, from division into unity, and from unity into division.

The more detailed accounts of this real process are, in great measure, deficient and contradictory. In this connection, it is in some accounts[63] said of Heraclitus that he defined it thus: “Of the forms taken by fire there is first[289] of all the sea, and then of it half is the earth and the other half the lightning flash (πρηστήρ),” the fire which springs up. This is general and very obscure. Diogenes Laertius (IX. 9) says: “Fire is condensed into moisture, and when concrete it becomes water; water hardens into earth and this is the way downwards. The earth then again becomes fluid, and from it moisture supervenes, and from this the evaporation of the sea, from which all else arises; this is the way upwards. Water divides into a dark evaporation, becoming earth, and into what is pure, sparkling, becoming fire and burning in the solar sphere; what is fiery becomes meteors, planets and stars.” These are thus not still, dead stars, but are regarded as in Becoming, as being eternally productive. We thus have, on the whole, a metamorphosis of fire. These oriental, metaphorical expressions are, however, in Heraclitus not to be taken in their strictly sensuous signification, and as if these changes were present to the outward observation; but they depict the nature of these elements by which the earth eternally creates its suns and comets.

Nature is thus a circle. With this in view, we find Heraclitus, according to Clement of Alexandria (Strom. V. 14, p. 711), saying: “The universe was made neither by God nor man, but it ever was and is, and will be, a living fire, that which, in accordance with its laws, (μέτρῳ) kindles and goes out.” We now understand what Aristotle says of the principle being the soul, since the latter is evaporation; that is to say, fire, as this self-moving process of the world, is the soul. Another statement follows, which is also found in Clement of Alexandria (Strom. VI. 2, p. 746): “To souls (to the living) death is the becoming water; to water death is the becoming earth; on the other hand from earth, water arises, and from water, the soul.” Thus, on the whole, this process is one of extinction, of going back from opposition into unity, of the re-awakening of the former, and of issuing forth from one. The extinction of the soul, of the fire[290] in water, the conflagration that finally results, some, and amongst others, Diogenes Laertius (IX. 8), Eusebius (Præp. Evang. XIV. 3) and Tennemann (Vol. I. p. 218), falsely assert to be a conflagration of the world. What Heraclitus is said to have spoken of as a conflagration of this world, was thought to be an imaginary idea that after a certain time—as, according to our ideas, at the end of the world—the world would disappear in flames. But we see at once from passages which are most clear,[64] that this conflagration is not meant, but that it is the perpetual burning up as the Becoming of friendship, the universal life and the universal process of the universe. In respect of the fact that, according to Heraclitus, fire is the animating, or the soul, we find in Plutarch (De esu. carn. I. p. 995, ed. Xyl.) an expression which may seem odd, namely, that “the driest soul is the best.” We certainly do not esteem the most moist the best, but, on the other hand, the one which is most alive; however dry here signifies fiery and thus the driest soul is pure fire, and this is not lifeless but life itself.

These are the principal moments of the real life-process; I will stop here a moment because we here find expressed the whole Notion of speculative reflection regarding Nature. In this Notion, one moment and one element goes over into the other; fire becomes water, water earth and fire. The contention about the transmutation and immutability of the elements is an old one; in this conception the ordinary, sensuous science of nature separates itself from natural philosophy. In the speculative point of view, which is that of Heraclitus, the simple substance in fire and the other elements in itself becomes metamorphosed; in the other, all transition is abolished and only an external separation of what is already there is maintained. Water is just water, fire is fire, &c. If the former point of view upholds[291] transmutation, the latter believes in the possibility of demonstrating the opposite; it no longer, indeed, maintains water, fire, &c., to be simple realities, for it resolves them into hydrogen, oxygen, &c., but it asserts their immutability. It justly asserts that what is asserted and implied in the speculative point of view, must also have the truth of actuality; for if to be the speculative means to be the very nature and principle of its elements, this must likewise be present. We are wrong in representing the speculative to be something existent only in thought or inwardly, which is no one knows where. It is really present, but men of learning shut their eyes to it because of their limited point of view. If we listen to their account, they only observe and say what they see; but their observation is not true, for unconsciously they transform what is seen through their limited and stereotyped conception; the strife is not due to the opposition between observation and the absolute Notion, but between the one Notion and the other. They show that changes—such as that of water into earth—are non-existent. Even in modern times this transformation was indeed maintained, for when water was distilled, a residuum of earth was found. On this subject, however, Lavoisier carried on a number of very conclusive researches; he weighed all the receptacles, and it was shown that the residuum proceeded from the vessels. There is a superficial process that does not carry us beyond the determinate nature of substance. They say in reference to it, “water does not change into air but only into moisture, and moisture always condenses back into water again.” But in this they merely fix on a one-sided, insufficient process, and give it out to be the absolute process. In the real process of nature they, however, found by experience that the crystal dissolved gives water, and in the crystal, water is lost and solidifies, or becomes the so-called water of crystallization; they found that the evaporation of the earth is not to be found as moisture, in outward form in the air, for[292] air remains quite pure, or hydrogen entirely disappears in pure air; they have sought in vain to find hydrogen in the atmospheric air. Similarly they discovered that quite dry air in which they can show neither moisture nor hydrogen, passes into mist, rain, &c. These are their observations, but they spoilt all their perceptions of changes by the fixed conception which they brought with them of whole and part, and of consistence out of parts, and of the previous presence as such, of what manifests itself in coming into existence. When the crystal dissolved reveals water, they say, “it is not that water has arisen, for it was already present there.” When water in its decomposition reveals hydrogen and oxygen, that means, according to them, “these last have not arisen for they were already there as such, as the parts of which the water subsists.” But they can neither demonstrate water in crystal nor oxygen and hydrogen in water, and the same is true of “latent heat.” As we find in all expression of perception and experience, as soon as men speak, there is a Notion present; it cannot be withheld, for in consciousness there always is a touch of universality and truth. For the Notion is the real principle, but it is only to cultured reason that it is absolute Notion, and not if it remains, as here, confined in a determinate form. Hence these men necessarily attain to their limits, and they are troubled because they do not find hydrogen in air; hygrometers, flasks full of air brought down from heights by an air-balloon, do not show it to exist. And similarly the water of crystallization is no longer water, but is changed into earth.

To come back to Heraclitus, there is only one thing wanting to the process, which is that its simple principle should be recognized as universal Notion. The permanence and rest which Aristotle gives, may be missed. Heraclitus, indeed, says that everything flows on, that nothing is existent and only the one remains; but that is the Notion of the unity which only exists in opposition and not of that reflected[293] within itself. This one, in its unity with the movement of the individuals, is the genus, or in its infinitude the simple Notion as thought; as such, the Idea has still to be determined, and we shall thus find it again as the νοῦς of Anaxagoras. The universal is the immediate simple unity in opposition which goes back into itself as a process of differences; but this is also found in Heraclitus; he called this unity in opposition Fate (εἱμαρμένη) or Necessity.[65] And the Notion of necessity is none other than this, that determinateness constitutes the principle of the existent as individual, but in that very way, relates it to its opposite: this is the absolute “connection (λόγος) that permeates the Being of the whole.” He calls this “the ethereal body, the seed of the Becoming of everything”;[66] that to him is the Idea, the universal as reality, as process at rest.

3. Relation of the Principle to Consciousness. There is still something else to consider, and that is what position in this principle Heraclitus gives to consciousness; his philosophy has, on the whole, a bent towards a philosophy of nature, for the principle, although logical, is apprehended as the universal nature-process. How does this λόγος come to consciousness? How is it related to the individual soul? I shall explain this here in greater detail: it is a beautiful, natural, childlike manner of speaking truth of the truth. The universal and the unity of the principle of consciousness and of the object, and the necessity of objectivity, make their first appearance here. Several passages from Heraclitus are preserved respecting his views of knowledge. From his principle that everything that is, at the same time is not, it immediately follows that he holds that sensuous certainty has no truth; for it is the certainty for which something exists as actual, which is not so in fact. Not this immediate Being, but absolute mediation, Being as thought of, Thought itself, is[294] the true Being. Heraclitus in this relation says of sensuous perception—according to Clement of Alexandria—(Strom. III. 3, p. 520): “What we see waking is dead, but what we see sleeping, a dream,” and in Sextus (adv. Math. VII. 126, 127), “Men’s eyes and ears are bad witnesses, for they have barbarous souls. Reason (λόγος) is the judge of truth, not the arbitrary, but the only divine and universal judge”—this is the measure, the rhythm, that runs through the Being of everything. Absolute necessity is just the having the truth in consciousness; but every thought, or what proceeds from the individual, every relation in which there is only form and which has the content of the ordinary idea, is not such; what is so is the universal understanding, the developed consciousness of necessity, the identity of subjective and objective. Heraclitus says in this connection, according to Diogenes (IX. 1): “Much learning (πολυμαθίν) does not instruct the mind, else it had instructed Hesiod, Pythagoras, Xenophanes and Hecatæus. The only wisdom is to know the reason that reigns over all.”

Sextus (adv. Math. VII. 127-133), further describes the attitude of the subjective consciousness, of particular reason, to the universal, to this nature-process. That attitude has still a very physical appearance, resembling the state of mind we suppose in men who are mad or asleep. The waking man is related to things in a universal way, which is in conformity with the relation of the things and is the way in which others also regard them, and yet he still retains his independence. If, and in so far as I stand in the objectively intelligent connection of this state of mind, I am, just because of this externality, in finitude; but waking, I have the knowledge of the necessity of a connection in the form of objectivity, the knowledge of the universal existence, and thus the Idea in finite form. Sextus puts this in definite form: “Everything that surrounds us is logical and intelligent”—yet not therefore accompanied by consciousness.[295] “If we draw this universal reality through our breath, we shall be intelligent, but we are so waking only, sleeping we are in oblivion.” The waking consciousness of the outer world, what belongs to the sphere of the understanding, is rather what may be called a condition; but here it is taken as the whole of rational consciousness. “For in sleep the channels of feeling are closed and the understanding that is in us is prevented from uniting (συμφυΐας) with the surroundings; the breath is the only connection (πρόσφυσις) maintained, and it may be compared to a root.” This breath is thus distinguished from the universal breath, i.e. from the being of another for us. Reason is this process with the objective: when we are not in connection with the whole, we only dream. “Separated, the understanding loses the power of consciousness (μνημονικὴν δύναμιν) that it formerly had.” The mind as individual unity only, loses objectivity, is not in individuality universal, is not the Thought which has itself as object. “In a waking condition, however, the understanding—gazing through the channels of sense as though it were through a window, and forming a relationship with the surroundings—maintains the logical power.” We here have the ideal in its native simplicity. “In the same way as coals which come near fire, themselves take fire, but apart from it, go out, the part which is cut off from the surroundings in our bodies becomes, through the separation, almost irrational.” This confutes those who think that God gives wisdom in sleep or in somnambulism. But in connection with the many channels it becomes similar to the whole. This whole, the universal and divine understanding, in unity with which we are logical, is, according to Heraclitus, the essence of truth. Hence that which appears as the universal to all, carries with it conviction, for it has part in the universal and divine Logos, while what is subscribed to by an individual carries with it no conviction from the opposite cause. He says in the beginning of his book on Nature: “Since[296] the surroundings are reason, men are irrational both before they hear and when they first hear. For since what happens, happens according to this reason, they are still inexperienced when they search the sayings and the works which I expound, distinguishing the nature of everything and explaining its relations. But other men do not know what they do awake, just as they forget what they do in sleep.” Heraclitus says further: “We do and think everything in that we participate in the divine understanding (λόγος). Hence we must follow the universal understanding. But many live as if they had an understanding (φρόνησιν) of their own; the understanding is, however, nothing but interpretation” (being conscious) “of the manner in which all is ordered. Hence in so far as we participate in the knowledge (μνήμης) of it, we are in the truth; but in so far as we are singular (ἰδιάσωμεν) we are in error.” Great and important words! We cannot speak of truth in a truer or less prejudiced way. Consciousness as consciousness of the universal, is alone consciousness of truth; but consciousness of individuality and action as individual, an originality which becomes a singularity of content or of form, is the untrue and bad. Wickedness and error thus are constituted by isolating thought and thereby bringing about a separation from the universal. Men usually consider, when they speak of thinking something, that it must be something particular, but this is quite a delusion.

However much Heraclitus may maintain that there is no truth in sensuous knowledge because all that exists is in a state of flux, and that the existence of sensuous certainty is not while it is, he maintains the objective method in knowledge to be none the less necessary. The rational, the true, that which I know, is indeed a withdrawal from the objective as from what is sensuous, individual, definite and existent; but what reason knows within itself is necessity or the universal of being; it is the principle of thought, as it is the principle of the world. It is this contemplation[297] of truth that Spinoza in his Ethics (P. II. propos. XLIV., coroll. II. p. 118, ed. Paul), calls “a contemplation of things in the guise of eternity.” The being-for-self of reason is not an objectless consciousness, or a dream, but a knowledge, that which is for itself; but this being-for-self is awake, or is objective and universal, i.e. is the same for all. The dream is a knowledge of something of which I alone know; fancy may be instanced as just such a dream. Similarly it is by feeling that something is for me alone, and that I have something in me as in this subject; the feeling may profess to be ever so elevated, yet it really is the case that for me as this subject, it is what I feel, and not an object independent of me. But in truth, the object is for me something essentially free, and I am for myself devoid of subjectivity; similarly this object is no imaginary one made an object by me alone, but is in itself a universal.

There are, besides, many other fragments of Heraclitus, solitary expressions, such as his saying, “men are mortal gods, and gods immortal men; living is death to the former and dying is their life.”[67] Life is the death of the gods, death is the life of the gods; the divine is the rising through thought above mere nature which belongs to death. Hence Heraclitus also says, according to Sextus (adv. Math. VII., 349): “the power of thinking is outside the body,” which, in a remarkable way, Tennemann makes into: “outside of men.” In Sextus (Pyrrh. Hyp. III. 24, § 230) we further read: “Heraclitus says that both life and death are united in our life as in our death; for if we live, our souls are dead and buried in us, but if we die, our souls arise and live.” We may, in fact, say of Heraclitus what Socrates said: “What remains to us of Heraclitus is excellent, and we must conjecture of what is lost, that it was as excellent.” Or if we wish to consider fate so just as[298] always to preserve to posterity what is best, we must at least say of what we have of Heraclitus, that it is worthy of this preservation.

E. Empedocles, Leucippus and Democritus.

We shall take Leucippus and Democritus with Empedocles; in them there is manifested the ideality of the sensuous and also universal determinateness or a transition to the universal. Empedocles was a Pythagorean Italian, whose tendencies were Ionic; Leucippus and Democritus, who incline to the Italians, in that they carried on the Eleatic school, are more interesting. Both these philosophers belong to the same philosophic system; they must be taken together as regards their philosophic thought and considered thus.[68] Leucippus is the older, and Democritus perfected what the former began, but it is difficult to say what properly speaking belongs to him historically. It is certainly recorded that he developed Leucippus’ thought, and there is, too, some of his work preserved, but it is not worthy of quotation. In Empedocles we see the commencement of the determination and separation of principles. The becoming conscious of difference is an essential moment, but the principles here have in part the character of physical Being, and though partaking also of ideal Being, this form is not yet thought-form. On the other hand we find in Leucippus and Democritus the more ideal principles, the atom and the Nothing, and we also find thought-determination more immersed in the objective—that is, the beginning of a metaphysics of body; or pure Notions possess the significance of the material, and thus pass over thought into objective form. But the teaching is, on the whole, immature, and is incapable of giving satisfaction.


1. Leucippus and Democritus.

Nothing is accurately known of the circumstances of Leucippus’ life, not even where he was born. Some, like Diogenes Laertius (IX. 30), make him out to be an Eleatic; others to have belonged to Abdera (because he was with Democritus), or to Melos—Melos is an island not far from the Peloponnesian coast—or else, as is asserted by Simplicius in writing on Aristotle’s Physics (p. 7), to Miletus. It is definitely stated that he was a disciple and a friend of Zeno; yet he seems to have been almost contemporaneous with him as well as with Heraclitus.

It is less doubtful that Democritus belonged to Abdera in Thrace, on the Aegean Sea, a town that in later times became so notorious on account of foolish actions. He was born, it would appear, about the 80th Olympiad (460 B.C.), or Olympiad 77, 3 (470 B.C.); the first date is given by Apollodorus (Diog. Laert. IX. 41), the other by Thrasyllus; Tennemann (Vol. I. p. 415) makes his birth to fall about the 71st Olympiad (494 B.C.). According to Diogenes Laertius (IX. 34), he was forty years younger than Anaxagoras, lived to the time of Socrates, and was even younger than he—that is supposing him to have been born, not in Olympiad 71, but in Olympiad 80. His connection with the Abderites has been much discussed, and many bad anecdotes are told regarding it by Diogenes Laertius. That he was very rich, Valerius Maximus (VIII. 7, ext. 4) judges from the fact that his father entertained the whole of Xerxes’ army on its passage to Greece. Diogenes tells (IX. 35, 36) that he expended his means, which were considerable, on journeys to Egypt and in penetrating into the East, but this last is not authentic. His possessions are stated to have amounted to a hundred talents, and if an Attic talent was worth about from 1000 to 1200 thalers, he must undoubtedly have been able to get far enough with that. It is always said that he was a friend and disciple[300] of Leucippus, as Aristotle relates (Met. I. 4), but where they met is not told. Diogenes (IX. 39) goes on: “After he returned from his journeys into his own country, he lived very quietly, for he had consumed all his substance, but he was supported by his brother and attained to high honour amongst his countrymen”—not through his philosophy, but—“by some prophetic utterances. According to the law, however, he who ran through his father’s means could not have a place in the paternal burial-place. To give no place to the calumniator or evil speaker”—as though he had spent his means through extravagance—“he read his work Διάκοσμος to the Abderites, and the latter gave him a present of 500 talents, had his statue publicly erected, and buried him with great pomp when, at 100 years old, he died.” That this was also an Abderite jest, those who left us this narrative, at least, did not see.

Leucippus is the originator of the famous atomic system which, as recently revived, is held to be the principle of rational science. If we take this system on its own account, it is certainly very barren, and there is not much to be looked for in it; but it must be allowed that we are greatly indebted to Leucippus, because, as it is expressed in our ordinary physics, he separated the universal and the sensuous, or the primary and the secondary, or the essential and the nonessential qualities of body. The universal quality means, in speculative language, the fact that the corporeal is really universally determined through the Notion or the principle of body: Leucippus understood the determinate nature of Being, not in a superficial manner, but in a speculative. When it is said that body has those universal qualities, such as form, impenetrability and weight, we think that the indeterminate conception of body is the essence, and that its essence is something other than these qualities. But speculatively, essential existence is just universal determinations; they are existent in themselves, or the abstract content[301] and the reality of existence. To body as such, there is nothing left for the determination of reality but pure singularity; but it is the unity of opposites, and the unity of these predicates constitutes its reality.

Let us recollect that in the Eleatic philosophy Being and non-being were looked at as in opposition; that only Being is, and non-being, in which category we find motion, change, &c., is not. Being is not as yet the unity turning back, and turned back into itself, like Heraclitus’ motion and the universal. It may be said of the point of view that difference, change, motion, &c., fall within sensuous, immediate perception, that the assertion that only Being is, is as contradictory to appearances as to thought; for the nothing, that which the Eleatics abolished, is. Or within the Heraclitean Idea, Being and non-being are the same; Being is, but non-being, since it is one with Being, is as well, or Being is both the predicate of Being and of non-being. But Being and non-being are both expressed as having the qualities of objectivity, or as they are for sensuous perception, and hence they are the opposition of full and empty. Leucippus says this; he expresses as existent what was really present to the Eleatics. Aristotle says (Met. I. 4): “Leucippus and his friend Democritus maintain that the full and the empty are the elements, and they call the one the existent, and the other the non-existent; that is, the full and solid are the existent, the empty and rare, the non-existent. Hence they also say that Being is no more than non-being because the empty is as well as the bodily; and these form the material sources of everything.” The full has the atom as its principle. The Absolute, what exists in and for itself, is thus the atom and the empty (τὰ ἄτομα καὶ τὸ κενόν): this is an important, if at the same time, an insufficient explanation. It is not atoms as we should speak of them, such, for example, as we represent to ourselves as floating in the air, that are alone the principle, for the intervening nothing is just as essential. Thus here we have the first appearance of[302] the atomic system. We must now give the further signification and determination of this principle.

a. The Logical Principle

The principal point of consideration is the One, existent for itself: this determination is a great principle and one which we have not hitherto had. Parmenides establishes Being or the abstract universal; Heraclitus, process; the determination of being-for-self belongs to Leucippus. Parmenides says that the nothing does not exist at all; with Heraclitus Becoming existed only as the transition of Being into nothing where each is negated; but the view that each is simply at home with itself, the positive as the self-existent one and the negative as empty, is what came to consciousness in Leucippus, and became the absolute determination. The atomic principle in this manner has not passed away, for it must from this point of view always exist; the being-for-self must in every logical philosophy[69] be an essential moment and yet it must not be put forward as ultimate. In the logical progression from Being and Becoming to this thought-determination, Being as existent here and now[70] certainly first appears, but this last belongs to the sphere of finality and hence cannot be the principle of Philosophy. Thus, though the development of Philosophy in history must correspond to the development of logical philosophy, there will still be passages in it which are absent in historical development. For instance, if we wished to make Being as existent here the principle, it would be what we have in consciousness—there are things, these things are finite and bear a relation to one another—but this is the category of our unthinking knowledge, of appearance. Being-for-self, on the other hand, is, as Being, simple relation to itself, but through negation of the other-Being. If I say I am for myself, I not only am, but I negate in me all else, exclude it from me, in so far as it[303] seems to me to be external. As negation of other being, which is just negation in relation to me, being-for-self is the negation of negation and thus affirmation; and this is, as I call it, absolute negativity in which mediation indeed is present, but a mediation which is just as really taken away.

The principle of the One is altogether ideal and belongs entirely to thought, even though we wish to say that atoms exist. The atom may be taken materially, but it is supersensuous, purely intellectual. In our times, too, more especially through the instrumentality of Gassendi, this conception of atoms has been renewed. The atoms of Leucippus are, however, not molecules, the small particles of Physics. In Leucippus, according to Aristotle, (De gen. et corr. I. 8) there is to be found the idea that “atoms are invisible because of the smallness of their body,” which is much like the way in which molecules are now-a-days spoken of: but this is merely a way of speaking of them. The One can neither be seen nor shown with magnifying glasses or measures, because it is an abstraction of thought; what is shown is always matter that is put together. It is just as futile when, as in modern times, men try by the microscope to investigate the inmost part of the organism, the soul, and think they can discover it by means of sight and feeling. Thus the principle of the One is altogether ideal, but not in the sense of being in thought or in the head alone, but in such a way that thought is made the true essence of things. Leucippus understood it so, and his philosophy is consequently not at all empirical. Tennemann (Vol. 1, p. 261), on the other hand, says, quite wrongly, “The system of Leucippus is opposed to that of the Eleatics; he recognizes the empirical world as the only objective reality, and body as the only kind of existence.” But the atom and the vacuum are not things of experience; Leucippus says that it is not the senses through which we become conscious of the truth, and thereby he has established an idealism[304] in the higher sense and not one which is merely subjective.

b. The Constitution of the World

However abstract this principle might be to Leucippus, he was anxious to make it concrete. The meaning of atom is the individual, the indivisible; in another form the One is thus individuality, the determination of subjectivity. The universal and, on the other side, the individual, are great determinations which are involved in everything, and men first know what they have in these abstract determinations, when they recognize in the concrete that even there they are predominant. To Leucippus and Democritus this principle, which afterwards came to light with Epicurus, remained physical; but it also appears in what is intellectual. Mind indeed, is also an atom and one; but as one within itself, it is at the same time infinitely full. In freedom, right and law, in exercising will, our only concern is with this opposition of universality and individuality. In the sphere of the state the point of view that the single will is, as an atom, the absolute, may be maintained; the more modern theories of the state which also made themselves of practical effect, are of this kind. The state must rest on the universal, that is, on the will that exists in and for itself; if it rests on that of the individual, it becomes atomic and is comprehended in accordance with the thought-determination of the one, as is the case in Rousseau’s Contrat Social. From what Aristotle tells us in the passage last quoted, Leucippus’ idea of all that is concrete and actual is further this: “The full is nothing simple, for it is an infinitely manifold. These infinitely many, move in the vacuum, for the vacuum exists; their conglomeration brings about origination” (that is, of an existing thing, or what is for the senses), “disintegration and separation result in passing away.” All other categories are included here. “Activity and passivity subsist in the fact, that they are contiguous; but their contiguity is not their becoming one, for from that which is truly” (abstractly) “one there does not come a number,[305] nor from that which is truly many, one.” Or, it may be said, they are in fact neither passive nor active, “for they merely abide through the vacuum” without having as their principle, process. Atoms thus are, even in their apparent union in that which we call things, separated from one another through the vacuum which is purely negative and foreign to them, i.e. their relation is not inherent in themselves, but is with something other than them, in which they remain what they are. This vacuum, the negative in relation to the affirmative, is also the principle of the movement of atoms; they are so to speak solicited by the vacuum to fill up and to negate it.

These are the doctrines of the atomists. We see that we have reached the extreme limits of these thoughts, for when relation comes into question, we step beyond them. Being and non-being, as something thought, which, when represented for consciousness as differing in regard to one another, are the plenum and the vacuum, have no diversity in themselves; for the plenum has likewise negativity in itself; as independent, it excludes what is different; it is one and infinitely many ones, while the vacuum is not exclusive, but pure continuity. Both these opposites, the one and continuity, being now settled, nothing is easier to imagine than that atoms should float in existent continuity, now being separated and now united; and thus that their union should be only a superficial relation, or a synthesis that is not determined through the inherent nature of what is united, but in which these self-existent beings really remain separated still. But this is an altogether external relationship; the purely independent is united to the independent, and thus a mechanical combination alone results. All that is living, spiritual, &c., is then merely thrown together; and change, origination, creation, are simple union.

However highly these principles are to be esteemed as a forward step, they at once reveal to us their total inadequacy, as is also the case when we enter with them on[306] further concrete determinations. Nevertheless, we need not add what is in great measure added by the conception of a later date, that once upon a time, there was a chaos, a void filled with atoms, which afterwards became united and orderly, and that the world thereby arose; it is now and ever that what implicitly exists is the plenum and the vacuum. The satisfying point of view which natural science found in such thoughts, is just the simple fact that in these the existent is in its antithesis as what is thought and what is opposed to thought, and is hereby what exists in and for itself. The Atomists are therefore, generally speaking, opposed to the idea of the creation and maintenance of this world by means of a foreign principle. It is in the theory of atoms that science first feels released from the sense of having no foundation for the world. For if nature is represented as created and held together by another, it is conceived of as not existent in itself, and thus as having its Notion outside itself, i.e. its principle or origin is foreign to it and it has no principle as such, only being conceivable from the will of another; as it is, it is contingent, devoid of necessity and Notion in itself. In the conception of the atomist, however, we have the conception of the inherency of nature, that is to say, thought finds itself in it, or its principle is in itself something thought, and the Notion finds its satisfaction in conceiving and establishing it as Notion. In abstract existence, nature has its ground in itself and is simply for itself; the atom and the vacuum are just such simple Notions. But we cannot here see or find more than the formal fact that quite general and simple principles, the antithesis between the one and continuity, are represented.

If we proceed from a wider, richer point of view in nature, and demand that from the atomic theory, it, too, must be made comprehensible, the satisfaction at once disappears and we see the impossibility of getting any further. Hence we must get beyond these pure thoughts of continuity and discontinuity. For these negations, the units, are not in and for[307] themselves; the atoms are indivisible and like themselves, or their principle is made pure continuity, so that they may be said to come directly into one clump. The conception certainly keeps them separate and gives them a sensuously represented Being; but if they are alike, they are, as pure continuity, the same as what is empty. But that which is, is concrete and determined. How then can diversity be conceived of from these principles? Whence comes the determinate character of plants, colour, form? The point is, that though these atoms as small particles may be allowed to subsist as independent, their union becomes merely a combination which is altogether external and accidental. The determinate difference is missed; the one, as that which is for itself, loses all its determinateness. If various matters, electrical, magnetic and luminous, are assumed, and, at the same time, a mechanical shifting about of molecules, on the one hand unity is quite disregarded, and, on the other, no rational word is uttered in regard to the transition of phenomena, but only what is tautological.

Since Leucippus and Democritus wished to go further, the necessity of a more definite distinction than this superficial one of union and separation was introduced, and they sought to bring this about by ascribing diversity to atoms, and, indeed, by making their diversity infinite. Aristotle (Met. I. 4) says: “This diversity they sought to determine in three ways. They say that atoms differ in figure, as A does from N; in order” (place) “as AN from NA; in position”—as to whether they stand upright or lie—“as Z from N. From these all other differences must come.” We see that figure, order and posture are again external relationships, indifferent determinations, i.e. unessential relations which do not affect the nature of the thing in itself nor its immanent determinateness, for their unity is only in another. Taken on its own account, this difference is indeed inconsistent, for as the entirely simple one, the atoms are perfectly alike, and thus any such diversity cannot come into question.


We here have an endeavour to lead the sensuous back into few determinations. Aristotle (De gen. et corr. I. 8) says in this connection of Leucippus: “He wished to bring the conception of the phenomenal and sensuous perception nearer, and thereby represented movement, origination and decease, as existent in themselves.” In this we see no more than that actuality from him receives its rights, while others speak only of deception. But when Leucippus in the end represents the atom as also fashioned in itself, he brings existence certainly so much nearer to sensuous perception, but not to the Notion; we must, indeed, go on to fashioning, but so far we are still a long way off from the determination of continuity and discretion. Aristotle (De sensu, 4) therefore says: “Democritus, and most of the other ancient philosophers are, when they speak of what is sensuous, very awkward, because they wish to make all that is felt into something tangible; they reduce everything to what is evident to the sense of touch, black being rough, and white smooth.” All sensuous qualities are thus only led back to form, to the various ways of uniting molecules which make any particular thing capable of being tasted or smelt; and this endeavour is one which is also made by the atomists of modern times. The French particularly, from Descartes onward, stand in this category. It is the instinct of reason to understand the phenomenal and the perceptible, only the way is false; it is a quite unmeaning, undetermined universality. Since figure, order, posture and form, constitute the only determination of what is in itself, nothing is said as to how these moments are experienced as colour, and indeed variety of colour, &c.; the transition to other than mechanical determinations is not made, or it shows itself to be shallow and barren.

How it was that Leucippus, from these poor principles of atoms and of the vacuum, which he never got beyond, because he took them to be the absolute, hazarded a construction of[309] the whole world (which may appear to us as strange as it is empty), Diogenes Laertius tells us (IX. 31-33) in an account which seems meaningless enough. But the nature of the subject allows of little better, and we can do no more than observe from it the barrenness of this conception. It runs thus: “Atoms, divergent in form, propel themselves through their separation from the infinite, into the great vacuum.” (Democritus adds to this, “by means of their mutual resistance (ἀντιτυπία) and a tremulous, swinging motion (παλμός).”)[71] “Here gathered, they form one vortex (δίνην) where, by dashing together and revolving round in all sorts of ways, the like are separated off with the like. But since they are of equal weight, when they cannot, on account of their number, move in any way, the finer go into outer vacuum, being so to speak forced out; and the others remain together and, being entangled, run one against another, and form the first round system. But this stands apart like a husk that holds within it all sorts of bodies; since these, in pressing towards the middle, make a vortex movement, this encircling skin becomes thin, because from the action of the vortex, they are continually running together. The earth arises in this way, because these bodies, collected in the middle, remain together. That which encircles and which is like a husk, again becomes increased by means of the adherence of external bodies, and since it also moves within the vortex, it draws everything with which it comes in contact to itself. The union of some of these bodies again forms a system, first the moist and slimy, and then the dry, and that which circles in the vortex of the whole; after that, being ignited, they constitute the substance of the stars. The outer circle is the sun, the inner the moon,” &c. This is an empty representation; there is no interest in these dry, confused ideas of circle-motion, and of what is later on[310] called attraction and repulsion, beyond the fact that the different kinds of motion are looked at as the principle of matter.

c. The Soul

Finally Aristotle relates (De anim. I. 2) that in regard to the soul, Leucippus and Democritus said that “it is spherical atoms.” We find further from Plutarch (De plac. phil. IV. 8) that Democritus applied himself to the relation borne by consciousness to the explanation, amongst other things, of the origin of feelings, because with him, the conceptions that from things fine surfaces, so to speak, free themselves, and fly into the eyes, ears, &c., first began. We see that, thus far, Democritus expressed the difference between the moments of implicit Being and Being-for-another more distinctly. For he said, as Sextus tells us (adv. Math. VII. 135): “Warmth exists according to opinion (νόμῳ), and so do cold and colour, sweet and bitter: only the indivisible and void are truthful (ἐτεῇ).” That is to say, only the void and indivisible and their determinations are implicit; unessential, different Being, such as warmth, &c., is for another. But by this the way is at once opened up to the false idealism that means to be done with what is objective by bringing it into relation with consciousness, merely saying of it that it is my feeling. Thereby sensuous individuality is, indeed, annulled in the form of Being, but it still remains the same sensuous manifold; a sensuously notionless manifold of feeling is established, in which there is no reason, and with which this idealism has no further concern.

2. Empedocles.

The fragments of Empedocles left, have several times been collected. Sturz of Leipzig collected above 400 verses.[72][311] Peyron arranged a collection of fragments of Empedocles and Parmenides,[73] which was put into print in Leipzig in 1810. In Wolff’s Analects, a treatise is to be found on Empedocles by Ritter.

Empedocles’ birthplace was Agrigentum in Sicily, while Heraclitus belonged to Asia Minor. We thus come back to Italy, for our history changes about between these two sides; from Greece proper, as the middle point, we have as yet had no philosophies at all. Empedocles, according to Tennemann (Vol. I. p. 415), flourished about the 80th Olympiad (460 B.C.). Sturz (pp. 9, 10) quotes Dodwell’s words: (De ætate Pythag. p. 220), which indicate that Empedocles was born in Olympiad 77, 1 (472 B.C.). They are as follows: “In the second year of the 85th Olympiad Parmenides had reached his 65th year, so that Zeno was born in the second year of the 75th Olympiad;[74] thus he was six years older than his fellow-student Empedocles, for the latter was only one year old when Pythagoras died in the first or second year of the 77th Olympiad.” Aristotle says (Met. I. 3): “In age Empedocles is subsequent to Anaxagoras, but his works are earlier.” But not only did he philosophize earlier as regards time, that is, at a younger age, but in reference to the stage reached by the Notion, his philosophy is earlier and less mature than that of Anaxagoras.

From Diogenes’ accounts of his life (VIII. 59, 60-73), he also seems to have been a kind of magician and sorcerer, like Pythagoras. During his life he was much respected by his fellow-citizens, and, after his death, a statue was erected to him in his native town; his fame extended very far. He did not live apart, like Heraclitus, but in the exercise of great influence on the affairs of the town of Agrigentum, like Parmenides in Elea. He acquired the[312] credit, after the death of Meton, the ruler of Agrigentum, of bringing about a free constitution and equal rights to all citizens. He likewise frustrated several attempts which were made by people of Agrigentum to seize upon the rulership of their city; and when the esteem of his fellow-citizens rose so high that they offered him the crown, he rejected their offers, and lived ever after amongst them as a respected private individual. Both of his life and death much which was fabulous was told. Seeing that he was famous in life, we are told that he wished not to appear to die an ordinary death, as a proof that he was not a mortal man, but had merely passed out of sight. After a feast he is said either to have suddenly disappeared, or else to have been on Etna with his friends, and suddenly to have been seen of them no more. But what became of him was revealed by the fact that one of his shoes was thrown up by Etna, and found by one of his friends; this made it clear that he threw himself into Etna, thereby to withdraw himself from the notice of mankind, and to give rise to the idea that he did not really die, but that he was taken up amongst the gods.

The origin and occasion for this fable seems to lie in a poem in which there are several verses that, taken alone, make great professions. He says, according to Sturz, (p. 530: Reliquiæ τῶν καθαρμῶν, v. 364-376):—

“Friends who dwell within the fort on yellow Acragas
And who in the best of works are busy, I greet you!
To you I am an immortal god, no more a mortal man,
Do ye not see how that where’er I go, all honour me,
My head being ‘circled round with diadems and crowns of green?
When so decked out, I show myself in towns of wealth,
Men and women pray to me. And thousands follow
My steps, to seek from me the way to bliss,
Others ask for prophecies; others again,
Healing words for ailments manifold beseech.
But what is this to me—as though ‘twere anything
By art to conquer much corrupted man.”

But, taken in the context, this laudation means that I am[313] highly honoured, but what is the value of that to me; it expresses weariness of the honour given him by men.

Empedocles had Pythagoreans as pupils, and went about with them; he is sometimes considered to have been a Pythagorean like Parmenides and Zeno, but this is the only ground for such a statement. It is a question whether he belonged to the League; his philosophy has no resemblance to the Pythagorean. According to Diogenes Laertius (VIII. 56), he was also called Zeno’s fellow-pupil. There have, indeed, been many isolated reflections of a physical kind preserved to us, as also some words of exhortation, and in him thought as penetrating within reality, and the knowledge of nature seem to have attained to greater breadth and compass; we find in him, however, less speculative depth than in Heraclitus, but a Notion more imbued with the point of view of reality, and a culture derived from natural philosophy or the contemplation of nature. Empedocles is more poetic than definitely philosophical; he is not very interesting, and much cannot be made of his philosophy.

As to the particular Notion which governs it, and which really begins in it to appear, we may call it Combination or Synthesis. It is as combination that the unity of opposites first presents itself; this Notion, first opening up with Heraclitus, is, while in a condition of rest, conceived of as combination, before thought grasps the universal in Anaxagoras. Empedocles’ synthesis, as a completion of the relationship, thus belongs to Heraclitus, whose speculative Idea, though in reality, is process, but this is so without the individual moments in reality being mutually related as Notions. Empedocles’ conception of synthesis holds good to the present day. He also is the originator of the common idea that has even come down to us, of regarding the four known physical elements of fire, air, water, and earth, as fundamental; by chemists they are certainly no longer held to be elements, because they[314] understand by elements a simple chemical substance. I will now give Empedocles’ ideas shortly, and draw the many units mentioned into the connection of a whole.

His general ideas Aristotle[75] shortly sums up thus: “To the three elements, fire, air, and water, each of which was in turn considered as the principle from which everything proceeded, Empedocles added the Earth as the fourth corporeal element, saying that it is these which always remain the same, never becoming, but being united and separated as the more or the less, combining into one and coming out of one.” Carbon, metal, &c., are not something existing in and for itself which remains constant and never becomes; thus nothing metaphysical is signified by them. But with Empedocles this undoubtedly is the case: every particular thing arises through some kind of union of the four. These four elements, to our ordinary idea, are not so many sensuous things if we consider them as universal elements; for, looked at sensuously, there are various other sensuous things. All that is organic, for example, is of another kind; and, further, earth as one, as simple, pure earth, does not exist, for it is in manifold determinateness. In the idea of four elements we have the elevation of sensuous ideas into thought.

Aristotle further says in reference to the abstract Notion of their relation to one another (Met. I. 4), that Empedocles did not only require the four elements as principles, but also Friendship and Strife, which we have already met with in Heraclitus; it is at once evident that these are of another kind, because they are, properly speaking, universal. He has the four natural elements as the real, and friendship and strife as the ideal principles, so that six elements, of which Sextus[76] often speaks, make their appearance in lines that Aristotle (Met. II. 4) and Sextus (adv. Math. VII. 92) have preserved:—


“With the earth, we see the earth, with water, water,
With air, heavenly air, with fire, eternal fire,
With love, love is seen, and strife with sorrowful strife.”

Through our participation in them they become for us. There we have the idea that spirit, the soul, is itself the unity, the very totality of elements, in which the principle of earth relates to earth, water to water, love to love, &c.[77] In seeing fire, the fire is in us for whom objective fire is, and so on.

Empedocles also speaks of the process of these elements, but he did not comprehend it further; the point to be remarked is that he represented their unity as a combination. In this synthetic union, which is a superficial relation devoid of Notion, being partly related and partly unrelated, the contradiction necessarily results that at one time the unity of elements is established and at another, their separation: the unity is not the universal unity in which they are moments, being even in their diversity one, and in their unity different, for these two moments, unity and diversity, fall asunder, and union and separation are quite indeterminate relationships. Empedocles says in the first book of his poem on Nature, as given by Sturz (p. 517, v. 106-109): “There is no such thing as a Nature, only a combination and separation of what is combined; it is merely called Nature by men.” That is to say, that which constitutes anything, as being its elements or parts, is not as yet called its nature, but only its determinate unity. For example, the nature of an animal is its constant and real determinateness, its kind, its universality, which is simple. But Empedocles does away with nature in this sense, for every thing, according to him, is the combination of simple elements, and thus not in itself the universal, simple and true: this is not what is signified by us when we speak of nature. Now this nature in which a thing moves in[316] accordance with its own end, Aristotle (De gen. et corr. II. 6) misses in Empedocles; in later times this conception was still further lost. Because the elements were thus existent simply in themselves, there was, properly speaking, no process established in them, for in process they are only vanishing moments, and not existent in themselves. Being thus implicit, they must have been unchangeable, or they could not constitute themselves into a unity; for in the one their subsistence, or their implicit existence would be destroyed. But because Empedocles says that things subsist from these elements, he immediately establishes their unity.

These are the principal points in Empedocles’ philosophy. I will quote the remarks that Aristotle (Met. I. 4) makes in this regard.

(α) “If we wish to follow this up, and do so in accordance with the understanding, not merely stumbling over it like Empedocles, we should say that friendship is the principle of good and strife the principle of evil, so that in a measure we may assert that Empedocles maintained—and was the first to do so—that the evil and the good are the absolute principles, because the good is the principle of all good, and the bad the principle of all evil.” Aristotle shows the trace of universality present here; for to him it may be termed essential in dealing with the Notion of the principle, that which is in and for itself. But this is only the Notion, or the thought which is present in and for itself; we have not yet seen such a principle, for we find it first in Anaxagoras. If Aristotle found the principle of motion missed in ancient philosophers, in the Becoming of Heraclitus, he again missed in Heraclitus the still deeper principle of the Good, and hence wished to discover it in Empedocles. By the good the “why” is to be understood, that which is an end in and for itself, which is clearly established in itself, which is on its own account, and through which all else is; the[317] end has the determination of activity, the bringing forth of itself, so that it, as end to itself, is the Idea, the Notion that makes itself objective and, in its objectivity, is identical with itself. Aristotle thus entirely controverts Heraclitus, because his principle is change alone, without remaining like self, maintaining self, and going back within self.

(β) Aristotle also says in criticizing further the relationship and determination of these two universal principles of Friendship and Strife, as of union and separation, that “Empedocles neither adequately made use of them nor discovered in them what they involved (ἐξευρίσκει τὸ ὁμολογούμενον); for with him friendship frequently divides and strife unites. That is, when the All falls asunder through strife amongst the elements, fire is thereby united into one, and so is each of the other elements.” The separation of the elements which are comprised within the All, is just as necessarily the union amongst themselves of the parts of each element; that which, on the one hand, is the coming into separation, as independent, is at the same time something united within itself. “But when everything through friendship goes back into one, it is necessary that the parts of each element undergo separation again.” The being in one is itself a manifold, a diverse relation of the four diversities, and thus the going together is likewise a separation. This is the case generally with all determinateness, that it must in itself be the opposite, and must manifest itself as such. The remark that, speaking generally, there is no union without separation, no separation without union, is a profound one; identity and non-identity are thought-determinations of this kind which cannot be separated. The reproach made by Aristotle is one that lies in the nature of the thing. And when Aristotle says that Empedocles, although younger than Heraclitus, “was the first to maintain such principles, because he did not assert that the principle of motion is one, but that it is different and opposed,” this certainly relates to the fact[318] that he thought it was in Empedocles that he first found design, although his utterances on the subject were dubious.

(γ) As to the real moments in which this ideal realizes itself, Aristotle further says, “He does not speak of them as four”—equivalents in juxtaposition—“but on the contrary as two; fire he puts by itself on the one side, and the three others, earth, air, and water, on the other.” What would be most interesting is the determination of their relationship.

(δ) In what deals with the relationship of the two ideal moments, friendship and strife, and of the four real elements, there is thus nothing rational, for Empedocles, according to Aristotle (Met. XII. 10), did not properly separate, but co-ordinated them, so that we often see them in proximity and counted as having equal value; but it is self-evident that Empedocles also separated these two sides, the real and the ideal, and expressed thought as their relation.

(ε) Aristotle says with justice (De gen. et corr. I. 1) that “Empedocles contradicts both himself and appearances. For at one time he maintains that none of the elements springs out of the other, but all else comes from them; and, at another time, he makes them into a whole through friendship, and again destroys this unity through strife. Thus through particular differences and qualities, one becomes water, the other fire, &c. Now if the particular differences are taken away (and they can be taken away since they have arisen), it is evident that water arises from earth, and the reverse. The All was not yet fire, earth, water, and air, when these were still one, so that it is not clear whether he made the one or the many to be, properly speaking, real existence.” Because the elements become one, their special character, that through which water is water, is nothing in itself, that is, they are passing into something different; but this contradicts the statement that they are the absolute elements, or that they are[319] implicit. He considers actual things as an intermingling of elements, but in regard to their first origin, he thinks that everything springs from one through friendship and strife. This customary absence of thought is in the nature of synthetic conceptions; it now upholds unity, then multiplicity, and does not bring both thoughts together; as sublated, one is also not one.[78]

F. Anaxagoras.

With Anaxagoras[79] a light, if still a weak one, begins to dawn, because the understanding is now recognized as the principle. Aristotle says of Anaxagoras (Met. I. 3): “But he who said that reason (νοῦς), in what lives as also in nature, is the origin of the world and of all order, is like a sober man as compared with those who came before and spoke at random (εἰκῆ).” As Aristotle says, hitherto philosophers may “be compared to the fencers who fence in an unscientific way. Just as the latter often make good thrusts in their struggle, though not by any skill, these philosophers seem to speak without any knowledge of what they say.” Now if Anaxagoras, as a sober man amongst drunkards, was the first to reach this consciousness—for[320] he says that pure thought is the actually existent universal and true—he yet, to a considerable extent, still thrusts into space.

The connection of his philosophy with what precedes is as follows: In Heraclitus’ Idea as motion, all moments are absolutely vanishing. Empedocles represents the gathering together of this motion into a unity, but into a synthetic unity; and with Leucippus and Democritus it is the same. With Empedocles, however, the moments of this unity are the existent elements of fire, water, &c., and with the others, pure abstractions, implicit being, thoughts. But in this way universality is directly asserted, for the opposing elements have no longer any sensuous support. We have had Being, Becoming, the One, as principles; they are universal thoughts and not sensuous, nor are they figures of the imagination; the content and its parts are, however, taken from what is sensuous, and they are thoughts in some sort of a determination. Anaxagoras now says that it is not gods, sensuous principles, elements, or thoughts—which really are determinations of reflection—but that it is the Universal, Thought itself, in and for itself, without opposition, all embracing, which is the substance or the principle. The unity as universal, returns from the opposition into itself, while in the synthesis of Empedocles, what is opposed is still apart from it and independent, and Thought is not Being. Here, however, Thought as pure, free process in itself, is the self-determining universal, and is not distinguished from conscious thought. In Anaxagoras quite new ground is thus opened up.

Anaxagoras concludes this period, and after him a fresh one begins. In accordance with the favourite idea of there being a genealogical descent of principles from the teacher to the taught, because he was an Ionian, he is often represented as perpetuating the Ionic school, and as an Ionic philosopher: Hermotimus of Clazomenæ, too, was[321] his teacher. To support this theory Diogenes Laertius (II. 6) makes him a disciple of Anaximenes, whose birth is, however, placed in Ol. 55-58, or about sixty years earlier than that of Anaxagoras.

Aristotle says (Met. I. 3) that Anaxagoras first began by these determinations to express absolute reality as understanding. Aristotle and others after him, such as Sextus (adv. Math. IX. 7), mention the bare fact that Hermotimus gave rise to this conception, but it was clearly due to Anaxagoras. Little is gained if such a fact were true, since we learn no more about the philosophy of Hermotimus; it cannot have been much. Others have made numerous historical researches respecting this Hermotimus. The name we have already mentioned amongst those of whom it is said that Pythagoras existed in them before he lived as Pythagoras. We also have a story of Hermotimus to the effect that he possessed the peculiar gift of being able to make his soul quit his body. But this did him bad service in the end, since his wife, with whom he had a dispute, and who besides knew very well how matters stood, showed to their acquaintances this soul-deserted body as dead, and it was burnt before the soul reinstated itself—which soul must have been astonished.[80] It is not worth while to investigate what lies at the ground of these ancient stories, i.e. into how we should regard the matter: we may think of it as implying a state of ecstasy.

We must consider the life of Anaxagoras before his philosophy. Anaxagoras, according to Diogenes (II. 7), born in Ol. 70 (500 B.C.), comes earlier than Democritus, and in age also precedes Empedocles, yet, on the whole, he was contemporaneous with these, as also with Parmenides; he was as old as Zeno, and lived somewhat earlier than Socrates, but still they were acquainted with one another. His native town was Clazomenæ, in Lydia, not very far[322] from Colophon and Ephesus, and situated on an isthmus by which a great peninsula is connected with the mainland. His life is shortly summed up in the statement that he devoted himself to the study of the sciences, withdrew from public affairs; according to Valerius Maximus (VIII. 7, extr. 6) he made numerous journeys, and finally, according to Tennemann (Vol. I. pp. 300, 415), in the forty-fifth year of his age, in the 81st Olympiad (456 B.C.), and at a propitious time, he came to Athens.

With him we thus find Philosophy in Greece proper, where so far there had been none, and coming, indeed, as far as Athens; hitherto either Asia Minor or Italy had been the seat of Philosophy, though, when the inhabitants of Asia Minor fell under Persian rule, with their loss of freedom, it expired amongst them. Anaxagoras, himself a native of Asia Minor, lived in the important period between the war of the Medes and the age of Pericles, principally in Athens, which had now reached the zenith of its greatness, for it was both the head of Grecian power, and the seat and centre of the arts and sciences. Athens, after the Persian wars, brought the greater part of the Greek islands into subjection, as also a number of maritime towns in Thrace, and even further into the Black Sea. As the greatest artists collected in Athens, so also did the most noted philosophers and sophists live there—a circle of luminaries in the arts and sciences such as we have in Æschylus, Sophocles, Aristophanes, Thucydides, Diogenes of Apollonia, Protagoras, Anaxagoras, and others from Asia Minor. Pericles then ruled the State, and raised it to that height of splendour which may be called the golden age in Athenian life; Anaxagoras, although living in the most flourishing time of Athenian life, touches on its decay, or rather reaches the first threatening of that decay, which ended in a total extermination of this beautiful life.

What is of special interest at this time is the opposition[323] between Athens and Lacedæmon, the two Greek nations which contended with one another for the foremost place in Greece; here we must therefore allude to the principles of these celebrated States. While the Lacedæmonians had no arts or sciences, Athens had to thank the character of its constitution, and of its whole spirit, for the fact that it was the seat of the sciences and fine arts. But the constitution of Lacedæmon is also worthy of high esteem, for it regulated and restrained the high Doric spirit, and its principal feature was that all personal peculiarity was subordinated, or rather sacrificed, to the general aim of the life of the State, and the individual had the consciousness of his honour and sufficiency only in the consciousness of working for the State. A people of such genuine unity, in whom the will of the individual had, properly speaking, quite disappeared, were united by an indestructible bond, and Lacedæmon was hence placed at the head of Greece, and obtained the leadership, which, we find, it held among the Argives in the days of Troy. This is a great principle which must exist in every true State, but which with the Lacedæmonians retained its one-sided character; this one-sidedness was avoided by the Athenians, and by that means they became the greater. In Lacedæmon personality proper was so much disregarded that the individual could not have free development or expression; individuality was not recognized, and hence not brought into harmony with the common end of the State. This abrogation of the rights of subjectivity, which, expressed in his own way, is also found in Plato’s Republic, was carried very far with the Lacedæmonians. But the universal is living spirit only in so far as the individual consciousness finds itself as such within it; the universal is not constituted of the immediate life and being of the individual, the mere substance, but formed of conscious life. As individuality which separates itself from the universal is powerless and falls to the ground, the one-sided universal, the morality of individuality[324] cannot stand firm. The Lacedæmonian spirit, which had not taken into account the freedom of consciousness, and whose universal had isolated itself therefrom, had hence to see it break forth in opposition to the universal; and though the first to come forward as the liberators of Greece from its tyranny were the Spartans, whom even Athens thanks for the expulsion of the descendants of Pisistratus, their relationship to their confederates soon passes into that of common, mean, tyranny. Within the State it likewise ends in a harsh aristocracy, just as the fixed equilibrium of property (each family retaining its inheritance, and through forbidding the possession of money, or trade and commerce, preventing the possibility of inequality in riches) passes into an avarice which, as opposed to this universal, is brutal and mean. This essential moment of particularity, not being taken into the State, and hence not made legal and moral (moral first of all), comes forth as vice. In a rational organization all the elements of the Idea are present; if the liver were isolated as bile it would become not more, and not less active, but becoming antagonistic, it would isolate itself from the corporate economy of the body. Solon, on the contrary, gave to the Athenians not only equality of laws and unity of spirit in their constitution (which was a purer democracy than in Sparta), but although each citizen had his substantial consciousness in unity with the laws of the State, he also gave free play to the individual mind, so that each might do as he would, and might find expression for himself. Solon entrusted the executive to the people, not to the Ephors, and this became self-government after the displacement of the tyrants, and thus in truth a free people arose; the individual had the whole within himself, as he had his consciousness and action in the whole. Thus we see in this principle the formation of free consciousness and the freedom of individuality in its greatness. The principle of subjective freedom appears at first, however, still in[325] unison with the universal principle of Greek morality as established by law, and even with mythology; and thus in its promulgation, because the genius of its conceptions could develop freely, it brought about these masterpieces in the beautiful plastic arts, and the immortal works of poetry and history. The principle of subjectivity had, thus far, not taken the form that particularity, as such, should be set free, and that its content should be a subjectively particular, at least distinguished from the universal principle, universal morality, universal religion, universal laws. Thus we do not see the carrying out of isolated ideas, but the great, moral, solid, divine content made in these works object for consciousness, and generally brought before consciousness. Later we shall find the form of subjectivity becoming free for itself, and appearing in opposition to the substantial, to morality, religion, and law.

The basis of this principle of subjectivity, though it is still a merely general one, we now see in Anaxagoras. But amongst this noble, free, and cultured people of Athens, he who had the happiness to be first, was Pericles, and this circumstance raised him in the estimation of the individual to a place so high that few could reach it. Of all that is great amongst men, the power of ruling over the will of men who have but one will, is the greatest, for this controlling individuality must be both the most universal and the most living—a lot for a mortal being than which hardly any better can be found. His individuality was, according to Plutarch, (in Pericle 5) as deep as it was perfect; as serious (he never laughed), as full of energy and restfulness: Athens had him the whole day long. Thucydides has preserved some of Pericles’ speeches to the people which allow of few works being compared to them. Under Pericles the highest culture of the moral commonwealth is to be found, the juncture where individuality is still under and also in the universal. Presently individuality prevails, because its activity falls into extremes, since the state as[326] state, is not yet independently organized within itself. Because the essence of the Athenian State was the common spirit, and the religious faith of individuals in this constituted their essence, there disappears with the disappearance of this faith, the inner Being of the people, since the spirit is not in the form of the Notion as it is in our states. The speedy transition to this last is the νοῦς, subjectivity, as Being, self-reflection. When Anaxagoras at this time, the principle of which has just been given, came to Athens, he was sought out by Pericles, and, as his friend, lived in very intimate relations with him, before the latter occupied himself with public affairs. But Plutarch (in Pericle 4, 16) also relates that Anaxagoras came to want because Pericles neglected him—did not supply the illuminating lamp with oil.

A more important matter is that Anaxagoras (as happened later with Socrates and many other philosophers) was accused of despising those whom the people accepted as gods. The prose of the understanding came into contact with the poetic, religious point of view. It is distinctly said by Diogenes Laertius (II. 12) that Anaxagoras believed the sun and stars to be burning stones; and he is, according to Plutarch, (in Pericle, 6) blamed for having explained something that the prophets stated to be a marvellous omen, in a natural way; it quite tallies with this that he is said to have foretold that on the day of Ægos-Potamos, where the Athenians lost their last fleet against Lysander, a stone should fall from heaven.[81] The general remark might be made of Thales, Anaximander, &c., that the sun, moon, earth and stars were counted as mere things, i.e. as objects external to mind, and that they no longer held them to be living gods, but represented them in different ways—which ideas, for the rest, deserve no further consideration, since these matters belong properly[327] to ordinary learning. Things may be derived from thought; thought really brings about the result that certain objects which may be called divine, and certain conceptions of these which may be called poetic, together with the whole range of superstitious beliefs, are demolished—they are brought down to being what are called natural things. For in thought, as the identity of itself and of Being, mind knows itself as the truly actual, so that for mind in thought, the unspiritual and material is brought down to being mere things, to the negative of mind. All the ideas of those philosophers have this in common, that nature is through them undeified; they brought the poetic view of nature down to the prosaic, and destroyed the poetic point of view which ascribes to all that is now considered to be lifeless, a life proper to itself, perhaps also sensation, and, it may be, a being after the usual order of consciousness. The loss of this point of view is not to be lamented as if unity with nature, pure faith, innocent purity and childlike spirit went with it. Innocent and childlike it may certainly have been, but reason is just the going forth from such innocence and unity with nature. So soon as mind grasps itself, is for itself, it must for that very reason confront the ‘other’ of itself as a negation of consciousness, i.e. look on it as something devoid of mind, an unconscious and lifeless thing, and it must first come to itself through this opposition. There is in this a fixing of self-moving things such as are met with in the myths of the ancients, who relate such tales as that the Argonauts secured the rocks on the Straits of the Hellespont which formerly moved like scissors. Similarly progressive culture consolidated that which formerly was thought to have its own motion and life in itself, and made it into unmoving matter. This transition of the mythical point of view into the prosaic, here comes to be recognized by the Athenians. A prosaic point of view such as this, assumes that man has requirements quite different from those he formerly had; in this we[328] find traces of the powerful, necessary conversion brought about in the ideas of man through the strengthening of thought, through knowledge of himself, and through Philosophy.

The institution of charges of atheism, which we shall touch upon more fully in dealing with Socrates, is, in Anaxagoras’ case, quite comprehensible, from the specific reason that the Athenians, who were envious of Pericles, who contended with him for the first place, and who did not venture to proceed against him openly, took his favourites to law, and sought through charges against his friend, to injure him. Thus his friend Aspasia was brought under accusation, and the noble Pericles had, according to Plutarch (in Pericle, 32), in order to save her from condemnation, to beg the individual citizens of Athens with tears for her acquittal. The Athenian people in their freedom, demanded such acts of the potentates to whom they allowed supremacy, for thereby an acknowledgment was given of their subordination to the people; they thus made themselves the Nemesis in respect to the high place accorded to the great, for they placed themselves in a position of equality with these, while these again made evident their dependence, subjection and powerlessness before the others. What is told about the result of this charge against Anaxagoras is quite contradictory and uncertain: Pericles certainly saved him from condemnation to death. He was either, as some say, condemned only to banishment after Pericles had led him before the people, speaking and entreating for him, after, by reason of his age, attenuation and weakness the sympathy of the people had been aroused; or else, as others say, with the help of Pericles, he escaped from Athens and was in absence condemned to death, the judgment never being executed upon him. Others again say that he was liberated, but from the vexation that he felt respecting these charges, and from apprehension as to their repetition, he voluntarily left Athens. And at about sixty or[329] seventy years of age, he died in Lampsacus in the 88th Olympiad (428 B.C.).[82]

1. The Universal Principle. The logical principle of Anaxagoras was that he recognized the νοῦς as the simple, absolute essence of the world. The simplicity of the νοῦς is not a Being but a universality which is distinguished from itself, though in such a way that the distinction is immediately sublated and the identity is set forth for itself. This universal for itself, sundered, exists in purity only as thought; it exists also in nature as objective existence, but in that case no longer purely for itself, but as having particularity as an immediate in it. Space and time are, for example, the most ideal, universal facts in nature as such, but there is no pure space, no pure time and motion any more than any pure matter—for this universal is immediately defined space, air, earth, &c. In thought, when I say, I am I, or I = I, I certainly distinguish something from me, but the pure unity remains; there is no movement but a distinction which is not distinguished, or the being-for-me. And in all that I think, if the thought has a definite content, it is my thought: I am thus known to myself in this object. This universal which thus exists for itself and the individual, or thought and being, thus, however, come into definite opposition. Here the speculative unity of this universal with the individual should be considered as it is posited as absolute unity, but the comprehension of the Notion itself is certainly not found with the ancients. We need not expect a pure Notion such as one of an understanding realizing itself into a system, organized as a universe.

How Anaxagoras enunciated the Notion of the νοῦς, Aristotle (De anim. I. 2) goes on to tell: “Anaxagoras maintains that the soul is the principle of movement. Yet he does not always express himself fully about the soul and νοῦς: he seems to separate νοῦς and soul from one another,[330] and still he makes use of them as though they were the same existence, only that by preference he makes the νοῦς the principle of everything. He certainly speaks frequently of the νοῦς as of the cause of the beautiful and right, but another time he calls it the soul. For it is in all animals, in large as well as small, the higher kind and the lower; it alone of all existence is the simple, unadulterated and pure; it is devoid of pain and is not in community with any other.”[83] What we therefore have to do is to show from the principle of motion, that it is the self-moving; and this thought is, as existent for itself. As soul, the self-moving is only immediately individual; the νοῦς, however, as simple, is the universal. Thought moves on account of something: the end is the first simple which makes itself result; this principle with the ancients is grasped as good and evil, i.e. end as positive and negative. This determination is a very important one, but with Anaxagoras it was not fully worked out. While in the first place the principles are material, from these Aristotle then distinguishes determination and form, and thirdly he finds in the process of Heraclitus, the principle of motion. Then in the fourth place there comes the reason why, the determination of end, with the νοῦς; this is the concrete in itself. Aristotle adds in the above-mentioned passage (p. 192), “according to these men” (the Ionians and others) “and in reference to such causes” (water, fire, &c.), “since they are not sufficient to beget the nature of things, the philosophers are, as already said, compelled by the truth to go on to the principle following (ἐχομένην). For neither the earth nor any other principle is capable of explaining the fact that while on the one hand all is good and beautiful, on the other, something else is produced, and those men do not seem to have thought that this was so; nor is it seemly to abandon such matters to hazard (αὐτομάτῳ) and to chance.” Goodness and beauty[331] express the simple restful Notion, and change the Notion in its movement.

With this principle comes the determination of an understanding as of self-determining activity; this has hitherto been wanting, for the Becoming of Heraclitus, which is only process, is not yet as fate, the independently self-determining. By this we must not represent to ourselves subjective thought; in thinking we think immediately of our thought as it is in consciousness. Here, on the contrary, quite objective thought is meant, active understanding—as we say, there is reason in the world, or we speak of genera in nature which are the universal. The genus animal is the substantial of the dog; the dog itself is this; the laws of nature are themselves nature’s immanent essence. The nature is not formed from without as men make a table; this is also made with understanding, but through an understanding outside of this wood. This external form, which is called the understanding, immediately occurs to us in speaking of the understanding; but here the universal is meant, that which is the immanent nature of the object itself. The νοῦς is thus not a thinking existence from without which regulates the world; by such the meaning present to Anaxagoras would be quite destroyed and all its philosophic interest taken away. For to speak of an individual, a unit from without, is to fall into the ordinary conception and its dualism; a so-called thinking principle is no longer a thought, but is a subject. But still the true universal is for all that not abstract, but the universal is just the determining in and out of itself of the particular in and for itself. In this activity, which is independently self-determining, the fact is at once implied that the activity, because it constitutes process, retains itself as the universal self-identical. Fire, which, according to Heraclitus, was process, dies away and merely passes over, without independent existence, into the opposite; it is certainly also a circle and a return to fire, but the principle[332] does not retain itself in its determinateness as the universal, seeing that a simple passing into the opposite takes place. This relation to itself in determination which we see appearing in Anaxagoras, now, however, contains the determination of the universal though it is not formally expressed, and therein we have the end or the Good.

I have just recently (p. 316) spoken of the Notion of the end, yet by that we must not merely think of the form of the end as it is in us, in conscious beings. At first, end, in as far as I have it, is my conception, which is for itself, and the realization of which depends on my wish; if I carry it out, and if I am not unskilful, the object produced must be conformable to the end, containing nothing but it. There is a transition from subjectivity to objectivity through which this opposition is always again sublated. Because I am discontented with my end in that it is only subjective, my activity consists in removing this defect and making it objective. In objectivity the end has retained itself; for instance, if I have the end in view of building a house and am active for that end, the house results in which my end is realized. But we must not, as we usually do, abide at the conception of this subjective end; in this case both I and the end exist independently and externally in relation to each other. In the conception that God, as wisdom, rules the world in accordance with an end, for instance, the end is posited for itself in a wise, figuratively conceiving Being. But the universal of end is the fact that since it is a determination independently fixed, that rules present existence, the end is the truth, the soul of a thing. The Good in the end gives content to itself, so that while it is active with this content, and after it has entered into externality, no other content comes forth than what was already present. The best example of this is presented in life; it has desires, and these desires are its ends; as merely living, however, it knows nothing of these ends, but yet they are first, immediate determinations which are established. The[333] animal works at satisfying these desires, i.e. at reaching the end; it relates itself to external things, partly mechanically, partly chemically. But the character of its activity does not remain mechanical or chemical; the product is rather the animal itself, which, as its own end, brings forth in its activity only itself, since it negates and overturns those mechanical or chemical relationships. In mechanical and chemical process, on the other hand, the result is something different, in which the subject does not retain itself; but in the end, beginning and end are alike, for we posit the subjective objectively in order to receive it again. Self-preservation is a continual production by which nothing new, but always the old, arises; it is a taking back of activity for the production of itself.

Thus this self-determining activity, which is then active on something else, enters into opposition, but it again negates the opposition, governs it, in it reflects upon itself; it is the end, the thought, that which conserves itself in its self-determination. The development of these moments is the business of Philosophy from henceforth. But if we look more closely as to how far Anaxagoras has got in the development of this thought, we find nothing further than the activity determining from out of itself, which sets up a limit or measure; further than the determination of measure, development does not go. Anaxagoras gives us no more concrete definition of the νοῦς, and this we are still left to consider; we thus have nothing more than the abstract determination of the concrete in itself. The above-mentioned predicates which Anaxagoras gives the νοῦς, may thus indeed be affirmed, but they are, on their own account, one-sided only.

2. The Homœomeriæ. This is the one side in the principle of Anaxagoras; we now have to consider the going forth of the νοῦς into further determinations. This remaining part of the philosophy of Anaxagoras at first, however, makes us think that the hopes in which such a principle justified us must[334] be very much diminished. On the other side, this universal is confronted by Being, matter, the manifold generally, potentiality as distinguished from the former as actuality. For if the Good or the end is also determined as potentiality, the universal, as the self-moving, may rather be called the actual in itself, the being-for-self, as opposed to implicit being, potentiality, passivity. Aristotle says in an important passage (Met. I. 8): “If any one should say of Anaxagoras that he adopted two principles, he would rest his statement on a point respecting which the latter never really clearly defined himself, but which he had necessarily to acknowledge to those who adduced it.... That is, Anaxagoras says that originally everything is mingled.... But where nothing is yet separated, no distinguishing feature is present; such substance is neither a white, black, gray, nor any other colour, but colourless; it has no quality nor quantity nor determination (τί). All is mingled except the νοῦς; this is unmingled and pure. With this in view, it thus occurs to him to denominate as principles the one, for it alone is single and unmingled, and the other-being (θάτερον), what we call the indeterminate, before it has become determined or partakes of any kind of form.”

This other principle is celebrated under the name of homœomeries (ὁμοιομερῆ), of like parts or homogeneous, in Aristotle’s rendering (Met. I. 3, 7); Riemer translates ἡ ὁμοιομερεια “the similarity of individual parts to the whole,” and αἱ ὁμοιομέρειαι “the elementary matter,” yet this latter word seems to be of a later origin.[84] Aristotle says, “Anaxagoras sets forth” (in respect of the material) “infinitely many principles, for he maintained that, like water and fire in Empedocles’ system, nearly all that is formed of like parts only arises from union and passes away through separation; other arising and passing away there is none, for equal parts remain eternal.” That is, the existent, the[335] individual matter, such as bones, metal, flesh, &c., in itself consists of parts like itself—flesh of small particles of flesh, gold of small gold particles, &c. Thus he said at the beginning of his work, “All has been alike” (i.e. unseparated as in a chaos), “and has rested for an infinitude of time; then came the νοῦς, and it brought in movement, separated and brought order into the separated creation (διεκόσμησεν), in that it united the like.”[85]

The homœomeriæ become clearer if we compare them with the conceptions of Leucippus and Democritus and others. In Leucippus and Democritus, as well as Empedocles, we saw this matter, or the absolute as objective existence, determined so that simple atoms—with the latter the four elements and with the former infinitely many—were set forth as separate only in form; their syntheses and combinations were existing things. Aristotle (De cœlo, III. 3) says further on this point, “Anaxagoras asserts of the elements the opposite to Empedocles. For the latter takes as original principles, fire, air, earth, and water, through whose union all things arise. On the other hand, Anaxagoras maintains what are of like parts such as flesh, bones, or the like to be simple materials; such things as water and fire, on the contrary, are a mixture of the original elements. For any one of these four consists of the infinite admixture of all invisible, existing things of like parts, which hence come forth from these.” The principle held good for him as for the Eleatics, that “the like only comes out of the like; there is no transition into the opposite, no union of opposites possible.” All change is hence to him only a separation and union of the like; change as true change, would be a Becoming out of the negative of itself. “That is, because Anaxagoras,” says Aristotle (Phys. I, 4), “partook of the view of all physicists that it is impossible that anything can come out of[336] nothing, there was nothing left but to admit that what becomes was already present as an existent, but that, on account of its small size, it was imperceptible to us.” This point of view is also quite different from the conception of Thales and Heraclitus, in which, not only the possibility, but the actuality of the transformation of these like qualitative differences is essentially maintained. But to Anaxagoras with whom the elements are a mingled chaos formed therefrom, having only an apparent uniformity, concrete things arise through the severance of these infinitely many principles from such a chaos, since like finds like. Respecting the difference between Empedocles and Anaxagoras, there is further what Aristotle adds in the same place: “The former allows a change (περίοδον) in these conditions, the latter only their one appearance.” The conception of Democritus is similar to that of Anaxagoras in so far as that an infinite manifold is the original source. But with Anaxagoras the determination of the fundamental principles appears to contain that which we consider as organized, and to be by no means an independently existent simple; thus perfectly individualized atoms such as particles of flesh and of gold, form, through their coming together, that which appears to be organized. That comes near our ordinary ideas. Means of nourishment, it is thought, contain such parts as are homogeneous to blood, flesh, &c. Anaxagoras hence says, according to Aristotle (De gen. anim. I. 18), “Flesh comes to flesh through food.” Digestion is thus nothing more than the taking up of the homogeneous and separation of the heterogeneous; all nourishment and growth is thus not true assimilation but only increase, because each internal organ of the animal only draws its parts to itself out of the various plants, bodies, &c. Death is, on the other hand, the separation of the like and the mingling with the heterogeneous. The activity of the νοῦς, as the sundering of the like out of the chaos and the putting[337] together of the like, as also the setting at liberty again of this like, is certainly simple and relative to itself, but purely formal and thus for itself contentless.

This is the general standpoint of the philosophy of Anaxagoras, and quite the same standpoint which in more recent times reigns in chemistry for instance; flesh is certainly no longer regarded as simple, but as being hydrogen, &c. The chemical elements are oxygen, hydrogen, carbon and metals, &c. Chemistry says, if you want to know what flesh, wood, stone, &c., really are, you must set forth their simple elements, and these are ultimate. It also says that much is only relatively simple, e.g. platinum consists of three or four metals. Water and air were similarly long held to be simple, but chemistry at length analyzed them. From this chemical point of view, the simple principles of natural things are determined as infinitely qualitative and thus accepted as unchangeable and invariable, so that all else consists only of the combination of these simples. Man, according to this, is a collection of carbon and hydrogen, some earth, oxides, phosphorus, &c. It is a favourite idea of the physicists to place in the water or in the air, oxygen and carbon, which exist and only require to be separated. This idea of Anaxagoras certainly also differs from modern chemistry; that which we consider as concrete, is for him qualitatively determined or elementary. Yet he allows, with regard to flesh, that the parts are not all alike. “For this reason, they say,” remarks Aristotle (Phys. I. 4; Met. IV. 5),—but not particularly of Anaxagoras—“everything is contained in everything, for they saw everything arise out of everything: it only appears to be different and is called different in accordance with the predominating number of the particular kind of parts which have mingled themselves with others. In truth the whole is not white, or black, or sweet, or flesh, or bones; but the homœomeriæ which have most accumulated in any place, bring about the result that the whole appears to us as this determinate.” As[338] thus each thing contains all other things, water, air, bones, fruits, &c., on the other hand, the water contains flesh as flesh, bones, &c. Into this infinitely manifold nature of the principles, Anaxagoras thus goes back; the sensuous has first arisen through the accumulation of all those parts, and in it the one kind of parts then has a predominance.

While he defines absolute existence as universal, we see here that in objective existence, or in matter, universality and thought abandon Anaxagoras. The implicit is to him, indeed, no absolutely sensuous Being; the homœomeriæ are the non-sensuous, i.e. the invisible and inaudible, &c. This is the highest point reached by common physicists in passing from sensuous Being to the non-sensuous, as to the mere negation of the being-for-us; but the positive side is that existent Being is itself universal. The objective is to Anaxagoras certainly the νοῦς, but for him the other-Being is a mixture of simple elements, which are neither flesh nor fish, red nor blue; again this simple is not simple in itself, but in its essence consists of homœomeriæ, which are, however, so small that they are imperceptible. The smallness thus does not take away their existence, for they are still there; but existence is just the being perceptible to sight, smell, &c. These infinitely small homœomeriæ undoubtedly disappear in a more complete conception; flesh, for instance, is such itself, but it is also a mixture of everything, i.e. it is not simple. Further analysis equally shows how such a conception must, to a greater or lesser degree, become confused; on the one side each form is thus in its main elements, original, and these parts together constitute a corporeal whole; this whole has, however, on the other side, to contain everything in itself. The νοῦς, then, is only what binds and separates, what divides and arranges [das diakosmirende]. This may suffice us; however easily we may get confused with the homœomeriæ of Anaxagoras, we must hold fast to the main determination. The homœomeriæ still form a striking conception, and it may[339] be asked how it conforms with the rest of Anaxagoras’ principle.

3. The Relation of the Two. Now as to the relation of the νοῦς to that matter, both are not speculatively posited as one, for the relation itself is not set forth as one, nor has the Notion penetrated it. Here the ideas become in some measure superficial, and in some measure the conceptions are more consistent as regards the particular, than they at first appear. Because the understanding is the self-determining, the content is end, it retains itself in relation to what is different; it does not arise and pass away although it is in activity. The conception of Anaxagoras that concrete principles subsist and retain themselves, is thus consistent; he abolishes arising and passing away and accepts only an external change, a uniting together, and a severance of what is so united. The principles are concrete and have content, i.e. so many ends; in the change that takes place the principles really retain themselves. Like only goes with like even if the chaotic mixture is a combination of the unlike; but this is only a combination and not an individual, living form which maintains itself, binding like to like. Thus, however rude these ideas are, they are still really in harmony with the νοῦς.

But if the νοῦς is with Anaxagoras the moving soul in all, it yet remains to the real, as the soul of the world and the organic system of the whole, a mere word. For the living as living, since the soul was conceived of as principle, the ancients demanded no further principle (for it is the self-moving), but for determinateness, which the animal is as element in the system of the whole, they again required only the universal of these determinations. Anaxagoras calls the understanding such a principle, and in fact the absolute Notion, as simple existence, the self-identical in its differences, the dividing, the reality-establishing, must be known as such. But that Anaxagoras showed forth the understanding in the universe, or had grasped it as a rational[340] system—of this not only do we not find a trace, but the ancients expressly say that he simply let the matter pass, just as when we say that the world or nature is a great system, the world is wisely ordered or is generally speaking rational. By this we are shown no more of the realization of this reason or the comprehensibility of the world. The νοῦς of Anaxagoras is thus still formal, although the identity of the principle with the realization was recognized. Aristotle (Met. I. 4) recognizes the insufficiency of the Anaxagorean principle: “Anaxagoras, indeed, requires the νοῦς for his formation of the world-system; that is, when he has a difficulty in showing the reason for which it is in accordance with necessity, he brings it in; otherwise he employs anything for the sake of explanation, rather than thought.”

It is nowhere more clearly set forth that the νοῦς of Anaxagoras is still formal, than in the well-known passage out of Plato’s Phædo (p. 97-99, Steph.; p. 85-89, Bekk.), which is noteworthy for its exposition of the philosophy of Anaxagoras. Socrates, according to Plato, states most definitely both what the absolute to them was, and why Anaxagoras did not satisfy them. I quote this because it will best of all lead us on to the main conception which we recognize in the philosophic consciousness of the ancients; at the same time it is an example of the loquacity of Socrates. Socrates’ understanding of the νοῦς as end is better because its determinations are congenial to him, so that we also see in it the principal forms that appear in Socrates. Plato makes Socrates, in prison, an hour before his death, relate at considerable length his experiences with regard to Anaxagoras: “When I heard it read from a book of Anaxagoras, that he said that the understanding is the disposer of the world and the first cause, I rejoiced in such a cause, and I held that if Mind apportioned out all reality, it would apportion it for the best” (the end would be shown forth). “Now if anyone wished to find the cause[341] of the individual thing, how it becomes, and how it passes away, or how it is, he must discover this from what is best for that thing, whether it is being or in some way suffering or doing.” That the understanding is cause, or that everything is made for the best, means the same thing; this will become clearer from the opposite. It is further said, “For this reason a man has only to consider for himself, as for all others, what is best and most perfect, and then he would of necessity know the worse, for the same science comprises both. Thus reflecting, I rejoiced that I could believe that I had found in Anaxagoras a teacher of the cause of existence” (of the good) “such as I approved of; he would, I believed, tell me whether the earth was flat or round, and if he told me this, he would show me the cause and necessity of the fact, because he would show me the one or the other as being the better; and if he said that the earth is in the centre, he would show me that it was better that it should be in the centre” (i.e. its implicitly and explicitly determined end, and not utility as an externally determined end). “And when he had shown me this, I should be satisfied though he brought forward no other kind of causes, for the same would hold good for the sun, the moon, and the other stars, their respective velocities, returnings, and other conditions. Because he assigned its cause to each and to all in common, I thought that he would explain what was best for each and what was best for all” (the free, implicitly and explicitly existent Idea, the absolute end). “I would not have given up this hope for a great deal, but seized these writings zealously and read them as soon as possible in order to learn as soon as possible the good and the evil. These bright hopes faded when I saw that he did not require thought at all nor any reason for the formation of things, but had recourse to air, fire, water and many other eccentricities.” We here see how to what is best, according to the understanding (the relation of final end), that which we call natural causes is opposed,[342] just as in Leibnitz the operating and the final causes are different.

Socrates explains this in the following way: “It appears to me to be as if some one were to say that Socrates performs all his actions with understanding, and then in going on to give the reasons for each of my actions, were to say that I sit here because my body consists of bones and muscles; the bones are fixed and have joints that divide them (διαφυὰς), but the muscles have the power of extending and bending, and they cover the bones with flesh and skin; it is as though he were further to bring forward as the cause of my talking with you, other similar causes, sounds, and air, hearing, and a thousand other things, but omitted to give the true cause” (free independent determination), “which is that the Athenians judged it fit to condemn me, and therefore I judged it better and more just to sit here and to suffer the punishment which they accorded” (we must recollect that one of his friends had arranged everything for the flight of Socrates, but that he refused to go) “for else, by the dog of Egypt, how long ago would these bones and muscles have gone to Megara or to Boeotia, had they been moved only by their opinion of what was best, and had I not considered it juster and better to bear the punishment which the State laid upon me, instead of escaping and fleeing from it.” Plato here correctly places the two kinds of reason and cause in opposition to one another—the cause proceeding from ends, and the inferior, subject, and merely external causes of chemistry, mechanism, &c.—in order to show the discrepancy between them, as here exemplified in the case of a man with consciousness. Anaxagoras seems to define an end and to wish to proceed from it; but he immediately lets this go again and proceeds to quite external causes. “But to call these” (these bones and muscles) “causes is quite improper. If, however, anyone were to say that without having bones and muscles and whatever else I have, I could not do that which I consider best, he[343] would be quite right. But to say that from such causes, I do that which I do, and do with understanding; to say that I do not do it from the choice of what is best—to make such an assertion shows a great want of consideration; it signifies an incapacity to distinguish that the one is the true cause and the other is only that without which the cause could not operate,” i.e. the conditions.

This is a good example for showing that we miss the end in such modes of explanation. On the other hand, it is not a good example, because it is taken from the kingdom of the self-conscious will, where deliberate and not unconscious end reigns. In this criticism of the Anaxagorean νοῦς we can certainly see it generally expressed that Anaxagoras made no application of his νοῦς to reality. But the positive element in the conclusion of Socrates seems, on the other hand, to be unsatisfying, because it goes to the other extreme, namely, to desire causes for nature which do not appear to be in it, but which fall outside of it in consciousness. For what is good and beautiful is partly due to the thought of consciousness as such; end or purposive action is mainly an act of consciousness and not of nature. But in so far as ends become posited in nature, the end, as end, on the other hand, falls outside of it in our judgment only; as such it is not in nature itself, for in it there are only what we call natural causes, and for its comprehension we have only to seek and show causes that are immanent. According to this, we distinguish, for instance, in Socrates the end and ground of his action as consciousness, and the causes of his actual action: and the latter we would undoubtedly seek in his bones, muscles, nerves, &c. Since we banish the consideration of nature in relation to ends—as present in our thought and not existent in nature—we also banish from our consideration teleological explanations in nature formerly admired, e.g. that grass grows that animals may eat it, and that these last exist and eat grass, so that we may eat them. The end of trees is said to be that their[344] fruit may be consumed and that they should give us wood for heat; many animals have skins for warm clothing; the sea in northern climates floats timber to the shores because on these shores themselves no wood grows, and the inhabitants can hence obtain it, and so on. Thus presented, the end, the Good, lies outside of the thing itself: the nature of a thing then becomes considered, not in and for itself, but only in relation to another which is nothing to it. Thus, because things are only useful for an end, this determination is not their own but one foreign to them. The tree, the grass, is as natural existence, independent, and this adaptation of it to an end, such as making grass that which is to be eaten, does not concern the grass as grass, just as it does not concern the animal that man should clothe himself in his skin; Socrates may hence seem to miss in Anaxagoras this mode of looking at nature. But this to us familiar way of regarding the good and expedient is on the one hand not the only one, and does not represent Plato’s meaning, while, on the other, it is likewise necessary. We have not to represent the good or the end in so one-sided a manner that we think of it existing as such in the perceiving mind, and in opposition to what is; but set free from this form, we must take it in its essence as the Idea of all existence. The nature of things must be recognized in accordance with the Notion, which is the independent, unfettered consideration of things; and because it is that which things are in and for themselves, it controls the relationship of natural causes. This Notion is the end, the true cause, but that which recedes into itself; it is the implicitly existent first from which movement proceeds and which becomes result; it is not only an end present in the imagination before its actuality exists, but is also present in reality. Becoming is the movement through which a reality or totality becomes; in the animal or plant its essence as universal genus, is that which begins its movement and brings it forth. But this whole is not the product of something foreign, but its own product, what is already present[345] as germ or seed; thus it is called end, the self-producing, that which in its Becoming is already implicitly existent. The Idea is not a particular thing, which might have another content than reality or appear quite different. The opposition is the merely formal opposition of possibility and actuality; the active impelling substance and the product are the same. This realization goes right through the opposition; the negative in the universal is just this process. The genus sets itself in a state of opposition as individual and universal, and thus, in what lives, the genus realizes itself in the opposition of races which are opposed, but whose principle is the universal genus. They, as individuals, aim at their own self-preservation as individuals in eating, drinking, &c., but what they thereby bring to pass is genus. Individuals sublate themselves, but genus is that which is ever brought forth; plants bring forth only the same plants whose ground is the universal.

In accordance with this, the distinction between what have been badly named natural causes and the final causes has to be determined. Now if I isolate individuality and merely regard it as movement and the moments of the same, I show what are natural causes. For example, where has this life taken its origin? Through the generation of this its father and mother. What is the cause of these fruits? The tree whose juices so distil themselves that the fruit forthwith arises. Answers of this kind give the causes, i.e. the individuality opposed to an individuality; but their principle is the genus. Now nature cannot represent essence as such. The end of generation is the sublation of the individuality of Being; but nature which in existence certainly brings about this sublation of individuality, does not set the universal in its place, but another individual. Bones, muscles, &c., bring forth a movement; they are causes, but they themselves are so through other causes, and so on into infinitude. The universal, however, takes them up into itself as moments which undoubtedly appear in movement[346] as causes, though the fundamental ground of these parts actually is the whole. It is not they which come first, but the result into which the juices of the plants, &c., pass, is the first, just as in origination it appears only as product, as seed, that which constitutes the beginning and the end, even though they be in different individuals. Their real nature is the same.

But such a genus is itself a particular genus and is essentially related to another, e.g. the Idea of the plant to that of the animal; the universal moves on. This looks like external teleology—that plants are eaten by animals, &c., in which their limitation as genus lies. The genus of the plant has the absolute totality of its realization in the animal, the animal in the conscious existence, just as the earth has it in the plant. This is the system of the whole in which each moment is transitory. The double method of considering the matter thus is that each Idea is a circle within itself, the plant or the animal the Good of its kind; and, on the other hand, each is a moment in the universal Good. If I consider the animal merely as externally adapted to an end, as created for something else, I consider it in a one-sided way; it is real existence, in and for itself universal. But it is just as one-sided to say that the plant, for instance, is only in and for itself, only end to itself, only shut up within itself and going back into itself. For each idea is a circle which is complete in itself, but whose completion is likewise a passing into another circle; it is a vortex whose middle point, that into which it returns, is found directly in the periphery of a higher circle which swallows it up. Thus, for the first time, we reach the determination of an end in the world which is immanent within it.

These explanations are necessary here, since hereafter we see the speculative Idea coming more into the universal; it was formerly expressed as Being and the moments and movements were called existent. What has to be[347] avoided in this transition is that we should thereby think that Being is given up and that we pass into consciousness as opposed to Being (in so doing the universal would lose all its speculative significance); the universal is immanent in nature. This is the meaning which is present when we represent to ourselves that thought constitutes, orders, &c., the world. It is not, so to speak, the activity of the individual consciousness, in which I stand here on one side and, opposite to me, an actuality, matter, which I form, dispose and order as I will; for the universal, Thought, must abide in Philosophy without this opposition. Being, pure Being, is universal when we thereby keep in mind that Being is absolute abstraction, pure thought; but Being as it is thus set forth as Being, has the significance of the opposite to this Being-reflected-into-itself, to thought and recollection; the universal, on the contrary, has reflection immediately in itself. So far, the ancients really got: it does not seem far. “Universal” is a dry determination; everyone knows about the universal, but not of it as real existence. Thought, indeed, reaches to the invisibility of the sensuous; not to the positive determinateness of thinking it as universal, but only to the predicateless absolute as to the merely negative; and that is as far as the common ideas of the present day have come. With this discovery of thought we conclude the first Section and enter upon the second period. The profit to be derived from the first period is not very great. Some, indeed, think that there is still some special wisdom in it, but thought is still young, the determinations are thus still poor, abstract and arid. Thought here has but few determinations—water, Being, number, &c.—and these cannot endure; the universal must go forth on its own account as the self-determining activity, and this we find it doing in Anaxagoras alone.

We have still to consider the relationship of the universal as opposed to Being, or consciousness as such in its[348] relation to what is. By Anaxagoras’ determination of real existence, this relationship of consciousness is also determined. In this regard nothing satisfactory can be found; for he recognized, on the one hand, thought as real existence, without, however, bringing this thought to bear on ordinary reality. Thus, on the other hand, this is destitute of thought and independent, an infinite number of homœomeriæ, i.e. an infinite amount of a sensuous implicit existence, which now, however, is sensuous Being; for existent Being is an accumulation of homœomeriæ. The relationship borne by consciousness to real existence may likewise be various. Anaxagoras could thus either say that the truth is only in thought and in rational knowledge, or that it is sensuous perception; for in this we have the homœomeriæ which are themselves implicit. Thus, in the first place, we find from him—as Sextus tells us, (adv. Math. VII., 89-91) “that the understanding (λόγος) is the criterion of the truth; the senses cannot judge of the truth on account of their weakness”—weakness for the homœomeriæ are the infinitely small; the senses could not grasp them, do not know that they have to be something ideal and thought. A celebrated example of this is given by him according to Sextus (Pyrrh. Hyp. I. 13, §. 33), in the assertion that “the snow is black, for it is water, and water is black.” He here asserts the truth in a reason. In the second place, according to Aristotle (Met. III. 7), Anaxagoras is said to have asserted that, “there is a medium between contradiction (ἀντιφάσεως); so that everything is untrue. For because the two sides of the opposition are mingled, what is mingled is neither good nor not good, and thus not true.” Aristotle also quotes another time from him (Met. III. 5): “That one of his apothegms to his disciples was that to them things were as they supposed them.” This may relate to the fact that because existent Being is an accumulation of homœomeriæ which are what really exists, sensuous perception takes things as they are in truth.


There is little more to be made of this. But here we have the beginning of a more distinct development of the relationship of consciousness to Being, the development of the nature of knowledge as a knowledge of the true. The mind has gone forth to express real existence as Thought; and thus real existence as existent, is in consciousness as such; it is implicit but likewise in consciousness. This Being is such only in so far as consciousness recognizes it, and real existence is only the knowledge of it. The mind has no longer to seek existence in something foreign, since it is in itself; for what formerly appeared foreign is Thought, i.e. consciousness has this real existence in itself. But this consciousness in opposition is an individual consciousness; thereby in fact, implicit Being is sublated, for the implicit is what is not opposed, not singled out, but universal. It is, indeed, known, but what is, only is in knowledge, or it is no other Being than that of the knowledge of consciousness. We see this development of the universal in which real existence goes right over to the side of consciousness, in the so much decried worldly wisdom of the Sophists; we may view this as indicating that the negative nature of the universal is now developing.


First Period, Second Division: From the Sophists to the Socratics.

In this second division we have first to consider more particularly the Sophists, secondly Socrates, and thirdly the Socratics, while we distinguish from these Plato, and take him along with Aristotle in the third division. The νοῦς, which is at first only grasped in a very subjective manner as end, that is to say as that which is end to men, i.e. the Good, in Plato and Aristotle became understood in what is on the whole an objective way, as genus or Idea. Because thought has now become set forth as principle, and this at first presents a subjective appearance as being the subjective activity of thought, there now sets in (since the absolute is posited as subject) an age of subjective reflection; i.e. there begins in this period—which coincides with the disintegration of Greece in the Peloponnesian war—the principle of modern times.

Since in the νοῦς of Anaxagoras, as the still formal self-determining activity, determination is as yet quite undetermined, general and abstract, and along with that contentless throughout, the universal standpoint is the immediate necessity of going on to a content which begins actual determination. But what is this absolute, universal content which abstract thought as self-determining activity gives itself? That is the real question here. Consciousness now confronts the untrammeled thought of those ancient[351] philosophers, whose general ideas we have considered. While hitherto the subject, when it reflected on the absolute, only produced thoughts, and had this content before it, it is now seen that what is here present is not the whole, but that the thinking subject likewise really belongs to the totality of the objective. Furthermore, this subjectivity of thought has again the double character of at once being the infinite, self-relating form, which as this pure activity of the universal, receives content-determinations; and, on the other hand, as consciousness reflects that it is the thinking subject which is thus positing, of also being a return of spirit from objectivity into itself. Thus if thought, because it immersed itself in the object, had as such, and like the νοῦς of Anaxagoras, at first no content, because this stood on the other side, so now, with the return of thought as to the consciousness that the subject is what thinks, we have the other side—that what has to be dealt with is the attainment of a truly absolute content. This content, taken abstractly, may itself be again a double one. Either the “I” is in respect of determination the real when it makes itself and its interests the content, or the content becomes determined as the altogether universal. According to this, we have two questions to deal with, which are—how the determination of what is in and for itself is to be comprehended, and how this is likewise in immediate relation to the “I” as thinking. It comes to pass in Philosophy that although the “I” is the positing, yet the posited content of that which is thought is the object existent in and for itself. If one were to remain at saying that the “I” is that which posits, this would be the false idealism of modern times: in earlier times men did not remain at saying that what is thought is bad because I posit it.

To the Sophists the content is mine, and subjective: Socrates grasped the content which is in and for itself, and the followers of Socrates have, in direct connection with him, merely further defined this content.


A.—The Sophists.

The Notion, which reason has found in Anaxagoras to be real existence, is the simple negative into which all determination, all that is existent and individual sinks. Before the Notion nothing can exist, for it is simply the predicateless absolute to which everything is clearly a moment only; for it there is thus nothing so to speak permanently fixed and sealed. The Notion is just the constant change of Heraclitus, the movement, the causticity, which nothing can resist. Thus the Notion which finds itself, finds itself as the absolute power before which everything vanishes; and thereby all things, all existence, everything held to be secure, is now made fleeting. This security—whether it be a security of natural Being or the security of definite conceptions, principles, customs and laws—becomes vacillation and loses its stability. As universal, such principles, &c., certainly themselves pertain to the Notion, yet their universality is only their form, for the content which they have, as determinate, falls into movement. We see this movement arising in the so-called Sophists whom we here encounter for the first time. They gave themselves the name σοφισταί, as teachers of wisdom, i.e. as those who could make wise (σοφίζειν). The learning of the Sophists is thus directly the opposite to ours, which only aspires to acquire information and investigate what is and has been—it is a mass of empirical matter, in which the discovery of a new form, a new worm, or other vermin is held to be a point of great importance. Our learned professors are in so far much less responsible than the Sophists; however, Philosophy has nothing to do with this lack of responsibility.

But as regards the relation of the Sophists to what is ordinarily believed, they are, by the healthy human understanding, as much decried as by morality. By the former this is on account of their theoretic teaching, since it is[353] senseless to say that nothing is; and in respect of practice because they subvert all principles and laws. For the first mentioned, things certainly cannot be left in this confusion of movement and in their negative aspect merely; yet the rest into which they pass is not the restoration of what is moved into its former condition of security, as if in the end the result were the same and the action were a superfluous one. Now the sophistry of common opinion, which is without the culture of thought and without scientific knowledge, is found in the fact that to it its determinations are, as such, held to be existent in and for themselves, and a number of rules of life, maxims, principles, &c., are considered as absolutely fixed truths. Mind itself is, however, the unity of these in many ways limited truths, which in it are all recognized as being present as sublated only, as merely relative truths, i.e. with their restrictions, in their limitation, and not as existent in themselves. Hence these truths to the ordinary understanding, are, in fact, no more, for on another occasion it allows and even asserts the opposite to have a value also for consciousness; or it does not know that it says directly the opposite to what it means, its expression being thus only an expression of contradiction. In its actions generally, and not in its bad actions, ordinary understanding breaks these its maxims and its principles itself, and if it leads a rational life, it is properly speaking only a standing inconsistency, the making good of one narrow maxim of conduct through breaking off from others. For example, a statesman of experience and culture is one who knows how to steer a middle course, and has practical understanding, i.e. deals with the whole extent of the case before him and not with one side of it, which expresses itself in one maxim only. On the other hand, he, whoever he is, who acts on one maxim, is a pedant and spoils things for himself and others. Most commonly it is thus. For example, we hear it said, “it is certain that the things that I see are; I believe in their reality.” Anyone[354] can say this quite easily. But in fact it is not true that he believes in their reality; really he assumes the contrary. For he eats and drinks them, i.e. he is convinced that these things are not in themselves, and their being has no security, no subsistence. Thus common understanding is in its actions better than it thinks, for in action it is Mind as a whole. But it is not here known to itself as Mind, for what comes within its consciousness are definite laws, rules, general propositions, such as by its understanding are esteemed to be the absolute truth, whose limitation it, however, sets aside in action. Now, when the Notion turns to the riches which consciousness thinks to possess, and when the latter is sensible of the danger to its truth without which it would not be, when its fixed realities are destroyed, it is enraged; and the Notion which in this its realization applies itself to the common verities, draws hatred and disdain upon itself. This is the ground of the universal denunciation of the Sophists; a denunciation of healthy human understanding which does not know how else to help itself.

Sophistry is certainly a word of ill-repute, and indeed it is particularly through the opposition to Socrates and Plato that the Sophists have come into such disrepute that the word usually now signifies that, by false reasoning, some truth is either refuted and made dubious, or something false is proved and made plausible. We have to put this evil significance on one side and to forget it. On the other hand, we now wish to consider further from the positive and properly speaking scientific side, what was the position of the Sophists in Greece.

It was the Sophists who now applied the simple Notion as thought (which with Zeno in the Eleatic school had commenced to turn towards its pure counterpart, motion) to worldly objects generally, and with it penetrated all human relations. For it is conscious of itself as the absolute and single reality, and, jealous of all else, exercises its power and[355] rule in this reality as regards all else, since this desires to be considered as the determinate which is not Thought. The thought identical with itself, thus directs its negative powers towards the manifold determination of the theoretical and the practical, the truths of natural consciousness and the immediately recognized laws and principles; and what to the ordinary conception is established, dissolves itself in it, and in so doing leaves it to particular subjectivity to make itself first and fixed, to relate everything to itself.

Now that this Notion has appeared, it has become a more universal Philosophy, and not so much simple Philosophy as the universal culture of which every man who did not belong to those devoid of thought, partook, and necessarily partook. For we call culture just the Notion as applied in actuality, in so far as it makes its appearance not purely in its abstraction, but in unity with the manifold content of all ordinary conceptions. But in culture, the Notion is the predominant as also the actuating, because in both the determinate is recognized in its limits, in its transition into something else. This culture became the general aim of education, and there were hence a number of teachers of Sophistry. Indeed, the Sophists are the teachers of Greece through whom culture first came into existence in Greece, and thus they took the place of poets and of rhapsodists, who before this were the ordinary instructors. For religion was no instructress, since no teaching was in it imparted; and though priests certainly offered sacrifices, prophesied and interpreted the sayings of the oracle, instruction is something quite different from this. But the Sophists educated men in wisdom, in the sciences, music, mathematics, &c., and this was their foremost aim. Before Pericles appeared in Greece, the desire for culture through thought and through reflection was awakened; men wished to be cultured in their ideas, and in their various relations to guide themselves by thought, and no longer merely through oracles,[356] or through custom, passion, the feelings of the moment. For the end of the State is the universal, under which the particular is comprehended. Because the Sophists kept in view and enlarged upon this culture, they prosecuted teaching as a special calling, business, or profession, as an office taking the place of schools; they travelled round the towns of Greece, the youth of which was by them instructed.

Now culture is certainly an indefinite expression. It has, however, this meaning, that what free thought is to attain must come out of itself and be personal conviction; it is then no longer believed but investigated—in short, it is the so-called enlightenment of modern times. Thought seeks general principles by which it criticizes everything which is by us esteemed, and nothing has value to us which is not in conformity with these principles. Thus, thought undertakes to compare the positive content with itself, to dissolve the former concrete of belief; on one side to split the content up, and, on the other, to isolate these individualities, these particular points of view and aspects, and to secure them on their own account. These aspects, which are properly not independent, but only moments of a whole, when detached from it, relate themselves to themselves, and in this way assume the form of universality. Any one of them can thus be elevated to a reason, i.e. to a universal determination, which is again applied to particular aspects. Thus, in culture, it is requisite that men should be acquainted with the universal points of view which belong to a transaction, event, &c., that this point of view and thereby the thing, should be grasped in a universal way, in order to afford a present knowledge of what is in question. A judge knows the various laws, i.e. the various legal points of view under which a thing is to be considered; these are already for him universal aspects through which he has a universal consciousness, and considers the matter in a universal way. A man of culture thus knows how to say something of everything, to find points of view in all.[357] Greece has to thank the Sophists for this culture, because they taught men to exercise thought as to what should have authority for them, and thus their culture was culture in philosophy as much as in eloquence.

In order to reach this double end, the Sophists were one in their desire to be wise. To know what constitutes power amongst men and in the State, and what I have to recognize as such, is counted as wisdom; and because I know the power, I also know how to direct others in conformity with my end. Hence the admiration that Pericles and other statesmen excited, just because they knew their own standpoint, and had the power of putting others in their proper place. That man is powerful who can deduce the actions of men from the absolute ends which move them. The object of the Sophists has thus been to teach what is the mainspring of the world, and since Philosophy alone knows that this is the universal thought which resolves all that is particular, the Sophists were also speculative philosophers. Learned in the proper sense they hence were not, because there were as yet no positive sciences without Philosophy, such as in their aridity did not concern all mankind and man’s essential aspects.

They further had the most ordinary practical end, to give a consciousness of that which is involved in the moral world and which satisfies man. Religion taught that the gods are the powers which rule over men. Immediate morality recognized the rule of laws; man was to find satisfaction in conforming to laws, and was to assume that others also find satisfaction because they follow these laws. But from the reflection which here breaks in, it no longer satisfies man to obey law as an authority and external necessity, for he desires to satisfy himself in himself, to convince himself, through his reflection, of what is binding upon him, what is his end and what he has to do for this end. Thus the impulses and desires that man has, become his power; and only inasmuch as he affords them satisfaction[358] does he become satisfied. Now the Sophists taught how these powers could be moved in empirical man, for the good as ordinarily recognized, no longer determined them. Rhetoric, however, teaches how circumstances may be made subject to such forces; it even makes use of the wrath and passions of the hearer in order to bring about a conclusion. Thus the Sophists were more especially the teachers of oratory, and that is the aspect in which the individual could make himself esteemed amongst the people as well as carry out what was best for the people; this certainly characterizes a democratic constitution, in which the citizens have the ultimate decision. Because, in this way, oratory was one of the first requirements for the rule of a people, or for making something clear to them through their ordinary ideas, the Sophists trained men for common Greek life, for citizenship and for statesmen, without appearing to prepare State officials for an examination in specific subjects. For the particular characteristic of eloquence is to show the manifold points of view existing in a thing, and to give force to those which harmonize with what appears to me to be most useful; it thus is the art of putting forward various points of view in the concrete case, and placing others rather in the shade. Aristotle’s Topica comes to mind in the connection, inasmuch as it gives the categories or thought-determinations (τόπους), according to which we have to regard things in order to learn to speak; but the Sophists were the first to apply themselves to a knowledge of these.

This is the position taken up by the Sophists. But we find a perfectly definite picture of their further progress and procedure in Plato’s Protagoras. Plato here makes Protagoras express himself more precisely respecting the art of the Sophists. That is to say, Plato in this dialogue represents that Socrates accompanies a young man named Hippocrates, who desires to place himself under Protagoras, then newly arrived in Athens, for instruction in the science[359] of the Sophists. On the way, Socrates now asks Hippocrates what is this wisdom of the Sophists which he wishes to learn. Hippocrates at first replies Rhetoric, for the Sophist is one who knows how to make men clever (δεινόν) in speech. In fact, what is most striking in a man or people of culture is the art of speaking well, or of turning subjects round and considering them in many aspects. The uncultivated man finds it unpleasant to associate with people who know how to grasp and express every point of view with ease. The French are good speakers in this sense, and the Germans call their talking prattle; but it is not mere talk that brings about this result, for culture is also wanted. We may have mastered a speech quite completely, but if we have not culture, it is not good speaking. Men thus learn French, not only to be able to speak French well, but to acquire French culture. What is to be obtained from the Sophists is thus the power of keeping the manifold points of view present to the mind, so that the wealth of categories by which an object may be considered, immediately occurs to it. Socrates, indeed, remarks that the principle of the Sophists is not hereby determined in a sufficiently comprehensive way, and thus it is not sufficiently known what a Sophist is, “yet,” he says, “we have a desire to go on.”[86] For likewise, if anyone wishes to study Philosophy, he does not as yet know what Philosophy is, else he would not need to study it.

Having reached Protagoras with Hippocrates, Socrates finds him in an assemblage of the foremost Sophists and surrounded by listeners, “walking about and like an Orpheus entrancing all men by his words, Hippias sitting meanwhile on a chair with not so many round him, and Prodicus lying amongst a great number of admirers.” After Socrates brought before Protagoras the request to have Hippocrates placed under his instruction, in order that he might by him[360] be taught how to become eminent in the State, he also asks whether they might speak with him in public or alone. Protagoras praises his discretion, and replies that they act wisely to make use of this precaution. For because the Sophists wandered about the towns, and thus youths, deserting fathers and friends, followed them in view of improving themselves through their intercourse with them, they drew upon themselves much envy and ill-will—for everything new is hated. On this point Protagoras speaks at length: “I assert that the art of the Sophists is old; but that those of the ancients who practised it in fear of giving offence” (for the uncultured world is antagonistic to the cultured) “veiled and concealed it. One section, like Homer and Hesiod, taught it in their poetry; others, like Orpheus and Musæus, through mysteries and oracles. Some, I believe, like Iccus of Tarentum, and the Sophist now living and unsurpassed—Herodicus, of Selymbria—in gymnastics, but many more through music.” We see that Protagoras usually describes the end of mental culture as being to bring about morality, presence of mind, sense of order and general capacity. He adds: “all those who feared envy arising against the sciences, required such veils and screens. But I think that they do not attain their end, for men of penetration in the State see the end appearing through, while the people notice nothing, and only quote the others. If people behave so, they make themselves more hated, and appear to be impostors. I have therefore taken the opposite way, and openly acknowledge (ὁμολογῶ), and do not deny that I am a Sophist” (Protagoras first used the name of Sophist), “and that my business is to give men culture (παιδεύειν).”[87]

Further on, where the arts which Hippocrates was to acquire under Protagoras’ instruction were discussed, Protagoras answered Socrates: “What you ask is sensible,[361] and I like to answer a sensible question. Hippocrates will not have the same experience that he would have with other teachers (σοφιστῶν). These latter are at variance with (λωβῶνται) their pupils, for they take them against their wills straight back to the arts and sciences which they just wished to escape, inasmuch as they teach them arithmetic, geometry and music. But he who comes to me will be instructed in nothing else than that in which he comes to be instructed.” Thus the youths came freely, with the wish to be made men of culture through his instruction, and in the hope that he, as teacher, knew the way to succeed in so doing. As to his general aim, Protagoras says, “The instruction consists in bringing about a right perception and understanding (εὐβουλία) of the best way of regulating one’s own family affairs, and similarly as regards citizenship, in qualifying men both to speak on the affairs of the State, and to do the best for the State.” Thus two interests are here apparent, that of the individual and that of the State. Now Socrates expresses dissent and surprise at Protagoras’ assertion as to imparting instruction in political aptitude. “I thought that the political virtues could not be learned,” for it is Socrates’ main tenet that virtue cannot be taught. And Socrates now brings forward the following argument, after the manner of the Sophists appealing to experience. “Those who are masters of the art of politics cannot impart that art to others. Pericles, the father of these youths, gave them instruction in all that instructors could teach; but not in the science for which he is celebrated; here he left them free to wander in the chance of their lighting upon wisdom. Similarly other great statesmen did not teach it to others, whether friends or strangers.”[88]

Protagoras now replied that it could be taught, and shows the reason why great statesmen did not give this instruction,[362] while he asks whether he is to speak as an elder to younger men in a myth, or whether he should give his reasons. The company left the matter to him and he began with the following myth of everlasting interest: “The gods commanded Prometheus and Epimetheus to adorn the world and confer on it its qualities and powers. Epimetheus imparted strength, power of flight, arms, clothing, herbs and fruits, but in some incomprehensible way he gave all to the beasts, so that nothing remained to men. Prometheus saw them unclothed, unarmed, helpless, when the moment came in which the form of man had to go forth into the light. Then he stole fire from heaven, the arts of Vulcan and Minerva, to equip man for his needs. But political wisdom was wanting, and, living without any common bond, they were in a constant state of strife and misery. Then Zeus gave the command to Hermes to grant reverence” (natural obedience, honour, docility, respect of children for parents, and of men for higher and better natures), “and justice. Hermes asks, ‘How shall I impart them? To individuals, as particular arts are distributed, just as some have a knowledge of medicine sufficient for assisting others?’ But Zeus answers that it must be to all, for no body of men (πόλις) can exist if only a few partake of those qualities. And it shall be the law that whoever cannot acknowledge authority and justice must be exterminated as a plague to the State. Hence the Athenians when they wish to build, call builders into counsel, and when they contemplate any other business, those who have experience in it, but when they wish to come to a decision or make a regulation in State affairs, they admit all. For all must partake of this virtue or no State could exist. Thus if anyone is inexperienced in the art of flute-playing and yet professes to be a master in it, he is justly thought to be mad. But in justice it is otherwise; if anyone is not just and confesses it, he is thought to be mad. He must profess to be so, for everybody[363] must either share in it or be shut out from social life.”[89]

For the fact that this political science is also so constituted “that everyone by education and diligence (ἐξ ἐπιμελείας) may acquire it,” Protagoras gives additional reasons in the following argument: “No one blames or punishes on account of a defect or evil that has come to anyone by nature or by chance. But defects and faults which can be removed through diligence, exercise and teaching are considered to be blameworthy and punishable. Impiety and injustice are of this description and, generally speaking, all that opposes public virtue. Men guilty of these sins are thus reproached; they are punished in the idea that they had the power to remove the wrong and still more to acquire political virtue through diligence and teaching. Thus men do not punish on account of what is past—excepting as we strike a vicious beast on the head—but on account of what is to come, so that neither the one who committed the crime nor any other misled by his example, should do the same again. Thus it is in this implied that virtue can be acquired through education and exercise.”[90] This is a good argument for the teachability of virtue.

As to the statement of Socrates that men such as Pericles, who were famed for their political virtues, did not impart these to their children and friends, Protagoras in the first place says that it may on the other hand be replied, that in these virtues all men are instructed by all men. Political virtue is so constituted that it is the common province of all; this one essential for all men is justice, temperance, and holiness—in one word, whatever comprises manly virtue. In it no particular education from men of eminence is thus required. The children are from their earliest infancy exhorted and admonished to do what is good, and are accustomed to that which is right. Instruction[364] in music and gymnastics contributes to temper the indulgence of self-will and pleasure, and to accustom men to conform to a law or rule; and the reading of the poets who enforce this does the same. When man steps outside this circle of education, he enters into that of the constitution of a State which likewise contributes to keep everyone within the bounds of law and order, so that political virtue is a result of the education of youth. But the objection that distinguished men did not impart their distinction to their children and friends, Protagoras answered secondly and very well as follows: “Let us say that in a State all the citizens had to become flute-players, all would be instructed in the art; some would be distinguished, many good, some mediocre, a few perhaps bad, and yet all would have a certain amount of skill. But it might very well be the case that the son of an artist should be a bad player, for the distinction depends on particular talents, and a particularly good natural capacity. From very skilful players very unskilful might descend, and conversely, but all would have a certain knowledge of the flute, and all would certainly be infinitely better than those who were quite ignorant of the art. Similarly all, even the worst citizens of a rational State are better and juster than citizens of a State where there is no culture nor justice nor law, in a word, where there is no necessity to bring them up to be just. For this superiority they have to thank the education given in their State.”[91] All these are quite good examples and striking arguments which are not at all worse than Cicero’s reasoning—a natura insitum. The arguments of Socrates and the development of these arguments are, on the contrary, examples based upon experience, and are often not better than what is here placed in the mouth of a Sophist.

What now confronts us is the question of how far this may be inadequate, and particularly how far Socrates and[365] Plato came into collision with the Sophists and constituted the antagonism to them. For the claim made by the Sophists in Greece was that they had given a higher culture to their people; for this, indeed, great credit was ascribed to them in Greece, but they were met by the reproach that was encountered by all culture. That is to say, because the Sophists were masters of argument and reasoning, and were within the stage of reflective thought, they wished, passing from the particular to the universal, to awaken attention through examples and illustrations to what in his experience and to his mind appears to man to be right. This, the necessary course of free, thinking reflection, which with us has also been adopted by culture, must, however, necessarily lead beyond implicit trust and unrestricted faith in the current morality and religion. The statement that the Sophists thereby fell into one-sided principles rests upon the fact that in Greek culture the time had not yet come when, out of thinking consciousness itself, the ultimate principles had become manifested, and thus there was something firm to rest upon, as is the case with us in modern times. Because, on the one hand, the need of subjective freedom existed merely to give effect to that which man himself perceives and finds present in his reason (thus laws, religious ideas, only in so far as I recognize them through my thought), on the other hand, no fixed principle had so far been found in thought; thought was rather reasoning, and what remained indeterminate could thus only be fulfilled through self-will. It is otherwise in our European world where culture is, so to speak, introduced under the protection and in presupposition of a spiritual religion, i.e. not of a religion of the imagination, but by presupposing a knowledge of the eternal nature of Spirit and of the absolute end, of the end of man, to be in a spiritual way actual and to posit himself in unity with the absolute spirit. Thus here there is a groundwork of a fixed spiritual principle which thus[366] satisfies the needs of the subjective mind; and from this absolute principle all further relationships, duties, laws, &c., are established. Consequently culture cannot receive the variety of direction—and hence the aimlessness—of the Greeks and of those who extended culture over Greece, the Sophists. As regards the religion of the imagination, as regards the undeveloped principle of the Greek State, culture was able to divide itself into many points of view, or it was easy to it to represent particular subordinate points of view as highest principles. Where, on the contrary, as is the case with us, a universal aim so high, indeed the highest possible, floats before the imagination, a particular principle cannot so easily reach this rank, even if the reflection of reason attains to the position of determining and recognizing from itself what is highest; for the subordination of special principles is already determined, although in form our enlightenment may have the same standpoint as that of the Sophists.

As regards content, the standpoint of the Sophists differed from that of Socrates and Plato, in that the mission of Socrates was to express the beautiful, good, true, and right, as the end and aim of the individual, while with the Sophists the content was not present as an ultimate end, so that all this was left to the individual will. Hence came the evil reputation obtained by the Sophists through the antagonism of Plato, and this is certainly their defect. As to their outward lives, we know that the Sophists accumulated great riches;[92] they became very proud, and some of them lived very luxuriously. But in respect of the inward life, reasoning thought has, in distinction to Plato, this prevailing characteristic, that it makes duty, that which has to be done, not come from the Notion of the thing as determined in and for itself; for it brings forward external reasons through which right and wrong, utility and harmfulness,[367] are distinguished. To Plato and Socrates, on the other hand, the main point is that the nature of the conditions should be considered, and that the Notion of the thing in and for itself should become evolved. Socrates and Plato wished to bring forward this Notion as opposed to the consideration of things from points of view and reasonings which are always merely particular and individual, and thus opposed to the Notion itself. The distinction in the two points of view is thus that cultured reasoning only belongs, in a general way, to the Sophists, while Socrates and Plato determined thought through a universal determination (the Platonic Idea), or something fixed, which mind finds eternally in itself.

If sophistry is bad in the sense that it signifies a quality of which only bad men are guilty, it is at the same time much more common than this would imply; for all argumentative reasoning, adducing of arguments and counterarguments, bringing into prominence particular points of view, is sophistry. And just as utterances of the Sophists are adduced against which nothing can be said (as they are by Plato), men of our day are urged to all that is good for the very reasons that are reasons to the Sophists. Thus it is said, “do not cheat, else you lose your credit, hence your wealth,” or, “be temperate, or you will spoil your appetite and have to suffer.” Or for punishment men give the external reasons of improvement, &c.; or else an action is defended on external grounds taken from the result. If, on the other hand, firmly rooted principles lie at the foundation—as in the Christian Religion, although men now remember this no longer—it is said, “the grace of God in respect of holiness, &c., thus directs the life of men;” and these external grounds fall away. Sophistry thus does not lie so far from us as we think. When educated men discuss matters now-a-days, it may seem all very good, but it is in no way different from what Socrates and Plato called sophistry—although they themselves have adopted[368] this standpoint as truly as did the Sophists. Educated men fall into it when they judge of concrete cases in which a particular point of view determines the result, and we must in ordinary life do the same if we wish to make up our minds in action. If duties and virtues are advocated as in sermons (this is so in most sermons), we must hear such reasons given. Other speakers, such as those in parliament, likewise make use of arguments and counterarguments similar to these, through which they try to persuade and convince. On the one hand something definite is in question, such as the constitution, or a war, and from the fixed direction thus given, certain provisions have to be deduced consistently; but this consistency, on the other, soon disappears, just because the matter can be arranged either this way or that, and thus particular points of view always are decisive. Men likewise make use of good arguments, after the manner of the Sophists, against Philosophy. There are, they say, various philosophies, various opinions, and this is contrary to the one Truth; the weakness of human reason allows of no knowledge. What is Philosophy to the feelings, mind, and heart? Abstract thinking about such matters produces abstruse results which are of no use in the practical life of man. We no longer apply the word sophistry thus, but it is the way of the Sophists not to take things as they are, but to bring about their proofs by arguments derived from feelings as ultimate ends. We shall see this characteristic of the Sophists more clearly still in Socrates and Plato.

With such reasoning men can easily get so far as to know (where they do not, it is owing to the want of education—but the Sophists were very well educated) that if arguments are relied upon, everything can be proved by argument, and arguments for and against can be found for everything; as particular, however, they throw no light upon the universal, the Notion. Thus what has been considered the sin of the Sophists is that they taught men to deduce[369] any conclusion required by others or by themselves; but that is not due to any special quality in the Sophists, but to reflective reasoning. In the worst action there exists a point of view which is essentially real; if this is brought to the front, men excuse and vindicate the action. In the crime of desertion in time of war, there is, for example, the duty of self-preservation. Similarly in more modern times the greatest crimes, assassination, treachery, &c., have been justified, because in the purpose there lay a determination which was actually essential, such as that men must resist the evil and promote the good. The educated man knows how to regard everything from the point of view of the good, to maintain in everything a real point of view. A man does not require to make great progress in his education to have good reasons ready for the worst action; all that has happened in the world since the time of Adam has been justified by some good reason.

It appears that the Sophists were conscious of this reasoning, and knew, as educated men, that everything could be proved. Hence in Plato’s Gorgias it is said that the art of the Sophists is a greater gift than any other; they could convince the people, the senate, the judges, of what they liked.[93] The advocate has similarly to inquire what arguments there are in favour of the party which claims his help, even if it be the opposite one to that which he wished to support. That knowledge is no defect, but is part of the higher culture of the Sophists; and if uneducated men naturally form conclusions from external grounds which are those alone coming to their knowledge, they may perhaps be mainly determined by something besides what they know (by their integrity, for instance). The Sophists thus knew that on this basis nothing was secure, because the power of thought treated everything dialectically. That is the formal culture which they had[370] and imparted, for their acquaintanceship with so many points of view shook what was morality in Greece (the religion, duties, and laws, unconsciously exercised), since through its limited content, that came into collision with what was different. Once it was highest and ultimate, then it was deposed. Ordinary knowledge thus becomes confused, as we shall see very clearly in Socrates, for something is held to be certain to consciousness, and then other points of view which are also present and recognized, have similarly to be allowed; hence the first has no further value, or at least loses its supremacy. We saw in the same way, how bravery, which lies in the hazarding of one’s life, is made dubious by the duty of preserving life, if put forward unconditionally. Plato quotes several examples of this unsettling tendency, as when he makes Dionysodorus maintain: “Whoever gives culture to one who does not possess knowledge, desires that he should no longer remain what he is. He desires to direct him to reason, and this is to make him not the same as he is.” And Euthydemus, when the others say that he lies, answers, “Who lies, says what is not; men cannot say what is not, and thus no one can lie.”[94] And again Dionysodorus says, “You have a dog, this dog has young, and is a father; thus a dog is your father, and you are brother to its young.”[95] Sequences put together thus are constantly found in critical treatises.

With this comes the question which the nature of thought brings along with it. If the field of argument, that which consciousness holds to be firmly established, is shaken by reflection, what is man now to take as his ultimate basis? For something fixed there must be. This is either the good, the universal, or the individuality, the arbitrary will of the subject; and both may be united, as is shown later on in Socrates. To the Sophists the satisfaction[371] of the individual himself was now made ultimate, and since they made everything uncertain, the fixed point was in the assertion, “it is my desire, my pride, glory, and honour, particular subjectivity, which I make my end.” Thus the Sophists are reproached for countenancing personal affections, private interests, &c. This proceeds directly from the nature of their culture, which, because it places ready various points of view, makes it depend on the pleasure of the subject alone which shall prevail, that is, if fixed principles do not determine. Here the danger lies. This takes place also in the present day where the right and the true in our actions is made to depend on good intention and on my own conviction. The real end of the State, the best administration and constitution, is likewise to demagogues very vague.

On account of their formal culture, the Sophists have a place in Philosophy; on account of their reflection they have not. They are associated with Philosophy in that they do not remain at concrete reasoning, but go on, at least in part, to ultimate determinations. A chief part of their culture was the generalization of the Eleatic mode of thought and its extension to the whole content of knowledge and of action; the positive thus comes in as, and has become, utility. To go into particulars respecting the Sophists would lead us too far; individual Sophists have their place in the general history of culture. The celebrated Sophists are very numerous; the most celebrated amongst them are Protagoras, Gorgias, and also Prodicus, the teacher of Socrates, to whom Socrates ascribes the well-known myth of “The choice of Hercules”[96]—an allegory, beautiful in its own way, which has been repeated hundreds and thousands of times. I will deal only with Protagoras and Gorgias, not from the point of view of culture, but in respect of proving further how[372] the general knowledge which they extended to everything, has, with one of them, the universal form which makes it pure science. Plato is the chief source of our acquaintanceship with the Sophists, for he occupied himself largely with them; then we have Aristotle’s own little treatise on Gorgias; and Sextus Empiricus, who preserved for us much of the philosophy of Protagoras.

1. Protagoras.

Protagoras, born at Abdera,[97] was somewhat older than Socrates; little more is known of him, nor, indeed, could there be much known. For he led a uniform life, since he spent it in the study of the sciences; he appeared in Greece proper as the first public teacher. He read his writings[98] like the rhapsodists and poets, the former of whom sang the verses of others, and the latter their own. There were then no places of learning, no books from which men could be taught, for to the ancients, as Plato says,[99] “the chief part of culture” (ραιδείας) “consisted in being skilled” (δεινόν) “in poetry,” just as with us fifty years ago the principal instruction of the people consisted of Bible History and Biblical precepts. The Sophists now gave, in place of a knowledge of the poets, an acquaintanceship with thought. Protagoras also came to Athens and there lived for long, principally with the great Pericles, who also entered into this culture. Indeed, the two once argued for a whole day as to whether the dart or the thrower or he who arranged the contest was guilty of the death of a man who thus met his death.[100] The dispute is over the great and important question of the possibility of imputation; guilt is a general expression, the analysis of which may undoubtedly become a difficult and extensive undertaking.[373] In his intercourse with such men, Pericles developed his genius for eloquence; for whatever kind of mental occupation may be in question, a cultivated mind can alone excel in it; and true culture is only possible through pure science. Pericles was a powerful orator, and we see from Thucydides how deep a knowledge he had of the State and of his people. Protagoras had the same fate as Anaxagoras, in being afterwards banished from Athens. The cause of this sentence was a work written by him beginning, “As to the gods, I am not able to say whether they are or are not; for there is much which prevents this knowledge, both in the obscurity of the matter, and in the life of man which is so short.” This book was also publicly burned in Athens by command of the State, and, so far as we know, it was the first to be treated so. At the age of seventy or ninety years Protagoras was drowned while on a voyage to Sicily.[101]

Protagoras was not, like other Sophists, merely a teacher of culture, but likewise a deep and solid thinker, a philosopher who reflected on fundamental determinations of an altogether universal kind. The main point in his system of knowledge he expressed thus: “Man is the measure of all things; of that which is, that it is; of that which is not, that it is not.”[102] On the one hand, therefore, what had to be done was to grasp thought as determined and as having content; but, on the other, to find the determining and content-giving; this universal determination then becomes the standard by which everything is judged. Now Protagoras’ assertion is in its real meaning a great truth, but at the same time it has a certain ambiguity, in that as man is the undetermined and many-sided, either he may in his individual particularity, as this contingent man, be the measure, or else self-conscious reason in man, man in his rational[374] nature and his universal substantiality, is the absolute measure. If the statement is taken in the former sense, all is self-seeking, all self-interest, the subject with his interests forms the central point; and if man has a rational side, reason is still something subjective, it is “he.” But this is just the wrong and perverted way of looking at things which necessarily forms the main reproach made against the Sophists—that they put forward man in his contingent aims as determining; thus with them the interest of the subject in its particularity, and the interest of the same in its substantial reason are not distinguished.

The same statement is brought forward in Socrates and Plato, but with the further modification that here man, in that he is thinking and gives himself a universal content, is the measure. Thus here the great proposition is enunciated on which, from this time forward, everything turns, since the further progress of Philosophy only explains it further: it signifies that reason is the end of all things. This proposition further expresses a very remarkable change of position in asserting that all content, everything objective, is only in relation to consciousness; thought is thus in all truth expressed as the essential moment, and thereby the Absolute takes the form of the thinking subjectivity which comes before us principally in Socrates. Since man, as subject, is the measure of everything, the existent is not alone, but is for my knowledge. Consciousness is really the producer of the content in what is objective, and subjective thinking is thus really active. And this view extends even to the most modern philosophy, as when, for instance, Kant says that we only know phenomena, i.e. that what seems to us to be objective reality, is only to be considered in its relation to consciousness, and does not exist without this relation. The fact that the subject as active and determining brings forth the content, is the important matter, but now the question comes as to how the content is further determined—whether it is limited to the particularity[375] of consciousness or is determined as the universal, the existent in and for itself. God, the Platonic Good, is certainly at first a product of thought, but in the second place He is just as really in and for Himself. Since I, as existent, fixed and eternal, only recognize what is in its content universal, this, posited as it is by me, is likewise the implicitly objective, not posited by me.

Protagoras himself shows us much more of what is implied in his theory, for he says, “Truth is a manifestation for consciousness. Nothing is in and for itself one, but everything has a relative truth only,” i.e. it is what it is but for another, which is man. This relativity is by Protagoras expressed in a way which seems to us in some measure trivial, and belongs to the first beginnings of reflective thought. The insignificant examples which he adduces (like Plato and Socrates when they follow out in them the point of view of reflection), by way of explanation, show that in Protagoras’ understanding what is determined is not grasped as the universal and identical with self. Hence the exemplifications are taken mostly from sensuous manifestation. “In a wind it may be that one person is cold and another is not; hence of this wind we cannot tell whether in itself it is cold or hot.”[103] Frost and heat are thus not anything which exist, but only are in their relation to a subject; were the wind cold in itself, it would always be so to the subject. Or again, “if we have here six dice, and place by them four others, we should say of the former that there are more of them. But, again, if we put twelve by them we say that these first six are the fewer.”[104] Because we say of the same number that it is more and fewer, the more and the less is merely a relative determination; thus what is the object, is so in the idea present to consciousness only. Plato, on the contrary, considered one[376] and many, not like the Sophists in their distinction, but as being one and the same.

Plato says further on this point, that the white, warm, &c., or everything that we say of things, does not exist for itself, but that the eye, sensation, is necessary to make it for us. This reciprocal movement is what first creates the white, and in it the white is not a thing in itself, but what we have present is a seeing eye, or, to speak generally, sight, and particularly the seeing of white, the feeling of warmth, &c. Undoubtedly warmth, colour, &c., really are only in relation to another, but the conceiving mind divides itself into itself and into a world in which each also has its relation. This objective relativity is expressed better in the following way. If the white were in itself, it would be that which brought forth the sensation of it; it would be the action or the cause, and we, on the contrary, the passive and receptive. But the object which thus requires to be active, is not active until it enters into (ξυνέλθῃ) relation with the passive; similarly the passive is only in relation to the active. Thus what is said in defining anything never concerns the thing as in itself, but clearly only as being related to something else. Nothing is thus constituted in and for itself as it appears, but the truth is just this phenomenon to which our activity contributes. As things appear to the healthy man they are thus not in themselves, but for him; as they appear to the sick or deranged man, they are to him, without our being able to say that as they appear to him, they are not true.[105] We feel the awkwardness of calling any such thing true, for after all the existent, if related to consciousness, is yet not related to it as fixed, but to sensuous knowledge; and then this consciousness itself is a condition, i.e. something which passes away. Protagoras rightly recognized this double relativity when he says, “Matter is a pure flux, it is not[377] anything fixed and determined in itself, for it can be everything, and it is different to different ages and to the various conditions of waking and sleep, &c.”[106] Kant separates himself from this standpoint only in that he places the relativity in the “I,” and not in objective existence. The phenomenon is, according to him, nothing but the fact of there being outside an impulse, an unknown x, which first receives these determinations through our feeling. Even if there were an objective ground for our calling one thing cold and another warm, we could indeed say that they must have diversity in themselves, but warmth and cold first become what they are in our feeling. Similarly it can only be in our conception that things are outside of us, etc. But if the experience is quite correctly called a “phenomenon,” i.e. something relative, because it does not come to pass without the determinations of the activity of our senses, nor without categories of thought, yet that one, all-pervading, universal, which permeates all experience, which to Heraclitus was necessity, has to be brought into consciousness.

We see that Protagoras possesses great powers of reflective thought, and indeed reflection on consciousness came to consciousness with Protagoras. But this is the form of manifestation which was again taken by the later sceptics. The phenomenal is not sensuous Being, for because I posit this as phenomenal, I assert its nullity. But the statements “What is, is only for consciousness,” or “The truth of all things is the manifestation of them in and for consciousness,” seem quite to contradict themselves. For it appears as though a contradiction were asserted—first that nothing is in itself as it appears, and then that it is true as it appears. But objective significance must not be given to the positive, to what is true, as if, for example, this were white in itself because it appears[378] so; for it is only this manifestation of the white that is true, the manifestation being just this movement of the self-abrogating sensuous Being, which, taken in the universal, stands above consciousness as truly as above Being. The world is consequently not only phenomenal in that it is for consciousness, and thus that its Being is only one relative to consciousness, for it is likewise in itself phenomenal. The element of consciousness which Protagoras has demonstrated, and owing to which the developed universal has in it the moment of the negative Being-for-another, has thus indeed to be asserted as a necessary moment; but taken for itself, alone and isolated, it is one-sided, since the moment of implicit Being is likewise essential.

2. Gorgias.

This scepticism reached a much deeper point in Gorgias of Leontium in Sicily, a man of great culture, and also distinguished as a statesman. During the Peloponnesian war he was, in Ol. 88, 2 (427 B.C.), a few years after Pericles’ death in Ol. 87, 4, sent from his native town to Athens.[107] And when he attained his object, he went through many other Greek towns, such as Larissa in Thessaly, and taught in them. Thus he obtained great wealth, along with much admiration, and this lasted till his death at over a hundred years of age.

He is said to have been a disciple of Empedocles, but he also knew the Eleatics, and his dialectic partakes of the manner and method of the latter; indeed Aristotle, who preserves this dialectic, in the work De Xenophane, Zenone et Gorgia, which has indeed only come to us in fragments, deals with them together. Sextus Empiricus also gives us in full the dialectic of Gorgias. He was strong in the dialectic requisite for eloquence, but his preeminence[379] lies in his pure dialectic respecting the quite universal categories of Being and non-being, which indeed is not like that of the Sophists. Tiedemann (Geist. der Spec. Phil. vol. I. p. 362) says very falsely: “Gorgias went much further than any man of healthy mind could go.” Tiedemann could say of every philosopher that he went further than healthy human understanding, for what men call healthy understanding is not Philosophy, and is often far from healthy. Healthy human understanding possesses the modes of thought, maxims, and judgments of its time, the thought-determinations of which dominate it without its being conscious thereof. In this way Gorgias undoubtedly went further than healthy understanding. Before Copernicus it would have been contrary to all healthy human understanding if anyone had said that the earth went round the sun, or before the discovery of America, if it were said that there was a continent there. In India or in China a republic would even now be contrary to all healthy understanding. The dialectic of Gorgias moves more purely in Notion than that found in Protagoras. Since Protagoras asserted the relativity, or the non-implicit nature of all that is, this only exists in relation to another which really is essential to it; and this last, indeed, is consciousness. Gorgias’ demonstration of the non-implicitness of Being is purer, because he takes in itself what passes for real existence without presupposing that other, and thus shows its own essential nullity and separates therefrom the subjective side and Being as it is for the latter.

Gorgias’ treatise “On Nature,” in which he composes his dialectic, falls, according to Sextus Empiricus (adv. Math. VII. 65), into three parts. “In the first he proves that” (objectively) “nothing exists, in the second” (subjectively), “that assuming that Being is, it cannot be known; and in the third place” (both subjectively and objectively), “that were it to exist and be knowable, no communication of what is known would be possible.” Gorgias[380] was a congenial subject to Sextus, but the former still proved, and this is what the Sceptics ceased to do. Here very abstract thought-determinations regarding the most speculative moments of Being and non-being, of knowledge, and of bringing into existence, of communicating knowledge, are involved; and this is no idle talk, as was formerly supposed, for Gorgias’ dialectic is of a quite objective kind, and is most interesting in content.

a. “If anything is,” (this “anything” is, however, a makeshift that we are in the habit of using in our conversation, and which is, properly speaking, inappropriate, for it implies an opposition of subject and predicate, while at present the “is” alone is in question)—then “if it is” (and now it becomes for the first time defined as subject) “it is either the existent or the non-existent, or else existence and non-existence. It is now evident of these three that they are not.”[108]

α. “That which is not, is not; for if Being belonged to it, there would at the same time be existence and non-existence. That is, in so far as it is thought of as non-existent, it is not; but in so far as it is the non-existent, it must exist. But it cannot at the same time be and not be. Again, if the non-existent is, the existent is not, for the two are opposed. Thus, if Being pertained to non-being, non-being would belong to Being. But if Being does not exist, no more does non-being.”[109] This is with Gorgias a characteristic mode of reasoning.[110]

β. “But in proving,” Aristotle adds to the passages just quoted, “that the existent is not, he follows Melissus and Zeno.” This is the dialectic already brought forward by them. “If Being is, it is contradictory to predicate a quality to it, and if we do this, we express something merely negative about it.”


αα. For Gorgias says: “What is, either is in itself (ἀΐδιον) being without beginning, or it has originated,” and he now shows that it could neither be the one nor the other, for each leads to contradiction. “It cannot be the former, for what is in itself has no beginning, and is the infinite,” and hence likewise undetermined and indeterminable. “The infinite is nowhere, for if it is anywhere, that in which it is, is different from it.” Where it is, it is in another, “but that is not infinite which is different from another, and contained in another. Just as little is it contained in itself, for then that in which it is, and that which is therein, would be the same. What it is in, is the place; that which is in this, is the body; but that both should be the same is absurd. The infinite does not thus exist.”[111] This dialectic of Gorgias regarding the infinite is on the one hand limited, because immediate existence has certainly no beginning and no limit, but asserts a progression into infinitude; the self-existent Thought, the universal Notion, as absolute negativity, has, however, limits in itself. On the other hand, Gorgias is quite right, for the bad, sensuous infinite is nowhere present, and thus does not exist, but is a Beyond of Being; only we may take what Gorgias takes as a diversity of place, as being diversity generally. Thus, instead of placing the infinite, like Gorgias, sometimes in another, sometimes within itself, i.e. sometimes maintaining it to be different, sometimes abrogating the diversity, we may say better and more universally, that this sensuous infinite is a diversity which is always posited as different from the existent, for it is just the being different from itself.

“In the same way Being has not originated, because it must then have come either from the existent or from the non-existent. From the existent it did not arise, for then it would be already; just as little from the non-existent, because this cannot beget anything.”[112] The sceptics followed[382] this up further. The object to be contemplated hence ever becomes posited under determinations with ‘either’ ‘or,’ which then contradict one another. But that is not the true dialectic, because the object resolves itself into those determinations only; when nothing follows respecting the nature of the object itself, then, as is already proved, the object must be necessarily in one determination, and not in and for itself.

ββ. In a similar way Gorgias shows “of what exists, that it must either be one or many; but neither is possible. For as one, it would have a certain magnitude, or continuity, or number, or body, but all this is not one, but different, divisible. Every sensuous one is, in fact, necessarily another, a manifold. If it is not one, it cannot be many, for the many is many ones.”[113]

γ. “Similarly both, Being and non-being, cannot exist at the same time. If one exists as much as the other, they are the same, and therefore neither of them is, for the non-being does not exist, and hence neither does the Being, since it is identical with it. Nor can they, on the other hand, both exist, for if they are identical, I cannot express them both,”[114] and thus both do not exist, for if I express both, I differentiate. This dialectic, which Aristotle (De Xenoph. &c., c. 5) likewise designates as peculiar to Gorgias, has its truth. In speaking of Being and non-being, we always say the opposite to what we wish. Being and non-being are the same, just as they are not the same; if they are the same, I speak of the two as different: if different, I express the same predicate of them, diversity. This dialectic is not to be despised by us, as if it dealt with empty abstractions, for these categories are, on the one hand, in their purity the most universal, and if, on the other hand, they are not the ultimate, yet it is always Being or non-being that are in question; they are not, however,[383] definitely fixed and divided off, but are self-abrogating. Gorgias is conscious that they are vanishing moments, while the ordinary unconscious conception also has present to it this truth, but knows nothing about it.

b. The relation of the conceiver to conception, the difference between conception and Being, is a subject which is in our mouths to-day. “But if there is an ‘is,’ it is unknowable and unthinkable, for what is presented is not the existent” but only a presentation. “If what is presented is white, it is the case that white is presented; if what is presented is not the really existent, it is the case that what is, is not presented. For if what is presented is the real existent, everything that is presented also exists, but no one says that if a flying man, or waggon riding on the sea were presented to us, it would exist. Further, if what is presented is the existent, the non-existent is not presented, for opposites are in opposition. But this non-existent is everywhere presented as it is in Scylla and the Chimæra.[115] Gorgias on the one hand pronounces a just polemic against absolute realism, which, because it represents, thinks to possess the very thing itself, when it only has a relative, but he falls, on the other hand, into the false idealism of modern times, according to which thought is always subjective only, and thus not the existent, since through thought an existent is transformed into what is thought.”

c. We finally have the basis of the dialectic of Gorgias in respect of the third point, that knowledge cannot be imparted, in this: “If the existent were presented, it could still not be expressed and imparted. Things are visible, audible, &c., or are experienced. The visible is grasped through sight, the audible through hearing, and not the contrary way; thus, the one cannot be indicated by the other. Speech, by which the existent has to be expressed, is not the existent; what is imparted is thus not the existent,[384] but only words.[116] In this manner Gorgias’ dialectic is the laying hold of this difference exactly as again occurred in Kant; if I maintain this difference, certainly that which is, cannot be known.”

This dialectic is undoubtedly impregnable to those who maintain sensuous Being to be real. But its truth is only this movement to posit itself negatively as existent, and the unity is the reflection that the existent, comprehended also as non-existent, becomes, in this comprehension of it, universal. That this existent cannot be imparted, must likewise be held most strongly, for this individual cannot be expressed. Philosophic truth is thus not only expressed as if there were another truth in sensuous consciousness; but Being is present in that philosophic truth expresses it. The Sophists thus also made dialectic, universal Philosophy, their object, and they were profound thinkers.


Consciousness had reached this point in Greece, when in Athens the great form of Socrates, in whom the subjectivity of thought was brought to consciousness in a more definite and more thorough manner, now appeared. But Socrates did not grow like a mushroom out of the earth, for he stands in continuity with his time, and thus is not only a most important figure in the history of Philosophy—perhaps the most interesting in the philosophy of antiquity—but is also a world-famed personage. For a mental turning-point exhibited itself in him in the form of philosophic thought. If we shortly recall the periods already passed over, we find that the ancient Ionic philosophers certainly thought, but without reflecting on the thought or defining its product as thought. The Atomists made objective existence into thoughts, but these were to them only abstractions, pure entities. Anaxagoras, on the other hand, raised thought as[385] such, into a principle which thereby presented itself as the all-powerful Notion, as the negative power over all that is definite and existent. Protagoras finally expresses thought as real existence, but it is in this its movement, which is the all-resolving consciousness, the unrest of the Notion. This unrest is in itself at the same time something restful or secure. But the fixed point of motion as such, is the ‘I,’ for it has the moments of movement outside of it; as the self-retaining, which only abrogates what is different, the ‘I’ is negative unity, but just in that very way individual, and not yet the universal reflected within itself. Now we here find the ambiguity of dialectic and sophistry, which rests in the fact that if the objective disappears, the signification of the fixed subjective is either that of the individual opposed to the objective, and thereby the contingent and lawless will, or that of the objective and universal in itself. Socrates expresses real existence as the universal ‘I,’ as the consciousness which rests in itself; but that is the good as such, which is free from existent reality, free from individual sensuous consciousness of feeling and desire, free finally from the theoretically speculative thought about nature, which, if indeed thought, has still the form of Being and in which I am not certain of my existence.

Socrates herein adopted firstly the doctrine of Anaxagoras that thought, the understanding, is the ruling and self-determining universal, though this principle did not, as with the Sophists, attain the form of formal culture or of abstract philosophizing. Thus, if with Socrates, as with Protagoras, the self-conscious thought that abrogates all that is determined, was real existence, with Socrates this was the case in such a way that he at the same time grasped in thought rest and security. This substance existing in and for itself, the self-retaining, has become determined as end, and further as the true and the good.

To this determination of the universal, we have, in the second place, to add that this good, which has by me to be[386] esteemed as substantial end, must be known by me; with this the infinite subjectivity, the freedom of self-consciousness in Socrates breaks out. This freedom which is contained therein, the fact that consciousness is clearly present in all that it thinks, and must necessarily be at home with itself, is in our time constantly and plainly demanded; the substantial, although eternal and in and for itself, must as truly be produced through me; but this my part in it is only the formal activity. Thus Socrates’ principle is that man has to find from himself both the end of his actions and the end of the world, and must attain to truth through himself. True thought thinks in such a way that its import is as truly objective as subjective. But objectivity has been the significance of substantial universality, and not of external objectivity; thus truth is now posited as a product mediated through thought, while untrained morality, as Sophocles makes Antigone say (vers. 454-457), is “the eternal law of the Gods”:

“And no one knew from whence it came.”

But though in modern times we hear much said of immediate knowledge and belief, it is a misconception to maintain that their content, God, the Good, Just, &c., although the content of feeling and conception, is not, as spiritual content, also posited through thought. The animal has no religion, because it only feels; but what is spiritual rests on the mediation of thought, and pertains to man.

Since Socrates thus introduces the infinitely important element of leading back the truth of the objective to the thought of the subject, just as Protagoras says that the objective first is through relation to us, the battle of Socrates and Plato with the Sophists cannot rest on the ground that these, as belonging to the old faith, maintained against the others the religion and customs of Greece, for the violation of which Anaxagoras was condemned. Quite the contrary. Reflection, and the reference of any judgment to[387] consciousness, is held by Socrates in common with the Sophists. But the opposition into which Socrates and Plato were in their philosophy necessarily brought in regard to the Sophists, as the universal philosophic culture of the times, was as follows:—The objective produced through thought, is at the same time in and for itself, thus being raised above all particularity of interests and desires, and being the power over them. Hence because, on the one hand, to Socrates and Plato the moment of subjective freedom is the directing of consciousness into itself, on the other, this return is also determined as a coming out from particular subjectivity. It is hereby implied that contingency of events is abolished, and man has this outside within him, as the spiritual universal. This is the true, the unity of subjective and objective in modern terminology, while the Kantian ideal is only phenomenal and not objective in itself.

In the third place Socrates accepted the Good at first only in the particular significance of the practical, which nevertheless is only one mode of the substantial Idea; the universal is not only for me, but also, as end existent in and for itself, the principle of the philosophy of nature, and in this higher sense it was taken by Plato and Aristotle. Of Socrates it is hence said, in the older histories of Philosophy, that his main distinction was having added ethics as a new conception to Philosophy, which formerly only took nature into consideration. Diogenes Laertius, in like manner says (III., 56), that the Ionics founded natural philosophy, Socrates ethics, and Plato added to them dialectic. Now ethics is partly objective, and partly subjective and reflected morality [Sittlichkeit und Moralität],[117] and the[388] teaching of Socrates is properly subjectively moral, because in it the subjective side, my perception and meaning, is the prevailing moment, although this determination of self-positing is likewise sublated, and the good and eternal is what is in and for itself. Objective morality is, on the contrary, natural, since it signifies the knowledge and doing of what is in and for itself good. The Athenians before Socrates were objectively, and not subjectively, moral, for they acted rationally in their relations without knowing that they were particularly excellent. Reflective morality adds to natural morality the reflection that this is the good and not that; the Kantian philosophy, which is reflectively moral, again showed the difference.

Because Socrates in this way gave rise to moral philosophy, all succeeding babblers about morality and popular philosophy constituted him their patron and object of adoration, and made him into a cloak which should cover all false philosophy. As he treated it, it was undoubtedly popular; and what contributed to make it such was that his death gave him the never-failing interest derived from innocent suffering. Cicero (Tusc. Quæst. V. 4), whose manner of thought was, on the one hand, of the present, and who, on the other hand, had the belief that Philosophy should yield itself up, and hence succeeded in attaining to no content in it, boasted of Socrates (what has often enough[389] been said since) that his most eminent characteristic was to have brought Philosophy from heaven to earth, to the homes and every-day life of men, or, as Diogenes Laertius expresses it (II. 21), “into the market place.” There we have what has just been said. This would seem as if the best and truest Philosophy were only a domestic or fireside philosophy, which conforms to all the ordinary ideas of men, and in which we see friends and faithful ones talk together of righteousness, and of what can be known on the earth, without having penetrated the depths of the heavens, or rather the depths of consciousness. But this last is exactly what Socrates, as these men themselves indicate, first ventured to do. And it was not incumbent on him to reflect upon all the speculations of past Philosophy, in order to be able to come down in practical philosophy to inward thought. This gives a general idea of his principle.

We must examine more closely this noteworthy phenomenon, and begin with the history of Socrates’ life. This is, however, closely intertwined with his interest in Philosophy, and the events of his life are bound up with his principles. We have first of all to consider the beginning of his life only. Socrates, whose birth occurs in the fourth year of the 77th Olympiad (469 B.C.), was the son of Sophroniscus, a sculptor, and of Phænarete, a midwife. His father brought him up to sculpture, and it is said that Socrates acquired skill in the art, and long after, statues of draped Graces, found in the Acropolis, were ascribed to him. But his art did not satisfy him; a great desire for Philosophy, and love of scientific research, got possession of him. He pursued his art merely to get money for a necessary subsistence, and to be able to apply himself to the study of the sciences; and it is told of Crito, an Athenian, that he defrayed the cost of Socrates’ instruction by masters in all the arts. During the exercise of his art, and specially after he gave it up altogether, he read the[390] works of ancient philosophers in so far as he could get possession of them. At the same time he attended Anaxagoras’ instructions, and, after his expulsion from Athens, at which time Socrates was thirty-seven years old, those of Archelaus, who was regarded as Anaxagoras’ successor, besides those of Sophists celebrated in other sciences. Amongst these he heard Prodicus, a celebrated teacher of oratory, whom, according to Xenophon (Memorab. II. c. 1, §§ 21, 34), he mentions with affection, and other teachers of music, poetry, etc. He was esteemed as on all sides a man of culture, who was instructed in everything then requisite thereto.[118]

Another feature in his life was that he fulfilled the duty of protecting his country, which rested on him as an Athenian citizen. Hence he made three campaigns in the Peloponnesian war, which occurred during his life. The Peloponnesian war led to the dissolution of Greek life, inasmuch as it was preparatory to it; and what took place politically was by Socrates carried out in thinking consciousness. In these campaigns he not only acquired the fame of a brave warrior, but, what was best of all, the merit of having saved the lives of other citizens. In the first, he was present at the tedious siege of Potidæa in Thrace. Here Alcibiades had already attached himself to him, and, according to Plato, he recited in the Banquet (p. 219-222, Steph.; p. 461-466, Bekk.), a eulogy on Socrates for being able to endure all toil, hunger and thirst, heat and cold, with mind at rest and health of body. In an engagement in this campaign he saw Alcibiades wounded in the midst of the enemy, lifted him up, forced his way through, and saved both him and his arms. The generals rewarded him with a wreath, which was the prize of the bravest; Socrates did not, however, take it, maintaining that it was given to Alcibiades. In this campaign it is said that once, sunk in[391] deep meditation, he stood immovable on one spot the whole day and night, until the morning sun awoke him from his trance—a condition in which he is said often to have been. This was a cataleptic state, which may bear some relation to magnetic somnambulism, in which Socrates became quite dead to sensuous consciousness. From this physical setting free of the inward abstract self from the concrete bodily existence of the individual, we have, in the outward manifestation, a proof of how the depths of his mind worked within him. In him we see pre-eminently the inwardness of consciousness that in an anthropological way existed in the first instance in him, and became later on a usual thing. He made his other campaign in Bœotia at Delium, a small fortification which the Athenians possessed not far from the sea, and where they had an unfortunate, though not an important engagement. Here Socrates saved another of his favourites, Xenophon; he saw him in the flight, for Xenophon, having lost his horse, lay wounded on the ground. Socrates took him over his shoulders, carried him off, defending himself at the same time with the greatest tranquillity and presence of mind from the pursuing enemy. Finally he made his last campaign at Amphipolis in Edonis, on the Strymonian Bay.[119]

Besides this, he occupied various civil offices. At the time when the democratic constitution of Athens hitherto existing, was taken away by the Lacedemonians, who now introduced everywhere an aristocratic and indeed tyrannical rule, whereby they in great measure put themselves at the head of affairs, he was chosen for the council, which, as a representative body, took the place of the people. Here he distinguished himself by his immovable firmness in what he held to be right as against the wills of the thirty tyrants, as formerly against the will of the people. For he sat in the tribunal which condemned the ten[392] generals to death, because, as admirals at the battle of Arginusæ, though they certainly had conquered, yet, being kept back through storm, they had not dragged out the bodies nor buried them on the shore, and because they neglected to erect trophies; i.e. really because they did not stand their ground, and thus appeared to have been beaten. Socrates alone did not agree with this decision, declaring himself more emphatically against the people than against the rulers.[120] To-day he fares badly who says anything against the people. “The people have excellent intelligence, understand everything, and have only the most excellent intentions.” As to rulers, governments, ministers, it is self-evident that “they understand nothing, and only desire and bring forth what is bad.”

Along with these to him more accidental relationships to the State, in which he acted only from the ordinary sense of citizenship, without spontaneously making the affairs of the State his real business, or pressing on to the head of public affairs, the real business of his life was to discuss moral philosophy with any who came in his way. His philosophy, which asserts that real existence is in consciousness as a universal, is still not a properly speculative philosophy, but remained individual; yet the aim of his philosophy was that it should have a universal significance. Hence we have to speak of his own individual being, of his thoroughly noble character, which usually is depicted as a complete catalogue of the virtues adorning the life of a private citizen; and these virtues of Socrates are certainly to be looked at as his own, and as made habitual to him by his own will. It has to be noted that with the ancients these qualities have generally more of the character of virtue, because with the ancients, in ordinary morality, individuality, as the form of the universal, was given free[393] scope, so that virtues were regarded more as the actions of the individual will, and thus as personal qualities; while with us they seem to be less what is meritorious to the individual, or what comes from himself as this unit. We are accustomed to think of them much more as what exists, as duty, because we have a fuller consciousness of the universal, and consider the pure individual, the personal inward consciousness, as real existence and duty. With us virtues are hence actually either elements in our dispositions and nature, or they have the form of the universal and of what is necessary; but with Socrates they have the form, not of ordinary morality or of a natural or necessary thing, but of an independent determination. It is well known that his appearance indicated naturally low and hateful qualities, which, as indeed he says, he himself subdued.

He lived amongst his fellow-citizens, and stands before us as one of those great plastic natures consistent through and through, such as we often see in those times—resembling a perfect classical work of art which has brought itself to this height of perfection. Such individuals are not made, but have formed themselves into what they are; they have become that which they wished to be, and are true to this. In a real work of art the distinguishing point is that some idea is brought forth, a character is presented in which every trait is determined by the idea, and, because this is so, the work of art is, on the one hand, living, and, on the other, beautiful, for the highest beauty is just the most perfect carrying out of all sides of the individuality in accordance with the one inward principle. Such works of art are also seen in the great men of every time. The most plastic individual as a statesman is Pericles, and round him, like stars, Sophocles, Thucydides, Socrates, &c., worked out their individuality into an existence of its own—into a character which regulated their whole being, and which was one principle running[394] throughout the whole of their existence. Pericles alone lived with the sole end of being a statesman. Plutarch (in Pericle, c. 5, 7) says of him that, from the time that he devoted himself to the business of the State, he laughed no more, and never again went to a feast. Thus, too, Socrates formed himself, through his art and through the power of self-conscious will, into this particular character, and acquired this capacity for the business of his life. Through his principle he attained that far-reaching influence which has lasted to the present day in relation to religion, science, and justice, for since his time the genius of inward conviction has been the basis which must be fundamental. And since this principle proceeded from the plasticity of his character, it is very inappropriate when Tennemann regrets (Vol. II. p. 26) “that though we know what he was, we do not know how he became such.”

Socrates was a peaceful, pious example of the moral virtues—of wisdom, discretion, temperance, moderation, justice, courage, inflexibility, firm sense of rectitude in relation to tyrants and people; he was equally removed from cupidity and despotism. His indifference to money was due to his own determination, for, according to the custom of the times, he could acquire it through the education of youth, like other teachers. On the other side, this acquisition was purely matter of choice, and not, as with us, something which is accepted, so that to take nothing would be to break through a custom, thus to present the appearance of wishing to become conspicuous, and to be more blamed than praised. For this was not yet a State affair; it was under the Roman emperors that there first were schools with payment. This moderation of his life was likewise a power proceeding from conscious knowledge, but this is not a principle found to hand, but the regulation of self in accordance with circumstances; in company he was, however, a good fellow. His sobriety in respect to wine is best depicted in Plato’s “Symposium,” in a very characteristic[395] scene in which we see what Socrates called virtue. Alcibiades there appears, no longer sober, at a feast given by Agathon, on the occasion of a success which his tragedy had obtained on the previous day at the games. Since the company had drunk much on the first day of the feast, the assembled guests, amongst whom was Socrates, this evening took a resolution, in opposition to the Greek custom at meals, to drink little. Alcibiades, finding that he was coming in amongst abstemious men, and that there was no one else in his own frame of mind, made himself king of the feast, and offered the goblet to the others, in order to bring them into the condition reached by himself; but with Socrates he said that he could do nothing, because he remained as he was, however much he drank. Plato then makes the individual who tells what happened at the Banquet, also tell that he, with the others, at last fell asleep on the couch, and as he awoke in the morning, Socrates, cup in hand, still talked with Aristophanes and Agathon about comedy and tragedy, and whether one man could write both comedies and tragedies, and then went at the usual time into the public places, to the Lyceum, as if nothing had happened, and walked about the whole day as usual.[121] This is not a moderation which exists in the least possible enjoyment, no aimless abstemiousness and self-mortification, but a power belonging to consciousness, which keeps its self-possession in bodily excess. We see from this that we have not to think of Socrates throughout after the fashion of the litany of moral virtues.

His behaviour to others was not only just, true, open, without rudeness, and honourable, but we also see in him an example of the most perfect Attic urbanity; i.e. he moves in the freest possible relations, has a readiness for conversation which is always judicious, and, because it has an inward universality, at the same time always has the right[396] living relationship to the individual, and bears upon the case on which it operates. The intercourse is that of a most highly cultured man who, in his relation to others, never places anything personal in all his wit, and sets aside all that is unpleasant. Thus Xenophon’s, but particularly Plato’s Socratic Dialogues belong to the highest type of this fine social culture.

Because the philosophy of Socrates is no withdrawal from existence now and here into the free, pure regions of thought, but is in a piece with his life, it does not proceed to a system; and the manner of his philosophizing, which appears to imply a withdrawal from actual affairs as it did to Plato, yet in that very way gives itself this inward connection with ordinary life. For his more special business was his philosophic teaching, or rather his philosophic social intercourse (for it was not, properly speaking, teaching) with all; and this outwardly resembled ordinary Athenian life in which the greater part of the day was passed without any particular business, in loitering about the market-place, or frequenting the public Lyceum, and there partly partaking of bodily exercises, and partly and principally, talking with one another. This kind of intercourse was only possible in the Athenian mode of life, where most of the work which is now done by a free citizen—by a free republican and free imperial citizen alike—was performed by slaves, seeing that it was deemed unworthy of free men. A free citizen could in Athens certainly be a handicraftsman, but he had slaves who did the work, just as a master now has workmen. At the present day such a life of movement would not be suitable to our customs. Now Socrates also lounged about after this manner, and lived in this constant discussion of ethical questions.[122] Thus what he did was what came naturally to him, and what can in general be called moralizing; but its nature and method[397] was not that of preaching, exhortation or teaching; it was not a dry morality. For amongst the Athenians and in Attic urbanity, this had no place, since it is not a reciprocal, free, and rational relationship. But with all men, however different their characters, he entered on one kind of dialogue, with all that Attic urbanity which, without presumption on his part, without instructing others, or wishing to command them, while maintaining their perfect right to freedom, and honouring it, yet causes all that is rude to be suppressed.

1. The Socratic Method. In this conversation Socrates’ philosophy is found, as also what is known as the Socratic method, which must in its nature be dialectic, and of which we must speak before dealing with the content. Socrates’ manner is not artificial; the dialogues of the moderns, on the contrary, just because no internal reason justifies their form, are necessarily tedious and heavy. But the principle of his philosophy falls in with the method itself, which thus far cannot be called method, since it is a mode which quite coincides with the moralizing peculiar to Socrates. For the chief content is to know the good as the absolute, and that particularly in relation to actions. Socrates gives this point of view so high a place, that he both puts aside the sciences which involve the contemplation of the universal in nature, mind, &c., himself, and calls upon others to do the same.[123] Thus it can be said that in content his philosophy had an altogether practical aspect, and similarly the Socratic method, which is essential to it, was distinguished by the system of first bringing a person to reflection upon his duty by any occasion that might either happen to be offered spontaneously, or that was brought about by Socrates. By going to the work-places of tailors and shoemakers, and entering into discourse with them, as also with youths and old men, Sophists, statesmen, and citizens of all kinds, he in[398] the first place took their interests as his topic—whether these were household interests, the education of children, or the interests of knowledge or of truth. Then he led them on from a definite case to think of the universal, and of truths and beauties which had absolute value, since in every case, from the individual’s own thoughts, he derived the conviction and consciousness of that which is the definite right. This method has two prominent aspects, the one the development of the universal from the concrete case, and the exhibition of the notion which implicitly exists in every consciousness,[124] and the other is the resolution of the firmly established, and, when taken immediately in consciousness, universal determinations of the sensuous conception or of thought, and the causing of confusion between these and what is concrete.

a. If we proceed from the general account of Socrates’ method to a nearer view, in the first place its effect is to inspire men with distrust towards their presuppositions, after faith had become wavering and they were driven to seek that which is, in themselves. Now whether it was that he wished to bring the manner of the Sophists into disrepute, or that he was desirous to awaken the desire for knowledge and independent thought in the youths whom he attracted to himself, he certainly began by adopting the ordinary conceptions which they considered to be true. But in order to bring others to express these, he represents himself as in ignorance of them, and, with a seeming ingenuousness, puts questions to his audience as if they were to instruct him, while he really wished to draw them out. This is the celebrated Socratic irony, which in his case is a particular mode of carrying on intercourse between one person and another, and is thus only a subjective form of dialectic, for real dialectic deals with the reasons for things. What he wished to effect was, that[399] when other people brought forward their principles, he, from each definite proposition, should deduce as its consequence the direct opposite of what the proposition stated, or else allow the opposite to be deduced from their own inner consciousness without maintaining it directly against their statements. Sometimes he also derived the opposite from a concrete case. But as this opposite was a principle held by men as firmly as the other, he then went on to show that they contradicted themselves. Thus Socrates taught those with whom he associated to know that they knew nothing; indeed, what is more, he himself said that he knew nothing, and therefore taught nothing. It may actually be said that Socrates knew nothing, for he did not reach the systematic construction of a philosophy. He was conscious of this, and it was also not at all his aim to establish a science.

On the one view, this irony seems to be something untrue. But when we deal with objects which have a universal interest, and speak about them to one and to another, it is always the case that one does not understand another’s conception of the object. For every individual has certain ultimate words as to which he presupposes a common knowledge. But if we really are to come to an understanding, we find it is these presuppositions which have to be investigated. For instance, if in more recent times belief and reason are discussed as the subjects of present intellectual interest, everyone pretends that he knows quite well what reason, &c., is, and it is considered ill-bred to ask for an explanation of this, seeing that all are supposed to know about it. A very celebrated divine, ten years ago,[125] published ninety theses on reason, which contained very interesting questions, but resulted in nothing, although they were much discussed, because one person’s assertions issued from the point of view of faith, and the other’s from that of reason, and each remained in this state of opposition,[400] without the one’s knowing what the other meant. Thus what would make an understanding possible is just the explanation of what we think is understood, without really being so. If faith and knowledge certainly differ from one another at the first, yet through this declaration of their notional determinations the common element will at once appear; in that way questions like these and the trouble taken with them may, for the first time, become fruitful; otherwise men may chatter this way and that for years, without making any advance. For if I say I know what reason, what belief is, these are only quite abstract ideas; it is necessary, in order to become concrete, that they should be explained, and that it should be understood that what they really are, is unknown. The irony of Socrates has this great quality of showing how to make abstract ideas concrete and effect their development, for on that alone depends the bringing of the Notion into consciousness.

In recent times much has been said about the Socratic irony which, like all dialectic, gives force to what is taken immediately, but only in order to allow the dissolution inherent in it to come to pass; and we may call this the universal irony of the world. Yet men have tried to make this irony of Socrates into something quite different, for they extended it into a universal principle; it is said to be the highest attitude of the mind, and has been represented as the most divine. It was Friedrich von Schlegel who first brought forward this idea, and Ast repeated it, saying, “The most ardent love of all beauty in the Idea, as in life, inspires Socrates’ words with inward, unfathomable life.” This life is now said to be irony! But this irony issues from the Fichtian philosophy, and is an essential point in the comprehension of the conceptions of most recent times. It is when subjective consciousness maintains its independence of everything, that it says, “It is I who through my educated thoughts can annul all determinations of right, morality, good, &c., because I am clearly master of[401] them, and I know that if anything seems good to me I can easily subvert it, because things are only true to me in so far as they please me now.” This irony is thus only a trifling with everything, and it can transform all things into show: to this subjectivity nothing is any longer serious, for any seriousness which it has, immediately becomes dissipated again in jokes, and all noble or divine truth vanishes away or becomes mere triviality. But the Greek gaiety, as it breathes in Homer’s poems, is ironical, for Eros mocks the power of Zeus and of Mars; Vulcan, limping along, serves the gods with wine, and brings upon himself the uncontrollable laughter of the immortal gods. Juno boxes Diana’s ears. Thus, too, there is irony in the sacrifices of the ancients, who themselves consumed the best; in the pain that laughs, in the keenest joy which is moved to tears, in the scornful laughter of Mephistopheles, and in every transition from one extreme to another—from what is best to what is worst. Sunday morning may be passed in deep humility, profoundest contrition and self-abasement, in striking the breast in penitence, and the evening in eating and drinking to the full, going the round of pleasures, thus allowing self to re-assert its independence of any such subjection. Hypocrisy, which is of the same nature, is the truest irony. Socrates and Plato were falsely stated to be the originators of this irony, of which it is said that it is the “inmost and deepest life,” although they possessed the element of subjectivity; in our time it was not permitted to us to give effect to this irony. Ast’s “inmost, deepest life” is just the subjective and arbitrary will, the inward divinity which knows itself to be exalted above all. The divine is said to be the purely negative attitude, the perception of the vanity of everything, in which my vanity alone remains. Making the consciousness of the nullity of everything ultimate, might indeed indicate depth of life, but it only is the depth of emptiness, as may be seen from the ancient comedies of Aristophanes. From this irony of[402] our times, the irony of Socrates is far removed; as is also the case with Plato, it has a significance which is limited. Socrates’ premeditated irony may be called a manner of speech, a pleasant rallying; there is in it no satirical laughter or pretence, as though the idea were nothing but a joke. But his tragic irony is his opposition of subjective reflection to morality as it exists, not a consciousness of the fact that he stands above it, but the natural aim of leading men, through thought, to the true good and to the universal Idea.

b. Now the second element is what Socrates has called the art of midwifery—an art which came to him from his mother.[126] It is the assisting into the world of the thought which is already contained in the consciousness of the individual—the showing from the concrete, unreflected consciousness, the universality of the concrete, or from the universally posited, the opposite which already is within it. Socrates hence adopts a questioning attitude, and this kind of questioning and answering has thus been called the Socratic method; but in this method there is more than can be given in questions and replies. For the answer seems occasionally to be quite different from what was intended by the question, while in printed dialogue, answers are altogether under the author’s control; but to say that in actual life people are found to answer as they are here made to do, is quite another thing. To Socrates those who reply may be called pliable youths, because they reply directly to the questions, which are so formed that they make the answer very easy, and exclude any originality in reply. To this plastic manner, which we see in the method of Socrates, as represented by Plato and Xenophon, it is objected that we do not answer in the same relation in which the questioner asks; while, with Socrates, the relation which the questioner adopts is respected in the reply.[403] The other way, which is to bring forward another point of view, is undoubtedly the spirit of an animated conversation, but such emulation is excluded from this Socratic method, in which the principal matter is to keep to the point. The spirit of dogmatism, self-assertion, stopping short when we seem to get into difficulties, and escaping from them by a jest, or by setting them aside—all these attitudes and methods are here excluded; they do not constitute good manners, nor do they have a place in Socrates’ dialogues. In these dialogues, it is hence not to be wondered at that those questioned answered so precisely to the point, while in the best modern dialogues there is always an arbitrary element.

This difference concerns only what is external and formal. But the principal point, and the reason why Socrates set to work with questions in bringing the good and right into consciousness in universal form, was that he did not proceed from what is present in our consciousness in a simple form through setting forth the conception allied to it in pure necessity, which would be a deduction, a proof or, speaking generally, a consequence following from the conception. But this concrete, as it is in natural consciousness without thinking of it, or universality immersed in matter, he analyzed, so that through the separation of the concrete, he brought the universal contained therein to consciousness as universal. We see this method also carried on to a large extent in Plato’s dialogues, where there is, in this regard, particular skill displayed. It is the same method which forms in every man his knowledge of the universal; an education in self-consciousness, which is the development of reason. The child, the uncultured man, lives in concrete individual ideas, but to the man who grows and educates himself, because he thereby goes back into himself as thinking, reflection becomes reflection on the universal and the permanent establishment of the same; and a freedom—formerly that of moving in concrete ideas—is now that of so[404] doing in abstractions and in thoughts. We see such a development of universal from particular, where a number of examples are given, treated in a very tedious way. For us who are trained in presenting to ourselves what is abstract, who are taught from youth up in universal principles, the Socratic method of so-called deference, with its eloquence, has often something tiresome and tedious about it. The universal of the concrete case is already present to us as universal, because our reflection is already accustomed to the universal, and we do not require, first of all, to take the trouble of making a separation; and thus, if Socrates were now to bring what is abstract before consciousness, we should not require, in order to establish it as universal, that all these examples should be adduced, so that through repetition the subjective certainty of abstraction might arise.

c. The next result of this method of procedure may be that consciousness is surprised that what it never looked for should be found in consciousness. If we reflect, for example, on the universally known idea of Becoming, we find that what becomes is not and yet it is; it is the identity of Being and non-being, and it may surprise us that in this simple conception so great a distinction should exist.

The result attained was partly the altogether formal and negative one of bringing home to those who conversed with Socrates, the conviction that, however well acquainted with the subject they had thought themselves, they now came to the conclusion, “that what we knew has refuted itself.” Socrates thus put questions in the intent that the speaker should be drawn on to make admissions, implying a point of view opposed to that from which he started. That these contradictions arise because they bring their ideas together, is the drift of the greater part of Socrates’ dialogues; their main tendency consequently was to show the bewilderment and confusion which exist in[405] knowledge. By this means, he tries to awaken shame, and the perception that what we consider as true is not the truth, from which the necessity for earnest effort after knowledge must result. Plato, amongst others, gives these examples in his Meno (p. 71-80, Steph.; p. 327-346, Bekk.). Socrates is made to say, “By the gods, tell me what is virtue.” Meno proceeds to make various distinctions: “Man’s virtue is to be skilful in managing state affairs, and thereby to help friends and harm foes; woman’s to rule her household; other virtues are those of boys, of young men, of old men,” &c. Socrates interrupts him by saying, that it is not that about which he inquires, but virtue in general, which comprehends every thing in itself. Meno says “It is to govern and rule over others.” Socrates brings forward the fact that the virtue of boys and slaves does not consist in governing. Meno says that he cannot tell what is common in all virtue. Socrates replies that it is the same as figure, which is what is common in roundness, squareness, &c. There a digression occurs. Meno says, “Virtue is the power of securing the good desired.” Socrates interposes that it is superfluous to say the good, for from the time that men know that something is an evil, they do not desire it; and also the good must be acquired in a right way. Socrates thus confounds Meno, and he sees that these ideas are false. The latter says, “I used to hear of you, before I knew you, that you were yourself in doubt (ἀπορεῖς), and also brought others into doubt, and now you cast a spell on me too, so that I am at my wits’ end (ἀπορίας). You seem, if I may venture to jest, to be like the torpedo fish, for it is said of it that it makes torpid (ναρκᾷν) those who come near it and touch it. You have done this to me, for I am become torpid in body and soul, and I do not know how to answer you, although I have talked thousands of times about virtue with many persons, and, as it seemed to me, talked very well. But now I do not know at all what to say. Hence you do well[406] not to travel amongst strangers, for you might be put to death as a magician.” Socrates again wishes to “inquire.” Now Meno says, “How can you inquire about what you say you do not know? Can you have a desire for what you do not know? And if you find it out by chance, how can you know that it is what you looked for, since you acknowledge that, you do not know it?” A number of dialogues end in the same manner, both in Xenophon and Plato, leaving us quite unsatisfied as to the result. It is so in the Lysis, where Plato asks the question of what love and friendship secures to men; and similarly the Republic commences by inquiring what justice is. Philosophy must, generally speaking, begin with a puzzle in order to bring about reflection; everything must be doubted, all presuppositions given up, to reach the truth as created through the Notion.

2. The Principle of the Good. This, in short, is Socrates’ method. The affirmative, what Socrates develops in the consciousness, is nothing but the good in as far as it is brought forth from consciousness through knowledge—it is the eternal, in and for itself universal, what is called the Idea, the true, which just in so far as it is end, is the Good. In this regard Socrates is opposed to the Sophists, for the proposition that man is the measure of all things, to them still comprehends particular ends, while to Socrates the universal brought forth through free thought is thereby expressed in objective fashion. Nevertheless, we must not blame the Sophists because, in the aimlessness of their time, they did not discover the principle of the Good; for every discovery has its time, and that of the Good, which as end in itself is now always made the starting point, had not yet been made by Socrates. It now seems as if we had not yet shown forth much of the Socratic philosophy, for we have merely kept to the principle; but the main point with Socrates is that his knowledge for the first time reached this abstraction. The Good is nevertheless no longer as abstract as the νοῦς of Anaxagoras,[407] but is the universal which determines itself in itself, realizes itself, and has to be realized as the end of the world and of the individual. It is a principle, concrete within itself, which, however, is not yet manifested in its development, and in this abstract attitude we find what is wanting in the Socratic standpoint, of which nothing that is affirmative can, beyond this, be adduced.

a. As regards the Socratic principle, the first determination is the great determination which is, however, still merely formal, that consciousness creates and has to create out of itself what is the true. This principle of subjective freedom was present to the consciousness of Socrates himself so vividly that he despised the other sciences as being empty learning and useless to mankind; he has to concern himself with his moral nature only in order to do what is best—a one-sidedness which is very characteristic of Socrates. This religion of the Good is to Socrates, not only the essential point to which men have to direct their thoughts, but it is that exclusively. We see him showing how from every individual this universal, this absolute in consciousness may be found as his reality. Here we see law, the true and good, what was formerly present as an existent, return into consciousness. But it is not a single chance manifestation in this individual Socrates, for we have to comprehend Socrates and his manifestation. In the universal consciousness, in the spirit of the people to which he belongs, we see natural turn into reflective morality, and he stands above as the consciousness of this change. The spirit of the world here begins to change, a change which was later on carried to its completion. From this higher standpoint, Socrates, as well as the Athenian people and Socrates in them, have to be considered. The reflection of consciousness into itself begins here, the knowledge of the consciousness of self as such, that it is real existence—or that God is a Spirit, or again, in a cruder and more sensuous form, that God takes[408] human form. This epoch begins where essence is given up as Being—even though it be, as hitherto, abstract Being, Being as thought. But this epoch in a naturally moral people in the highest state of development, makes its appearance as the destruction threatening them or breaking in upon them unprevented. For its morality, as was usually so with the ancients, consisted in the fact that the Good was present as a universal, without its having had the form of the conviction of the individual in his individual consciousness, but simply that of the immediate absolute. It is the authoritative, present law, without testing investigation, but yet an ultimate ground on which this moral consciousness rests. It is the law of the State; it has authority as the law of the gods, and thus it is universal destiny which has the form of an existent, and is recognized as such by all. But moral consciousness asks if this is actually law in itself? This consciousness turned back within itself from everything that has the form of the existent, requires to understand, to know, that the above law is posited in truth, i.e. it demands that it should find itself therein as consciousness. In thus returning into themselves the Athenian people are revealed to us: uncertainty as to existent laws as existent has arisen, and a doubt about what was held to be right, the greatest freedom respecting all that is and was respected. This return into itself represents the highest point reached by the mind of Greece, in so far as it becomes no longer the mere existence of these moralities, but the living consciousness of the same, which has a content which is similar, but which, as spirit, moves freely in it. This is a culture which we never find the Lacedæmonians reach. This deepest life of morality is so to speak a free personal consciousness of morality or of God, and a happy enjoyment of them. Consciousness and Being have here exactly the same value and rank; what is, is consciousness; neither is powerful above another. The authority of law is no oppressive bond to consciousness, and[409] all reality is likewise no obstacle to it, for it is secure in itself. But this return is just on the point of abandoning the content, and indeed of positing itself as abstract consciousness, without the content, and, as existent, opposed to it. From this equilibrium of consciousness and Being, consciousness takes up its position as independent. This aspect of separation is an independent conception, because consciousness, in the perception of its independence, no longer immediately acknowledges what is put before it, but requires that this should first justify itself to it, i.e. it must comprehend itself therein. Thus this return is the isolation of the individual from the universal, care for self at the cost of the State; to us, for instance, it is the question as to whether I shall be in eternal bliss or condemnation, whereas philosophic eternity is present now in time, and is nothing other than the substantial man himself. The State has lost its power, which consisted in the unbroken continuity of the universal spirit, as formed of single individuals, so that the individual consciousness knew no other content and reality than law. Morals have become shaken, because we have the idea present that man creates his maxims for himself. The fact that the individual comes to care for his own morality, means that he becomes reflectively moral; when public morality disappears, reflective morality is seen to have arisen. We now see Socrates bringing forward the opinion, that in these times every one has to look after his own morality, and thus he looked after his through consciousness and reflection regarding himself; for he sought the universal spirit which had disappeared from reality, in his own consciousness. He also helped others to care for their morality, for he awakened in them this consciousness of having in their thoughts the good and true, i.e. having the potentiality of action and of knowledge. This is no longer there immediately, but must be provided, just as a ship must make provision of water when it goes to places where[410] none is to be found. The immediate has no further authority but must justify itself to thought. Thus we comprehend the special qualities of Socrates, and his method in Philosophy, from the whole; and we also understand his fate from the same.

This direction of consciousness back into itself takes the form—very markedly in Plato—of asserting that man can learn nothing, virtue included, and that not because the latter has no relation to science. For the good does not come from without, Socrates shows; it cannot be taught, but is implied in the nature of mind. That is to say, man cannot passively receive anything that is given from without like the wax that is moulded to a form, for everything is latent in the mind of man, and he only seems to learn it. Certainly everything begins from without, but this is only the beginning; the truth is that this is only an impulse towards the development of spirit. All that has value to men, the eternal, the self-existent, is contained in man himself, and has to develop from himself. To learn here only means to receive knowledge of what is externally determined. This external comes indeed through experience, but the universal therein belongs to thought, not to the subjective and bad, but to the objective and true. The universal in the opposition of subjective and objective, is that which is as subjective as it is objective; the subjective is only a particular, the objective is similarly only a particular as regards the subjective, but the universal is the unity of both. According to the Socratic principle, nothing has any value to men to which the spirit does not testify. Man in it is free, is at home with himself, and that is the subjectivity of spirit. As it is said in the Bible, “Flesh of my flesh, and bone of my bone,” that which is held by me as truth and right is spirit of my spirit. But what spirit derives from itself must come from it as from the spirit which acts in a universal manner, and not from its passions, likings, and arbitrary desires. These, too, certainly[411] come from something inward which is “implanted in us by nature,” but which is only in a natural way our own, for it belongs to the particular; high above it is true thought, the Notion, the rational. Socrates opposed to the contingent and particular inward, that universal, true inward of thought. And Socrates awakened this real conscience, for he not only said that man is the measure of all things, but man as thinking is the measure of all things. With Plato we shall, later on, find it formulated that what man seems to receive he only remembers.

As to the question of what is the Good, Socrates recognized its determination as being not only a determination in particularity to the exclusion of the natural side, as determination is understood in empirical science, but even in relation to the actions of men, he holds the Good to be still undetermined, and the ultimate determinateness, or the determining, is what we may call subjectivity generally. That the Good should be determined, primarily signifies that while, at first, in opposition to the Being of reality, it was a general maxim only, that to which the activity of individuality was still wanting, in the second place it was not permitted to be inert, to be mere thought, but had to be present as the determining and actual, and thus as the effectual. It is such only through subjectivity, through the activity of man. That the Good is a determinate thus further means that individuals know what the Good is, and we call this standpoint reflective morality, while natural morality does right unconsciously. Thus to Socrates virtue is perception. For to the proposition of the Platonic Protagoras that all other virtues have a relationship to one another, but that it is not so with valour, since many brave men are to be found who are the most irreligious, unjust, intemperate and uncultured of people (such as a band of robbers), Plato makes Socrates answer that valour, like all virtues, also is a science, that is, it is the knowledge and the[412] right estimation of what is to be feared.[127] By this the distinctive qualities of valour are certainly not unfolded. The naturally moral and upright man is such without his having considered the matter at all; it is his character, and what is good is securely rooted within him. When, on the other hand, consciousness is concerned, the question arises as to whether I directly desire the good or not. Hence this consciousness of morality easily becomes dangerous, and causes the individual to be puffed up by a good opinion of himself, which proceeds from the consciousness of his own power to decide for the good. The ‘I’ is then the master, he who chooses the Good, and in that there is the conceit of my knowing that I am an excellent man. With Socrates this opposition of the good and the subject as choosing is not reached, for what is dealt with is only the determination of the Good and the connection therewith of subjectivity; this last, as an individual person who can choose, decides upon the inward universal. We have here on the one side the knowledge of the Good, but, on the other, it is implied that the subject is good, since this is his ordinary character; and the fact that the subject is such, was by the ancients called virtue.

We understand from this the following criticism which Aristotle makes (Magna Mor. I. 1) on the quality of virtue as expounded by Socrates. He says: “Socrates spoke better of virtue than did Pythagoras, but not quite justly, for he made virtues into a science (ἐπιστήμας). But this is impossible, since, though all knowledge has some basis (λόγος) this basis only exists in thought. Consequently, he places all the virtues in the thinking (λογιστικῷ) side of the soul. Hence it comes to pass that he does away with the feeling (ἄλογον) part of the soul, that is, the inclination (πᾶθος) and the habits (ἠθος),” which, however, also pertain to virtue. “But[413] Plato rightly distinguished the thinking and the feeling sides of the soul.” This is a good criticism. We see that what Aristotle misses in the determination of virtue in Socrates, is the side of subjective actuality, which we now call the heart. Certainly virtue is determination in accordance with universal, and not with particular ends, but perception is not the only element in virtue. For in order that the good perceived should be virtue, it must come to pass that the whole man, the heart and mind, should be identical with it, and this aspect of Being or of realization generally, is what Aristotle calls τὸ ἄλογον. If we understand the reality of the good as universal morality, substantiality is wanting to the perception; but matter, when we regard the inclination of the individual subjective will as this reality. This double want may also be considered as a want of content and of activity, in so far as to the universal development is wanting; and in the latter case, determining activity comes before us as negative only in reference to the universal. Socrates thus omits, in characterizing virtue, just what we saw had also disappeared in actuality, that is, first the real spirit of a people, and then reality as the sympathies of the individual. For it is just when consciousness is not yet turned back into itself, that the universal good appears to the individual as the object of his sympathy. To us, on the other hand, because we are accustomed to put on one side the good or virtue as practical reason, the other side, which is opposed to a reflective morality, is an equally abstract sensuousness, inclination, passion, and hence the bad. But in order that the universal should be reality, it must be worked out through consciousness as individual, and the carrying into effect pertains to this individuality. A passion, as for example, love, ambition, is the universal itself, as it is self-realizing, not in perception, but in activity; and if we did not fear being misunderstood, we should say that for the individual the universal is his own interests. Yet this[414] is not the place in which to unravel all the false ideas and contradictions present in our culture.

Aristotle (Eth. Nicom. VI. 13), supplementing the one-sidedness of Socrates, further says of him: “Socrates in one respect worked on right lines, but not in the other. For to call virtue scientific knowledge is untrue, but to say that it is not without scientific basis is right. Socrates made virtues into perceptions (λόγους), but we say that virtue exists with perception.” This is a very true distinction; the one side in virtue is that the universal of end belongs to thought. But in virtue, as character, the other side, active individuality, real soul, must necessarily come forth; and indeed with Socrates the latter appears in a characteristic form of which we shall speak below (p. 421 et seq.).

b. If we consider the universal first, it has within it a positive and a negative side, which we find both united in Xenophon’s “Memorabilia,” a work which aims at justifying Socrates. And if we inquire whether he or Plato depicts Socrates to us most faithfully in his personality and doctrine, there is no question that in regard to the personality and method, the externals of his teaching, we may certainly receive from Plato a satisfactory, and perhaps a more complete representation of what Socrates was. But in regard to the content of his teaching and the point reached by him in the development of thought, we have in the main to look to Xenophon.

The fact that the reality of morality had become shaken in the mind of the people, came to consciousness in Socrates; he stands so high because he gave expression to what was present in the times. In this consciousness he elevated morality into perception, but this action is just the bringing to consciousness of the fact that it is the power of the Notion which sublates the determinate existence and the immediate value of moral laws and the sacredness of their implicitude. When perception likewise positively[415] acknowledges as law that which was held to be law (for the positive subsists through having recourse to laws), this acknowledgment of them always passes through the negative mode, and no longer has the form of absolute being-in-itself: it is, however, just as far from being a Platonic Republic. To the Notion too, because to it the determinateness of laws in the form in which they have value to unperceiving consciousness has dissolved, only the purely implicit universal Good is the true. But since this is empty and without reality, we demand, if we are not satisfied with a dull monotonous round, that again a movement should be made towards the extension of the determination of the universal. Now because Socrates remains at the indeterminateness of the good, its determination means for him simply the expression of the particular good. Then it comes to pass that the universal results only from the negation of the particular good; and since this last is just the existing laws of Greek morality, we have here the doubtlessly right, but dangerous element in perception, the showing in all that is particular only its deficiencies. The inconsistency of making what is limited into an absolute, certainly becomes unconsciously corrected in the moral man; this improvement rests partly on the morality of the subject and partly on the whole of the social life; and unfortunate extremes resulting in conflict are unusual and unfrequent. But since the dialectic sublates the particular, the abstract universal also becomes shaken.

α. Now as regards the positive side, Xenophon tells us in the fourth book of the Memorabilia (c. 2, § 40), how Socrates, once having made the need for perception sensible to the youths, then actually instructed them, and no longer wandered through mere subtleties in his talk, but taught them the good in the clearest and most open way. That is, he showed them the good and true in what is determined, going back into it because he did not wish to remain in mere abstraction. Xenophon gives[416] an example of this (Memorab. IV. c. 4, §§ 12-16, 25) in a dialogue with the Sophist Hippias. Socrates there asserts that the just man is he who obeys the law, and that these laws are divine. Xenophon makes Hippias reply by asking how Socrates could declare it to be an absolute duty to obey the laws, for the people and the governors themselves often condemn them by changing them, which is allowing that they are not absolute. But Socrates answers by demanding if those who conduct war do not again make peace, which is not, any more than in the other case, to condemn war, for each was just in its turn. Socrates thus says, in a word, that the best and happiest State is that in which the citizens are of one mind and obedient to law. Now this is the one side in which Socrates looks away from the contradiction and makes laws and justice, as they are accepted by each individually, to be the affirmative content. But if we here ask what these laws are, they are, we find, just those which have a value at some one time, as they happen to be present in the State and in the idea; at another time they abrogate themselves as determined, and are not held to be absolute.

β. We hence see this other negative side in the same connection when Socrates brings Euthydemus into the conversation, for he asks him whether he did not strive after the virtue without which neither the private man nor the citizen could be useful to himself or to his people or the State. Euthydemus declares that this undoubtedly is so. But without justice, replies Socrates, this is not possible, and he further asks whether Euthydemus had thus attained to justice in himself. Euthydemus answers affirmatively, for he says that he thinks he is no less just than any other man. Socrates now replies, “Just as workmen can show their work, the just will be able to say what their works are.” This he also agrees to, and replies that he could easily do so. Socrates now proposes if this is so to write, “on the one hand under Δ the actions of the just,[417] and on the other, under Α, those of the unjust?” With the approbation of Euthydemus, lies, deceit, robbery, making a slave of a free man, thus fall on the side of the unjust. Now Socrates asks, “But if a general subdues the enemy’s State, would this not be justice?” Euthydemus says “Yes.” Socrates replies, “Likewise if he deceives and robs the enemy and makes slaves?” Euthydemus has to admit the justice of this. It is thus shown “that the same qualities come under the determination both of justice and of injustice.” Here it strikes Euthydemus to add the qualification that he intended that Socrates should understand the action to be only in reference to friends; as regards them it is wrong. Socrates accepts this, but proceeds, “If a general at the decisive moment of the battle saw his own army in fear, and he deceived them by falsely saying that help was coming in order to lead them on to victory, could it be deemed right?” Euthydemus acknowledges that it could. Socrates says, “If a father gives a sick child a medicine which it does not wish to take, in its food, and makes it well through deceit, is this right?” Euthydemus—“Yes.” Socrates—“Or is anyone wrong who takes arms from his friend secretly or by force, when he sees him in despair, and in the act of taking his own life?” Euthydemus has to admit that this is not wrong.[128] Thus it is again shown here, that as regards friends also, the same determinations have to hold good on both sides, as justice as well as injustice. Here we see that abstention from lying, deceit, and robbery, that which we naturally hold to be established, contradicts itself by being put into connection with something different, and something which holds equally good. This example further explains how through thought, which would lay hold of the universal in the form of the universal only, the particular becomes uncertain.

γ. The positive, which Socrates sets in the place of what[418] was fixed and has now become vacillating, in order to give a content to the universal, is, on the one hand, and in opposition to this last, obedience to law (p. 416), that is, the mode of thought and idea which is inconsistent; and, on the other hand, since such determinations do not hold good for the Notion, it is perception, in which the immediately posited has now, in the mediating negation, to justify itself as a determination proceeding out of the constitution of the whole. But it is both true that we do not find this perception present in Socrates, for it remains in its content undetermined, and that in reality it is a contingent, which is seen in the fact, that the universal commands, such as “Thou shalt not kill,” are connected with a particular content which is conditioned. Now whether the universal maxim in this particular case has value or not, depends first on the circumstances; and it is the perception which discovers the conditions and circumstances whereby exceptions to this law of unconditioned validity arise. However, because through this contingency in the instances, the fixed nature of the universal principle disappears, since it, too, appears as a particular only, the consciousness of Socrates arrives at pure freedom in each particular content. This freedom, which does not leave the content as it is in its dissipated determination to the natural consciousness, but makes it to be penetrated by the universal, is the real mind which, as unity of the universal content and of freedom, is the veritable truth. Thus if we here consider further what is the true in this consciousness, we pass on to the mode in which the realization of the universal appeared to Socrates himself.

Even the uneducated mind does not follow the content of its consciousness as this content appears in it; but, as mind, it corrects that which is wrong in its consciousness, and is thus implicitly, if not explicitly as consciousness, free. That is, though this consciousness expresses the universal law, “Thou shalt not kill,” as a duty, that consciousness—if[419] no cowardly spirit dwells within it—will still bravely attack and slay the enemy in war. Here, if it is asked whether there is a command to kill one’s enemies, the reply would be affirmative, as likewise when a hangman puts to death a criminal. But when in private life we become involved with adversaries, this command to kill one’s enemies will not occur to us. We may thus call this the mind which thinks at the right time, first of the one, and then of the other; it is spirit, but an unspiritual consciousness. The first step towards reaching a spiritual consciousness is the negative one of acquiring freedom for one’s consciousness. For since perception attempts to prove individual laws, it proceeds from a determination to which, as a universal basis, particular duty is submitted; but this basis is itself not absolute, and falls under the same dialectic. For example, were moderation commanded as a duty on the ground that intemperance undermined the health, health is the ultimate which is here considered as absolute; but it is at the same time not absolute, for there are other duties which ordain that health, and even life itself, should be risked and sacrificed. The so-called conflict of duties is nothing but duty, which is expressed as absolute, showing itself as not absolute; in the constant contradiction morals become unsettled. For a consciousness which has become consistent, law, because it has then been brought into contact with its opposite, has been sublated. For the positive truth has not yet become known in its determination. But to know the universal in its determination, i.e. the limitation of the universal which comes to us as fixed and not contingent, is only possible in connection with the whole system of actuality. Thus if with Socrates the content has become spiritualized, yet manifold independent grounds have merely taken the place of manifold laws. For the perception is not yet expressed as the real perception of these grounds over which it rules; but the truth of consciousness[420] simply is this very movement of pure perception. The true ground is, however, spirit, and the spirit of the people—a perception of the constitution of a people, and the connection of the individual with this real universal spirit. Laws, morals, the actual social life, thus have in themselves their own corrective against the inconsistent, which consists of the expression of a definite content as absolute. In ordinary life we merely forget this limitation of universal principles, and these still hold their place with us; but the other point of view is thus when the limitation comes before our consciousness.

When we have the perfect consciousness that in actual life fixed duties and actions do not exist, for each concrete case is really a conflict of many duties which separate themselves in the moral understanding, but which mind treats as not absolute, comprehending them in the unity of its judgment, we call this pure, deciding individuality, the knowledge of what is right, or conscience, just as we call the pure universal of consciousness not a particular but an all-comprehensive one, duty. Now both sides here present, the universal law and the deciding spirit which is in its abstraction the active individual, are also necessary to the consciousness of Socrates as the content and the power over this content. That is, because with Socrates the particular law has become vacillating, there now comes in the place of the universal single mind, which, with the Greeks, was unconscious determination through unreflective morality, individual mind as individuality deciding for itself. Thus with Socrates the deciding spirit is transformed into the subjective consciousness of man, since the power of deciding originates with himself; and the first question now is, how this subjectivity appears in Socrates himself. Because the person, the individual, now gives the decision, we come back to Socrates as person, as subject, and what follows is a development of his personal relations. But since the moral element is generally placed in the personality[421] of Socrates, we see the contingent nature of the instruction and of the culture which was obtained through Socrates’ character; for it was the actual basis on which men fortified themselves in associating with Socrates, by actual communication with him and by their manner of life. Thus it was true that “the intercourse with his friends was, on the whole, beneficial and instructive to them, but in many cases they became unfaithful to Socrates,”[129] because not everyone attains to perception, and he who possesses it may remain at the negative. The education of the citizens, life in the people, is quite a fresh force in the individual, and does not mean that he educates himself through arguments; hence, however truly educative the intercourse with Socrates was, this contingency still entered into it. We thus see as an unhappy symptom of disorder, how Socrates’ greatest favourites, and those endowed with the most genial natures (such as Alcibiades, that genius of levity, who played with the Athenian people, and Critias, the most active of the Thirty) afterwards experienced the fate of being judged in their own country, one as an enemy and traitor to his fellows, and the other as an oppressor and tyrant of the State. They lived according to the principle of subjective perception, and thus cast a bad light on Socrates, for it is shown in this how the Socratic principle in another form brought about the ruin of Greek life.[130]

c. The characteristic form in which this subjectivity—this implicit and deciding certainty—appears in Socrates, has still to be mentioned. That is, since everyone here has this personal mind which appears to him to be his mind, we see how in connection with this, we have what is known under the name of the Genius (δαιμόνιον) of Socrates; for it implies that now man decides in accordance with his perception and by himself. But in this Genius of Socrates—notorious[422] as a much discussed bizarrerie of his imagination—we are neither to imagine the existence of protective spirit, angel, and such-like, nor even of conscience. For conscience is the idea of universal individuality, of the mind certain of itself, which is at the same time universal truth. But the Genius of Socrates is rather all the other and necessary sides of his universality, that is, the individuality of mind which came to consciousness in him equally with the former. His pure consciousness stands over both sides. The deficiency in the universal, which lies in its indeterminateness, is unsatisfactorily supplied in an individual way, because Socrates’ judgment, as coming from himself, was characterized by the form of an unconscious impulse. The Genius of Socrates is not Socrates himself, not his opinions and conviction, but an oracle which, however, is not external, but is subjective, his oracle. It bore the form of a knowledge which was directly associated with a condition of unconsciousness; it was a knowledge which may also appear under other conditions as a magnetic state. It may happen that at death, in illness and catalepsy, men know about circumstances future or present, which, in the understood relations of things, are altogether unknown. These are facts which are usually rudely denied. That in Socrates we should discover what comes to pass through reflection in the form of the unconscious, makes it appear to be an exceptional matter, revealed to the individual only, and not as being what it is in truth. Thereby it certainly receives the stamp of imagination, but there is nothing more of what is visionary or superstitious to be seen in it, for it is a necessary manifestation, though Socrates did not recognize the necessity, this element being only generally before his imagination.

In connection with what follows, we must yet further consider the relationship of the Genius to the earlier existent form of decision, and that into which it led Socrates; regarding both Xenophon expresses himself in his history most distinctly. Because the standpoint of the Greek mind[423] was natural morality, in which man did not yet determine himself, and still less was what we call conscience present, since laws were, in their fundamental principles, regarded as traditional, these last now presented an appearance of being sanctioned by the gods. We know that the Greeks undoubtedly had laws on which to form their judgments, but on the other hand, both in private and public life, immediate decisions had to be made. But in them the Greeks, with all their freedom, did not decide from the subjective will. The general or the people did not take upon themselves to decide as to what was best in the State, nor did the individual do so in the family. For in making these decisions, the Greeks took refuge in oracles, sacrificial animals, soothsayers, or, like the Romans, asked counsel of birds in flight. The general who had to fight a battle was guided in his decision by the entrails of animals, as we often find in Xenophon’s Anabasis. Pausanias tormented himself thus a whole day long before he gave the command to fight.[131] This element, the fact that the people had not the power of decision but were determined from without, was a real factor in Greek consciousness; and oracles were everywhere essential where man did not yet know himself inwardly as being sufficiently free and independent to take upon himself to decide as we do. This subjective freedom, which was not yet present with the Greeks, is what we mean in the present day when we speak of freedom; in the Platonic Republic we shall see more of it. Our responsibility for what we do is a characteristic of modern times; we wish to decide according to grounds of common sense, and consider this as ultimate. The Greeks did not possess the knowledge of this infinitude.

In the first book of Xenophon’s Memorabilia (chap. I, §§ 7-9), on the occasion of the defence by Socrates of his δαιμόνιον, Socrates says at the very beginning: “The gods[424] have reserved to themselves what is most important in knowledge. Architecture, agriculture, forging, are human arts, as also government, the science of law, management of the household and generalship. In all this man can attain to skill, but for the other, divination is necessary. He who cultivates a field does not know who will enjoy the fruit, nor does he who builds a house know who will inhabit it; the general does not know whether the army should be brought into the field; he who rules a State whether it is good for him” (the individual) “or bad. Nor does he who marries a wife know whether he will experience happiness or whether grief and sorrow will not come through this to him; neither can he who has powerful relations in the State, know whether, on account of these, he may not be banished from the State. Because of this uncertainty, men have to take refuge in divination.” Regarding it Xenophon expresses himself (ibid. §§ 3, 4) to the effect that it manifests itself in different ways through oracles, sacrifices, flight of birds, &c., but to Socrates this oracle is his Genius. To hold the future, or what is foreseen by the somnambulist or at death to be a higher kind of insight, is a perversion which easily arises even in our ideas; but looked at more closely, we find in this the particular interests of individuals merely, and the knowledge of what is right and moral is something much higher. If anyone wishes to marry or to build a house, &c., the result is important to the individual only. The truly divine and universal is the institution of agriculture, the state, marriage, &c.; compared to this it is a trivial matter to know whether, when I go to sea, I shall perish or not. The Genius of Socrates moreover reveals itself in him through nothing other than the counsel given respecting these particular issues, such as when and whether his friends ought to travel. To anything true, existing in and for itself in art and science, he made no reference, for this pertains to the universal mind, and these dæmonic revelations are thus much more unimportant than those of[425] his thinking mind. There is certainly something universal in them, since a wise man can often foresee whether anything is advisable or not. But what is truly divine pertains to all, and though talents and genius are also personal characteristics, they find their first truth in their works which are universal.

Now because with Socrates judgment from within first begins to break free from the external oracle, it was requisite that this return into itself should, in its first commencement, still appear in physiological guise (supra, pp. 390, 391). The Genius of Socrates stands midway between the externality of the oracle and the pure inwardness of the mind; it is inward, but it is also presented as a personal genius, separate from human will, and not yet as the wisdom and free will of Socrates himself. The further investigation of this Genius consequently presents to us a form which passes into somnambulism, into this double of consciousness; and in Socrates there clearly appears to be something of the kind, or something which is magnetic, for, as we already mentioned (p. 390), he is said often to have fallen into trances and catalepsy. In modern times we have seen this in the form of a rigid eye, an inward knowledge, perception of this thing and that, of what is gone, of what is best to do, &c.; but magnetism carries science no further than this. The Genius of Socrates is thus to be taken as an actual state, and is remarkable because it is not morbid but was necessarily called up through a special condition of his consciousness. For the turning point in the whole world-famed change of views constituting the principle of Socrates, is that in place of the oracle, the testimony of the mind of the individual has been brought forward and that the subject has taken upon itself to decide.

3. The Fate of Socrates. With this Genius of Socrates as one of the chief points of his indictment, we now enter upon the subject of his fate, which ends with his condemnation. We may find this fate out of harmony with his professed business of instructing his[426] fellow-citizens in what is good, but taken in connection with what Socrates and his people were, we shall recognize the necessity of it. The contemporaries of Socrates, who came forward as his accusers before the Athenian people, laid hold on him as the man who made known that what was held as absolute was not absolute. Socrates, with this new principle, and as one who was an Athenian citizen whose express business was this form of instruction, came, through this his personality, into relationship with the whole Athenian people; and this relationship was not merely with a certain number or with a commanding number, but it was a living relationship with the spirit of the Athenian people. The spirit of this people in itself, its constitution, its whole life, rested, however, on a moral ground, on religion, and could not exist without this absolutely secure basis. Thus because Socrates makes the truth rest on the judgment of inward consciousness, he enters upon a struggle with the Athenian people as to what is right and true. His accusation was therefore just, and we have to consider this accusation as also the end of his career. The attacks which Socrates experienced are well known, and were from two sources; Aristophanes attacked him in the “Clouds,” and then he was formally accused before the people.

Aristophanes regarded the Socratic philosophy from the negative side, maintaining that through the cultivation of reflecting consciousness, the idea of law had been shaken, and we cannot question the justice of this conception. Aristophanes’ consciousness of the one-sidedness of Socrates may be regarded as a prelude to his death; the Athenian people likewise certainly recognized his negative methods in condemning him. It is known that Aristophanes brought upon the stage along with Socrates, not only such men as Aeschylus, and more specially Euripides, but also the Athenians generally and their generals—the personified Athenian people and the gods themselves—a freedom which[427] we would not dream of were it not historically authenticated. We have not here to consider the real nature of the Comedy of Aristophanes, nor the wanton way in which he was said to have treated Socrates. As to the first, it should not startle us, nor do we require to justify Aristophanes or to excuse him. The Comedy of Aristophanes is in itself as real a part of the Athenian people, and Aristophanes is as essential a figure, as were the sublime Pericles, the happy Alcibiades, the divine Sophocles, and the moral Socrates, for he belongs as much as any other to this circle of luminaries (Vol. I., p. 322). Thus much can alone be said, that it certainly goes against our German seriousness to see how Aristophanes brings on the boards men living in the State, by name, in order to make a jest of them; and we feel this specially in regard to so upright a man as Socrates.

By chronological considerations, some have tried hard to refute the fact that Aristophanes’ representations had no influence on the condemnation of Socrates. It is seen that, on the one hand, Socrates was treated quite unjustly; but then we must recognize the merit of Aristophanes, who in his “Clouds” was perfectly right. This poet, who exposed Socrates to scorn in the most laughable and bitter way, was thus no ordinary joker and shallow wag who mocked what is highest and best, and sacrificed all to wit with a view to making the Athenians laugh. For everything has to him a much deeper basis, and in all his jokes there lies a depth of seriousness. He did not wish merely to mock; and moreover to mock what was worthy of honour would be perfectly bald and flat. It is a pitiful wit which has no substance, and does not rest on contradictions lying in the matter itself. But Aristophanes was no bad jester. It is, generally speaking, not possible to joke in an external way about what does not contain matter for joking or irony in itself. For what really is comic is to show a man or a thing as they disclose themselves in[428] their extent; and if the thing is not itself its contradiction, the comic element is superficial and groundless. Hence, when Aristophanes makes merry over the Democracy, there is a deep political earnestness at heart, and from all his works it appears what a noble, excellent, true Athenian citizen he was. We thus have a real patriot before us, who, though it involved the punishment of death, did not fear in one of his works to counsel peace. In him, as one who had a patriotism of the most enlightened kind, we find the blissful self-satisfied enjoyment of a people giving free rein to itself. There is, in what is humorous, a self-security which, though with all seriousness it strives after some particular thing, while the opposite of what it aims at always comes to pass, never has for that reason any doubts nor any reflection about itself, since it remains perfectly certain of itself and of what concerns it. We enjoy in Aristophanes this side of the free Athenian spirit, this perfect enjoyment of itself in loss, this untroubled certainty of itself in all miscarriage of the result in real life, and this is the height of humour.

In the “Clouds” we do not indeed see this natural humour, but a contradiction with definite intention. Aristophanes indeed depicts Socrates humorously too, for he brings forth in his moral works the opposite of that from which he starts, and his scholars derive delight from the far-extending discoveries reached through him, which they think are made by their own good luck, but which afterwards turn hateful to them, and become the very opposite of what they intended. The wonderful perception which the followers of Socrates are here represented as having attained, is just a perception of the nullity of the laws of the determinate good as it is to the natural consciousness. Aristophanes made fun of the fact that Socrates occupied himself with elementary researches as to how far fleas spring, and of his putting wax on their feet in order to discover this. This is not historic, but it is well known[429] that Socrates had in his philosophy the side which Aristophanes showed up with such acrimony. Shortly, the fable of the “Clouds” is this: Strepsiades, an honourable Athenian citizen of the old school, had great trouble with his new-fashioned extravagant son, who, spoiled by mother and uncle, kept horses and led a life out of keeping with his position. The father thus got into trouble with his creditors, and went in distress to Socrates, and became his disciple. There the old man learned that not this or that, but another is the right, or rather he learned the stronger (κρείττων) and weaker reasons (ἕττων λόγος). He learned the dialectic of laws, and how, by reasoning, the payment of debts can be disregarded, and he then required that his son should go to the School of Socrates; and the latter likewise profited from his wisdom. But we find the result ensuing from the universal which has now through the Socratic dialectic become empty, in the private interest or the wrong spirit of Strepsiades and his son, which spirit is merely the negative consciousness of the content of laws. Equipped with this new wisdom of reasons, and the discovery of reasons, Strepsiades is armed against the chief evil that presses on him, as regards his threatening creditors. These now come one after another to obtain payment. But Strepsiades knows how to put them off with excellent reasons, and to argue them away, for he pacifies them by all sorts of titulos, and shows them that he does not need to pay them; indeed he even mocks them, and is very glad that he learned all this from Socrates. But soon the scene changes, and the whole affair alters. The son comes, behaves in a very unseemly way to his father, and finally beats him. The father cries to the supreme power, as if this were the last indignity, but the son shows him, with equally good reasons, obtained by the method derived by him from Socrates, that he had a perfect right to strike him. Strepsiades ends the comedy with execrations on the Socratic dialectic, with a return to his old ways,[430] and with the burning of Socrates’ house. The exaggeration which may be ascribed to Aristophanes, is that he drove this dialectic to its bitter end, but it cannot be said that injustice is done to Socrates by this representation. Indeed we must admire the depth of Aristophanes in having recognized the dialectic side in Socrates as being a negative, and—though after his own way—in having presented it so forcibly. For the power of judging in Socrates’ method is always placed in the subject, in conscience, but where this is bad, the story of Strepsiades must repeat itself.

With regard to the formal public accusation of Socrates, we must not, like Tennemann (Vol. II., p. 39 seq.), say of Socrates’ treatment, that “it is revolting to humanity that this excellent man had to drink the cup of poison as a sacrifice to cabals—so numerous in democracies. A man like Socrates, who had made right” (right is not being discussed, but we may ask what right? The right of moral freedom) “the sole standard of his action, and did not stray from the straight path, must necessarily make many enemies” (Why? This is foolish; it is a moral hypocrisy to pretend to be better than others who are then called enemies) “who are accustomed to act from quite different motives. When we think of the corruption, and of the rule of the thirty tyrants, we must simply wonder that he could have worked on to his sixtieth year unmolested. But since the Thirty did not venture to lay hands on him themselves, it is the more to be wondered at that in the reconstituted and just rule and freedom which followed the overthrow of despotism”—in that very way the danger in which their principle was, came to be known—“a man like Socrates could be made a sacrifice to cabals. This phenomenon is probably explained by the fact that the enemies of Socrates had first of all to gain time in order to obtain a following, and that under the rule of the Thirty, they played too insignificant a part,” and so on.


Now, as regards the trial of Socrates, we have to distinguish two points, the one the matter of the accusation, the judgment of the court, and the other the relation of Socrates to the sovereign people. In the course of justice there are thus these two parts—the relation of the accused to the matter on account of which he is accused, and his relation to the competency of the people, or the recognition of their majesty. Socrates was found guilty by the judges in respect of the content of his accusation, but was condemned to death because he refused to recognize the competency and majesty of the people as regards the accused.

a. The accusation consisted of two points: “That Socrates did not consider as gods those who were held to be such by the Athenian people, but introduced new ones; and that he also led young men astray.”[132] The leading away of youth was his casting doubt on what was held to be immediate truth. The first accusation has in part the same foundation, for he made it evident that what was usually so considered, was not acceptable to the gods; and in part it is to be taken in connection with his Dæmon, not that he called this his god. But with the Greeks this was the direction which the individuality of judgment took; they took it to be a contingency of the individual, and hence, as contingency of circumstances is an external, they also made the contingency of judgment into something external, i.e. they consulted their oracles—conscious that the individual will is itself a contingent. But Socrates, who placed the contingency of judgment in himself, since he had his Dæmon in his own consciousness, thereby abolished the external universal Dæmon from which the Greeks obtained their judgments. This accusation, as also Socrates’ defence, we wish now to examine further; Xenophon represents both to us, and Plato has also supplied us with an Apology. Meanwhile we may not rest[432] content with saying that Socrates was an excellent man who suffered innocently, &c. (p. 430), for in this accusation it was the popular mind of Athens that rose against the principle which became fatal to him.

α. As regards the first point of the accusation, that Socrates did not honour the national gods, but introduced new ones, Xenophon[133] makes him answer that he always brought the same sacrifices as others to the public altars, as all his fellow-citizens could see—his accusers likewise. But as to the charge that he introduced new Dæmons, in that he heard the voice of God showing him what he should do, he appealed to them whether by soothsayers the cry and flight of birds, the utterances of men (like the voice of Pythia), the position of the entrails of sacrificial animals, and even thunder and lightning were not accepted as divine revelations. That God knows the future beforehand, and, if He wishes, reveals it in these ways, all believe with him; but God can also reveal the future otherwise. He could show that he did not lie in maintaining that he heard the voice of God, from the testimony of his friends, to whom he often announced what was said; and in its results this was always found to be true. Xenophon (Memorab. I. c. 1, § 11) adds, “No one ever saw or heard Socrates do or say anything godless or impious, for he never tried to find out the nature of the Universe, like most of the others, when they sought to understand how what the Sophists called the world began.” That is, from them came the earlier atheists, who, like Anaxagoras, held that the sun was a stone.[134]

The effect which the defence against this part of the accusation made on the judges is expressed thus by Xenophon:[135] “One section of them was displeased because they did not believe what Socrates said, and the other part because they were envious that he was more highly honoured[433] of the gods than they.” This effect is very natural. In our times this also happens in two ways. Either the individual is not believed when he boasts of special manifestations, and particularly of manifestations which have to do with individual action and life; it is neither believed that such manifestations took place at all, or that they happened to this subject. Or if anyone does have dealings with such divinations, rightly enough his proceedings are put an end to, and he is shut up. By this it is not denied in a general way that God foreknows everything, or that He can make revelations to individuals; this may be admitted in abstracto, but not in actuality, and it is believed in no individual cases. Men do not believe that to him, to this individual, there has been a revelation. For why to him more than to others? And why just this trifle, some quite personal circumstances—as to whether someone should have a successful journey, or whether he should converse with another person, or whether or not he should in a speech properly defend himself? And why not others amongst the infinitely many things which may occur to the individual? Why not much more important things, things concerning the welfare of whole States? Hence it is not believed of an individual, in spite of the fact that if it is possible, it must be to the individual that it happens. This unbelief, which thus does not deny the general fact and general possibility, but believes it in no particular case, really does not believe in the actuality and truth of the thing. It does not believe it because the absolute consciousness—and it must be such—certainly knows nothing of a positive kind of trivialities such as form the subject of these divinations and also those of Socrates; in spirit such things immediately vanish away. The absolute consciousness does not know about the future as such, any more than about the past; it knows only about the present. But because in its present, in its thought, the opposition of future and past to present becomes apparent, it likewise knows about future[434] and past, but of the past as something which has taken shape. For the past is the preservation of the present as reality, but the future is the opposite of this, the Becoming of the present as possibility, and thus the formless. From out of this formlessness the universal first comes into form in the present; and hence in the future no form can be perceived. Men have the dim feeling that when God acts it is not in a particular way, nor for particular objects. Such things are held to be too paltry to be revealed by God in a particular case. It is acknowledged that God determines the individual, but by this the totality of individuality, or all individualities, is understood; hence it is said that God’s way of working is found in universal nature.

Now while with the Greeks judgment had the form of a contingency externally posited through the flight and cries of birds, in our culture we decide by an inward contingency, because I myself desire to be this contingency, and the knowledge of individuality is likewise a consciousness of this contingency. But if the Greeks, for whom the category of the contingency of consciousness was an existent, a knowledge of it as an oracle, had this individuality as a universal knowledge of which everyone could ask counsel, in Socrates—in whom what was here externally established had become inward consciousness, as with us, though not yet fully, being still represented as an actual voice, and conceived of as something which he separated from his individuality—the decision of the single individual had the form of personality as a particular, and it was not a universal individuality. This his judges could not in justice tolerate, whether they believed it or not. With the Greeks such revelations had to have a certain nature and method; there were, so to speak, official oracles (not subjective), such as Pythia, a tree, etc. Hence when this appeared in any particular person like a common citizen, it was considered incredible and wrong; the Dæmon[435] of Socrates was a medium of a different kind to any formerly respected in the Greek Religion. It is so much the more noteworthy, that nevertheless the oracle of the Delphian Apollo, Pythia, declared Socrates to be the wisest Greek.[136] Socrates it was who carried out the command of the God of knowledge, “Know Thyself,” and made it the motto of the Greeks, calling it the law of the mind, and not interpreting it as meaning a mere acquaintanceship with the particular nature of man. Thus Socrates is the hero who established in the place of the Delphic oracle, the principle that man must look within himself to know what is Truth. Now seeing that Pythia herself pronounced that utterance, we find in it a complete revolution in the Greek mind, and the fact that in place of the oracle, the personal self-consciousness of every thinking man has come into play. This inward certainty, however, is undoubtedly another new god, and not the god of the Athenians existing hitherto, and thus the accusation of Socrates was quite just.

β. If we now consider the second point of the accusation, that Socrates led youth astray, we find that he first sets against it the fact that the oracle of Delphi declared that none could be nobler, juster or wiser than he.[137] And then he sets against this accusation his whole manner of life, and asks whether by the example that he gave, particularly to those with whom he went about, he ever led any into evil.[138] The general accusation had to be further defined and witnesses came forward. “Melitus said that he knew some whom he advised to obey him rather than their parents,”[139] This point of the accusation principally related to Anytus, and since he made it good by sufficient testimony,[436] the point was undoubtedly proved, in accordance with law. Socrates explained himself further on this point when he left the court. For Xenophon tells us (Apol. Socr. §§ 27, 29—31) that Anytus was inimical to Socrates, because he said to Anytus, a respected citizen, that he should not bring up his son to the trade of a tanner, but in manner befitting a free man. Anytus was himself a tanner, and although his business was mostly conducted by slaves, it was in itself not ignominious, and Socrates’ expression was hence wrong, although, as we have seen (p. 366), quite in the spirit of Greek thought. Socrates added that he had made acquaintance with this son of Anytus and discovered no evil in him, but he prophesied that he would not remain at this servile work to which his father kept him. Nevertheless, because he had no rational person near to look after him, he would come to have evil desires and be brought into dissolute ways. Xenophon added that Socrates’ prophecy had come to pass literally, and that the young man gave himself up to drink, and drank day and night, becoming totally depraved. This can be easily understood, for a man who feels himself to be fit for something better (whether truly so or not) and through this discord in his mind is discontented with the circumstances in which he lives, yet capable of attaining to no other, is led out of this disgust into listlessness, and is thus on the way to the evil courses which so often ruin men. The prediction of Socrates is thus quite natural. (Supra, p. 424.)

To this definite accusation that he led sons into disobedience to their parents, Socrates replied by asking the question whether in selecting men for public offices, such as that of general, parents, or those experienced in war, were selected. Similarly in all cases those most skilful in an art or science are picked out. He demanded whether it was not matter of astonishment that he should be brought before a judge because he was preferred to parents by the sons in their aspirations after the highest human good[437] which is to be made a noble man.[140] This reply of Socrates is, on the one hand, quite just, but we see at the same time that we cannot call it exhaustive, for the real point of the accusation is not touched. What his judges found unjust was the intrusion morally of a third into the absolute relation between parents and children. On the whole not much can be said on this point, for all depends on the mode of intervention, and if it is necessary in certain cases, it need not take place generally, and least of all when some private individual takes that liberty. Children must have the feeling of unity with their parents; this is the first immediately moral relationship; every teacher must respect it, keep it pure, and cultivate the sense of being thus connected. Hence when a third person is called into this relation between parents and children, what happens through the new element introduced, is that the children are for their own good prevented from confiding in their parents, and made to think that their parents are bad people who harm them by their intercourse and training; and hence we find this revolting. The worst thing which can happen to children in regard to their morality and their mind, is that the bond which must ever be held in reverence should become loosened or even severed, thereby causing hatred, disdain, and ill-will. Whoever does this, does injury to morality in its truest form. This unity, this confidence, is the mother’s milk of morality on which man is nurtured; the early loss of parents is therefore a great misfortune. The son, like the daughter, must indeed come out of his natural unity with the family and become independent, but the separation must be one which is natural or unforced, and not defiant and disdainful. When a pain like this has found a place in the heart, great strength of mind is required to overcome it and to heal the wound. If we now speak of the example given us by Socrates, he seems, through his intervention, to have made the young[438] man dissatisfied with his position. Anytus’ son might, indeed, have found his work generally speaking uncongenial, but it is another thing when such dislike is brought into consciousness and established by the authority of a man such as Socrates. We may very well conjecture that if Socrates had to do with him, he strengthened and developed in him the germ of the feeling of incongruity. Socrates remarked on the subject of his capacities, saying that he was fit for something better, and thus established a feeling of dissatisfaction in the young man, and strengthened his dislike to his father, which thus became the reason of his ruin. Hence this accusation of having destroyed the relationship of parents and children may be regarded as not unfounded, but as perfectly well established. It was also thought very bad in Socrates’ case particularly, and made a matter of reproach that he had such followers as Critias and Alcibiades, who brought Athens almost to the brink of ruin (supra, p. 421). For when he mixed himself in the education which others gave their children, men were justified in the demand that the result should not belie what he professed to do for the education of youth.

The only question now is, how the people came to take notice of this, and in how far such matters can be objects of legislation and be brought into court. In our law, as regards the first part of the accusation, divination such as Cagliostro’s is illegal, and it would be forbidden as it formerly was by the Inquisition. Respecting the second point, such a moral interference is no doubt more recognized with us, where there is a particular office having this duty laid upon it; but this interference must keep itself general, and dare not go so far as to call forth disobedience to parents, which is the first immoral principle. But should such questions come before the court? This first of all brings up the question of what is the right of the State, and here great laxity is now allowed. Nevertheless, when some professor or preacher attacks a particular religion, the[439] legislature would certainly take notice of it, and it would have a complete right to do so, although there would be an outcry when it did it. There is undoubtedly a limit which in liberty of thought and speech is difficult to define and rests on tacit agreement; but there is a point beyond which we find what is not allowed, such as direct incitement to insurrection. It is indeed said, that “bad principles destroy themselves by themselves and find no entrance.” But that is only true in part, for with the populace the eloquence of sophistry stirs up their passions. It is also said, “This is only theoretic, no action follows.” But the State really rests on thought, and its existence depends on the sentiments of men, for it is a spiritual and not a physical kingdom. Hence it has in so far maxims and principles which constitute its support, and if these are attacked, the Government must intervene. Added to this, it was the case that in Athens quite a different state of things was present than with us; in order to be able to judge rightly of Socrates’ case we must first consider the Athenian State and its customs. According to Athenian laws, i.e. according to the spirit of the absolute State, both these things done by Socrates were destructive of this spirit, while in our constitution the universal of the states is a stronger universal, which last undoubtedly permits of individuals having freer play, since they cannot be so dangerous to this universal. Hence it would undoubtedly in the first place mean the subversion of the Athenian State, if this public religion on which everything was built and without which the State could not subsist, went to pieces; with us the State may be called an absolute and independent power. The Dæmon is now, in fact, a deity differing from any known, and because it stood in contradiction to the public religion, it gave to it a subjective arbitrariness. But since established religion was identified with public life so closely that it constituted a part of public law, the introduction of a new god who[440] formed self-consciousness into a principle and occasioned disobedience, was necessarily a crime. We may dispute with the Athenians about this, but we must allow that they are consistent. In the second place, the moral connection between parents and children is stronger, and much more the moral foundation of life with the Athenians than with us, where subjective freedom reigns; for family piety is the substantial key-note of the Athenian State. Socrates thus attacked and destroyed Athenian life in two fundamental points; the Athenians felt and became conscious of it. Is it then to be wondered at that Socrates was found guilty? We might say that it had to be so. Tennemann (Vol. II., p. 41) says: “Though these charges contained the most palpable untruths, Socrates was condemned to death because his mind was too lofty for him to descend to the common unworthy means, by which the judgment of the court was usually perverted.” But all this is false; he was found guilty of these deeds, but not for that reason condemned to death.

b. We here come to the second occurrence in his history. In accordance with Athenian laws, the accused had, after the Heliasts (resembling the English jury) pronounced him guilty, the liberty of suggesting (ἀντιτιμᾶσθαι) a penalty different from the punishment which the accuser proposed; this implied a mitigation of the punishment without a formal appeal—an excellent provision in Athenian law, testifying to its humanity. In this penalty the punishment in itself is not brought into question, but only the kind of punishment; the judges had decided that Socrates deserved punishment. But when it was left to the accused to determine what his punishment should be, it might not be arbitrary, but must be in conformity with the crime, a money or bodily punishment (ὄ, τι χρὴ παθεῖν ἢ ἀποτῖθαι).[141] But it was implied in the guilty persons constituting himself his[441] own judge, that he submitted himself to the decision of the court and acknowledged himself to be guilty. Now Socrates declined to assign a punishment for himself consisting either of fine or banishment, and he had the choice between these and death, which his accusers proposed. He declined to choose the former punishment because he, according to Xenophon’s account (Apol. Socr. § 23), in the formality of the exchange-penalty (τὸ ὐποτιμᾶσθαι), as he said, would acknowledge guilt; but there was no longer any question as to the guilt, but only as to the kind of punishment.

This silence may indeed be considered as moral greatness, but, on the other hand, it contradicts in some measure what Socrates says later on in prison, that he did not wish to flee, but remained there, because it seemed better to the Athenians and better to him to submit to the laws (Vol. I., p. 342). But the first submission would have meant that as the Athenians had found him guilty, he respected this decision, and acknowledged himself as guilty. Consistently he would thus have held it better to impose his punishment, since thereby he would not only have submitted himself to the laws, but also to the judgment. We see in Sophocles (Antig. verses 925, 926), the heavenly Antigone, that noblest of figures that ever appeared on earth, going to her death, her last words merely stating—

“If this seems good unto the gods,
Suffering, we may be made to know our error.”

Pericles also submitted himself to the judgment of the people as sovereign; we saw him (Vol. I., p. 328) going round the citizens entreating for Aspasia and Anaxagoras. In the Roman Republic we likewise find the noblest men begging of the citizens. There is nothing dishonouring to the individual in this, for he must bend before the general power, and the real and noblest power is the people. This acknowledgment the people must have direct[442] from those who raise themselves amongst them. Here, on the contrary, Socrates disclaims the submission to, and humiliation before the power of the people, for he did not wish to ask for the remission of his punishment. We admire in him a moral independence which, conscious of its own right, insists upon it and does not bend either to act otherwise, or to recognize as wrong what it itself regards as right. Socrates hence exposed himself to death, which could not be regarded as the punishment for the fault of which he was found guilty; for the fact that he would not himself determine the punishment, and thus disdained the juridical power of the people, was foremost in leading to his condemnation. In a general way he certainly recognized the sovereignty of the people, but not in this individual case; it has, however, to be recognized, not only in general, but in each separate case. With us the competency of the court is presupposed, and the criminal judged without further ado; to-day the whole matter is also open to the light of day and accepted as an acknowledged fact. But with the Athenians we find the characteristic request that the prisoner should, through the act of imposing on himself a penalty, sanction the judge’s sentence of guilt. In England this is certainly not the case, but there still remains a like form of asking the accused by what law he wishes to be judged. He then answers, by the law of the land and by the judges of his country. Here we have the recognition of legal operations.

Socrates thus set his conscience in opposition to the judges’ sentence, and acquitted himself before its tribunal. But no people, and least of all a free people like the Athenians, has by this freedom to recognize a tribunal of conscience which knows no consciousness of having fulfilled its duty excepting its own consciousness. To this government and law, the universal spirit of the people, may reply: “If you have the consciousness of having done your duty, we must also have the consciousness that you have so done.[443]” For the first principle of a State is that there is no reason or conscience or righteousness or anything else, higher than what the State recognizes as such. Quakers, Anabaptists, &c., who resist any demands made on them by the State, such as to defend the Fatherland, cannot be tolerated in a true State. This miserable freedom of thinking and believing what men will, is not permitted, nor any such retreat behind personal consciousness of duty. If this consciousness is no mere hypocrisy, in order that what the individual does should be recognized as duty, it must be recognized as such by all. If the people can make mistakes the individual may do so much more easily, and he must be conscious that he can do this much more easily than the people. Now law also has a conscience and has to speak through it; the law-court is the privileged conscience. Now if the miscarriage of justice in a trial is shown by every conscience clamouring for something different, the conscience of the court alone possesses any value as being the universal legalized conscience, which does not require to recognize the particular conscience of the accused. Men are too easily convinced of having fulfilled their duty, but the judge finds out whether duty is in fact fulfilled, even if men have the consciousness of its being so.

We should expect nothing else of Socrates than that he should go to meet his death in the most calm and manly fashion. Plato’s account of the wonderful scene his last hours presented, although containing nothing very special, forms an elevating picture, and will be to us a permanent representation of a noble deed. The last dialogue of Plato is popular philosophy, for the immortality of the soul is here first brought forward; yet it brings no consolation, for, as Homer makes Achilles say in the nether world, he would prefer to be a ploughboy on the earth.

But though the people of Athens asserted through the execution of this judgment the rights of their law as against the attacks of Socrates, and had punished the injury caused[444] to their moral life by Socrates, Socrates was still the hero who possessed for himself the absolute right of the mind, certain of itself and of the inwardly deciding consciousness, and thus expressed the higher principle of mind with consciousness. Now because, as has been said, this new principle by effecting an entrance into the Greek world, has come into collision with the substantial spirit and the existing sentiments of the Athenian people, a reaction had to take place, for the principle of the Greek world could not yet bear the principle of subjective reflection. The Athenian people were thus, not only justified, but also bound to react against it according to their law, for they regarded this principle as a crime. In general history we find that this is the position of the heroes through whom a new world commences, and whose principle stands in contradiction to what has gone before and disintegrates it: they appear to be violently destroying the laws. Hence individually they are vanquished, but it is only the individual, and not the principle, which is negated in punishment, and the spirit of the Athenian people did not in the removal of the individual, recover its old position. The false form of individuality is taken away, and that, indeed, in a violent way, by punishment; but the principle itself will penetrate later, if in another form, and elevate itself into a form of the world-spirit. This universal mode in which the principle comes forth and permeates the present is the true one; what was wrong was the fact that the principle came forth only as the peculiar possession of one individual. His own world could not comprehend Socrates, but posterity can, in as far as it stands above both. It may be conceived that the life of Socrates had no need to have such an end, for Socrates might have lived and died a private philosopher, and his teaching might have been quietly accepted by his disciples, and have spread further still without receiving any notice from State or people; the accusation thus would seem to have been contingent. But it[445] must be said that it was through the manner of that event that this principle became so highly honoured. The principle is not merely something new and peculiar to itself, but it is an absolutely essential moment in the self-developing consciousness of self which is designed to bring to pass as a totality, a new and higher actuality. The Athenians perceived correctly that this principle not only meant opinion and doctrine, for its true attitude was that of a direct and even hostile and destructive relation to the actuality of the Greek mind; and they proceeded in accordance with this perception. Hence, what follows in Socrates’ life is not contingent, but necessarily follows upon his principle. Or the honour of having recognized that relation, and indeed of having felt that they themselves were tinged with this principle, is due to the Athenians.

c. The Athenians likewise repented of their condemnation of Socrates, and punished some of his accusers with death itself, and others with banishment; for according to Athenian laws, the man who made an accusation, and whose accusation was found to be false, usually underwent the same punishment that otherwise the criminal would have borne. This is the last act in this drama. On the one hand the Athenians recognized through their repentance the individual greatness of the man; but on the other (and this we find by looking closer) they also recognized that this principle in Socrates, signifying the introduction of new gods and disrespect to parents, has—while destructive and hostile to it—been introduced even into their own spirit, and that they themselves are in the dilemma of having in Socrates only condemned their own principle. In that they regretted the just judgment of Socrates, it seems to be implied that they wished that it had not occurred. But from the regret it does not follow that in itself it should not have occurred, but only that it should not have happened for their consciousness. Both together constitute the innocence which is guilty and atones for its guilt; it would[446] only be senseless and despicable if there were no guilt. An innocent person who comes off badly is a simpleton; hence it is a very flat and uninteresting matter when tyrants and innocent persons are represented in tragedies, just because this is an empty contingency. A great man would be guilty and overcome the great crisis that ensues; Christ thus gave up his individuality, but what was brought forth by him remained.

The fate of Socrates is hence really tragic, not in the superficial sense of the word and as every misfortune is called tragic. The death of an estimable individual must, in such a sense, be specially tragic, and thus it is said of Socrates, that because he was innocent and condemned to death, his fate was tragic. But such innocent suffering would only be sad and not tragic, for it would not be a rational misfortune. Misfortune is only rational when it is brought about by the will of the subject, who must be absolutely justified and moral in what he does, like the power against which he wars—which must therefore not be a merely natural power, or the power of a tyrannic will. For it is only in such a case that man himself has any part in his misfortune, while natural death is only an absolute right which nature exercises over men. Hence, in what is truly tragic there must be valid moral powers on both the sides which come into collision; this was so with Socrates. His is likewise not merely a personal, individually romantic lot; for we have in it the universally moral and tragic fate, the tragedy of Athens, the tragedy of Greece. Two opposed rights come into collision, and the one destroys the other. Thus both suffer loss and yet both are mutually justified; it is not as though the one alone were right and the other wrong. The one power is the divine right, the natural morality whose laws are identical with the will which dwells therein as in its own essence, freely and nobly; we may call it abstractly objective freedom. The other principle, on the contrary, is the right, as really divine, of consciousness or of subjective[447] freedom; this is the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, i.e. of self-creative reason; and it is the universal principle of Philosophy for all successive times. It is these two principles which we see coming into opposition in the life and the philosophy of Socrates.

The Athenian people had come into a period of culture, in which this individual consciousness made itself independent of the universal spirit and became for itself. This was perceived by them in Socrates, but at the same time it was felt that it meant ruin, and thus they punished an element which was their own. The principle of Socrates is hence not the transgression of one individual, for all were implicated; the crime was one that the spirit of the people committed against itself. Through this perception the condemnation of Socrates was retracted; Socrates appeared to have committed no crime, for the spirit of the people has now generally reached the consciousness which turns back from the universal into itself. This meant the disintegration of this people, whose mind and spirit consequently soon disappeared from the world, but yet out of its ashes a higher took its rise, for the world-spirit had raised itself into a higher consciousness. The Athenian State, indeed, endured for long, but the bloom of its character soon faded. It is characteristic of Socrates that he grasped the principle of the inwardness of knowledge, not practically merely, as did Critias and Alcibiades (supra, pp. 421, 438), but in thought, making it valid to thought, and this is the higher method. Knowledge brought about the Fall, but it also contains the principle of Redemption. Thus what to others was only ruin, to Socrates, because it was the principle of knowledge, was also a principle of healing. The development of this principle, which constitutes the content of all successive history, is explicitly the reason that the later philosophers withdrew from the affairs of the State, restricted themselves to cultivating an inner world, separated from themselves the universal[448] aim of the moral culture of the people, and took up a position contrary to the spirit of Athens and the Athenians. From this it came to pass that particularity of ends and interests now became powerful in Athens. This has, in common with the Socratic principle, the fact that what seems right and duty, good and useful to the subject in relation to himself as well as to the State, depends on his inward determination and choice, and not on the constitution and the universal. This principle of self-determination for the individual has, however, become the ruin of the Athenian people, because it was not yet identified with the constitution of the people; and thus the higher principle must in every case appear to bring ruin with it where it is not yet identified with the substantial of the people. The Athenian life became weak, and the State outwardly powerless, because its spirit was divided within itself. Hence it was dependent on Lacedæmon, and we finally see the external subordination of these States to the Macedonians.

We are done with Socrates. I have been more detailed here because all the features of the case have been so completely in harmony, and he constitutes a great historic turning point. Socrates died at sixty-nine years of age, in Olympiad 95, 1 (399-400 B.C.), an Olympiad after the end of the Peloponnesian war, twenty-nine years after the death of Pericles, and forty-four years before the birth of Alexander. He saw Athens in its greatness and the beginning of its fall; he experienced the height of its bloom and the beginning of its misfortunes.

C. The Socratics.

The result of the death of Socrates was, that the little company of his friends went off from Athens to Megara, where Plato also came. Euclides had settled there and received them gladly.[142] When Socrates’ condemnation was[449] retracted and his accusers punished, certain of the Socratics returned, and all was again brought into equilibrium. The work of Socrates was far-reaching and effectual in the kingdom of Thought, and the stimulation of a great amount of interest is always the principal service of a teacher. Subjectively, Socrates had the formal effect of bringing about a discord in the individual; the content was subsequently left to the free-will and liking of each person, because the principle was subjective consciousness and not objective thought. Socrates himself only came so far as to express for consciousness generally the simple existence of one’s own thought as the Good, but as to whether the particular conceptions of the Good really properly defined that of which they were intended to express the essence, he did not inquire. But because Socrates made the Good the end of the living man, he made the whole world of idea, or objective existence in general, rest by itself, without seeking to find a passage from the Good, the real essence of what is known as such, to the thing, and recognizing real essence as the essence of things. For when all present speculative philosophy expresses the universal as essence, this, as it first appears, has the semblance of being a single determination, beside which there are a number of others. It is the complete movement of knowledge that first removes this semblance, and the system of the universe then shows forth its essence as Notion, as a connected whole.

The most varied schools and principles proceeded from this doctrine of Socrates, and this was made a reproach against him, but it was really due to the indefiniteness and abstraction of his principle. And in this way it is only particular forms of this principle which can at first be recognized in philosophic systems which we call Socratic. Under the name of Socratic, I understand, however, those schools and methods which remained closer to Socrates and in which we find nothing but the one-sided[450] understanding of Socratic culture. One part of these kept quite faithfully to the direct methods of Socrates, without going any further. A number of his friends are mentioned as being of this description, and these, inasmuch as they were authors, contented themselves with correctly transcribing dialogues after his manner, which were partly those he actually had held with them, and partly those they had heard from others; or else with working out similar dialogues in his method. But for the rest they abstained from speculative research, and by directing their attention to what was practical, adhered firmly and faithfully to the fulfilment of the duties of their position and circumstances, thereby maintaining calm and satisfaction. Xenophon is the most celebrated of those mentioned, but besides him a number of other Socratics wrote dialogues. Æschines, some of whose dialogues have come down to us, Phædo, Antisthenes and others are mentioned, and amongst them a shoemaker, Simon, “with whom Socrates often spoke at his workshop, and who afterwards carefully wrote out what Socrates said to him.” The title of his dialogues, as also those of the others which are left to us, are to be found in Diogenes Laërtius (II. 122, 123; 60, 61; 105; VI. 15-18); they have, however, only a literary interest, and hence I will pass them by.

But another section of the Socratics went further than Socrates, inasmuch as they, starting from him, laid hold of and matured one of the particular aspects of his philosophy and of the standpoint to which philosophic knowledge was brought through him. This standpoint maintained the absolute character of self-consciousness within itself, and the relation of its self-existent universality to the individual. In Socrates, and from him onward, we thus see knowledge commencing, the world raising itself into the region of conscious thought, and this becoming the object. We no longer hear question and answer as to what Nature is, but as to what Truth is; or real essence has determined itself not[451] to be the implicit, but to be what it is in knowledge. We hence have the question of the relationship of self-conscious thought to real essence coming to the front as what concerns us most. The true and essence are not the same; the true is essence as thought, but essence is the simply implicit. This simple is, indeed, thought, and is in thought, but when it is said that essence is pure Being or Becoming, as the being-for-self of the atomists, and then that the Notion is thought generally (the νοῦς of Anaxagoras), or finally measure, this is asserted directly, and in an objective manner. Or it is the simple unity of the objective and of thought; it is not purely objective—for Being cannot be seen, heard, &c.; nor is it pure thought in opposition to the existent—for this is the explicitly existent self-consciousness which separates itself from essence. It is finally not the unity going back into itself from the difference in the two sides, which is understanding and knowledge. In these self-consciousness on the one hand presents itself as being-for-self, and on the other, as Being; it is conscious of this difference, and from this difference turns back into the unity of both. This unity, the result, is the known, the true. One element in the true is the certainty of itself; this moment has attained to reality—in consciousness and for consciousness. It is through this movement and the investigation of the subject, that the succeeding period of Philosophy is distinguished, because it does not contemplate essence as left to itself, and as purely objective, but as in unity with the certainty of itself. It is not to be understood by this that such knowledge had itself been made into essence, so that it is held to be the content and definition of absolute essence, or that essence had been determined for the consciousness of these philosophers as the unity of Being and Thought, i.e. as if they had thought of it thus; but they could merely no longer speak of essence and actuality without this element of self-certainty. And this period is hence, so to speak, the middle period,[452] which is really the movement of knowledge, and considers knowledge as the science of essence, which first brings about that unity.

From what has been said, it can now be seen what philosophic systems can come before us. That is to say, because in this period the relation of Thought to Being, or of the universal to the individual, is made explicit, we see, on the one hand, as the object of Philosophy, the contradiction of consciousness coming to consciousness—a contradiction as to which the ordinary modes of thought have no knowledge, for they are in a state of confusion, seeing that they go on unthinkingly. On the other hand we have Philosophy as perceiving knowledge itself, which, however, does not get beyond its Notion, and which, because it is the unfolding of a more extensive knowledge of a content, cannot give itself this content, but can only think it, i.e. determine it in a simple manner. Of those Socratics who hold a place of their own, there are, according to this, three schools worthy of consideration; first the Megaric School, at whose head stands Euclid of Megara, and then the Cyrenaic and Cynic Schools; and from the fact that they all three differ very much from one another, it is clearly shown that Socrates himself was devoid of any positive system. With these Socratics the determination of the subject for which the absolute principle of the true and good likewise appears as end, came into prominence; this end demands reflection and general mental cultivation, and also requires that men should be able to tell what the good and true really are. But though these Socratic schools as a whole rest at saying that the subject itself is end, and reaches its subjective end through the cultivation of its knowledge, the form of determination in them is still the universal, and it is also so that it does not remain abstract, for the development of the determinations of the universal gives real knowledge. The Megarics were most abstract, because they held to the determination of the good which, as simple, was to[453] them the principle; the unmoved and self-related simplicity of thought becomes the principle of consciousness as individual, as it is of conscious knowledge. The Megaric school associated with the assertion of the simplicity of the good, the dialectic, that all that was defined and limited is not true. But because with the Megarics the principal point was to know the universal, and this universal was to them the Absolute which had to be retained in this form of the universal, this thought, as Notion which holds a negative position in relation to all determinateness and thus to that of Notion also, was equally turned against knowledge and perception.

The Cyrenaics take knowledge in its subjective signification, and as signifying individuality as certainty of self, or feeling; to this as to that which is essential, they restrict the exercise of consciousness, and, generally speaking, make existence for consciousness consist therein. Now because they thereby sought to define the Good more closely, they called it simply pleasure or enjoyment, by which, however, anything can be understood. This principle of the Cyrenaic school would seem to have been far removed from that of Socrates, since we at once think of the transient existence of feeling as directly in opposition to the Good; this, however, is not the case. The Cyrenaics likewise upheld the universal, for, if it is asked what the Good is, we find they certainly made pleasurable feeling, which presents the appearance of a determinate, to be its content, but seeing that a cultured mind is also requisite, enjoyment, as it is obtained through thought, is here indicated.

The Cynics also further defined the principle of the Good, but in another way from the Cyrenaics; its content, they said, lay in man’s keeping to what is in conformity with nature and to the simple needs of nature. They similarly call all that is particular and limited in the aims of men that which is not to be desired. To the Cynics, too, mental culture through the knowledge of the universal[454] is the principle; but through this knowledge of the universal the individual end must be attained, and this is, that the individual should keep himself in abstract universality, in freedom and independence, and be indifferent to all he formerly esteemed. Thus we see pure thought recognized in its movement with the individual, and the manifold transformations of the universal coming to consciousness. These three schools are not to be treated at length. The principle of the Cyrenaics became later on more scientifically worked out in Epicureanism, as that of the Cynics did in Stoicism.

1. The Megarics.

Because Euclides (who is regarded as the founder of the Megaric way of thinking) and his school held to the forms of universality, and, above all, sought, and with success, to show forth the contradictions contained in all particular conceptions, they were reproached with having a rage for disputation, and hence the name of Eristics was given them. The instrument for bringing all that is particular into confusion and annulling this particular, was supplied by dialectic, which, indeed, was brought by them to very great perfection, but, as was privately stated, they did it in a kind of anger, so that others said that they should not be called a School (σχολή) but a gall (χολή).[143] With a dialectic thus constituted, we find them taking the place of the Eleatic School and of the Sophists; and it seems as though the Eleatic School had merely been reproduced,[144] since they were essentially identical with it. But this was only partly true—in that the Eleatic dialecticians maintained Being as the one existence in relation to which nothing particular is a truth, and the Megarics considered Being as the Good. The Sophists, on[455] the other hand, did not seek their impulse in simple universality as fixed and as enduring; and similarly we shall find in the Sceptics, dialecticians who maintain that the subjective mind rests within itself. Besides Euclides, Diodorus and Menedemus are mentioned as distinguished Eristics, but particularly Eubulides, and later on Stilpo, whose dialectic likewise related to contradictions which appeared in external conception and in speech, so that it in great measure passed into a mere play upon words.

a. Euclides.

Euclides, who is not to be confused with the mathematician, is he of whom it is said that during the enmity between Athens and his birthplace, Megara, and in the period of most violent animosity, he often secretly went to Athens, dressed as a woman, not fearing even the punishment of death in order to be able to hear Socrates and be in his company.[145] Euclides is said, in spite of his stubborn manner of disputing, to have been, even in his disputation, a most peaceful man. It is told that once in a quarrel his opponent was so irritated, that he exclaimed, “I will die if I do not revenge myself upon you!” Euclides replied, “And I will die if I do not soften your wrath so much by the mildness of my speech that you will love me as before.”[146] It was Euclides who said that “the Good is one,” and it alone is, “though passing under many names; sometimes it is called Understanding, sometimes God; at another time Thought (νοῦς), and so on. But what is opposed to the good does not exist.”[147] This doctrine Cicero[456] (ibid.) calls noble, and says that it differs but little from the Platonic. Since the Megarics make the Good, as the simple identity of the true, into a principle, it is clearly seen that they expressed the Good as the absolute existence in a universal sense, as did Socrates; but they no longer, like him, recognized all the approximate conceptions, or merely opposed them as being indifferent to the interests of man, for they asserted definitely that they were nothing at all. Thus they come into the category of the Eleatics, since they, like them, showed that only Being is, and that all else, as negative, does not exist. While the dialectic of Socrates was thus incidental, in that he merely shook some current moral ideas, or the very first conceptions of knowledge, the Megarics, on the contrary, raised their philosophic dialectic into something more universal and real, for they applied themselves more to what is formal in idea and speech, though not yet, like the later Sceptics, to the determinations of pure Notions; for knowledge, thought, was not yet present in abstract conceptions. Of their own dialectic not much is told, but more is said of the embarrassment into which they brought ordinary consciousness, for they were in all kinds of ways alert in involving others in contradictions. Thus they applied dialectic after the manner of an ordinary conversation, just as Socrates applied his mind to every side of ordinary subjects, and as we also, in our conversation, try to make an assertion interesting and important. A number of anecdotes are told of their disputations, from which we see that what we call joking was their express business. Others of their puzzles certainly deal with a positive category of thought; they take these and show how, if they are held to be true, they bring about a contradiction.

b. Eubulides.

Of the innumerable multitude of ways in which they tried to confuse our knowledge in the categories, many are preserved[457] with their names, and the principal of these are the Sophisms, whose discovery is ascribed to Eubulides of Miletus, a pupil of Euclides.[148] The first thing which strikes us when we hear them is that they are common sophisms which are not worth contradiction, and scarcely of being heard, least of all have they a real scientific value. Hence we call them stupid, and look at them as dreary jokes, but it is in fact easier to set them aside than to refute them. We let ordinary speech pass, and are content with it, so long as everyone knows what the other means (when this is not so—we trust that God understands us), but these sophisms seem in a way to mislead common speech, for they show the contradictory and unsatisfactory nature of it when taken strictly as it is spoken. To confuse ordinary language so that we do not know how to reply, seems foolish, as leading to formal contradictions, and if it is done we are blamed for taking mere empty words and playing upon them. Our German seriousness, therefore, dismisses this play on words as shallow wit, but the Greeks honoured the word in itself, and the mere treatment of a proposition as well as the matter. And if word and thing are in opposition, the word is the higher, for the unexpressed thing is really irrational, since the rational exists as speech alone.

It is in Aristotle, and in his Sophistical Elenchi that we first find numerous examples of these contradictions (coming from the old Sophists equally with the Eristics), and also their solutions. Eubulides, therefore, likewise wrote against Aristotle,[149] but none of this has come down to us. In Plato we also find, as we saw before (p. 370), similar jokes and ambiguities mentioned to make the Sophists ridiculous, and to show with what insignificant matters they took up their time. The Eristics went yet further, for they, like Diodorus, became jesters to courts, such as to that of the[458] Ptolemies.[150] From historic facts we see that this dialectic operation of confusing others and showing how to extricate them again was a general amusement of the Greek philosophers, both in public places and at the tables of kings. Just as the Queen of the East came to Solomon to put riddles to him, we find at the tables of kings witty conversation and assemblages of philosophers joking and making merry over one another. The Greeks were quite enamoured of discovering contradictions met with in speech and in ordinary ideas. The contradiction does not make its appearance as a pure contradiction in the conception, but only as interwoven with concrete ideas; such propositions neither apply to the concrete content nor to the pure Notion. Subject and predicate, of which every proposition consists, are different, but in the ordinary idea we signify their unity; this simple unity, which does not contradict itself, is to ordinary ideas the truth. But in fact, the simple self-identical proposition is an unmeaning tautology; for in any affirmation, differences are present, and because their diversity comes to consciousness, there is contradiction. But the ordinary consciousness is then at an end, for only where there is a contradiction is there the solution, self-abrogation. Ordinary consciousness has not the conception that only the unity of opposites is the truth—that in every statement there is truth and falsehood, if truth is to be taken in the sense of the simple, and falsehood in the sense of the opposed and contradictory; in it the positive, the first unity, and the negative, this last opposition, fall asunder.

In Eubulides’ propositions the main point was that because the truth is simple, a simple answer is required; that thus the answer should not, as happened in Aristotle (De Sophist. Elench. c. 24), have regard to certain special considerations; and, after all, this is really the demand of[459] the understanding. Thus the mistake is to desire an answer of yes or no, for since no one ventures on either, perplexity ensues, because it is a fool’s part not to know what to reply. The simplicity of the truth is thus grasped as the principle. With us this appears in the form of making such statements as that one of opposites is true, the other false; that a statement is either true or not true; that an object cannot have two opposite predicates. That is the first principle of the understanding, the principium exclusi tertii, which is of great importance in all the sciences. This stands in close connection with the principle of Socrates and Plato (supra, pp. 455, 456), “The true is the universal;” which is abstractly the identity of understanding, according to which what is said to be true cannot contradict itself. This comes more clearly to light in Stilpo (p. 464). The Megarics thus kept to this principle of our logic of the understanding, in demanding the form of identity for the Truth. Now in the cases that they put, they did not keep to the universal, but sought examples in ordinary conception, by means of which they perplexed people; and this they formed into a kind of system. We shall bring forward some examples that are preserved to us; some are more important, but others are insignificant.

α. One Elench was called the Liar (ψευδόμενος); in it the question is put: “If a man acknowledges that he lies, does he lie or speak the truth?”[151] A simple answer is demanded, for the simple whereby the other is excluded, is held to be the true. If it is said that he tells the truth, this contradicts the content of his utterance, for he confesses that he lies. But if it is asserted that he lies, it may be objected that his confession is the truth. He thus both lies and does not lie; but a simple answer cannot be given to the question raised. For here we have a union of two[460] opposites, lying and truth, and their immediate contradiction; in different forms this has at all times come to pass, and has ever occupied the attention of men. Chrysippus, a celebrated Stoic, wrote six books on the subject,[152] and another, Philetas of Cos, died in the decline which he contracted through over-study of these paradoxes.[153] We have the same thing over again when, in modern times, we see men worn out by absorbing themselves in the squaring of the circle—a proposition which has well nigh become immortal. They seek a simple relation from something incommensurable, i.e. they fall into the error of demanding a simple reply where the content is contradictory. That little history has perpetuated and reproduced itself later on; in Don Quixote the very same thing appears. Sancho, governor of the island of Barataria, was tested by many insidious cases as he sat in judgment, and, amongst others, with the following: In his domain there was a bridge which a rich man had erected for the good of passengers—but with a gallows close by. The crossing of the bridge was restricted by the condition that everyone must say truly where he was going, and if he lied, he would be hung upon the gallows. Now one man came to the bridge, and to the question whither he went, answered that he had come here to be hung on the gallows. The bridge-keepers were much puzzled by this. For if they hanged him, he would have spoken the truth and ought to have passed, but if he crossed he would have spoken an untruth. In this difficulty they applied to the wisdom of the governor, who uttered the wise saying that in such dubious cases the mildest measures should be adopted, and thus the man should be allowed to pass. Sancho did not break his head over the matter. The result which the statement was to have, is made its content, with the condition[461] that the opposite of the content should be the consequence. Hanging, understanding it to be truly expressed, should not have hanging as result; non-hanging as an event, should, on the other hand, have hanging as result. Thus death is made the consequence of suicide, but by suicide death itself is made into the content of the crime, and cannot thus be the punishment.

I will give another similar example along with the answer. Menedemus was asked whether he had ceased to beat his father. This was an attempt to place him in a difficulty, since to answer either yes or no, would be equally risky. For if he said ‘yes,’ then he once beat him, and if ‘no,’ then he still beats him. Menedemus hence replied that he neither ceased to beat him, nor had beaten him; and with this his opponents were not satisfied.[154] Through this answer, which is two-sided, the one alternative, as well as the other, being set aside, the question is in fact answered; and this is also so in the former question as to whether the man spoke truly who said he lied, when the reply is made, “He speaks the truth and lies at the same time, and the truth is this contradiction.” But a contradiction is not the true, and cannot enter into our ordinary conceptions; hence Sancho Panza likewise set it aside in his judgment. If the consciousness of opposition is present, our ordinary ideas keep the contradictory sides apart; but in fact the contradiction appears in sensuous things, such as space, time, &c., and has in them only to be demonstrated. These sophisms thus not only appear to be contradictory, but are so in truth: this choice between two opposites, which is set before us in the example, is itself a contradiction.

β. The Concealed one (διαλανθάνων) and the Electra[155] proceed from the contradiction of knowing and not knowing[462] someone at the same time. I ask someone ‘Do you know your father?’ He replies ‘Yes.’ I then ask ‘Now if I show you someone hidden behind a screen, will you know him?’ ‘No.’ ‘But it is your father, and thus you do not know your father.’ It is the same in the Electra. ‘Can it be said that she knows her brother Orestes who stands before her or not?’ These twists and turns seem superficial, but it is interesting to consider them further. (αα) To know means, on the one hand, to have someone as ‘this one,’ and not vaguely and in general. The son thus knows his father when he sees him, i.e. when he is a ‘this’ for him; but hidden, he is not a ‘this’ for him, but a ‘this’ abrogated. The hidden one as a ‘this’ in ordinary conception, becomes a general, and loses his sensuous being, thereby is in fact not a true ‘this.’ The contradiction that the son both knows and does not know his father, thus becomes dissolved through the further qualification that the son knows the father as a sensuous ‘this,’ and not as a ‘this’ of idea. (ββ) On the other hand Electra knows Orestes, not as a sensuous ‘this,’ but in her own idea; the ‘this’ of idea and the ‘this’ here, are not the same to her. In this way there enters into these histories the higher opposition of the universal and of the ‘this,’ in as far as to have in the ordinary idea, means in the element of the universal; the abrogated ‘this’ is not only an idea, but has its truth in the universal. The universal is thus found in the unity of opposites, and thus it is in this development of Philosophy the true existence, in which the sensuous being of the ‘this’ is negated. It is the consciousness of this in particular which, as we shall soon see (p. 465), is indicated by Stilpo.

γ. Other quibbles of the same kind have more meaning, like the arguments which are called the Sorites (σωρείτης) and the Bald (φαλακρός).[156] Both are related to the[463] false infinite, and the quantitative progression which can reach no qualitative opposite, and yet at the end finds itself at a qualitative absolute opposite. The Bald head is the reverse of the problem of the Sorites. It is asked, “Does one grain of corn make a heap, or does one hair less make a bald head?” The reply is “No.” “Nor one again?” “No, it does not.” This question is now always repeated while a grain is always added, or a hair taken away. When at last it is said that there is a heap or a bald head, it is found that the last added grain or last abstracted hair has made the heap or the baldness, and this was at first denied. But how can a grain form a heap which already consists of so many grains? The assertion is that one grain does not make a heap; the contradiction, that one thus added or taken away brings about the change into the opposite—the many. For to repeat one is just to obtain many, the repetition causes certain ‘many’ grains to come together. The one thus becomes its opposite,—a heap, and the taking of one away brings about baldness. One and a heap are opposed to one another, but yet one; or the quantitative progression seems not to change but merely to increase or diminish, yet at last it has passed into its opposite. We always separate quality and quantity from one another, and only accept in the many a quantitative difference; but this indifferent distinction of number or size here turns finally into qualitative distinction, just as an infinitely small or infinitely great greatness is no longer greatness at all. This characteristic of veering round is of the greatest importance, although it does not come directly before our consciousness. To give one penny or one shilling is said to be nothing, but with all its insignificance the purse becomes emptied, which is a very qualitative difference. Or, if water is always more and more heated, it suddenly, at 80° Reamur, turns into steam. The dialectic of this passing into one another of quantity and quality is what our understanding[464] does not recognize; it is certain that qualitative is not quantitative, and quantitative not qualitative. In those examples which seem like jokes, there is in this way genuine reflection on the thought-determinations which are in question.

The examples which Aristotle brings forward in his Elenchi, all show a very formal contradiction, appearing in speech, since even in it the individual is taken into the universal. “Who is that? It is Coriscus. Is Coriscus not masculine? Yes. That is neuter sex, and thus Coriscus is said to be neuter.”[157] Or else Aristotle (De Sophist. Elench. c. 24) quotes the argument: “To thee a dog is father (σὸς ὁ κύων πατήρ). Thou art thus a dog;” that is what Plato, as we already mentioned (p. 370), made a Sophist say: it is the wit of a journeyman such as we find in Eulenspiegel. Aristotle is really at great pains to remove the confusion, for he says the ‘thy’ and the ‘father’ are only accidentally (παρὰ τὸ συμβεβηκός), and not in substance (κατὰ τὴν οὐσίαν) joined to one another. In the invention of such witticisms, the Greeks of that and of later times were quite indefatigable. With the Sceptics we shall later on see the dialectic side further developed and brought to a higher standpoint.

c. Stilpo.

Stilpo, a native of Megara, is one of the most celebrated of the Eristics. Diogenes tells us that “he was a very powerful debater, and excelled all so greatly in readiness of speech that all Greece, in looking to him, was in danger (μικροῦ δεῆσαι) of becoming Megareans.” He lived in the time of Alexander the Great, and after his death (Ol. 114, 1; 324 B.C.) in Megara, when Alexander’s generals fought together. Ptolemy Soter, Demetrius Poliorcetes,[465] Antigonus’ son, when they conquered Megara, bestowed many honours on him. “In Athens all came out of their work-places to see him, and when anyone said that they admired him like a strange animal, he replied, No, but like a true man.”[158] With Stilpo it was pre-eminently true that the universal was taken in the sense of the formal abstract identity of the understanding. The main point in his examples is, however, always the fact of his having given prominence to the form of universality as opposed to the particular.

α. Diogenes (II. 119) first quotes from him in relation to the opposition of the ‘this’ and the universal, “Whoever speaks of any man (ἄνθρωπον εἶναι), speaks of no one, for he neither speaks of this one nor that. For why should it rather be of this one than that? Hence it is not of this one.” That man is the universal, and that no one is specially indicated, everyone readily acknowledges, but some one still remains present to us in our conception. But Stilpo says that the ‘this’ does not exist at all, and cannot be expressed—that the universal only exists. Diogenes Laërtius certainly understands this as though “Stilpo abolished distinction of genera (ἀνῄρει καὶ τὰ εἴδη),” and Tennemann (Vol II., p. 158) supports him. But from what is quoted from him the opposite may clearly be deduced—that he upheld the universal and did away with the individual. And the fact that the form of universality is maintained, is further expressed in a number of anecdotes which are taken by Stilpo from common life. Thus he says: “The cabbage is not what is here shown (τὸ λάχανον οὐκ ἔστι τὸ δεικνύμενον). For the cabbage has existed for many thousand years, and hence this (what is seen) is not cabbage,” i.e. the universal only is, and this cabbage is not. If I say this cabbage, I say quite another thing from what I mean, for I say all other cabbages. An anecdote is told in the same reference.[466] “He was conversing with Crates, a Cynic, and broke off to buy some fish;” Crates said, “What, you would avoid the question?” (for even in ordinary life anyone is laughed at or thought stupid who is unable to reply, and here where the subject was so important and where it would seem better to reply anything than nothing at all, no answer was forthcoming). Stilpo replied, “By no means, for I have the conversation, but I leave you, since the conversation remains but the fish will be sold.” What is indicated in these simple examples seems trivial, because the matter is trivial, but in other forms it seems important enough to be the subject of further inquiry.

That the universal should in Philosophy be given a place of such importance that only the universal can be expressed, and the ‘this’ which is meant, cannot, indicates a state of consciousness and thought which the philosophic culture of our time has not yet reached. As regards the ordinary human understanding, or the scepticism of our times, or in general the Philosophy which asserts that sensuous certainty (that which we see, hear, &c.), is the truth, or else that it is true that there are sensuous things outside of us—as to these, nothing, so far as the reasons for disbelieving them are concerned, need be said. For because the direct assertion that the immediate is the true is made, such statements only require to be taken with respect to what they say, and they will always be found to say something different from what they mean. What strikes us most is that they cannot say what they mean; for if they say the sensuous, this is a universal; it is all that is sensuous, a negative of the ‘this,’ or ‘this’ is all ‘these.’ Thought contains only the universal, the ‘this’ is only in thought; if I say ‘this’ it is the most universal of all. For example, here is that which I show; now I speak; but here and now is all here and now. Similarly when I say ‘I,’ I mean myself, this individual separated from all others. But I am even thus that which is thought of and cannot express the self which I[467] mean at all. ‘I’ is an absolute expression which excludes every other ‘I,’ but everyone says ‘I’ of himself, for everyone is an ‘I.’ If we ask who is there, the answer ‘I’ indicates every ‘I.’ The individual also is thus the universal only, for in the word as an existence born of the mind, the individual, if it is meant, cannot find a place, since actually only the universal is expressed. If I would distinguish myself and establish my individuality by my age, my place of birth, through what I have done and where I have been or am at a particular time, it is the same thing. I am now so many years old, but this very now which I say is all now. If I count from a particular period such as the birth of Christ, this epoch is again only fixed by the ‘now’ which is ever displaced. I am now thirty-five years old, and now is 1805 A.D.; each period is fixed only through the other, but the whole is undetermined. That ‘now’ 1805 years have passed since Christ’s birth, is a truth which soon will become empty sound, and the determinateness of the ‘now’ has a before and after of determinations without beginning or end. Similarly everyone is at a ‘here’—this here, for everyone is in a ‘here.’ This is the nature of universality, which makes itself evident in speech. We hence help ourselves through names with which we define perfectly anything individual, but we allow that we have not expressed the thing in itself. The name as name, is no expression which contains what I am; it is a symbol, and indeed a contingent symbol, of the lively recollection.

β. Inasmuch as Stilpo expressed the universal as the independent, he disintegrated everything. Simplicius says (in Phys. Arist. p. 26), “Since the so-called Megarics took it as ascertained that what has different determinations is different (ὧν οἱλόγοι ἕτεροι, ταῦτα ἕτερα ἐστιν), and that the diverse are separated one from the other (τὰ ἕτερα κεχώρισται ἀλλήλων), they seemed to prove that each thing is separated from itself (αὐτὸ αὑτοῦ κεχωρισμένον ἔκασον). Hence since the musical Socrates is another determination[468] (λόγος) from the wise Socrates, Socrates was separated from himself.” That means that because the qualities of things are determinations for themselves, each of these is fixed independently, but yet the thing is an aggregate of many independent universalities. Stilpo asserted this. Now because, according to him, universal determinations are in their separation only the true reality, and the individual is the unseparated unity of different ideas, to him nothing individual has any truth.

γ. It is very remarkable that this form of identity came to be known in Stilpo, and he in this way only wished to know propositions identically expressed. Plutarch quotes from him: “A different predicate may in no case be attributed to any object (ἕτερον ἑτέρου μὴ κατηγορεῖσθαι). Thus we could not say that the man is good or the man is a general, but simply that man is only man, good is only good, the general is only the general. Nor could we say ten thousand knights, but knights are only knights, ten thousand are only ten thousand, &c. When we speak of a horse running, he says that the predicate is not identical with the object to which it is attributed. For the concept-determination man is different (τοῦ τί ἦν εἶναι τὸν λόγον) from the concept-determination good. Similarly horse and running are distinct: when we are asked for a definition of either, we do not give the same for both. Hence those who say something different of what is different are wrong. For if man and good were the same, and likewise horse and running, how could good be used of bread and physic, and running of lions and dogs”?[159] Plutarch remarks here that Colotes attacks Stilpo in a bombastic manner (τραγῷδίαν ἐπάγει) as though he ignored common life (τὸν βίον ἀναιρεῖσθαι). “But what man,” Plutarch reflects, “lived any the worse for this? Is there any man who hears[469] this said, and who does not know that it is an elaborate joke (παῖζοντός ἐστιν εὐμούσως)?”

2. The Cyrenaic School.

The Cyrenaics took their name from Aristippus of Cyrene in Africa, the originator and head of the school. Just as Socrates wished to develop himself as an individual, his disciples, or those of the Cyrenaic and Cynic Schools, made individual life and practical philosophy their main object. Now if the Cyrenaics did not rest content with the determination of good in general, seeing that they inclined to place it in the enjoyment of the individual, the Cynics appear to be opposed to the whole doctrine, for they expressed the particular content of satisfaction as natural desires in a determination of negativity with regard to what is done by others. But as the Cyrenaics thereby satisfied their particular subjectivity, so also did the Cynics, and both schools have hence on the whole the same end—the freedom and independence of the individual. Because we are accustomed to consider happiness, which the Cyrenaics made the highest end of man, to be contentless, because we obtain it in a thousand ways, and it may be the result of most various causes, this principle appears at first to us as trivial, and indeed, generally speaking, it is so; we are likewise accustomed to believe that there is something higher than pleasure. The philosophic development of this principle which, for the rest, has not much in it, is mainly ascribed to Aristippus’ follower, Aristippus the younger. But Theodorus, Hegesias, and Anniceris, of the later Cyrenaics, are specially mentioned as having scientifically worked out the Aristippian principle, until it degenerated and merged into Epicureanism. But the consideration of the further progress of the Cyrenaic principle is specially interesting because this progression, in the essential nature of things, is carried quite beyond the principle, and has really abrogated it. Feeling is the indeterminate[470] individual. But if thought, reflection, mental culture, are given a place in this principle, through the principle of the universality of thought that principle of contingency, individuality, mere subjectivity, disappears; and the only really remarkable thing in this school is that this greater consistency in the universal is therefore an inconsistency as regards the principle.

a. Aristippus.

Aristippus went about with Socrates for a long time, and educated himself under him, although at the same time he was a strong and highly cultivated man before he sought out Socrates at all. He heard of him either in Cyrene or at the Olympian Games, which, as Greeks, the Cyrenians likewise visited. His father was a merchant, and he himself came to Athens on a journey which had commerce as its object. He was first amongst the Socratics to ask money of those whom he instructed; he also sent money to Socrates, who, however, returned it.[160] He did not content himself with the general expressions, good and beautiful, to which Socrates adhered, but took existence reflected in consciousness in its extreme determinateness as individuality; and because universal existence, as thought, was to him, from the side of reality, individual consciousness, he fixed on enjoyment as the only thing respecting which man had rationally to concern himself. The character and personality of Aristippus is what is most important, and what is preserved to us in his regard is his manner and life rather than his philosophic doctrines. He sought after enjoyment as a man of culture, who in that very way had raised himself into perfect indifference to all that is particular, all passions and bonds of every kind. When pleasure is made the principle, we immediately have the idea before us that[471] in its enjoyment we are dependent, and that enjoyment is thus opposed to the principle of freedom. But neither of the Cyrenaic teaching, nor the Epicurean, whose principle is on the whole the same, can this be stated. For by itself the end of enjoyment may well be said to be a principle in opposition to Philosophy; but when it is considered in such a way that the cultivation of thought is made the only condition under which enjoyment can be attained, perfect freedom of spirit is retained, since it is inseparable from culture. Aristippus certainly esteemed culture at its highest, and proceeded from this position—that pleasure is only a principle for men of philosophic culture; his main principle thus was that what is found to be pleasant is not known immediately but only by reflection.

Aristippus lived in accordance with these principles, and what in him interests us most is the number of anecdotes told about him, because they contain traces of a mentally rich and free disposition. Since in his life he went about to seek enjoyment, not without understanding (and thereby he was in his way a philosopher), he sought it partly with the discretion which does not yield itself to a momentary happiness, because a greater evil springs therefrom; and partly (as if philosophy were merely preservation from anxiety) without that anxiety which on every side fears possible evil and bad results; but above all without any dependence on things, and without resting on anything which is itself of a changeable nature. He enjoyed, says Diogenes, the pleasures of the moment, without troubling himself with those which were not present; he suited himself to every condition, being at home in all; he remained the same whether he were in regal courts or in the most miserable conditions. Plato is said to have told him that it was given to him alone to wear the purple and the rags. He was specially attached to Dionysius, being very popular with him; he certainly clung to him, but always retained complete independence. Diogenes,[472] the Cynic, for this reason called him the royal dog. When he demanded fifty drachms from someone who wished to hand over to him his son, and the man found the sum too high, saying that he could buy a slave for it, Aristippus answered, “Do so, and you will have two.” When Socrates asked him, “How do you have so much money?” he replied, “How do you have so little?” When a courtesan said to him that she had a child by him, he replied, “You know as little whether it is mine as, were you walking through briars, would you know which thorn pricked you.” A proof of his perfect indifference is given in the following: When Dionysius once spat at him, he bore it patiently, and when blamed, said, “The fishermen let themselves be wet by the sea to catch the little fish, and I, should I not bear this to catch such a good one?” When Dionysius asked him to choose one of three courtesans, he took them all with him, observing that it had been a dangerous thing even to Paris to choose out one; but after leading them to the vestibule of the house, he let all three go. He made nothing of the possession of money as contrasted with the results which appear to follow from pursuing pleasure, and hence he wasted it on dainties. He once bought a partridge at fifty drachms (about twenty florins). When someone rebuked him, he asked, “Would you not buy it for a farthing?” And when this was acknowleged, he answered, “Now fifty drachms are no more than that to me.” Similarly in journeying in Africa, the slave thought it hard to be troubled with a sum of money. When Aristippus knew this he said, “Throw away what is too much and carry what you can.”

As regards the value of culture, he replied to the question as to how an educated man differs from an uneducated, that a stone would not fit in with the other, i.e. the difference is as great as that of a man from the stone. This is not quite wrong, for man is what he ought to be as man, through culture; it is his second nature through which he first[473] enters into possession of that which he has by nature, and thus for the first time he is Mind. We may not, however, think in this way of our uncultured men, for with us such men through the whole of their conditions, through customs and religion, partake of a source of culture which places them far above those who do not live in such conditions. Those who carry on other sciences and neglect Philosophy, Aristippus compares to the wooers of Penelope in the Odyssey, who might easily have Melantho and the other maidens, but who could not obtain the queen.[161]

The teaching of Aristippus and his followers is very simple, for he took the relation of consciousness to existence in its most superficial and its earliest form, and expressed existence as Being as it is immediately for consciousness, i.e. as feeling simply. A distinction is now made between the true, the valid, what exists in and for itself, and the practical and good, and what ought to be our end; but in regard to both the theoretic and practical truth, the Cyrenaics make sensation what determines. Hence their principle is more accurately not the objective itself, but the relation of consciousness to the objective; the truth is not what is in sensation the content, but is itself sensation, it is not objective, but the objective subsists only in it. “Thus the Cyrenaics say, sensations form the real criterion; they alone can be known, and are infallible, but what produces feeling is neither knowable nor infallible. Thus when we perceive a white and sweet, we may assert this condition as ours with truth and certainty. But that the causes of these feelings are themselves a white and sweet object we cannot with certainty affirm. What these men say about ends is also in harmony with this, for sensations also extend to ends. The sensations are either pleasant or unpleasant or neither of the two. Now they call the unpleasant feelings[474] the bad, the end of which is pain; the pleasant is the good, whose invariable end is happiness. Thus feelings are the criteria of knowledge and the ends for action. We live because we follow them from testimony (ἐναργείᾳ) received and satisfaction (εὑδοκήσει) experienced, the former in accordance with theoretic intuitions (κατὰ τὰ ἄλλα πάθη), and the latter with what gives us pleasure.”[162] That is to say, as end, feeling is no longer a promiscuous variety of sensuous affections (τὰ ἄλλα πάθη), but the setting up of the Notion as the positive or negative relation to the object of action, which is just the pleasant or the unpleasant.

Here we enter on a new sphere where two kinds of determinations constitute the chief points of interest; these are everywhere treated of in the many Socratic schools which were being formed, and though not by Plato and Aristotle, they were specially so by the Stoics, the new Academy, &c. That is to say, the one point is determination itself in general, the criterion; and the second is what determination for the subject is. And thus the idea of the wise man results—what the wise do, who the wise are, &c. The reason that these two expressions are now so prominent is one which rests on what has gone before. On the one hand the main interest is to find a content for the good, for else men may talk about it for years. This further definition of the good is just the criterion. On the other hand the interest of the subject appears, and that is the result of the revolution in the Greek mind made by Socrates. When the religion, constitution, laws of a people, are held in esteem, and when the individual members of a people are one with them, the question of what the individual has to do on his own account, will not be put. In a moralized, religious condition of things we are likely to find the end of man in what is present, and these[475] morals, religion and laws are also present in him. When, on the contrary, the individual exists no longer in the morality of his people, no longer has his substantial being in the religion, laws, &c., of his land, he no longer finds what he desires, and no longer satisfies himself in his present. But if this discord has arisen, the individual must immerse himself in himself, and there seek his end. Now this is really the cause that the question of what is the essential for the individual arises. After what end must he form himself and after what strive? Thus an ideal for the individual is set up, and this is the wise man: what was called the ideal of the wise man is the individuality of self-consciousness which is conceived of as universal essence. The point of view is the same when we now ask, What can I know? What should I believe? What ought I to hope? What is the highest interest of the subject? It is not what is truth, right, the universal end of the world, for instead of asking about the science of the implicitly and explicitly objective, the question is what is true and right in as far as it is the insight and conviction of the individual, his end and a mode of his existence? This talk about wise men is universal amongst the Stoics, Epicureans, &c., but is devoid of meaning. For the wise man is not in question, but the wisdom of the universe, real reason. A third definition is that the universal is the good; the real side of things is enjoyment and happiness as a simple existence and immediate actuality. How then do the two agree? The philosophic schools which now arise and their successors have set forth the harmony of both determinations, which are the higher Being and thought.

b. Theodorus.

Of the later Cyrenaics, Theodorus must be mentioned first; he is famous for having denied the existence of the gods, and being, for this reason, banished from Athens.[476] Such a fact can, however, have no further interest or speculative significance, for the positive gods which Theodorus denied, are themselves not any object of speculative reason. He made himself remarkable besides for introducing the universal more into the idea of that which was existence for consciousness, for “he made joy and sorrow the end, but in such a way that the former pertained to the understanding and the latter to want of understanding. He defined the good as understanding and justice, and the bad as the opposite; enjoyment and pain, however, were indifferent.”[163] When we reach the consciousness that the individual sensuous feeling, as it is immediately, is not to be considered as real existence, it is then said that it must be accepted with understanding; i.e. feeling, just as it is, is not reality. For the sensuous generally, as sensation, theoretic or practical, is something quite indeterminate, this or that unit; a criticism of this unit is hence required, i.e. it must be considered in the form of universality, and hence this last necessarily reappears. But this advance on individuality is culture, which, through the limitation of individual feelings and enjoyments, tries to make these harmonious, even though it first of all only calculates as to that by which the greater pleasure is to be found. Now, to the question as to which of the many enjoyments which I, as a many-sided man, can enjoy, is the one which is in completest harmony with me, and in which I thus find the greatest satisfaction, it must be replied that the completest harmony with me is only found in the accordance of my particular existence and consciousness with my actual substantial Being. Theodorus comprehended this as understanding and justice, in which we know where to seek enjoyment. But when it is said that felicity must be sought by reflection, we know that these are empty words and thoughtless utterances. For the feeling in which felicity is contained, is in its conception the individual,[477] self-changing, without universality and subsistence. Thus the universal, understanding, as an empty form, adheres to a content quite incongruous with it; and thus Theodorus distinguished the Good in its form, from the end as the Good in its nature and content.

c. Hegesias.

It is remarkable that another Cyrenaic, Hegesias, recognized this incongruity between sensation and universality, which last is opposed to the individual, having what is agreeable as well as disagreeable within itself. Because, on the whole, he took a firmer grasp of the universal and gave it a larger place, there passed from him all determination of individuality, and with it