Notebook, 1993-


Ancient Greek Philosophy

The Greeks were the first to speculate on the nature of things, and therein lies the particular attraction which their philosophy has had. It possessed the freshness of youth which suddenly discovers itself and the universe around it. Its special feature is that in it the philosophical mind is born and matures together with its object, that is to say, together with the philosophical problem. The philosophical mind discovers its objective for the first time. Thereafter, both intellect and problem grew together and evolved organically as one. The problems arose one after the other, not by chance, but through the inner demands of the intellect. Thus we find that the so-called pre-Socratic schools of thought [6th Century B.C.] had been preoccupied pre-eminently with cosmology, whereas Socrates [2nd half of the 5th Century] did not concern himself with the 'countryside and the trees', but with the 'men of the city.'

In subsequent philosophy, both medieval and modern, this organic relationship of the intellect with the object did not exist. The problems of philosophy were not altogether new with the latter thinkers, for they had received these problems already answered by the ancients. And they looked upon these answers which were given, and had to either accept them or to challenge them. But in ancient Greek philosophy such obligation to the past did not exist, since the problems had been posed for the first time. The Greeks created a philosophy without having the advantage of previous foundations and an inheritance from [p. 153] other nations upon which to build their concepts. Consequently, the relationships of their intellect with the object, with the philosophical problems, was esoteric and organic. The contemplative mind was born in ancient Greece simultaneously with the problems and was in effect a projection of its vigor and potency.

In these early centuries the philosophical turn of mind of the Greeks turned on a naturalistic system which evolved into an explanation of the universe or cosmos. All the meanings that today make up the system of natural science were first created in this productive period of Greek philosophy, including the terminology for matter, power, energy, number, size, motion, the meaning of becoming, the consistency of an inconsistent space, the particles, and so on. Moreover, with the rebirth of science in western Europe, we observe that all its great thinkers and founders conscientiously referred to antiquity and returned to the basic concepts formulated by the ancient Greek philosophers and scientists. Kepler, resurrected Pythagorean thought, and Galileo the precepts of Democritus. These concepts, after many centuries of being hidden in the depth of obscurity, suddenly emerged into the light, and became the foundation stones of the new science. But the farther budding natural science moved along the road to development, so more definitively did it begin to correlate the aim and the purpose of its concepts, and so more clearly and distinctly was it divorced from metaphysics. But this separation or distinction was completely alien to the ancient Greek world, for this is precisely the characteristic crux of the ancient Greek intellect--that the intellectual path led jointly and simultaneously to both the exoteric and the esoteric worlds. Every concept regarding the object, every step of the intellect in the direction of the object, was also a step directed to oneself, to self-understanding or to knowing oneself. Each new concept regarding the object was a further stage in identifying the self, of feeling its strength and power. So here one sees that the universe as a whole and the intellect as a system were conceived simultaneously. The meaning of the universe and the meaning of the intellect constituted a union or marriage which was deliberate or self-willed.

It is difficult to arrange and classify the Greek philosophic systems precisely because they are the earliest to appear in the long history of philosophical thought. Yet something had to be done, and the necessity for a methodical arrangement brought about a classification of sorts. One can in outline form distinguish: 1] Pre-Socratic philosophy 2] Sophistic 3] Attic 4] Hellenistic, and 5] Neoplatonic philosophies. [pp. 153-154]

[Kyriazis, Constantine D. Eternal Greece. Translated by Harry T. Hionides. A Chat Publication.]



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