Western Philosophy

The history of ancient philosophy

Extracted from The history of ancient philosophy in summary form


1. Prereflective mythology. Ancient culture has its roots in the communal-clan formation, which, transferring to nature and the world the most understandable blood-relationship relations at that time, also represented the whole nature and the whole world in the form of a universal communal-clan formation. Such a worldview was what is now called mythology.

2. Reflection of the myth. The collapse of the communal-clan formation of a new socio-economic and cultural-historical stage, namely slavery, led to the need to separate mental and physical labor, since such a division created new life opportunities for which primitive spontaneous collectivism was already insufficient. And with the separation of mental and physical labor, a society appeared in which some were engaged in mental labor and did not work physically, while others worked physically and were not engaged in mental labor. And this was the separation of slave owners and slaves. Hence, starting from the VI century. BC e. and ending VI century. n e. all ancient philosophy was the property of slave culture. In fact, this meant that all of ancient philosophy was not mythology.

3. Classic . Since myth, interpreting everything that exists as a sphere of living beings, did not distinguish between their individual objective existence and their subjective life separately, the very first reflection on the myth led to the distinction between the object and the subject in it. Hence, the first period of ancient philosophy (VI – IV centuries BC) interpreted the old sensory-material cosmos primarily as an object.

In the early classics (VI – V centuries BC), the material-material cosmos was interpreted intuitively in the form of a system of physical elements (the so-called pre-Socratic philosophy). In the middle classics, it was interpreted discursively – in the form of a search for superelemental communities (sophists and Socrates). In mature and high classics, it was interpreted dialectically and generally cosmologically – in the form of a categorical system of hierarchical levels (Plato). And finally, in the late classics, the material-material cosmos was interpreted not categorically-dialectically, as in Plato, but energetically and distinction-descriptively – in the form of the doctrine of the mind-prime mover as the limit of all sensory-element formulations (Aristotle).

4. Early Hellenism (4th – 1st centuries BC) considers the sensory-material cosmos (as opposed to the classics) already as a subject , that is, as a subjectively self-sensing, but still the same sensory-material cosmos, or as a universal organism . Such is the fiery pneuma of the Stoics , the formation of which are all levels of cosmic life and which (as a subject) is providentially fatalisticprinciple. Providentialism began to be developed here because the material-cosmic cosmos was now treated not only as an object, but also as a subject. And since this subject was still not powerful enough, he determined only the structure of the cosmos, and not its substance, which had to be left to fate and thereby preach fatalism. This self-sufficient organism accepted a purely human understanding among the Epicureans , and was criticized in skepticism , but again for the sake of protecting the subjective-human well-being and serenity.

5. Middle Hellenism (1st century BC – 2nd century AD) finds the Stoics’ fiery pneumatism insufficient and begins to understand the source of the cosmic organism – fiery pneuma – as the Platonic world of ideas. Thus, the concept of fate has undergone significant evolution.. The Stoics had to leave fate as the principle of all absolute explanations, because, as mentioned above, their cosmic organism created only a picture of the cosmos, and not its substance as a whole. When Posidonius (I century BC), a representative of Middle Hellenism, began to interpret fiery pneuma as a world of ideas, its essential side was already taken away from fate, thanks to which it determined the substance of the cosmos. However, the cosmos was not only a substance and not only its organic pattern, but also the bearer of all cosmic destinies, the first unity that was already higher than the substance of the cosmos and its design. And this led already to Neoplatonism, that is, to late Hellenism.

6. Late Hellenism(III – VI centuries A.D.). Neoplatonism was born as a doctrine of such a primitive one, which is higher than the body of the cosmos, and its soul, and its mind. The simplest idea of ​​such a primordial is that in every ordinary thing, none of its constituent qualities is itself. She herself, this real thing, is a single carrier of all her qualities and properties and there is neither one of them, nor their sum, because otherwise all these qualities and properties will not belong to anything and the thing itself will crumble into discrete and having nothing to do with one another or new things. But then the recognition of a super-quality carrier of all the qualities of a thing is a necessary requirement of the mind, and since the qualities of a thing, not being the thing itself, are nevertheless inseparable from it and since the thing itself, as the carrier of its qualities, is inseparable from these latter, it’s clear that the unification of a super-high-quality carrier of a thing and all its qualities into a single whole for theoretical thought is possible only as a result of the application of the dialectical method. Hence, Plotinus’s doctrine of such a body of the material-cosmic cosmos, which is driven by its own soul, is guided in its design with the help of mental categories or the mind as a whole, and, finally, is an indivisible and superlogical unity, that is, the last carrier of all cosmic designs. In other words, the turn was directed in its design with the help of mental categories or the mind as a whole and, finally, is an indivisible and super-logical unity, that is, the last carrier of all cosmic designs. In other words, the turn was directed in its design with the help of mental categories or the mind as a whole and, finally, is an indivisible and super-logical unity, that is, the last carrier of all cosmic designs. In other words, the turn wasthe dialectic of myth , since myth as a single living being is, above all, the identity of the body and soul, given in the form of an expediently active living being.

At Plotinus (III century A.D.) this dialectic was developed in the most thorough and, one might say, virtuoso form. But Plotinus has not yet made direct mythological conclusions, so his philosophy has remained at the stage of constructive dialectics of myth , without carrying out mythology itself in a systematic form. The student of Plotinus, Porfiry, in contrast to his teacher, already uses religious practice with its oracles, theurgism and mysticism in general, but he tries to treat it critically, why his neo-Platonism can be called regulatory-theurgical. In Syriac (Jamblichus) and Pergamon(Sallust, Julian) neoplatonism descriptive and regulatory attitude to mythology and mythological practice, that is, to theurgism, is replaced by dialectical attempts to explain myths and even give their system, still mostly in a descriptive form. And it is only in Athenian Neoplatonism (Proclus and Damascus) that all ancient mythology is wholly and completely given in the form of a carefully thought out and triadically constructed dialectic.

7. Ancient philosophy and relations with the history of mythology and in connection with the history of dialectics . Reviewing the general history of ancient philosophy, we come to one indisputable conclusion that many researchers do not draw only because most of the exponents finish Aristotle’s ancient philosophy with ignoring the subsequent ancient philosophy, and this subsequent ancient philosophy took almost a whole millennium. But what conclusion should we draw if we keep in mind not only the first two centuries of ancient philosophy, but also its entire millennial existence?

a) This conclusion is that ancient philosophy began with mythology and also ended with mythology. But that mythology, which was at the beginning, was a mythology, not divided into ideological concepts, was completely merged in this regard, it was pre-reflective mythology. In connection with the onset of the era of reflective thinking (and this era began in connection with the separation of mental and physical labor, that is, in connection only with the slave formation), mythology as a whole and inseparable has already been interpreted in antiquity as an overcoming and already archaic period. In this regard, the ancient consciousness has already moved from myth to the logos, that is, from a single and integral sensory-material cosmos to its construction on the basis of reason.

b) However, the individual elements of which the ancient myth consisted, in the end, also came to their exhaustion, and the need arose to unite all these individual moments of the myth again, but to unite them already on the basis of reason. And since the whole myth consisted of contradictions combined into one whole, a new combination of these contradictions, namely the combination on the basis of reason, necessarily became a dialectic, and with the exhaustion of this dialectic, the very end of ancient philosophy also came to an end.

c) Thus, ancient philosophy began with pre-reflective mythology, which it overcame by reflection, and ended with mythology already reflective, that is, dialectics. The ideal and the material, the general and the single, the mind and soul, the soul and the body – all these pairs of opposites, which created the theme of the whole of ancient philosophy, at the end of this last began to dialectically overcome why ancient philosophy ended up with the dialectic of myth. Therefore, it must be said that ancient philosophy began with mythology and ended with mythology. But at the same time, it is necessary to strictly establish that the path from primitive, pre-reflective mythology to reflective mythology of the period of higher ancient civilization passed through different stages of what could not otherwise be called dialectics. At the same time, despite the mythological background, ancient dialectics passed through a long series of subtlest dialectical stages and in the end also came to the highest triumph of reason in the form of a strictly and systematically constructed dialectic. With the exhaustion of the original mythology, all the dialectics built on it were exhausted, and with the exhaustion of the dialectics, all ancient mythology perished.

8. The fall and death of ancient philosophy . Neoplatonism (3rd-6th centuries) was not the death of ancient philosophy, but its last prosperity, when an urgent need began to be felt to use decisively all the historical achievements of ancient philosophy and bring them together. And indirectly, such a focus of Neoplatonism already testified to the onset of recent times for ancient philosophy. However, the symbol of the true destruction of ancient philosophy was the numerous directions of the first centuries of the new era, known as syncretism. The most important feature of this syncretism was precisely the complete lack of confidence in the value of purely antique achievements and the attempt to use such a completely unantique phenomenon as Christianity, which in those days ascended.

This syncretism and, especially, Gnosticism were already poisoned by new and completely unantique intuitions, namely the intuitions of the personality , while all ancient philosophy, being slave-owning, was built on the understanding of man, nature, the world and deity as the basis of its non-personal but purely material structures. A new doctrine developed in syncretism, which, however fantastic it seems now, has existed for several centuries as a transition from antiquity to the Middle Ages.

This doctrine consisted in the fact that the basis of being was no longer interpreted as the sensory-material cosmos, but as an absolute person who is above any cosmos that creates and governs it. This is Christianity. And on the other hand, since all the ancient deities, being a generalization of natural phenomena, themselves are also very imperfect both physically, psychologically, and spiritually, this imperfection was attributed to the newly discovered absolute and personal deity. A monstrous teaching has appeared both from the point of view of antiquity and from the point of view of Christianity that this absolute deity itself sins, commits all sorts of crimes, repents itself and tries in every way to save itself.

Absolute personalism was combined here with naturalistic personalism. And this was quite natural, since historically the millennial paganism could not immediately and instantly convert to Christianity. This explains the fact that this kind of syncretism lasted several centuries, turning out to be not only heresy for Christianity, but also death for pagan philosophy.

The millennium-old antique philosophy, which often and deeply influenced many phenomena of subsequent cultures, but which, as a living and whole world-view, perished once and for all, perished so beautifully, but ingloriously and so naturally and tragically

Losev Alexey Fedorovich died on May 24, 1988

Categories: Western Philosophy

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