The Theology of the Early Greek Philosophers

By Werner Jaeger | Go to book overview

PREFACE

THIS book, which might be entitled The Origins of Natural Theology and the Greeks, represents the Gifford Lectures which I delivered at the University of St. Andrews, Scotland, in 1936. How this subject is related to the purpose of the Gifford Lectures has been stated in the first chapter. The publication of this book has been delayed by other books which I have had to finish during these past ten years. The lectures now appear in a greatly improved form and with numerous additions, most of all the extensive notes. Although these have been printed at the end of the volume, for the convenience of the general reader, they form an essential part of my inquiry.

It is perhaps not unnecessary to state that the present book does not pretend to give a complete history of the early period of Greek philosophy with which it is concerned. Rather, I have concentrated on one particular aspect of this much-discussed subject, an aspect which has been unduly neglected or minimized by scholars of the positivistic school because in the early Greek philosophy of nature they saw their own likeness. Reacting against this one-sided picture, the opponents of this school have represented all Greek cosmological thought as an outgrowth of mysticism and Orphism, something quite irrational. If we avoid these extremes, there remains the fact that the new and revolutionizing ideas which these early Greek thinkers developed about the nature of the universe had a direct impact upon their conception of what they--in a new sense--called 'God' or 'the Divine'. It goes without saying that the terms 'God', 'the Divine', and 'theology' must not be understood here in their later Christian but in the Greek sense. The history of the philosophical theology of the Greeks is the history of their rational approach to the nature of reality itself in its successive phases.

In the present book I have traced this development through the heroic age of Greek cosmological thought down to the time of the Sophists. In a second volume, against the pre-Socratic background, I should like to treat the period from Socrates and Plato down to the time when, under the influence of this tradition of Greek philosophical theology, the Jewish-Christian

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