Search includes full text of all documents

Search Keywords: 
Library: The Earliest Philosophers of Nature
Title:      The Earliest Philosophers of Nature
Categories:      Philosophy
BookID:      20
Authors:      Kevin Wall, O.P.
ISBN-10(13):      0000000020
Publisher:      Western Dominican Province
Publication date:      July 10, 2018
Number of pages:      24
Language:      Not specified
Price:      0.00
Rating:      0 
Picture:      cover

Essay on ancient philosophy. 


Scan (PDF)




 The full text is included below for search indexing purposes. If you want to read the document

we recommend that you download it using one of the links above.

Title: The Earliest Philosophers of Nature Author: Kevin Wall, O.P. Published online: July 2018 Previously unpublished Rights: Copyrighted 2018. Rights are owned by Western Dominican Province. Copyright Holder has given Institution permission to provide access to the digitized work online. Transmission or reproduction of materials protected by copyright beyond that allowed by fair use requires the written permission of the copyright owner. In addition, the reproduction of some materials may be restricted by terms of gift or purchase agreements, donor restrictions, privacy and publicity rights, licensing and trademarks. Works not in the public domain cannot be commercially exploited without permission of the copyright owner. Responsibility for any use rests exclusively with the user. Kevin A. Wall, O.P. THE EARLIEST PHILOSOPHERS OF NATURE There are two things immediately necessary for the emergence of philosophy in culture: that the men who are to produce it be well grounded in the truths of the myth; that they have an abundance of leisure for thinking. Both of these conditions were adequately fulfilled for the first time in the Greek colonies of Asia Minor about six centuries before Christ. And it was therefore in this area that phi- losophy first arose. That the two conditions given are necessary ones is already obvious to us from the first lecture. But let us go over the proof again in order to refresh our memory of it. The proof is this. In order that there be philosophy, there must first be a philosophical question. Now the philosophi- cal question cannot exist unless the myth question precedes it, and unless the thinker, who possesses this, has the time to contemplate it. But these are the two given conditions. Therefore they are necessary for the emergence of philosophy. That the myth question must come before philosophy is not difficult to establish. For it asks: "What is a man"? and "What is the meaning of human life"? And its substance is its answer to both. Philosophy asks: "What are all other things too besides man"? and "What is being as such"? And the substance of its doctrine is its answer. But it never would and never could pose these questions unless it had the myth question and answer already before it as a 2 model and a pattern. For it does no more than complete the latter. It asks what the myth neglects. But this estab- lishes its dependence. For without the myth, philosophy would have no question to ask. That it depends likewise upon leisure time for its contemplation needs no belaboring. For it is thought, not practical action. It therefore demands time free from prac- tical needs. This is what the second condition states. That these two prerequisites were fulfilled in the Asia Minor Greek colony where philosophy actually first arose is easily shown by a study of historical evidence. This indicates that the Greek community then was on the fringe of the great oriental cultures, and therefore in close contact with them. Having this contact it was able to assimilate their wealth in myth thinking and thoroughly to digest it. Moreover, being in a prosperous position across the trade routes between oriental and western Mediterranean communities, it was able to enjoy the fruits of wealth, and particularly that of leisure. Thus it was well-steeped in the knowledge of the myth, and it had the leisure time neces- sary for contemplation. By this fact it fulfilled the con- ditions necessary in order that it might become the origina- tor of philosophy. It fulfilled not only the necessary conditions for this, but also the sufficient. To understand this we must make a distinction between these two. For it is an obvious fact of history that the necessary conditions mentioned were 3 enjoyed by other peoples and cultures besides the Greeks without their giving birth to philosophical thought. Such was the case for the Egyptian and Mesopotamian cultures. They had the leisure and they had the insight into the myth-- that of the Greeks was, in fact, borrowed from them--and yet they did not produce philosophy. Obviously the reason for this must be that to possess these--the myth and leisure-- although necessary, is not sufficient for creating philos- ophy. Something more is required, whatever it may be. And this additional element was possessed by the Greeks alone. What it was is not easy to determine. But some of its effects are rather obvious. One of them is this, that it causes a deep-seated desire to go beyond the imperfect Welt-anschauung of the myth. This desire awakens in the soul a feeling of dissatisfaction with the limitations of the myth view of existence. Disturbed by this feeling, the soul seeks to overcome it by an .advance in knowledge. Thus it pushes beyond the myth into the realms of science and phi- losophy. Aristotle asserted that the urge responsible for this is quite simply a natural inclination of the mind to knowl- edge. In the first book of the Metaphysics, in the very opening sentence, he gives this as the root explanation of the growth of human culture and of philosophy: "Every man by nature desires to know." This is a simple statement and yet a profound one. For it affirms that just as a man by • his animal nature desires to find sensible satisfaction--by I+ which we explain his liking for food--so by his rational nature he desires, ultimately, to know things. All of his activity and ceaseless moving about takes its sense from this. All of his practicality is ordained to it. By this fact man is more fundamentally a contemplator than a doer. He wishes primarily to see and only secondarily to make. It is this fundamental desire, of whose existence one is only dimly aware in the bustle of practical life, which arises once the myth is grasped and the possibility of its fulfillment thereby rendered proximate. Once the mind, through the myth, tastes the sweetness of contemplation in an imperfect insight into man, it will not then rest until it applies its contemplation to every other thing besides. Certainly then it is this impatient desire which is the extra-added factor necessary to explain why men push beyond the myth to philosophy. They do not do so for any practical results which this will yield but simply to satisfy the need to know. This is undoubtedly true. But if it is, why was it then that the Greeks alone experienced this desire in the way which was necessary to produce the first body of • philosophical thought? The answer to this question is just as difficult and mysterious as the answer to the preceding one. What it specifically was we possibly cannot know, but what it gener- ically was we can fairly well surmise. It must have been generically, because of the quality and the character of the leisure which Greek Ionian society provided for its members. For although all societies pro- vide some sort of leisure, they do not all provide the same. Some create conditions for work by which the members are mentally or physically exhausted and therefore the leisure which these give is of necessity time of pure recreation, that is to say, of recovery of strength. In such a case the hardness of the labor debilitates bodily strength; or its demand for concentration depletes mental energy. The result of this is that though leisure is achieved, by which is meant a certain amount of time during which the members are free from the necessity of physical labor for the needs of life, they are not able, during that time, to apply them- selves to the work of contemplation. They are too mentally and physically tired to do this. For contemplation requires freshness of body and eagerness of mind. Therefore it does not flourish in leisure of this sort as is necessary for the discovery of philosophy. History teaches us that this is the situation for most societies. And therefore this is the reason why the vast majority of them do not produce original philosophy. This being so, achievement of the Greek society is rare. It is a cultural phenomenon, which has at times been compared to a cultural explosion. We can only presuppose that the conditions necessary for this explosion were present. We cannot very well determine in detail exactly what they are. In a general way, then, we can be sure that the leisure supplied to the men of the Greek Asia Minor colonial 6 society was such as. to permit them to apply themselves to contemplation. From this we may conclude that the labor which they had to perform in order to obtain it must not have been of such a sort as to enervate them physically nor mentally. It must have left them with considerable mental freshness by reason of which they were eager to advance in knowledge. When this preparation combined with an insight into the wealth of myth-thinking offered them through their contact with Eastern culture, it resulted in the unique phenomenon of original philosophical thought. As far as we know from our limited historical sources, the first man in whom this phenomenon reached fruition was Thales. He lived in Miletus, an Asia Minor Greek colony on the Aegean Sea, about six centuries before Christ° He was a completely rounded man, being a general, statesman and phi- losopher. He was also a mathematician and an astronomer of considerable note, but this must be accepted on faith from ancient testimony since the works, by which it might be proved, have perished. As an astronomer, he predicted, it is said, the eclipse of 585 B.C. And he is said to have had such am advanced .knowledge, of..meteorology that he was able to take advantage of this by speculating on the olive crop, from which he made a fortune. Now these details concerning his general cultural achievements are far from being without point in determining the content and the value of his philosophical achievement. For if it be true that philosophy must rise out of a 7 well-prepared previous mental insight, then it is also true that just the type of educational and scientific background, such as Thales is reputed to have had, would be a necessary pre-requisite for, him in order that he might originate philosophy. That he did in fact originate it is made clear to us by a study of the content of his thought. This is patently of the level of philosophy, and beyond that of the myth or of dialectical science. For in it he concerns himself in a philosophical way with the material cause out of which all things come, that is to say, with the material principle of all change. Now this concern is beyond the myth, and beyond dialectical or empirical science. Therefore it pertains to philosophy, and, indeed, to the first level of philosophical thought--to the philosophy of nature. It is true that the myth does concern itself in its cosmological component with the origin of all things. And it is true that a common position of the myths with which Thales must have been acquainted with relation to this ques- tion was that this origin was from a watery chaos. In fact this, by the evidence left to us through historical sources, was one of the suggestions which Thales took in his own theory that water is the material cause of all change. But his concern with it was totally different from that of the myth. 8 The myth deals with this topic in so far as it gives sense to the social life of man by rounding it out with an assertion about his origin. Usually this position is taken according to the conditions of the material surroundings in which the particular people, developing their own society and its myth, find themselves. The Eskimo, living in a frozen land of perpetual snow, posits snow as this original: matter which God used when he first formed man. The Indian, in conditions of the plains, posits clay. The Hebrew posited the slime of the earth--a mixture of water and earth. People living on the borders of the sea, such as the Greeks in the Ionian colonies, tended to posit water. But these various peoples all do this not because they are trying to explain the inner principles of change as such, but because they are trying to give a rounded ontological picture of man defined by relation to his social life. By relation to this, he must be defined as a creature with an end determined by his mode of social life, and with a compatible beginning. Nothing is more natural than that this beginning should be viewed as similar to that by which an artisan produces a vase or a tool. And nothing is more natural than that its matter should be a most common one, well known to those who form the myth, and offering some semblance of probability as that from which man was formed. The myths which incarnate such decisions of a parti- cular culture concerning the choice of original matter will usually not make an impact upon those who hear them until 9 they have been expressed in striking poetical form whereby they are easily retained in memory. As those who provide this service, the poets now enter the picture. Through their work the myths are then taught to the young arrivals in the group in a permanent form. By this fact the poets become the teachers of the myths--the poets and the theo- logians, since the two are closely connected. And because they are, the natural form for expressing the myth becomes the poetical, and the natural form for contemplating it and developing it, the same. -It is not surprising then that the poets and the theologians should intervene in the develop- ment of culture between the formation of the myth and of abstract philosophical thought. This would explain why Thales is said to have taken his "water" principle from the poets and the theologians-- from Hesiod and such like fashioners of the Greek myth in literary form. But his mode of thought is distinct from theirs. For he also rested his idea upon a consideration of the nature of change in itself and what this postulates. It was this which made his speculations "philosophical." For the myth is never concerned with the nature of change as such, but only with its relation to the social nature of man. Having made this remark, it would perhaps be useful to make another also to which it naturally leads that the discovery of philosophy does not necessarily postulate a discovery of new truths. Not at all. It postulates only a new insight into truth, even though this has already been 10 apprehended on a lower level. To know this truth philosoph- ically is to know it in a higher way, in itself, without reference to the social needs of man, and as an absolute scientific certainty. The truth of the immortality of the human soul for example, is known both on the myth level and on the philo- sophical. And on both levels it is one and the same truth. But on the philosophical it is known in itself and with cer- titude, whereas on the myth level it is known only as a proposition which must be accepted in order to preserve the peace and order of society. Thus it is characteristic of a person who has appre- hended this truth only on the level of the myth that he can put it to practical use, and has convincing practical certi- tude concerning its necessity, but that he cannot give another person any reason why in itself it must be admitted. He cannot prove it speculatively and his practical insight into its consequences is extremely limited. This is not the case for the philosopher. He can prove this truth and with- out any practical reference to its utility for the social life. And he can teach the proof to someone else who is capable of reaching the same level of abstraction. The difference between the philosopher and the myth- thinker in this truth is therefore not what they believe, but how they believe it. This is not the same. The"how" of the philosopher is to that of the myth-maker as the fully perfected flower to its original seed. The myth is the 11 seed; philosophy is the fully grown plant. This neatly distinguishes the myth from philosophy, but it does not adequately distinguish between empirical science and philosophy. Empirical science too follows on the myth and even more immediately than philosophy. How is the speculation of Thales distinct from it? Let us say this, by way of approximating an answer, that although philosophy is distinct from empirical science, it is also related to it, and, indeed more immediately than to the myth, then philosophy is an immediate development of it. Now the question is, if this is so, how are they in turn to be distinguished? To answer this, let us first consider how they are not to be distinguished. This will clear away a misconception which might arise. One might well come to conceive of them as unalterably opposed contents to doctrine when this is not at all the case. Actually they agree in the remote end which they both propose. They both attempt to discover the natures of things which have a relationship to man, but which are not revealed to us by the myth. The myth shows us only what a man is, but not what anything else is. It might seem, on the surface, that this is not true, since myths concern themselves with many other things besides man, and indeed, with nearly everything else in the world. But they deal with such things only in so far as they have a relationship to man and his life, not in so far as they are things in themselves. This makes a great difference. For so to consider other 12 things besides man is not to know them in themselves. Now both empirical science and philosophy attempt to remedy this defect. And thus they both agree on this general end, and are, by that, not only a development beyond the myth but its perfection of it, supposing it as the seed out of which they come. Supposing this, then, as that in which they agree, we may distinguish them precisley according to what they tell us of other things in nature besides man. Empirical science tells us in an approximate and probable way what the specific natures of these things are. Philosophy tells us in a cer- tain and terminal way what their general natures are. Thus in empirical science you will never find a stric- tly empirical discussion of what change is as such. Empiri- cal science is not concerned with this general subject. Rather it is concerned with specifically different types of change for which it proposes approximate but specific answers chemical change; change of volumes and pressures correlated to specific changes of heat; change of position according to specific quantitative laws. Philosophy goes beyond these to the strictly generic consideration of what change as such is. And in this it is distinct from empirical science. Now you will notice that though it is distinct we have postulated that it must come out of the latter. This is because, in the nature of the movement of the mind away from the myth--or better beyond the myth--it first attempts 13 probable specific answers by the method of observation. But inevitably it must draw from the comparison of the many dif- ferent anwwers thus discovered, certain insights into their most generic suppositions. By this abstraction it must of necessity pass on to philosophy--and only by this abstrac- tion--for if it did not have the probable theories of empiri- cal science for its matter, it could not make the abstraction. This is an important point for it implies, as we have already seen, that the knowledge presupposition for the first philosopjer is his grasp of the methods and the results of empirical science. Without this he cannot abstract the subject of philosophy. And we have seen that this was pos- sessed by Thales, a man of immense culture and knowledge relative to his days. We know specifically that he posses- sed a knowledge of one of the prime empirical sciences-- that of astronomy--and we can reconstruct, from his doctrine, the biological science too, presupposed by it. The following is the substance of the historical evi- dence which we have concerning the thought of this philosopher, from which we must reconstruct its probable and certain origin and its content. I quote from the first Book of Aristotle's Metaphysics: Most of the earliest philosophers conceived only of material principles as underlying all things. That of which all things consist, from which they first come and into which on their destruction they are ultimately resolved, of which the essence persists although modified by its affections---this, they say, is an element and principle of existing things . . Thales, the founder of this school of philosophy, says the permanent entity is water (which is why he also propounded that the earth 14 floats on water). Presumably he derived this assumption from seeing that the nutriment of everything is moist, and that heat itself is generated from moisture and depends upon it for its existence (and that from which a thing is generated is always its first principle). He derived his assumption, then, from this; and also from the fact that the seeds of everything have a moist nature, whereas water is the first principle of the nature of moist things. (983b 6-28) There are some who think that the men of very ancient tithes, long before the present era, who first speculated about the gods, also held this same opinion about the primary entity. For they represented Oceanus and Tethys to be the parents of creation, and the oath of the gods to be by water--Styx, as they call it. Now what is most ancient is most revered, and what is most revered is what we swear by. Whether this view of the primary entity is really ancient and time-honored may perhaps be considered uncertain; however, it is said that this was Thales' opinion concerning the first cause. (983b-984a 4) Notice, in this quotation, that the second portion refers to the origin of Thales' position in preceding mythical specu- lations. Aristotle reports that there is an opinion among some that this was the case, and that the ancients for a fact had so speculated. But he himself will not commit him- self to the position for the reason that it is not certain about the opinions of the ancients. But he does so to the pains of citing it as a possible explanation of Thales' doc- trine, and this shows his realization of the relation between the myth, in general, and the formation of philosophy. He speaks of those who first "speculated" about the gods. By this he means thinkers who took their basic prin- ciples from the myth and then through these principles attempted to answer all related problems of life, in parti- cular the problem concerning the existence and nature and function of the gods. To shift such a speculation to the 15 philosophical level would require a change not so much in the concrete results of the thought as in its principles. The principles of the myth are the presuppositions which must be made concerning man in order to maintain society; the presuppositions of philosophy are the definitions of natural things in themselves. This shift of principle is documented for us in the first part of the quotation. Aristotle does not rest his opinion upon any textual or documentary evidence but upon a conjecture as to what the source of the thought in such a shift must be, at the beginning of philosophy. Thus he uses the word "presumably" (in the Greek, isos, which means, usually, "perhaps"). This shows that he is really reasoning from his own knowledge of philosophy to a good conjecture as to what the content of its first affirmations had to be and upon what they most probably had to be grounded. This well-founded opinion is systematically expressed in the commentary of St. Thomas upon the Metaphysics. St. Thomas there tells us that we may divide it in the following way: A. The doctrine of Thales derived from a threegold consideration of the nature of changeable things in themselves: 1. that their nourishment is moist; 2. that they are conserved in being by warmth which has moisture as its proper subject; 3. that they are conserved in being directly by 16 moisture. B. B. The doctrine is derived from a consideration of the nature of becoming whereby such things come into being: 1. all living things come out of humid sperm. Clearly these arguments do not rest upon myth convictions but upon the natures of things in themselves. But it may seem that they are trivial. A brief consideration will con- vince you, I am sure, that this is not the case. The first series of arguments has to do with the natures of living things. The first argument concerning them turns upon the quality of thier nourishment, and must there- fore be its ultimate principle. Notice, first of all, that this is an argument concerning living things, not concerning all changeable things whatsoever, whether living or might seem to impose a material principle out I mean that the choice argument might seem to water is the principle would seem not to lead not. This restriction proportionate restriction upon the of which such change comes. By this of such a specific change from the lead to the restricted conclusion: out of which living things come. It to the more general conclusion: water is the prime material substratum of all changeability and of all changeable things. In fact it does lead to this more general conclusion as can easily be proved. The proof is this. The process of nutrition or assimilation is one whereby a living being takes something 17 distinct from itself and transforms it so that at the term of the change it becomes a part of its own being. This could never occur unless there were something in the food eaten, and in the being who eats it, which is common. For obviously in the process of change something in the eaten thing supports first the form or nature of the nourishment and then, finally, the form or nature of the living thing. Therefore in order that this process of assimilation take place it is necessary that the assimilating being and the assimilated thing have a common material substratum. From this we must conclude that an animal has a com- mon material substratum with a plant. For it eats the plant and assimilates the latter to itself. The same is true also of man who eats the animal and the plant. Moreover, since the plant is nourished directly by the non-living chemical substance of the soil, it is obvious that this latter too must have a common material substratum with the plant. Therefore the fact of assimilation by living things estab- lishes a common matter from the highest to the lowest level of material being. This shows that the implications of the argument from nourishment are not trivial nor insignificant but quite pro- found. They embrace the entire range of material things. But this argument does not, as such, justify the identifica- tion of the prime material principle in this range as water. This identification demands a more complex analysis. For it contains two parts: the abstract conception of the 18 nature and the effects of the immanent material principle; the concrete identification of this principle with a speci- fic thing. The first portion of the identification is com- pletely justified by the argument. The second is not. The first and justified assertion is thin there is a common material substratum underlying all material things, which explains why there can be such a thing as nourishment. For this matter takes on different forms and in doing so produces all of the changes observed in nature. In parti- cular it passes from the possession of the form of the edible thing, to the possession of the form of living being who eats the latter. And it is this which makes such eating an onto- logical possibility. That the material principle responsible for this is specifically water the argument does not conclude. Let us consider it again more carefully in order to see why this is so. Proceeding from the fact that nourishment supposes the presence of a material substratum common to the edible food and the living thing which consumes it, the argument takes its force from this consideration. The result of the trans- formation of the edible thing by which it becomes the living body is the continued existence of the latter. Therefore the continuity of the body's existence is reducible to this common material substratum as to a cause. But if this be true, then the same matter must be the cause of existence as such, since to cause existence to continue is to add to it, that is to say, to make existence in the sense of extending 19 it. What makes existence in this way must be responsible for it in every other way. Therefore this material principle must be responsible for existence as such. This portion of the argument is quite valid, and is not denied by subsequent thinkers. For it correctly gives the general nature and properties of'the prime material sub- ject of all change. Now comes the second portion of the argument by which Thales endeavors to identify this former with a specific observable material compound, namely, with water. This is something quite different. The argument by which he obviously must attempt to do so is this. Whatever is the prime cause of existence, both in the first instance and in every other succeeding instance, must always be present in order that a thing continue to live, and in particular, must be present in its nourishment in order that it be nourished. Therefore it is something which cannot be removed from that nourishment without rendering it inefficacious. Is there something observable in nature of which this is true? It seems that there is, namely, water. Water therefore must be the prime substratum of the change of assimilation, and by arguing back as we have already done, of all other changes too. The error in this argument occurs with respect to the attribute "present." The general argument that "presence" ina the material thing of the material substratum is required in order that it exist--this is quite valid. But the specific argument--that is must be a sensible presence, visible to thee 20 eyes, and to experience of a sensible sort in general--this is not valid. For these are two types of presence. The one is the proper presence of a material cause as such, whereby it supports a form and, through this, accidents. In this mode of presence it is not a sensible thing. It cannot be seen nor touched nor tasted. The compound of this substratum, plus its form, plus the accidents attached to the two united, this can be sensed, but not the underlying substratum as such. The mistake of Thales is to think that the latter itself can be sensed. The mistake was not immediately clear in this restricted philosophical light, but it became clear when the doctrine was submitted to a subsequent, more search= ing analysis. We will not concern ourselves with the other argu- ments by which Thales arrived at his conclusion. What we have said of the one which we have considered applies to all of them. They all contain the same double component, the one giving the general nature and properties of the prime material substratum and the other specifically identifying it with water. The first portion of their argumentation is valid and was accepted as such by those coming after him. The second was not and was immediately criticized by them. Obviously on the basis of his position it was neces- sary for Thales to explain all change. This must of neces- sity take place through the various modifications of water or of the moist. Now the moist can be rendered hard by freezing, or vaporous by extreme heating. And it can absorb 21 and radiate heat. It would seem to assume, therefore, all of the conditions necessary to explain the varieties of forms which natural things are observed to have. This would seem, from the point of view of Thales, to be an adequate explana- tion of them. Anaximander, who is held to have been his immediate successor, did not agree. Anaximander observed that whatever the prime sub- stratum mught be, it could certainly not be anything of so specific a nature as water. For from this prime matter all natural things must come. They must all therefore be drawn out of it, and for this to occur they must first be con- tained in it. But not all natural forms are contained in the specific matter which is water. Fire, for example, is not and therefore cannot be derived from it. Water, then, cannot be the prime substratum postulated by Thales. But neither can earth, nor fire, nor any other of the observable matters. For all of them the same thing can be said as of water they are too determined as to their specific natures to allow all other natures to be derived from them. Fire excludes water; earth excludes air; and so on. The prime substratum must therefore be of such a nature as to contain both fire and water and every other thing, and this at one and the same time. But in order to do this, it cannot contain the properties of any one of them in a deter- mined way--it cannot be determinedly moist, or warm, or cold, etc. It must therefore be a completely indetermined thing, unlimited in the sense which this indetermination 22 demands. Anaximander therefore called it the APEIRON, or the Indetermined, or the Infinite. Thus while admitting the general nature of the material substratum postulated for change by Thales, and while adding to the properties which follow from it, Anaximander showed that the identification of this matter with water specifi- cally, or with any other such specific thing, would be logi- cally impossible. From such a thing the varieties of con- trary forms could not come. This was a profound insight. The objections of Anaximenes against it were in reality a recession to a lesser philosophical position. For he reasoned that the prime substratum of Anaxi- mander, being neither hot nor cold, hard nor soft in any determined way, but all at once, was by that fact totally lacking in quality. And therefore it would not be possible to draw quality from it. To remedy this supposed defect, he postulated a prime substratum having all of the properties attributed to it by Anaximander--that it be infinite and that it contain in an indefinite way all the contrary qualities of things--but at the same time having a determined quality itself. This subject, he decided, was air. For air is of indefinite extent, and by its rarefaction and condensation, all of the varieties of concrete material things can be derived. This was a doctrinal recession. For against it the arguments of Anaximander against the "water" of Thales were still valid. It was therefore a movement back to the 23 original doctrinal position with a simple shift in the speci- fic prime substance. This would not suffice. And in fact the only thing which would suffice was a push beyond Anaxi- mander to an insight into that which "contains contraries in an indefinite way without being determinedly any one of them." This required a penetration of the doctrine of matter and form, potentiality and act, which was still a long way off. Logically speaking then, since Anaximenes was not prepared to push forward and since he could not be content with the doctrine of Anaximander, he, of necessity, fell back. And this was the rhythm of the early physiologists: a beginning; a push forward to the very lofty doctrine of Anaximander; a recession back to the doctrine of Anaximenes. Considerations of another nature entirely were necessary in order that this cycle could be again stirred to life and, in fact, overcome. These considerations were those of the Pure Metaphysicians, with which we will concern ourselves in the next lecture. For the moment, let us return to the early philosophers of nature to complete the history of their thought. This completion was given by Diogenes Apollonates. He was not an original thinker, nor could he advance the doctrine of the school in any original way. He could merely reflect upon it in its totality, discover its loose ends, patch these up here and there, and give the doctrine a polished form. One ele- ment which needed this finishing was the implied principle 24 that the material substratum must of necessity be one. Dio- genes endeavored to show that this is true and to draw the conclusions which follow from it: all things are merely modifications of this one; all change is not really substan- tial change but simply alterations of the forms of this prime subject. It, in itself, is not capable of change and is therefore an immortal and indestructible thing. With these conclusions he gave a certain inner completeness to the dis- cussions of the philosophers of this school but did not solve the difficulties which they encountered nor resolve their many contradictions. So with Diogenes Appollonates the first burst of philosophical thought reached a formal close. It was now an existing thing, a new rational insight into nature such as had never been known before. Philosophy was born. And the great vital energy which had managed to give life out of the matter prepared by the myth and by dialec- tical or empirical science was by no means played out. For it was only the beginning. As of now it had produced a scientific knowledge of the principles of changeable things in so far as they change. It had yet to produce a science of unchangeable things. This it did in the thought of the great philosophers of the Metaphysical School, whom we will consider in the next lecture.






Please past text to modal
© 2018 Western Dominican Province. All Rights Reserved.