The relation of science and philosophy ... by Roy Balmer Liddy ..
PAGE to conjecture that Thales was seeking the nature of the primary stuff of all things. The word, which he most likely used to designate this primary substance, was not the Aristotelian dpxr? but probably the word uo-is. His work, and that of all the philosophical writers of the sixth and fifth centuries B.C., might have been entitled Trept vo-cos. What is vcris ? This constituted their problem. The answer which Thales gave was, vcns is water. The nature of things, or the primary and
... rimary and fundamental something, 1 J. Burnet, Early Greek Philosophy, Pp. 47-8. 5 the name, by which that early stage in the development of Greek religion is denoted, matters nothing, if only the investigation be 1 Four Stages of Greek Religion. carried on in that admirable spirit of tolerance and appreciation exhibited in so beautiful a manner by such writers as Murray, Harrison and others. This first stage is claimed by Murray to be characterized by three things, first, an atmosphere of religious fear; secondly, a whole sequence of magical ceremonies, and thirdly, a divine or sacred animal. 1 The Olympian gods were not known at all. They were a later invention. These conclusions, the result, mainly, of the analysis of three great festivals which were held, appear quite worthy of credence. If one asks the origin of this "atmosphere of religious fear", of the magical ceremonies and of the reverence shown to snake and pig and bull, the answer can only be conjectural. The dreams of primitive man, his strong emotions, his many memories, his vivid imaginations, the surprises which were constantly meeting him in his daily life, caused by storm and famine and earthquake, and, again, by sunshine and fertilizing rain, the pain he was at times forced to bear, death, with its sad and strange results, these led him to dread and fear, and, finally, to appease and mollify or give thanks to the agencies which he gradually came to believe must surround him, agencies which were imaginative constructions made from his own experiences. To the average child the tree, the chair, the doll are all alive. The pre-mundane existence whence he comes, according to the poet, "trailing clouds of glory" seems not to save him from many vague fears and superstitions. Those, who are older, watch his naive play and conclude that he has, in some way, clothed with life inanimate things. So is it with primitive man. Do his hunting expeditions end in repeated failure? Some person, stronger than he but like him, bears him malice. Is a tree struck by lightning? Someone has thrown his battle-axe at it. Do the storms rage and does the earth tremble beneath his feet? Some mighty hand is behind it all. So then primitive man, in measure like a little child, comes to regard, by some process of empathy, inanimate things and unseen agencies as beings like himself. Now it seems a far cry from this Euetheia period to that of the Olympic gods, but, after all, the process is a natural one. The anthropomorphism, which made Zeus and Apollo and Athena so 1 Four Stages of Greek Religion, Cf. P. 32. 8 concretely real, so lucid in shape, and which gave to them detailed personal histories, was a natural development of the early period just mentioned. !n the more primitive stage, as Murray points out, certain animals, because most probably of their peculiar or possibly very valuable qualities, were early held as divine. But, as the development went on, the worship of animals gave place to the worship of the Olympic gods. The transition between the two stages was, no doubt, assisted by that custom, which research has shown to exist among many primitive tribes, of a man's wearing the head or skin of a holy beast. "The Mana of the slain beast is in his hide and head and blood and fur and the man who wants to be in thorough contact with the divinity gets inside the skin and wraps himself deep in it." l Here is the original medicineman, soon looked upon as in part at least divine; but, as Dr. Frazer has suggested, some medicine-men have their failures. The people begin to see that he makes mistakes and then, naturally enough, they make the inference that he is not a god but rather a representative only. The real god lives far away oh some inaccessible mountain, or possibly in the sky. And so the transition, which likely required generations of human thought and action, is ultimately made. In Greece, the way was, no doubt, thus prepared for the second great stage in its religious development, the stage which Murray has called the Olympian Conquest. The Homeric poems, whether the work of one writer or more, are the outcome of long processes of growth. True, they transcend in many ways the primitive religion of the earlier period, but they were, nevertheless, much influenced thereby. The multiplicity of myths and the crowd of deities which resulted proved at last, however, a weariness to the developing Greek. " Legends clustered like weeds in a pathless and primaeval forest, obstructed by everfresh undergrowth. The thinning axe was wanted, and a hand was presently found to wield it with thew and sinew." 2 Hesiod, a man whose intellect, though clear, was clumsy, attempted this task. He made a brave but unsuccessful attempt to bring order into the chaos, endeavouring to revive many of the dimly-understood traditions extant among the Greeks of his day. The final 1 Four Stages of Greek Religion, P. 38. 2 Gomperz, Greek Thinkers, Vol. I, P. 38. Little is known of Pythagoras himself, but somewhat more information is procurable in regard to his followers. Their work centres around two main points, their views on transmigration and their interest in mathematical studies. The first of these illustrates well the influence upon them of the mystical in the religious background. The belief in the transmigration of souls was no doubt an inheritance from Orphism, which, again, traced its origin back to the worship of Dionysus, the chief Mystery-God of the Greek people. The teaching of this school one is almost justified in saying, of this religious sect is predominantly religious; and their speculations, accordingly, show the influence of the mystical ideas which had been handed down to them. Instead of holding that water or the boundless or air or fire is primal, they held that number is the ultimate in the universe. of this school will be later considered. These latter were also very important, but Pythagoreanism cannot be adequately understood unless the influence upon it of religious mysticism be fully recognized. This influence is likewise to be seen in a marked degree upon Xenophanes, born c. 569 B.C., and Parmenides, supposedly his pupil, who were the outstanding members of the so-called Eleatic school. The first named was a wandering rhapsodist, who laboured hard to show the logical fallacy of polytheism. With his theological views he held, no doubt, philosophical conceptions much similar to those of his younger contemporary, Parmenides. Parmenides was the author of an allegorical poem, entitled rapt 4>u0-eoos. This poem is divided into two parts, the first of which treats of Truth and Knowledge, the second of Appearance and Opinion. The form in which his teaching is couched reminds one forcibly of the mystical legends of an earlier date. He represents himself as being brought to the Goddess of Wisdom in a fasttravelling chariot, the steeds of which are driven by the daughters of the Sun. There, at the seat of the Goddess, he learns the way of truth and sees the folly of the undiscerning crowds, "deaf and dumb and blind and stupid" in their opinions. Not only is the mystical element apparent in the form of Parmenides' writings but also in their content. He is concerned to emphasize that what is, is, and that it is impossible for it not to be. Yet, he nowhere tells us clearly just what the connotation of "it" is. He tells us that it "is uncreated and indestructible; for it is complete, immovable and without end. Nor was it ever, nor will it be; for now it is all at once a continuous one". 2 Plato tells us that Parmenides held that "all things were one and that the one remains at rest in itself having no place in which to move". 3 On the supposition that Parmenides was endeavouring, mainly, to deny the existence of empty space his teaching has been summarized by Burnet, in the following words: "What is, is a finite, spherical, motionless, corporeal plenum, and there is nothing beyond it. The appearances of multiplicity and motion, empty space and 1 Cornford, From Religion to Philosophy, P. 205. * Diels Ecln., Fr. 8. Cf. Burnet Op. Cit. P. 199. 3 Theaetetus 180 e 3. That religious interests not only influenced but, in the main, dominated that other trend of thought, the mystical tendency, it was easy enough to show, but, here, circumstances are much different, and yet even this scientific tendency owes much to the earlier religious ideas of the Greek people. It will be remembered that the gods of Homer were subordinate to Destiny or Moira, that, according to the Olympian theology, Moira had allocated to the three brothers, Zeus, Poseidon and 1 Phys. Op. fr. 8. 18