The Philosophy of Anaxagoras: An Attempt at Reconstruction

The Philosophy of Anaxagoras: An Attempt at Reconstruction

The Philosophy of Anaxagoras: An Attempt at Reconstruction

The Philosophy of Anaxagoras: An Attempt at Reconstruction

Excerpt

PHILOSOPHIA FIAT,
QUAE PHILOLOGIA FUIT!

It is a true calamity that we have so little left of those earlier philosophic masters and that we have been deprived of anything complete. Because of that loss we unintentionally measure them in wrong proportions and allow ourselves to be influenced against them by the mere accident that Plato and Aristotle have never been in want of praisers and copyists. . . . Probably the grandest part of Greek thought and of its expression in words has been lost to us.

Friedrich Nietzsche, who wrote these sentences in 1873, is quite right (save that he takes for an accident what certainly was not one). Plato, our great Plato, is really but an imposing synthesis, the admirable architect of a grand building, practically none of the stones of which come from himself. And Aristotle, the polyhistor, as far as his philosophy is concerned, is apparently little else but a Plato deprived of his poetical make-up, notwithstanding those ostensible differences which Aristotle himself is given to emphasizing. The truly great ones, the giants, the really original thinkers, the pure philosopher types, these are to be found in the time before Plato. Again: Nietzsche is right.

But--his plaint is not quite justified. Those grand constructions are not hopelessly lost. We have been "deprived of anything complete," but there have been left to us large numbers of fragments. It is doubtless true that works complete in a literary sense cannot be joined together from these remains. On the basis of the extant fragments, at any rate . . .

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