[89] {97}


[90] {99}

Men were philosophizing in Greece, naturally, long before the time of Plato and Aristotle. The word "philosophy" appears as early as Herodotus, employed as a verb in a passage incorporating all essential elements of the question. Herodotus places in the mouth of Croesus these words directed to Solon: "Much news of you has reached us, on account of your wisdom (sophie) as well as your travels; and moved by the love of knowing (hos philosopheon) you have traveled to many countries to examine them (theories heineken)" (1, 30). Here the three terms sophia, theoria, and philosophia appear intimately associated.

The word sophia is the abstract form of an adjective, sophos, which meant "learned in something." This "something" could be quite varied: a manual skill, the government of cities, art, and above all, the most profound things concerning the world and life. But what is essential is that the noun sophia denotes, more than the subject to which it is applied, a mode of being of man, that which makes him a craftsman, an artist, or a "wise man." So there is then a clear distinction between sophia as a way man has of dealing with things, and sophia as qualified by the diverse zones it confronts. These zones can be, as we said, quite varied; what especially interests us for our problem is the zone of ultimate things about the world and about life. Sophia is a knowledge of these ultimate things. But as a property of sophos, this sophia can and in fact does possess various shades of meaning. Thus, in the Orient sophia emphasized first and foremost the operative character of knowledge. In Greece, on the other hand, it assumed meanings which were increasingly intellectual. In Ionia sophia was the mode of being not of him who does, but of him who knows how to do, of him who knows how one must work or govern, or how the events of the gods or the world come about. {100} Sophia associated itself ever more intimately with pure examination of the world, independent of human actions; "to examine them" is why Solon journeys through many countries, and for that reason Herodotus thought he merited the title of "wise man." Sophia, like theoria, was one of the great creations of Greece, something which affects the mental way of situating oneself before things, rather than the zone of objects with which one deals. This Greek theoria developed from the simple theoretical consideration of the lonians, and eventually found its rational articulation in episteme. Alongside the thread of this intellectual development there is the development of its literary expression. While sophia never went [91] beyond a simple examination of the world as a whole-something akin to religious knowledge-it found expression, as did the latter, in poetic form; when it began to dress in the character of rational knowledge, prose was introduced into philosophy.

Now, this distinction between a type of mental attitude and the zones which it encompasses must be extended to that special type of sophia called philosophia. As before we must distinguish on one hand the distinct zone of reality which it encompasses, and on the other the type of knowledge which constitutes it.

Philosophical knowledge in Greece continually discovers different zones of reality, each with its own peculiarity; it illuminates regions of the universe, each more unsuspected than the last, and makes of them its own object. At the outset, philosophical knowledge occupied itself preferentially with the gods, and saw in the world a kind of genetic extension of them. Alongside the gods, the Ionians discover nature as something proper by itself. Later, Parmenides and Heraclitus discover in nature that mysterious and subtle quality of "being," on account of which we say that this nature is reality. The Sicilian and Athenian physicists encounter the reality of nature in the obscure zone of its "elements." Alongside nature, mathematical objects appear with the Pythagoreans, and their reality is different than that of natural beings; the idea of reality then undergoes an {101}essential modification and amplification. The Sophists and Socrates put before the eyes of their contemporaries the autonomous reality of the orbe vital, political as well as ethical: discourse, virtue, and the good. In Plato, along with the gods and all of physical, mathematical, and human reality, appear the Ideas, the world of ideal essences.

But together with this development affecting the size of its domain, there is another which affects rather the type of knowledge constituting philosophy. We must call attention to it, because it is something which almost always-and to be prudent I say "almost"-has been overlooked: not only were the zones of reality being enlarged before men's eyes, thus modifying the meaning reality had, but moreover the structure of philosophical knowledge as a form of knowing was being modified at the same [92] time. The "definition" of philosophy through its content is something quite distinct from its definition as a form of knowledge.

This we pointed out above. Sophia, as a mental attitude, developed in the Orient through its operative dimension. In Greece, on the other hand, it restricted itself to mere understanding. Even taken in their most common acceptation, the expert (empeiros), the technician (tekhnites), and the director of human life (phronimos), are always men who have the quality of knowing how to do something. This is what Aristotle expressed when he said that with these three modes of knowing (empeiria, tekhene, phronesis) man aletheuei, a word difficult to translate, perhaps "discovers truth." Knowledge is directed, then, toward the discovery of what is known. And in a latent sense all such men are called sophoi. Together with these three modes of knowledge, sophia properly so-called for a Greek is the supreme mode of discovering truth. Whereas in the three former modes man knows things as necessary for his use of them, in sophia he seeks to discover truth for its own sake; he seeks theoria. And this type of sophia, in which nothing is sought but the sophia itself, was termed the "love of knowledge," philosophia, in contrast to philokalia, the love of beauty. In Herodotus as we saw the idea of philosophy appears still in participial form; it only began to be used as a noun in Socratic{102}circles, to indicate the quality or mental habit of this new mode of sophia. The type of intellectual life of someone possessing that quality was termed bios theoretikos, theoretical life.

Sophia as a mental attitude, we said, began to be what was vaguely referred to as theoria, examination or study of nature for itself, an effort directed toward truth for truth's sake. Immediately afterward this philosophical knowledge, theoria, acquired in Parmenides and Heraclitus the form of a kind of intellectual vision of the world, nous. Later, finally, in Athens that intellectual vision of the world unfolded into a rational explanation of it, into an episteme. So philosophy, thrust along a purely intellectual path, began by being a simple theoria, later became an intellectual vision of things, and ended as a science. And while new zones of reality were being illuminated, new forms of rational knowledge were being created to deal with them. Let us also recall for completeness that with the Sophists philosophy became an intellectual culture, paideia. [93]

And thus, by the time of Plato and Aristotle there was a multitude of philosophical sciences about reality. For Aristotle this meant the word "Philosophy" was, rather than the name of a science, the name of a problem. What is there in all these philosophies" which justifies their common name? On account this situation Aristotle called philosophy zetoumene episteme, the sought-after science. The formula is ambiguous, and now we understand why: because we do not know whether it alludes to the first or second of the two dimensions of philosophy. That is, it may refer to either the content or to the type of knowledge constituting philosophy. I believe it is essential to call attention to this point.

The salient characteristic of Aristotle's formula is not the effort to discover the proper object of philosophy or the existence of it. Rather, Aristotle takes that for granted, given that his predecessors occupied themselves with creating, and in fact did create, philosophical systems. Aristotle does not primarily seek the philosophy. What he seeks is, first and foremost, the unique form under which, according to him, philosophical knowledge can exist in its most rigorous intellectual sense. And this is a question distinct from that of the object of philosophy, {103}and prior to it. Aristotle starts from the idea that philosophy has to be a theoretical knowledge. His search aims directly for the rational character that this theoretical knowledge (which philosophy is already) must adopt. What he formally seeks is thus its rational form. Might it be possible to make a philosophy an episteme? A special form, a type of philosophy: philosophy as episteme, and not the existence of any particular philosophy, is what constitutes the primary thrust of Aristotle's search. As Hegel later would say, Aristotle tried to elevate sophia to the rank of science. That the idea and even the effort were partially underway before Aristotle is an undeniable fact. But Aristotle found his preoccupation justified in view of the immense variety of zones which the philosophical episteme encompassed during his time. In reality, there were many philosophical sciences, and the only unifying characteristic was the adjective "philosophical." But the meaning of this adjective was becoming more obscure and muddled as its content was enriched. What is there, then, in all these sciences which justifies their denomination as philosophical? At bottom, Aristotle tries to make us see that among so many philosophies, the philosophic part of all of them, the philosophy, had become more obscure on account of the exuberant flowering of philosophical [94] knowledge. if we could rigorously know what the philosophic element is in all these philosophies, we would have discovered something which would be a new type of philosophy, superior to those existing, a philosophy which would not be a philosophical knowledge about one more object, about a new zone of the world, but which would be the philosophy of all philosophic knowledge as such. Therefore Aristotle quite pragmatically called it philosophy par excellence, philosophical knowledge properly so-called, or as he says, "first philosophy." In light of it, the philosophies of his time were more or less regional philosophies, as they have been termed for many years; second philosophies, he called them.

And what is it that Aristotle finds problematic in the idea of this first philosophy? Above all, he said, it is the type of knowledge which first philosophy furnishes. Since Parmenides men had the impression that philosophical knowledge was directed toward what is {104}most real in reality. But in fact this conception did not go beyond a vague intellectual perspective; it was an intuition only, not a concept. And therefore the unfolding of philosophy, from Parmenides to Aristotle, was characterized much more by a progressive discovery of different zones of reality than by an elaboration of the idea of properly philosophical knowledge as a form of knowledge.

The many existing philosophies had already adopted that form of knowledge which was termed episteme: a rational explication of the necessity and internal structure of reality. The aforementioned vague intuition of reality took on the form of scientific knowledge. But episteme then became qualified much more by the facts which it supplied than by the mental form constituting it. Aristotle, following in the footsteps of Plato, maintained that this scientific character likewise affects the very structure of the philosophic inasmuch as it is philosophic. The philosophic part of all philosophical sciences must have scientific character. This is the point of departure of Aristotle's search.

Aristotle, then, must first of all raise the following question: In what does the character of philosophic knowledge as science consist? All these philosophic sciences start from some primary suppositions about the structure of the real things they study. But for these sciences those principles or suppositions are only the beginning of their knowledge. With them they explain things, but the principles themselves are not an object of their investigation. hence the philosophic part of scientific knowledge as a form of [95] knowledge must consist above all in converting the particular principles into objects for clarification. And with this things themselves end up involved in philosophy. At this juncture Aristotle had the brilliant idea of ascribing these principles to an intellectual vision, to the nous about which Parmenides spoke. hence that intellectual vision of things is now more concrete as a vision of their principles. But this alone is not sufficient. It is necessary for such a vision to be something more; it must be unfolded and articulated in the form of a rational explication. If that were possible, we would have a science which, in contrast to the rest, would seek its own principles and would move about in their internal intellection. The presence of the nous, of the {105}intellectual vision in episteme, is what gives to the latter its properly philosophical character; it is the philosophic part of science qua science. If one wishes it is a science which not only makes use of principles, but moves about internally in their intimate justification; Aristotle therefore referred to sophia as nous with episteme.

But if no more than this were involved, philosophical science would simply be a theory of secondary philosophies. However, nothing was farther from Aristotle's mind. For Aristotle, as for any good Greek, every science must have a real object and some principles of its own. Consequently that science of the principles of all other sciences must base itself upon something real, if it wishes to exist. Indeed it is essential that this investigation of all the principles of things base itself on their real principles, which, if they exist, must not be particular principles, but supreme principles, principles of principles, absolute principles (ta prota).

The effort to construct a philosophical science thus carries Aristotle in consequence (and only in consequence) to a second effort, to an effort to find within reality an object which is appropriate for that science. The genius of Aristotle on this point is based upon his not claiming that the proper object of philosophy is a special zone of reality, as it still was for Plato. Philosophy must encompass reality as a whole. Its object, then, must be determined in a way different from that of the secondary philosophies. While these latter sciences study each of the different zones of reality, i.e. the distinct modes which things have [96] as real beings, first philosophy must study reality as such. From the point of view of its object, the philosophic part of all philosophical sciences is found squarely in the fact that the real qua real must constitute the character of the philosophic qua philosophic. {106}

And here the two thrusts of Aristotle's search converge: philosophy properly so-called will only be possible as science if the reality of the real has a structure capturable by reason, if it has some primary real principles of its own, principles not of things as they are (hos estin), as the physicists who speculated about the elements claimed, but principles of reality qua reality (on hei on). In Aristotle's formula: reality as such has a "fundamental" structure, and philosophy as science must consist in the investigation of these primalities of being, as Duns Scotus would so aptly put it many centuries later.

The discovery of first philosophy as science of reality qua reality was only possible for Aristotle as the conclusion of his effort to give rational structure to philosophical knowledge. The unfolding of this effort is what led him to discover reality as such. And this is what is important to emphasize.

The essential thing, then, is that with Aristotle we have not the philosophy as such, but a determinate form of philosophy: philosophy as science. There are other possibilites; on one hand, philosophy, the Veda, was something different in the Orient, viz, an operative knowledge. In Greece, after Aristotle, philosophy was also something different. And in postclassical Europe philosophy also took on several different mental forms.