A History of Ancient Philosophy: From the Beginnings to Augustine

By Karsten Friis Johansen | Go to book overview

became the past. The fundamental idea that originally made philosophy an especial mode of interpreting the world was never left behind: man can understand the world as a whole and thereby know himself. Ancient thought always aimed at an all-comprehending view-even when moving to the limits of rationality. The universal aim was never abandoned, not even as the several separate disciplines gradually evolved. And confidence in the possibilities of human thought was maintained, even when reflections began about the basis of knowledge. The world was considered a rational, orderly whole, and in many cases the cosmic order was taken to be moral order as well.

The strength of ancient philosophy is the formulation of basic fundamental positions-materialism, idealism and scepticism, rationalism, and empiricism, to use modern labels-and of basic fundamental problems, which may belong within the purview of a given period, but which at the same time have constituted the underlying fabric of a thousand-year old tradition and have served until recently as paradigms. But ancient thought was always speculative, and in a manner of speaking it lacked a counterpart. Individual sciences, such as mathematics and medicine, achieved significant results; but from social and ideological points of view one cannot in Antiquity-as in our times-speak of science as an established authority that ties down philosophical reflection decisively. In Antiquity one could choose one's own philosophical position as one today chooses one's outlook on life or political party. But in so doing, one had also chosen a certain view of the physical world and of man's moral obligations.

Already in Plato there is awareness of the tradition. Since his time, philosophy has been tied up with its own history. This history has often served as a self-evident background; yet just as often philosophers have deliberately sought to return to the ancients, and in every case something new has been the outcome. Until the end of the eighteenth century the relationship with the tradition was in a certain sense free of problems. One could discuss with a colleague from Antiquity-more or less as Aristotle had debated with his forerunners-which is to say not out of interest in a distant past, but out of interest in subject matters beyond differences in time. A direct relation to Antiquity has not died out, as can be seen for example in Hegel, Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, or Heidegger, and not infrequently among analytical or Marxist interpreters. Still, towards 1800 AD emerged what has been called historical consciousness. Primarily thanks to Herder, the view came to prevail that man is a creature of history and that history accordingly has no meaning beyond itself. It follows from Herder's basic thought that every cultural phenomenon-hence also philosophy-exists only in a historical dimension and that every age must be judged on its own presuppositions.

But this causes the historian's debate with the past to be far more reflected than it had formerly been. He is obliged to respect an alien mode of thought but is also tied to his own presuppositions. Furthermore, for the historian of philosophy the problem becomes even more acute, because philosophy is both fixed in a certain time and seeks universal validity. The history of philosophy is both philosophy and history and will always express the interpretation of a particular age of a particular past, and the historian of philosophy must consider both the atemporal and historical perspectives-not necessarily in such a manner that he incessantly recites his own hermeneutical

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A History of Ancient Philosophy: From the Beginnings to Augustine
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Preface xi
  • Introduction 1
  • Part I - Presocratic Philosophy 9
  • 1 - Myth, Poetry and Philosophy 11
  • 2 - Ionian Natural Philosophy 20
  • 3 - Heraclitus 29
  • 4 - The Pythagoreans 36
  • 5 - The Eleatics 45
  • 6 - Post-Parmenidean Natural Philosophy 59
  • 7 - Medical Science 79
  • Part II - The Great Century of Athens 83
  • 8 - Pericles' Athens 85
  • 9 - Tragedy and View of History 88
  • 10 - The Sophists 99
  • 11 - Socrates 118
  • Part III - Plato 137
  • 12 - Life, Works and Position 139
  • 13 - What is Virtue? Can Virtue Be Taught? 160
  • 14 - Idea and Man 173
  • 15 - The Good Constitution of State and Man 198
  • 16 - The Late Dialogues: Knowledge and Being 213
  • 17 - The Late Dialogues: Nature, Man and Society 236
  • 18 - Plato and the Early Academy 254
  • Part IV - Aristotle 267
  • 19 - Life, Works and Position 269
  • 20 - Logic and Theory of Science 293
  • 21 - Natural Philosophy and Psychology 316
  • 22 - Metaphysics and Theology 343
  • 23 - Ethics and Politics 366
  • 24 - Rhetoric and Poetics 392
  • 25 - The Early Peripatetics 400
  • Part V - Hellenistic Philosophy 405
  • 26 - Science and Philosophy 407
  • 27 - Epicurus 423
  • 28 - Early Stoicism 442
  • 29 - Scepticism 471
  • 30 - Greece and Rome 484
  • Part VI - Late Antiquity 499
  • 31 - Imperial Rome 501
  • 32 - Plotinus 532
  • 33 - Late Neoplatonism 556
  • 34 - Early Christian Thought 569
  • 35 - Augustine 588
  • Abbreviations General 625
  • Bibliography 639
  • Index 663
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