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TRANSLATED BY TOBY TALBOT IBY THE AUTHOR OF "THE REVOLT OF THE MASSES"
JOSE ORTEGA Y GASSET
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AUTHORIZED TRANSLATION FROM THE SPANISH
BY TOBY TALBOT
W·W·NORTON & COMPANY· INC· New York
CPYRGHT © 1967 BY W. W. NORTON I COMPA, IC.
First Edition
Library of Congress Catalog Card No. 67-11437
Al rights reserved. Published simultaneously i Canada by
George J. McLeod Limited, Toronto. Printed in the United
States of America.
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Contents
EDITORS' NOTE
7
1 THE PHILOSOPHICAL PAST
13
2 ASPECTS AND THE ENTIRETY 38
3
DIALECTICAL SERIES
47
4 THE UNITY OF PHIWSOPHY 51
5
THE AUTHENTIC NAME 60
6 PHIWSOPHY EMBARKS ON THE DISCOVERY
OF ANOTHER WORLD 66
7 MAN'S PERMANENT POSSIBILITIES
7S
8 THE ATTITUDE OF PARMENIDES AND HERCLITUS
79
9 PHIWSOPHY AND A PERIOD OF FREEDOM
97
10 THE HISORICAL ORIGIN
OF THE PROFESSION
OF PHIWSOPHY
103
Editors' Note
IN 1943, during his residence in Lisbon, Ortega undertook
the writing of an Epilogue to Julian Madas' History of
Philosophy, originally published in 19
4
1, and whose sec­
ond edition was currently in preparation. Meanwhile the
theme began to develop beyond its initial conception. On
January 10, 1944, Ortega wrote to Madas: "The 'Epi­
logue' to your work will touch upon etymology and
many other weighty to
p
ics. I have been engaged in it for
months. Everything nowadays though, is so problemati­
cal, there are so many interferences to interrupt one's
work, that I do not dare to venture great promises. But
I do want you to know that I am up to my ears in your
epilogue. I should like you however not to mention a
word to anyone about it." Some months later, in June,
Ortega announced to Madas that the epilogue would
run to a 4oo-page volume, the most important of his
books, and naturally would be published separately from
the History, but with the title Epilogue to Julian Marias'
History of Philosophy, all of which he wanted kept secret
until the moment of its appearance. Toward the end of
1944, Ortega started giving a philosophy course in Lis­
bon, and on December 29 he again wrote to Madas: "The
completed portion of the Epilogue will be included in
it, and hopefully the Epilogue will derive mutual beneft,
i.e., that its 700! pages wil l be published shortly."
In the summer of 1945, Ortega communicated to Marias
his intention to detach a section from the Epiloge under
the title The Origin of Philosophy. And in 1946, frst in
7
8
EDITORS
'
NOTE
Lisbon (0 Seculo, April 13) and then in Madrid (AC,
April 26), he announced-keeping the secret-among his
works in preparation, Epilogue . . . and The Origin of
Philosophy. His arrival in Spain, various other commt­
ments, the founding of the Institute de Humanidades,
lengthy trips, and new works interrupted publication of
the aforementioned writings, to which he always planned
to return. In 1953 he published as an homage to Jaspers,
under the title Stucke aus einer "Geburt der Philosophie,"
a fnished portion of Origin of Philosophy (in Ofener
Horizont, "Festschrift fir Karl Jaspers zum 70. Geburt­
stag am 23. Februar 1953," R. Piper & Co., Verlag, Mu­
nich) .
This entire volume provides an example of hstoric rea­
son in operation on the central theme of the roots and his­
torical j ustifcation of philosophy. One of the multiple
tasks in which man has engaged is that of making philoso­
phy, an occupation that has not been a permanent one for
humanity, but as Ortega points out in this book, "came
about one fne day in Greece and has indeed come down
to us, with no guarantee, however, of its perpetuation."
And he continues, "Without attempting now to formalize
an opinion on this matter, I wish to suggest the possibility
that what we are now beginning to engage in under the
traditional aegis of philosophy is not another philosophy
but something new and diferent from all philosophy."
Despite the fact that this work was never concluded,
these writings constitute a decisive step in posing the
problem of what philosophy is-its essential unity-in
the same manner that historic reason is discovered through
a retrospective contemplation of its total past and through
the attempt to reconstruct the dramatic occasion of its
origin.
Nihil invita Minerva
[Nothing with Minerva unwilling]
OLD L TIN SAYING, ACCORDING TO CICERO
The Origi n of Phi l osophy
!
The Phi l osophi cal Past
.n NOW, WHAT? Julian Marias has presented us with an
eventful fl, the histor of philosophy. He has performed
his j ob admirably, rendering us in the process two les
sons: one in the history of philosophy, and the other in
sobriety, asceticism, and scrupulous commtment to a
didactically inspired task. It would please me in this
epilogue to avail myself of both these lessons, although
with regard to the latter, I am unable to follow his ex­
ample completely. Utost sobriety was available to
Marias since the doctrines expounded by him were exst­
ing doctrines, doctrines that had been previously devel­
oped and to which one could refer in various texts. An
epilogue, however, is something that follows a logosin
this instance, philosophical doctrines or "statements."
Hence, it consists in the things one can say about things
tat have already been said-constitting thereby a fu­
tristic statement, a heretofore nonexistent one, and thus
we can hardly refer to it in ampler, pre-exstent texts.
This task I have undertaken at Marias' behest. Having
commtted myself, I shall endeavor to perform it with a
measure of brevity, and if possible, with the clarity de­
manded by the intent of this book.
A statement is a kind of act, or doing. Wat is a reader
to do upon concluding a histor of philosophy? Caprice
is to be avoided. Caprice signifes doing anything among
te many things that can be done. Its opposite is the act
and habit of choosing from among many things precisely
the one that demands to be done. Ths act and habit
13
1
4
THE ORIGIN OF PHILOSOPHY
of choosing selectively was at frst designated as eligent;a
by the Latins, and then elegantia. This term is possibly
the origin of our word int-elligencia. In any event, ele­
gance would have been an apter name for what we in­
stead awkwardly categorize as ethics; since the latter is
the art of choosing the best conduct, it is the science of
what has to be done. The fact that the term elegance
i nowadays a most irritating one is its highest recom­
mendation. Elegant is the man who neither does nor says
any old thing, but instead does what should be done
and says what should be said.
There is nothing equivocal about what one is to do
after he fnishes reading a hstory of philosophy. It is
automatically presented to us. The frst thing is to cas
a fnal retrospective gaze at the sweeping avenue of philo­
sophical doctrines. The past comes to an end in the fnal
chapter of Marias' text, but we, the readers, must con­
tnue. We do not remain upon the shore of the continent
on which we now stand. To remain in the past mean
to be dead. With the fnal glance of travelers pursing
their inexorable destiny, the search for green pastures
we sum up the past, evaluate it, and take leave of it. Bound
for where? The past borders on the future, for the pres­
ent, which theoretically separates them, is such a tenuous
lne that it merely serves to j oin and unite them. The
present, at least in man, is a vessel with fragile walls, flled
almost to the brim with memories and expectations. In
fact, one could practically say that the present is a mere
pretext for the existence of the past and of the futre,
the juncture where both derive meaning.
A retrospective glance, in which we cull the essence
of the philosophical past, provides the realization that,
tough we might desire to do so, it is impossible to remain
tere. Not one "philosophical system" among those for­
mulated appears adequately tre to us. Anyone who pre-
THE PHILOSOPHICAL PAST 15
smes to be able to settle into some bygone doctrine­
and I refer, of course, only to someone fully conscious
of what he is doing-is sufering an optical illusion. At
best, anyone who adopts a philosophy of the past does
not leave it intact, but must, in order to adopt it, remove
and add to it no small number of pieces, in view of sub­
sequent philosophies.
Hence a fnal backward gaze invariably incites in us
an alternate forward one. Unable to fnd lodging among
the philosophies of the past, we have no choice but to
attempt to constrct one of our own. The history of the
philosophical past catapults us into the still empty spaces
of the future, toward a philosophy yet to come. This
epilogue can merely serve to give expression, albeit ele­
mentary and speculative, to some of the multitudinous
things encompassed by both of these gazes. To my mind,
at the present juncture, that is what demands to be said.
By the end of a history of philosophy, the reader has
had a complete panoramic view of the philosophical pas
presented to him. This view initiates in any reader-pro­
viding he has not bogged down in the process but has
retained his inner bearings-a dialectical series of thoughts.
Thoughts can be linked with evidence in two ways.
By the frst, a thought appears as though emerging from
a previous one because it is simply an expansion of some­
ting implicit in the frst. Whereupon we say that the
frst thought implied the second. This is analytic thought:
a series of thoughts develops from an initial thought by
virtue of progressive analysis.
There is, however, another manner of connection evi­
dent between ideas. Should we desire to think of the
body of the Earth, we think of a nearly round obj ect
of a given size, slightly depressed around both polar
regions, and according to recent fndings, lkewise a bit
depresed i the equatoral zone-in shor, a spheroid.
THE ORIGIN OF PHILOSOPHY
This alone, then, is what we are interested in thinking
about. It turns out, however, that we are unable to think
of this in isolation, for upon thinking of this, we juxtapose,
or simultaneously think about, the space around the spher­
oid, a space that confnes or situates it. This addition
was unforeseen and unintentional. Yet in actuality we
have no alternative; if we think of the spheroid, we think
also of the space around it. Now it is evident that the
concept of the "surrounding space" was not included or
implied in the concept "spheroid." Nevertheless, the frst
idea irresistibly imposes upon us the second, lest the for­
mer remain incomplete, and lkewise our thinking on it.
The concept "spheroid" does not implicate, it complicates
te concept "surrounding space." This proces i syn­
thetic or dialectic thought.1
In a dialectical series of thoughts, each thought present
a complication and impels one on to the next thought.
The connection between them is thus much stronger than
in analytic thought. By the latter method we may think
about the concept implied in the antecedent, and once it
is thought about, we are compelled to recognize their mu­
tal "identifcation," although there was no obligation to
tink about it. The frst concept wants for naught; it is
serene and seemingly sel-contained. In synthetic thought.
I. Phiosophy of coure ha always practiced synthetic thought
though prior to Kant no one had focused upon it peculiarity.
Kant "discovered" it and named it, contemplating, however, only
its negative aspect, namely, that it wa not analytic thought or
iplication. And since, in phioso
p
hic tradition-particularly the
imediate one, that is, Leibnitz-lmplication appeared to be the
only evident connection between twO idea, he believed that
synthetic thought wa not evident. His successors-Fichte,
Schelling, Hegel-took into account the role of evidence, but stil
remained unaware of it origin and mode of operation. Husserl,
who barely discussed synthetic thought, wa most responsible for
clarifying it nature. Nonetheless, we are sti on the threshold of
the tak of mastering it, and much remains yet to be done, a wil
be suggested subsequently in this epiogue.
THE PHILOSOPHICAL PAST
however, not only may we, but we must, velis nolis, juxta­
pose another concept. We might say in this instance that
evidence of the connection between two concepts exists
prior to any thought on the second, for it is that which
impels us to the second. The dialectic is the obligation to
continue thinking, and this is not merely a manner of
speaking, but an actual reality. It is the very fact of the
human condition. Man genuinely has no recourse but to
"continue thinking," for he always discovers that he has
not thought anything out completely, but must integrate
it with what has already been thought, or else recognize
that he might j ust as well not have thought at all, and
consequently feel lost.
This major fact does not clash with another minor one,
namely that each of us, de facto, halts, is arrested, and
ceases to think at a given point in a dialectical series. Some
stop sooner than others. This, however, does not mean
that we did not have to continue thinking. Although we
stop, the dialectical series continues, and the need to pur­
sue it is incumbent upon us. But other pressures in life,
illness, or simply difering capacities to pursue undeviat­
ingly and lucidly a lengthy chain of ideas account for our
violent interruption of the dialectic series. We cut it short,
but it continues to bleed within us. The brute fact of
having suspended it does not signify failure to realize
the obvious urgency to pursue our thinking. A somewhat
analogous process occurs in chess: a player feels incapable
of anticipating, without getting utterly confused, two
possible plays, each of an equal number of moves and
each emerging from a given position of the pieces on the
board. Having decided to suspend anticipation of further
moves, he does not remain at peace; on the contrary, he
foresees the imminent threat of checkmate. Yet, he is in­
capable of greater efort.
Let us endeavor, then, to retrace in its principal phases
THE ORIGIN OF PHILOSOPHY
the dialectical series of ideas automatically released in us
by a retrospective view of the philosophical past. Our
frst impression is that of a multitude of opinions on the
same subj ect; in the nature of multitudes, some opinions
contradict others, and by their contradiction they are mu­
tually incriminatory of error. The philosophical past thus
strikes us at frst glance as a congeries of errors. When
the Greeks paused in their creative traj ectory of doctrines
to cast their frst retrospective glance of pure historical
contemplation,2 that too was their initial impression, and
by stopping there, by not continuing their thinking, skep­
ticism was born. Hence Agrippa's famous trope or argu­
ment against the possibility of attaining truth: the "dis­
sonance of opinions"-diafonia ton doxon. Systems ap­
pear as aborted attempts to construct the edifce of truth.
Thence the past is viewed as error. Hegel, referring more
generally to all of human li fe, maintained that "when
turning our gaze to the past the frst thing we observe is
rins." Ruin, in fact, is the countenance of the past.
Noteworthy is the fact that we are not the ones to dis­
cover the breach of error in bygone doctrines, for a read­
ing of history reveals how each new philosophy began
with a denunciation of its predecessor, and further, that
by its formal recognition of the latter's invalidity, it
identifed itself as another philosophy. 3 Hence the his-
2. Aristotle continually reviews earlier doctrines, not from an
historical viewpoint, but a if they were contemporary opinions
that must be taken into account. Historical perspective perhaps is
evinced in Aristotle only in his reference to certain philosophers
as "the ancients"-hoi palaioi-and his observation that they are
stl amateurs-apeiria.
3. One fact that ought to be more startling to us than it ordi­
narily is, is that once the profession of philosophy exists formally,
no philosophy appears to begin anew, but all emerge from their
predecessors, and-after a certain point-ne can say, from all prior
ones. Nothing seemingly would be more "natral" in the histor
of philosophy than i now and then some appeared that bore no
precedent to others, but that were spontaneous and a nihilo. But
THE PHILOSOPHICAL PAST
tory of philosophy is simultaneously an exposition of sys
tems and, unintentionally, a critique of them. It repre­
sents an efort to constrct doctrine after doctrine, though
once each is constrcted it is beheaded by its sccessor,
and time is strewn with corpses. Thus it is not merely
the abstract fact of "dissonance" that makes us view the
past as error, but in a manner of speaking, it is the pas
itself that is daily committing suicide, discrediting itself,
bringing rin upon itself. One can seek no refuge in it.
This awesome experience of failure is perfectly expressed
in the following passage by Bossuet-an outstanding ex­
ample, by the way, of the baroque style, the manner in
which Wesern man expressed himself in every order of
life between 1550 and 1700: "When I refect upon this
turbulent sea, if I may rightly thus refer to human opin­
ion and reasoning, I fnd it impossible in so vast a real
to core upon any secure shelter or tranquil retreat that
has not been memorialized already by the shipwreck of
some celebrated navigator."4
In the dialectical series, then, this is the frst thought:
The history of philosophy prima facie reveals te pas
to us as a defunct world of errors.
SECOND THOUGHT
We have not, however, thought the frst one through
"completely." We said earlier that each philosophy sets
out by revealing the errors of its predecessor or predeces
sors and that in so doing it is another philosophy. This
would be senseless if each philosophy were not formally,
in some dimension, an efort to eliminate preceding errors
this has never happened, whereas the reverse has, to a great extent
This bears emphasis, particularly in relation to our present com­
ment on the force of the dialectical process and to other state­
ments that will follow regardinglhilosophy as tradition.
4. Seron on the Law of Go , for Quincuageszma Sunday.
20 THE ORIGIN OF PHILOSOPHY
-which provides us with a sudden illumination and dis
closes a second aspect of the past. We continue to see it
as consistently committing errors, but now the errors,
despite their nature and precisely because of it, are trans­
formed into involuntary instruments of the truth. In its
initial aspect, error possessed a purely negative dimension,
whereas by its second aspect, errors as such acquire a
positive facet. Each philosophy profts from the mstakes
of previous ones and is born, secure a limine that it, at
least, will not fall prey to those same errors. And so on
successively. The history of philosophy can now be
likened to a scalded cat feeing the house in which it was
burned. In this manner, as time moves on, philosophy
accumulates in its saddle bag a collection of recognized
errors, which ipso facto are transformed into truth-seek­
ing aids. The shipwrecks that Bossuet spoke about are per­
petuated in the guise of buoys and beacons that provide
warning of reefs and sand bars. In this second aspect,
therefore, the past appears to us as an arsenal and a trea­
sury of errors.
THIRD THOUGHT
We are currently accustomed to regard truth as some­
thing quite unattainable. This attitude is reasonable. Si­
multaneously, however, we are prone to think of error as
being overly likely, which is less salutary. Paradoxically,
contemporary man confronts the existence of error
lghtly. That error exists seems the most "natural" thing
in the world to him. He does not question its existence.
He accepts it without further ado, to the extent that when
reading the history of philosophy he is taken aback by
te Greeks' tenacious eforts to explain te possibility of
error. One might say that this habituation to the existence
of error, as to a domestic obj ect, is the same thng as con-
THE PHILOSOPHICAL PAST 2 1
temporary man's innate skepticism. I fear, however, that
such a statement may in turn be equally frivolous, and,
indeed, indicative of megalomania. Anything is called
skepticism! As if skepticism could be an innate state of
mind, or bestowed upon someone with no prior efort on
his part! The blame for this rests upon that force, both
delightful and repellent, mighty and base, known as lan­
guage. The existence of language is, in a way, a continual
denigration of words. This denigration, like almost every­
thing in language, is produced mechanically, that is, sense­
lessly. Language is a usage. Usage is the social fact par
excellence, and society is, not accidentally, but in its most
radical essence, senseless. It is everything human dehu­
manized, "despiritualized," and transformed into a mere
mechanis. 5 The word "skepticism" is a technical ter
coined in Greece at the summit of Greek intelligence.
It designated certain dreadful men who denied the possi­
bility of truth, a primordial and basic illusion of man.
Hence, it does not refer simply to people who "did not
believe in anything. " At all times and in all places numer­
ous men have existed who "did not believe in anything,"
precisely because "they did not question anything"; lv­
ing, for them, meant simply abandoning oneself from one
moment to the next, without any inner response or posi­
tion in the face of any dilemma. Beleving in something
assumes an active non believing in other things, which in
turn iplies having questioned many things, in opposition
to which others seemed "unquestionable, " hence our be-
5. The frst time I publicly expounded this notion of society,
the basis of a new sociology, was at a lectre delivered in
Valladolid in 1934, under the title "Man and People." Innumerable
event have hitherto prevented me from publishing the book
which, under that same title, should develop my entre social
doctrine. [ EI hombre y la gente, (Madrid, Editorial Revista de
Occidente, 1 957). Translated in English as Man and People (New
York, W. W. Norton & Co., Inc., 1 963).]
22
THE ORIGIN OF PHILOSOPHY
lef in them. This explains why I speak in quotes about
te sort of person who now exists and always has-the
individual who "doesn't believe in anything." I wish
tereby to indicate the inadequacy of so qualifying his
state of mind, inasmuch as genuine nonbelief does not
occur in him. Such an individual neither believes nor fails
to believe. He is outside of all such matters; he does not
"engage" reality or nothingness. He exists in a lifelong
state of somnolence. Things neither exist nor nonexist
for him and therefore he does not feel the brnt of either
belief or disbelief in them.6 This temperament of stupor
toward life is nowadays classifed as "skepticism" through
a debasement of the word. A Greek would be unable to
understand this current use of the word, for the designa­
tion "sceptics"-skepticoi-for him, applied to terrifying
men. Terrifying not because they "didn't believe in any­
thing"-that was their business! -but because they would
not allow one to lve; they descended upon one and up­
rooted one's belief in the things that seemed most tre,
instilling in one's head, as though with gleaming surgical
instrments, a series of tight, rigorous, inescapable argu­
ments. All of which implied that those men had previously
performed upon their own lving fesh, without anes­
thetic, the same operation-they had conscientiously made
themselves "nonbelievers. " And even prior to engaging
in this, they had stubbornly driven themselves to create
the sharp instrments, those "arguments against the truth"
that they employed in their task of amputation. The word
reveals the Greek view of the skeptic: a fgure diamet­
rically opposed to the somnolent type of individual who
6. Man, of course, aways stands amd countless elementa
beliefs, the major portion of which he i unaware. With respect to
ti, see my study Ideas y Creencias [Ideas and Beliefs, Vol. V).
The theme of nonbelief, which the above tex touches upon, i
dcussed on the level of patent human afair, upon which men
speak and age.
THE PHILOSOPHICAL PAST
abandons himself and allows himself to be carried along
by life. They called him an "investigator," but since this
term, too, has deteriorated in form, let us say, to be more
exact, that they called him a "seeker. " The philosopher
at that early date was a man of extraordinary mental and
moral energy. The skeptic, however, was even more so,
for whereas the former exhausted himself in the quest for
te truth, the latter was not content with that alone; he
went further, he continued thinking and analyzing the
truth until it was proven invalid. Thus, along with the
basic meaning of "seeker," the Greek word has traces
of such connotations as "hyperactive person," "heroic,"
and to a considerable degree, "sinister hero," "indefati­
gable, " and hence, "fatiguing," someone with whom one
"can do nothing." He was the human drill. Note that the
term "skeptic" only later became a classifcation for a
philosophical school, a doctrine-the frst semantic debase­
ment of the term. 7 Originally it signifed the vocational,
7. The reason for this: One who is a skeptic in accordance with
some mode, because he belongs to a school, is such as a recipient,
and not as a result of his own creation; hence he is a "secondary,"
habitualized skeptic, or to some extent defcient and inauthentic.
Likewise, and for similar though not identical reasons, the word i
gradually losing signifcant vigor. Traditional linguistics recognizes
the phenomena in its most external manifestation and speaks of
strong and weak words, and even with respect to a word of the
varying degree of strength, weakness, "emptiness" (Chinese gram­
mar), etc., in its meaning. Clearly, however, if language on the
one hand represents a degeneration of words, it must necessarily
constitte in addition a marvelous generative force. A word sud­
denly becomes charged with a meaning that it conveys to us with
a platicity, relief, clarity, suggestiveness, or, one may deign to call
it, a superlative force. Without any efort on our part to vitalize
its meaning, it discharges its semantic charge upon us like a spark
of electricity. I call this "the word in due form," which acts as an
incessant revelation. It is perfectly feasible to go through the
dictionary and take the pulse of semantic energy of each word at a
given date. The classic comparison of words with currency is
legitimate and fruitful. The reason for their similarity is identica:
usage. Linguist could proftably inquire into this topic. Not only
THE ORIGIN OF PHILOSOPHY
incoercible calling of certain particular individuals, a here­
tofore unheard of and never practiced profession, and
hence one without an established name, one that had to
be named by what they were seen doing: seeking or
"scrutinizing" truths, that is, subjecting truths to further
scrutiny than other people, questioning things beyond the
point where philosophers believe that through their efort
they are unquestionable.
Clearly, then, the true skeptic, unlike contemporary
man, is not inherently endowed with his skepticism. His
doubt is not a "state of mind," but something acquired,
the result of a process as laborious as the most compressed
dogmatic philosophy.
In the generations before our own-let us not at the
moment pinpoint exactly when or why-a decline oc­
curred in what Plato called the "quest for Being," or for
truth. Although there has existed a vast and fertile curios­
ity-hence the expansi on and exquisite refnement in the
sciences-a surging impulse toward clarifcation on fun­
damental problems is now notably lacking. One of these
problems is that of truth and its correlate, authentic
Reali ty. The aforementioned generations luxuriated in
the progressive miracle of the natural sciences, which ter­
minate in techniques. They allowed themselves to be
transported by train and automobile. Note, however, in
passing, that since 1880 Western man has not possessed
one governing philosophy. Positivism was the last. Since
then only a particular individual, or a particular limited
social group, are possessors of a philosophy. Indubitably
would they disclose many interesting fact-these they already
possess-but also some new and heretofore undisclosed linguistic
categories. For some tme-despite the fact that I know next to
nothing about linguistics-I have atempted, tangentially, to remark
upon the accomplishments and shortcomings of language; for
although I a not a lnguist, I have certain things to say that
perhaps are not uterly tivial.
THE PHILOSOPHICAL PAST 25
since 1800 philosophy has progressively ceased to be a
component of general culture and hence a present his
torical factor. Never before in Europe's history has this
happened.
Only the individual who is in a position to question
things with precision and urgency-whether they def­
nitely exist or not-is able to experience genuine belief
and disbelief. This same asthenia in attacking the problem
of truth is what also prevents us from viewing error as
a formi dable problem. The impossibility of an absolute
error need merely be suggested. So inconceivable is the
latter that it thrusts us headlong into another dreadful
enigma: senselessness. The problems of error and of de­
mentia are mutually intertwined.
In its second aspect, the philosophical past appears as
an arsenal and treasury of errors, but with that in mind
we must realize that we have carried our thinking about
the concept of the "precious error," the error transmuted
into positive and fertile magnitude, only half-way.
It is impossible for a philosophy to be an absolute error.
The error must contain some element of truth. Moreover,
it was proven an error as the result of detection, since
at the outset it was believed to be a truth. This makes
it evident that it contained no small measure of truth if
it was able to substitute for it so well. And if we analyze
more closely the nature of the "refutation"-as they say
in the seminaries employing this ghastly term-that one
philosophy exerts upon its predecessor, it is apparent that
the process is not at all similar to an electrocution, al­
though the phonetics of the word would seem to promise
no less awesome a spectacle. In the fnal analysis it is
revealed to be an error not because it was untrue, but
because it was not true enough. The earlier philosopher
stopped prematurely in the dialectical series of his
thoughts; he did not "continue thinking. " The fact is that
26
THE ORIGIN OF PHILOSOPHY
his successor uti lizes the former doctrine, incorporates it
into his new repertory of ideas, and simply avoids the
mistake of stopping there. The process is clear: The
earlier philosopher exerted himself to reach a particular
point-like the aforementioned struggling chess player­
whereas his successor, without any exertion, receives the
accomplished labor, apprehends it, and by applying fresh
vigor, is able to employ it as a point of departure and
advance sti ll further. In the new system, the received
thesis does not remain exactly as it was in the old; it is
completed. Thus it is actually a new and diferent idea
from the original criticized and subsequently incorporated
one. Let us recognize that the defective idea, convicted
of error, disappears within the new intellectual creation.
It disappears because it is assimilated into another more
complete one. This adventure of ideas that die, not
through annihilation, leaving no trace, but because they
are surpassed by other more complex ones, is what Hegel
called Aufhebung, a term I translate as "absorption." The
absorbed element disappears into the absorber and thereby
is simultaneously abolished and preserved.s
This brings us to a third aspect of the philosophical
past. The aspect of e�'ror as it prima facie appears to us
turns out to be a mask . .�ow the mask has been removed
and we view errors as incomplete partial truths, or as is
usually said, "they are partially true, " hence, portions
of truth. You might say that before men began to think,
reason was broken into bits, and thereafter men had to go
about picking up the pieces one by one and putting them
together. Simmel talks about a "broken-plate society"
8. "Absorption" i such an evident and repeated phenomenon
that it leaves no room open for doubt. In Hegel, however, it is in
addition an integral thesis of his entire system, and as such is unre­
lated to the foregoing statements. Likewise, the Hegelian dialectic
should not be thought of in connecton with my foregoing ad
fute discussion of the "diaectica series."
THE PHILOSOPHICAL PAST
that existed in Germany at the end of the last centur.
Some friends at the conclusion of a commemorative din­
ner decided to break a plate and to divide the pieces,
each one agreeing to surrender his piece to one of hs
friends upon his death. In this manner the fragments grad­
ually fell into the hands of the last survivor, who wa
able to reconstruct the plate.
Those insufcient or partial truths are experiences in
thought that, with respect to Reality, must be undergone.
Each of them is a "path" or "road"-methodos-whereby
a segment of the truth is traversed and one of its aspects
contemplated. A point is reached, however, where one
can pursue that path no further. It is obligatory to t
a diferent one. For that-for it to be diferent-one mus
bear its predecessor in mind; in this sense, it is a continua­
tion of the former, but with a change of direction. If
previous philosophers had not undergone those "experi­
ences in thought," the successors would have had to un­
dergo them, and hence, would themselves remain at that
point and be, as it were, the predecessor. From this view­
point, the succession of philosophers appears as one single
philosopher who lived for twenty-fve hundred years dur­
ing which he "continued thinking. " According to this
third aspect, the philosophical past is revealed to us as a
vast melody of intellectual experiences through which
man has been passing.
FOURTH THOUGHT
The philosopher who lived for twenty-fve hundred
years can be said to exist; he is the present-day philoso­
pher. In our present philosophical conduct and in the
doctrine produced thereby, we view and take into con­
sideration a substantial portion of previous thought on
themes relating to our disciplne. This is tantamount to
THE ORIGIN OF PHILOSOPHY
declaring that past philosophies are our collaborators,
that they persist and survive in our own philosophy.
When we frst comprehend philosophy, we are struck
by the truth it contains and refects- that is, were we for
the moment unfamiliar with other philosophies, it would
strike us then and there as the very truth. Hence the
study of each philosophy, even for someone expert in
such encounters, is an unforgettable illumination. Subse­
quent consideration leads to rectifcation: such and such
a philosophy is not valid, but another is. This nonetheless
does not nullify and invalidate the frst impression; the
archaic doctrine remains true "for the moment"-under­
standing truth to be something that takes place in the
mental itinerary toward a more complete one. The latter
arrival is more complete because it includes, it absorbs,
te former.
Each philosophy contains elements of the others, like
te necessary steps in a dialectical serks. 'fhe presence of
tese elements will be evident to a greater or lesser degree,
and possibly an entire older system will appear in the more
modern one in the guise of merely a stump or rudiment.
This is patently and incontestably so, if a past philosophy
is compared with its predecessors. Moreover, the reverse
also obtains: If a prior philosophy is examined, one can
discern in vague outline, and still incomplete embodiment,
the germs of many subsequent ideas-if one takes into
account the degree of explicitness, richness, dimension,
and distinction typical of the times when the antiquated
philosophy was conceived. This can not help being so.
Since the problems of philosophy are radical problems,
there is no philosophy that does not contain them all. The
radical problems are inexorably linked to one another and
departure from any one leads to the other. The philoso
pher always sees them, though possibly not clearly,
consciously, and conectedly. If one feels that this can-
THE PHILOSOPHICAL PAST 29
not properly be called seeing, one may call it blindly
sensing. Hence, contrary to what the layman believes,
all philosophies have a very good mutual understanding
of one another: they constitute a conversation that has
lasted for nearly three milleniums, a perpetual dialogue
and dispute held in a common tongue, namely the philo­
sophical viewpoint itself and the perennial existence of
the same difcult problems.
This brings us to a fourth aspect of the philosophical
past. The previous aspc'.t all owed us to regard the melody
of intellectual experiences through which man must pas
in confronting certain themes. The past was thus pro­
vided with an afrmation, a j ustifcation. It remained,
however, where it was-in the realm of what has been.
Embalmed, but fnally dead. It was an archeological view.
Now, however, we realize that those formed experiences
must be continually reconstructed, albeit with the beneft
of having been received ready-made. Thus we do not
leave them behind, but our present philosophy is in great
part the current resuscitation of all the yesterdays of
philosophy. The efcacy of old ideas is perpetually re­
stored in us and becomes everlasting. Instead of imagining
the philosophical past as a line stretched horizontally in
time, the new aspect compels us to imagine it as a vertical
line, because the past continues to operate, weighing upon
us and upon the present. Our philosophy is what it is
because it fnds itself mounted upon the shoulders of its
predecessors-like "the human tower" number per­
formed in the circus by a family of acrobats. Or, if you
prefer another image, one can view philosophizing hu­
manity as a long, long road that must be traversed centu
after century, but a road that in the process winds upon
itself, and becomes a load on the traveler's back-it is
transformed from a road into luggage.
This process of the philosophical past is simply one
THE ORIGIN OF PHILOSOPHY
example of what happens with all the human past.
The historical past is not past simply because it is not
now in the present-that would be an extrinsic charac­
terization-but because it has passed or happened to other
men whom we remember, and consequently it keeps
happening to us in our continual repassing or reviewing
of it.·
Man is the only being who is a product of the past,
who consists in the past, though not solely in the past.
Other things do not possess it because they are only a
consequence of the past: cause and efect are left behind;
the past is obliterated. Man, however, preserves it within
himself, he accumulates it, he enables that which once
was to subsist within "in the form of what has been."1
This possession of the past, its preservation (the quality
that is most specifcally human is not so-called intellect,
but "felicitous memory") ,l0 is equivalent to a modest
attempt, but an attempt, nevertheless, at eternity-thus
do we resemble, to some small degree, God; for possession
of the past in the present is one of the characteristics of
eternity. If, in like sense, we also possessed the future,
our lives would be a total imitation of eternity-as Plato
held, with much less cause, with respect to time itself.
The future, though, is precisely what is problematic,
unsure, that which can or cannot be; we do not possess
it except in the measure in which we predict it. Hence
man's perpetual urge to divine, to prophesy. In moder
times a great step forward has been made in the abilt
• Pasado (the past) i Spanish fnds it counterpar in the verb
pasar (to ha
p
pen) and repasar (to review) , makng the entire con­
cept linguistcally compact.-Trans.
9. Regarding this category of historica reason, which is "being
i the form of having been," see my study History as a System
[ Complete Works, Vol. VIJ.
10. See my Prologe to the Count of Yebes book [Complete
Works, Vol. VI] .
THE PHILOSOPHICAL PAST 3 1
to predict: natural science rigorously predicts many fu­
ture events. It is curious to note that the Greeks did not
qualify as knowledge sensu stricto an intellectual method
such as our physical science which, according to them, is
content with "keeping up appearances"-Ta <atv
o
pwu
u'ftvbut they did end up calling it an "ingenious
devination. " Consult Cicero's treatise De Divinatione for
a defnition of the latter, taken probably from Posidonius,
and say whether it is not the defnition of physical sci­
ence. !1
Man is able to predict more and more of the future,
and hence "eternalize" himself more in that dimension.
Meanwhile, he has also attained greater possession of his
past. When the present conficts come to an end, man
will probably engage in assimilating the past with unpar­
alleled zeal and urgency, and display astounding scope,
vigor, and accuracy. I call this phenomenon, which I have
anticipated for years, the dawn of historical reason.
Man is thus now on the brink of increasing his measure
of "eternity. " For being eternal does not mean enduring,
or having existed in the past, existing in the present, and
continuing to exist in the future. That is simply self­
perpetuation, everlasting being-a task that is, fnally,
fatigui ng, since it signifes that one has had to span alJ
of time. Self-eternalization however is the opposite; it
means not moving from the present, but allowing the past
and future to attain the present and occupy it; it signifes
remembering and foreseeing. In a sense it accomplishes
with time what Belmonte accomplished with bulls; in­
stead of maneuvering around the bull he succeeded in
getting the bull to maneuver around him. The pity is that
the bull of Time, insofar as one can concretely presume,
II. De Divinatione i, XLI (I quote from the Didot edition
because I have none other at my disposal). The term "ingenious
divination," I believe, does not appear unti I, LVI.
THE ORIGIN OF PHILOSOPHY
always ends up horning the man who strives to become
eternal.
Man's "eternity, " even that which is actually possible,
is only probable. Man must always tell himself what the
ffteenth-century Burgundian gentleman chose as a motto:
Rien ne m'est sur que la chose incertain-the only thing
I am certain of is uncertainty. No one has assured us that
the scientifc spirit will persist in mankind, and the evo­
lution of science is ever threatened by involution, retro­
gression, and even vanishment.
This retrospection of ours makes it evident that it is a
matter of indiference whether the philosophical past is
designed as an accumulation of errors or an accumulation
of truths, because in fact it contains elements of both.
Each of the two j udgments is partial, and instead of fght­
ing each other, it is to the advantage of each to unite and
j oin hands. The dialectical series we have pursued is not,
in its thematic points, a chain of arbitrary thoughts that
are j ustifable only on a personal basis, but they consti­
tute the mental itinerary anyone must pursue who sets
out to refect upon the reality: "the philosophical past."
It is not arbitrary, nor are we responsible for the fact
that in departing from its totality, the frst thing that is
noticed is the multitude of contradictory opinions-and
hence erroneous ones-whereupon we realize how each
phil osophy evades the mistake incurred by its precursor
and thus profts from it. We thereupon realize that this
would be impossible if said mistake were not partially
tre, and fnally, that those portions of truth are inte­
grated by being resuscitated in contemporary philosophy.
Just as a physicist fnds that in a normal experiment things
happen in a determined way, that repetition in a modern
laboratory produces the same result, so a thinker fnds
that a series of mental steps are imposed upon him. His
concentration or detainment at particula j unctures may
THE PHILOSOPHICAL PAST
33
vary, but all are stations at which his intellect will pase
momentarily. As we shall see, the function of intellect is
to pause, and therefore to detain the reality that confronts
man. In the process of following the series, the time ex­
pended will vary depending upon one' s abi lities, physical
bent, climatic conditions, and state of repose or disquiet.12
The adroit mind generally covers an elementary dialec­
tical series, such as the one here expounded, with utmost
speed. This skill is born of traini ng, and is neither more
nor less mysterious than gymnastics or "memory train­
ing. " Anyone can be a phil osopher if he wants to-as­
suming he is willing to make the eiort, and in fact, wealth
acts almost as a greater detriment than poverty.13 With
the realization that the philosophical past is, in reality,
indiferent to its aspect of error and to its aspect of truth,
we ought in our behavior to abandon neither, but to inte­
grate both.
A truth, if it is not complete, is something with which
one cannot remain-where one cannot stay or stand. Re­
call the initial example of the spheroid and the space
around it. No sooner does one dwell upon the former
12. I shall utilize this occasion to insert a pedagogical interpola­
tion directed to inexperienced young individuals-young signify­
ing that one is professionally inexperi enced. It is very likely that
such a reader may react to my foregoing statements in the follow­
ing way: "This is all self-evident and trivial. We all know that
every day is not the same. Therefore, the writer in saying this and
in heaping up expressions that amount to the same thing-that is,
'how one feels'-is indulging in 'rhetoric.' In any event, none of
this represents a philosophical problem." To which I must reply
that when he reaches p . . . (indication that the page is blank i
the manuscript, and that a
p
parently the author never got to write
it) let him recall this reactIon of his, for he will thereupon receive
a choc that i extemely useful in learning how to read philo­
sophical text.
13. Cf. my essay Man and Crisis, concerning how wealth and
the superabundance of possessions ae the causes of great and
sometimes horrendous historica crises [Complete Works,
Vol. V] .
3
4
THE ORIGIN OF PHILOSOPHY
than he is forced into thinking about the "space around
it." Hence, the common expression "X stands mistaken"
has great intrinsic meaning, if we care to note it. Implicit
in it is the suggestion that error is precisely "a state where
one cannot stand. "14 If one could stand mistaken there
would be no sense in pursuing the truth. And in fact our
language employs another related expressi on, which re­
veals something implicit in the former one: "X has fallen
into the same mistake as . . . " Hence, being mistaken
means falling-the very opposite of "standing." In other
instances this problematical "standing" in error is given
a bias, always a negative and moral one; not only does it
represent a fall but "an error is committed . . . ," thereby
placing the responsibility for the fall upon the one who
has fallen.
Since past truths15 are incomplete one cannot stand or
rest on them, and fOT that reason alone, they are errors.
If there are errors of another sort-that is, errors that are
simply errors, whose error does not consist sheerly in
their fragmentary nature but in their content and sub­
stance-that is a topic which at present need not be elab­
orated. Let us interrupt this dialectical series not because,
strictly speaking, it ought not to be pursued, but because
the occasion of this epilogue does not allow for further
14. To clarify: Inherent in this expression is a reprobative in­
tention. X does something that for one reason or other cannot be
done-he stands mistaken. This pertains to a class of expressions
such as-X is a traitor, Y tells lies, Z confuses things-which,
though afrmative gramatically, state negative concepts. The nega­
tion is stated in the predicate, which is also afrmative in gram­
matical form, although the speaker clearly and admittedly
recognizes that it unquestionably constitutes a negative reality.
15. To speak about "past truth" seemingly indicates that truth
has a date attached to it, that it dates, whereas truth has always
been defned as something apart from time. We shall subsequently
explore this further, but for the present I merely wish to advise the
reader that this is not a verbal laps and that i it i a crime it is
not unpremeditated.
THE PHILOSOPHICAL PAST
3 5
elaboration, and enough has been said already. According
to the foregoing, however, is error not the interrption
of a dialectical series, the failure to "continue thinking"?
This would be tre, were we to consider the foregoing
as complete; but what we are doing is simply deciding
tat it is adequate for the present scope and pertinence
of our subj ect. Obviously everything in the preceding
series, as well as in our initial backward glance, was simply
an attempt at a broad macrocosm. Clearly, countles
things remain to be said in the direction of that thought.
In addition to which, the foregoing statements are ele­
mentary-and elementary things are invariably the mos
crude and gross, though they must be stated and cannot
j ustifably be omitted. 16
16. Neither my allotted space nor the didactic aim of this book
permit me to expand more freely on this subj ect. As I speak, I
can imagine some readers who are not too skilled yet in the ways
of philosophy. To facilitate their task I have provided this frst
dialectical series with a form and even a certain typographica
relief that underscores the stages of thought as it advances in it
progressive complication or synthesis. In the remaining pages I
shall abandon such a procedure in order to progress more rapidly,
tacitly assuming that the reader wil understand and provide many
of the intermediary steps.
Whenever possible, however, it is desirable to spare readers the
demoralizing annoyance resulting from intimations that certain
things of greater interest and substance have remained unformu­
lated, failing to provide the reader with any concrete notion of
what is being withheld. Since this, in turn, is impractical in most
instances, without incurring a hermetic manner of expression­
one compounded of laconism and technicality-ony now and then
and by way of example is there space to enumerate specifc topics
that were not touched upon. The reader thereby gains confdence
in a writer, trust him, and is convinced that intimations of latent
profundities and postponed rigorisms are actualities. In short, it i
to the advantage of both reader and author that the later's silence
not be open to misinterpretation, or to the accusation of vacuous­
ness, but that it be even clearer than the things he says.
With this in mind I am herewith enumerating a few of the many
topics that the series begun in this chapter would eventally
encounter were it to continue. I shall mention those that lend
THE ORIGIN OF PHILOSOPHY
On the other hand, after a brief refection on what we
have j ust done, which will yield us an important onto­
logical theorem, we are going to begin another dialectical
series whose point of departure will be the same (the
philosophic past) but whose route will be diferent.
themselves to brief statement and can be understood without
special preparation and are, moreover, open problems, the solution
of which would demand lengthy investigations, even of an
empirical natre, with facts and "data."
I. Before philosophy began, what analagous profession existed
among men? If philosophy is, in it trn, merely one step taken by
thought upon the heels of another, which would not be philosophy,
this means that all of phiosophy, from it onset to the present,
would appear as merely one member of a "dialectical" series of
much greater breadth than it i. I shall have more to say on th
iomissible subj ect further on.
2. Why did philosophy begin, and when and where did it begin?
3. Did this beginning, by it concrete circumstance, ballast
p
hilosophy with milenary lmitations from which it must free
Itelf?
4. Why in each period does philosophy stop at a particular
point?
5. Have certain experiences been absent from the melody of
itellectal experiences comprised by the phiosophical past? Th
for me would be of particular signifcance insofar as the reader
would then realize that the statements in this text do not pre­
suppose the historical process of philosophy to be "the way it
should have been," that it is free from imperfections, gaps, serious
defects, important omissions, etc. According to Hegel, the his­
torical process-the human one in general and the philosophical
one specifcally-has been perfect, that which it "had to be," that
which "it should have been." History, he maintains, is "rational"­
though one clearly understands that this "rationality" (which he
believes history to possess) i not historical "reason," but with
slight modifcation, is the kind famiiar since the days of Aristotle
and recognizable ever since as the opposite of historicity-the in­
variable, the "eternal." In my opinion, it is imperative to invert
Hegel's formula and maintain that rather than history being
"rational," the fact is that reason, authentic reason, i historical.
The traditional concept of reason i abstract, imprecise, utopian,
ad unchronological. But since everything that exists must be
concrete it reason exists, it wil have to be "concrete reason."
See ti author's History as a System [ 1935] and his early formu-
THE PHILOSOPHICAL PAST
3 7
lations of the idea, The Modern Thee [ 1 923 l . Something o n the
historicity of reason appears in Being in One's Self and Being
Beside One's Self [Buenos Aires, 1 939l and in my Prologe to
Veinte Afos de Caza Mayor by the Count of Yebes [ I 943 l
( Complete Works, Vols. II, III, V, and VI) . The essay Being in
One's Self and Being Beside One's Self forms Chapter I of Ma
and People.
Z
Aspects a nd the Enti rety
IF FOR THE TIME BEING we suspend our interest in the
philosophical past and refect instead upon the process
undertaken in developing the foregoing dialectical series,
we can arrive at an important generalization. The past
appeared to us under diferent aspects, each of which was
formulated by us into what is generally referred to as "a
notion, or an i dea of a thing." By choice, we would have
been content with one-the frst. It would have been the
most convenient. However, the reality confronting us­
the philosophical past-would not allow this, but com­
pelled us to mobilize, to shuttle back and forth from one
aspect to the other, and likewise from one "idea" to an­
other. Who is to blame for the inevitable labor imposed
upon us-the thing itself or our own minds? Let us see.
If the reader turns his eyes to the surface of a table,
or to the wall that is now perhaps in front of him, or
even to this page, and if he persists awhile in this ocular
inspection, he will notice something both trivial and
strange. He will note that what he actually observed of
the wall during the second interval does not coincide
exactly with what was seen initially. This is not because
the wall itself has changed during this brief period. But
specks, shapes, little cracks, slight spots, shadings of color,
at frst unseen, are at second glance revealed ( "revealed"
being employed here in its photographic sense) . In fact
these appear abruptly, though one has the impression that
they were there all along, though unperceived. Were the
reader to feel compelled-and this is nearly impossible-
38
ASPECTS AND THE ENTIRETY
3 9
to conceptalize, that is to verbalize, what he saw at each
interval, he would realize that the two fonnulas or con­
cepts of the wall difered. This scene would be repro­
duced indefnitely if he continued to gaze at the wall
indefnitely, the latter, like an inexhaustible spring of
reality, would keep issuing forth unsuspected contents in
a never-ending process of self-revelation. The obj ect, in
this instance, remained still; it is our eye that has moved,
directing its visual axis frst upon one section, then upon
another. And with each glance cast by the eye, the wall,
wounded to the core, allowed fresh aspects of itself to
escape. However, even if our eye had not wandered, the
same thing would have happened, because the wall, too,
makes our attention wander. In the frst moment, we
would have focused upon certain components, in the
second upon others; and each time we focused anew, the
wall would have responded with another countenance.
This is at times a compelling phenomenon of paradig­
matic value. If one takes a little leaf from a tree and gazes
at it persistently, at frst one sees only its general outline
and then the leaf itself; the leaf attracts one's gaze, pro­
pelling it, sketching one's itinerary over the surface,
guiding the eyes so as to reveal the marvelous structure
and the incredible geometrical, architectural grace fonned
by the countless tiny nerves. This, for me, was an un­
premeditated, unforgettable experience-what Goethe
referred to as a "Protophenomenon"-and to it I literally
owe an entire dimension of my doctrine: namely, that
the thing is the master Of the man-a statement of much
graver import than can be fully surmised here. 1 I must,
however, add here that I have never concluded looking
at a leaf.
A clearer example is perhaps ofered us in looking at an
I. For an intimaton of this, see my essay "Hegel's Philosophy of
History and Historiography," 1928 [ Complete Works, Vol. IV] .
THE ORIGIN OF PHILOSOPHY
orange. At frst we see only one of its faces, one hemi­
sphere (approximately) , and then we must move in order
to see successive hemispheres. At each step, the appear­
ance of the orange is diferent, but connected to its prede­
cessor, which has already disappeared; with the result that
we never see the orange all at once, but must be content
with successive views. In this instance, the thing so vehe­
mently demands to be seen in its entirety that we are
impel led and literally forced to revolve around it.
There is no doubt that the orange, or reality, is directly
responsible for making us pass on from one aspect to
another, causing us displacement and efort. Obviously,
though, this occurs because at any given moment we are
able to study it only from one vantage point. If we were
ubiquitous and could see it simultaneously from all van­
tage points, the orange would not possess "diferent as­
pects" for us. We would see it in its totality at one glance.
Hence we are also the cause of our efort.
Our shifting motion around the orange in order to keep
seeing it would present, if the process were not silent, a
perfect analogy to the dialectical series. The quality of
our thinking, generally known as "discursive,"2 that is,
moving by fts and starts, compels us to traverse reality,
step by step, making stops. At each step, we obtain one
"view" of it and these views are, on the one hand, the
intell ectual sensu stricto, the "concepts" or "notions" or
"ideas"; and on the other, the intuitive, the correlative
"aspects" of the thing. This perusal assumes that one has
time, whereas each individual has but little, and up to now
mankind has had only one million years at its disposal.
Hence "views" of Reality have not been extremely abun­
dant to date. One may claim that time could have been
2. The term is confusing because thinking has an intitive aspect
and aso a "logical" or conceptual aspect. This, however, i not the
proper place to delve into the question.
ASPECTS AND THE ENTIRETY
utilized better, for clearly a great deal of it has been
wasted. 3 True, although to direct this would necessitate,
among other things, determining frst why history wastes
so much time, why it does not progress more rapidly, why
"God' s mills grind away so slowly," as even Homer in
his day realized.4 In short, one must take into account not
only historical time, but its divergent tempo, its ritardando
and its accelerando, its adagio and its allegro cantabile,
etc. This would result in the fantastic but obvious conse­
quence whereby, above and beyond wasting so much
time, men would be obliged to expend even more in the
dedicati on to "la recherche du temps perdu. "5
The present occasion is not opportune for such an
endeavor. Now under discussi on is the fact that at any
given moment we are in possessi on of only a limited
number of cumulative views of reality. These views are
simultaneous "aspects of the thing. "
The "aspect" appertains to the thing; it is-to state it
crudely-a piece of the thing. But it is not something
relating to the thing alone; an "aspect" cannot exist with­
out someone to behold it. Hence it is the response of the
thing to being looked at. The act of looking collaborates
in it, for that is what causes "aspects" to emerge, and since
the look in each case is of a particular nature-at that
moment and in that instance it looks at something from
a given point of view-the "aspect" of the thing is insep-
3. See note 12, p. 33.
4. Iliad, IV, 1 60.
5. Furthermore, the reader who is not in the habit of seeing the
things described by the author, but who remains on the outside
looking at the words he utters, like at shoes in a shop window, wil
j udge petulantly that all of this is merely a play on words. I must
refer him to a forthcoming book of mine where he will fnd a
most concrete, compact example of the literal truth of the fore­
going statement, and of how one is sometimes compelled to engage
in "the search for lost time" for its own sake, or for someone
else's, for that of a nation or even al of mankind.
THE ORIGIN OF PHILOSOPHY
arable from the observer. Allow me to reiterate: Since
in the fnal analysis it is always the thing, in some par­
ticular aspect, which is revealed to a point of view, these
aspects pertain to the thing and are not "subj ective. " On
the other hand, granted that they are only a reply to the
question elicited by every look, to a given scrutiny, they
are not the thing itself, but only its "aspects. " According
to a popular expression, we would say that the "aspect"
is the "face shown" by reality. Reality puts it on for us.6
If it were possible to integrate the countless "aspects"
of a thing, we would be able to fathom the thing itself,
for the thing is the "entirety. " Since this is impossible,
we must be content with possessing merely "aspects" of
the thing and not the thing itself-as Aristotle and Saint
Thomas believed.
What from the vantage point of the thing is an "aspect,"
from man's is the "view" taken of the thing. It is com­
monly called an "idea" ( concept, notion, etc. ) . Nowa­
days, however, this term has only a psychological mean­
ing, while the radical phenomenon now being discussed
is in no way psychological. Undoubtedly for a thing to
present its "aspects" and-what amounts to the same
thing, though from the subj ect's standpoint-for an in­
dividual to extract his "views," all physi cal and psychic
functions must be called into operation. Psychology,
physics, and physiology examine these functions, which
means however that these sciences emerge as it were from
some previous thing which, in fact, is the cause of
their own existence, from the primary, radical phe­
nomenon-the presence of the thing before men's eyes
in the form of "aspect" or "views." The functioning of
apparatuses and mechanisms is not pertinent to our
topic. It is a matter of indiference to us whether they
6. And in fact, in lieu of "aspect" one could justifably endow
the word "face" with terminologica value in ontology.
ASPECTS AND THE ENTIRETY
4
3
function in one way or another. All tat counts is te
result: man is able to see things.
It is not a psychological phenomenon; far from it. o It
is a metaphysical phenomenon, or to give it another name,
an ontological one. And metaphysical phenomena-which
are not mysterious or supernatural, but of the simplest,
most ordinary and everyday order-are the truest phe­
nomena or "facts" in existence, having precedence over
all "scientifc facts," which assume the exstence of te
former.
It would therefore be helpful to banish from philosoph­
ical terminology the word "idea, " a word that is in its
ultimate stage of deterioration and debasement, for even
in psychology it does not possess a precise, authentic,
unequivocal meaning. It had its great moment, its cul­
mination, in Greece-for it is a Greek word, not a Latin
one, and still less a Romanic one. It literally reigned in
Syracuse with Dion, a friend and disciple of Plato, though
only for a matter of days, and in Athens it was practically
the "ruling" opinion for some time. It was nothing less
than the Idea, the Platonic Ideas. Plato referred to thei
usage as "dialectics," and called it the "royal art"­
� fa(L>LK� TIXY. Who nowadays would believe it, in
view of their present drab, muddled, and useless role!
7. This is not to suggest that psychology is not an intensely
iteresting feld, one that ought to attract more individuals be­
cause of its greater accessibility, considerable rigor, and divertng
qualit. It can be stdied with modest preparation and yield posi­
tive and creative result. Ten years ago I was eager to undertake in
Spain a campaign on behalf of psychology, utiizing the enthusiasm
and outstanding organizationa abilities of Dr. Germain. I am not a
psychologist nor could I have devoted myself to becoming one,
athough I have always been interested in the feld and therefore
could have stimulated curiosity, encouraged individuals to pursue
professions in it, and fostered coteries of the stdious and curious
around those individuals who had already been resolutely and
without support engaged in this science, pacuarly in Barcelona
and Madrid.
4
THE ORIGIN OF PHILOSOPHY
Diable, qu'it a mal tourne ce mot "idee"!
The most exact rendering of the term Idea, as Plato
used it, would be "aspect." And he was not concerned
with psychology but with ontology. For in fact, it is in
the nature of Reality to possess "aspects," "respects,"
and, in general, "perspective," since inherent in Reality
is man standing before it and looking at it.s The terms
perspective and knowledge are almost equivalent. How­
ever, the former is, in addition, an admonishment that
knowledge is not only a "modus cognoscentis," but a
positive modifcation of that which is known-something
Saint Thomas would not accept-that it is the thing
transformed into mere "aspects" and only "aspects," the
essence of which is to be constructed into a perspective.
Knowledge-and I allude to it here only obliquely-is
perspective, hence it is not a mere presentation of the
thing itself in the mind, as the ancients held, nor is it the
"thing itself" in the mind per modum cognoscentis, as the
scholastics maintained, nor is it a copy of the thing, nor
a construction of the thing as supposed by Kant, the posi­
tivists, and Marburg' s school. But it is an "interpretation"
of the thing itself, subj ecting it to translation as though
from one language to another-one might say from the
language of being, a silent one, to the language of know­
ing, an articulate one. This language into which being is
translated, is no more nor less than the language, the logos.
Knowledge, in its ultimate and radical concretion, is dia­
lectics-ihu,iYEOuL-to be talking precisely about things.
8. We shall see this at a later point. This chapter simply seeks to
establish a terminology, and not to argue the truth represented
therein. Why we speak about Reality, why ultimately we maintain
that it has "aspect," which supposes that someone is always seeing
it, etc., are fundamenta themes to be treated subsequently; never­
theless, the given examples-wall, table, pa�e of a book, leaf of a
tree-are adequate fOT the moment to j ustify the terminology, at
least i n those instances, for the terminology efectively states what
really happens.
ASPECTS AND THE ENTIRETY
45
The word enunciates the views i n which the aspects
of Reality appear before us.9 What are generally
referred to as "true ideas" are those that represent or
correspond to realities. But this designation, aside from
many other defciencies, is contradictory, for implicit in
it is an equivocal and dual use of the term "reality. " On
the one hand, the latter is an epistomological concept and
as such, signifes simply that reality contains precisely
what thought purports it to contain, or to put it difer­
ently, that the idea in fact conceptualizes that which exists
in reality. If I say that the snow is white, I am saying
something true because I do truly encounter in the snow
that which I call "whiteness. " If I say that it is black, the
9. Since knowledge is a matter between men and things, it wil
sometimes have to be viewed from the position of men and at
other times from that of things. The subj ect, the viewed reality­
the
p
henomenon "knowledge"-is in both instances the same
and It is only our point of view that has altered. Hence it may be
helpful to have dual terms, "view" and "aspect." Finally, both
terms have the advantage of being a constant reminder that
thought is ultimately "seeing," having the thing before us-that is,
intuition. Bear in mind that language, words, and names are con­
cerned, aside from other functions that are not of prime im­
portance, with to functions : frst, enabling us to manipulate a
large number of concepts, of ideas, in an "economical" form, thus
saving us the efort of actally performing the act of thi nking by
means of the representative concepts and ideas. In most cases, what
we carelessly classify as thinking is not precisely that, but simply
its abbreviation. In this function each word is only a "token" for
the actal execution of a thought, and language thereby enables u
to "open an i ntellectal credit" with which, like great industries,
we found sciences. The banking business however cannot consist
solely in openng credits. This function is the correlative of
another, whose claim is the meeting of due credits. Hence, the
other function of language is the decisive one: each word is an
invitation to us to see the thing it denominates, the thought it
represents. For thought, I repeat, and will continue to repeat
unceasingly in these pages, is in the ultimate and fundamenta
analysis "a stage of seeing something and fxing one's attention on
a particular part of the thing seen." We shall therefore say that
thinking means "focusing on something of that which i seen."
THE ORIGIN OF PHILOSOPHY
opposite occurs. In this sense, one is alluding to the
"reality of the idea" and disregarding the "reality pos­
sessed by the thing that is real. " The latter is an "onto­
logical" concept and signifes the thing in accordance
with what it is-and the thing is simply the "entirety,"
its integration. Hence, most of our "true ideas" represent
only one of the components of the thing encountered,
viewed, and apprehended by our minds at a particular
moment-and therefore merely a partial, abstract "as­
pect," extirpated from the thing, though "real" in the
primary sense of the term. This is the most frequent
cause of our mistakes, because it leads us to believe that
corroborating the truth of an idea is reduced to confrm­
ing that one "real" feature of the idea, in other words,
enunciating an "authentic aspect" rather than seeking its
integration by confronting the idea not only in its de­
clared "aspect," but in its decisive nature of reality, of
"being whole," and hence always possessing "additional
aspects.
"10
10. Given the unavoidable parallelism between the problems of
Reality and the problems of Truth, it was inevitable that the same
ambiguity be reproduced in the use of the term "truth." It is too
often forgotten that this word, even in most ordinary parlance,
means primarily "that which is completely true" and only sec­
ondarily does it have the more modest, resigned, and partia
meaning: "that which, though not completely true, is partially
true because it is not an error." That "the snow is white" is in
part true, because the snow does possess whiteness. First of all,
however, many white things exist whose whiteness is a diferent
shade than the snow-hence the predicate "whiteness," applied to
snow, is true only if we assume it to be that particular shade,
which is not made clear in the proposition and thus renders the
statement an incomplete, partial truth, in j eopardy of being a false
one. Secondly, it is a fact that some snows, even freshly fallen
ones, are not white. Thirdly, snow is countless other things
besides being white. The word "is" in the statement "the snow
is . . . " likewise possesses maximum meaning that would be ful­
flled only if the predicate expressed everything that the snow is.
Like "reality" and "truth," however, the is possesses secondary and
defective meanings.
o
Di al ecti cal Seri es
THE ILLUSTRATION of the orange and of our own conduct
in tracing the frst four aspects presented by the philo­
sophical past, constitute two "dialectical series." Our
refecti on on what transpired within us during those "dis­
courses" or mental processes, provides us with a prelimi­
nary understanding of the nature of a "dialectical series."
This preliminary understanding is enough to enable us
to use and apply the term i n this immediate context. At
a later point, when we probe the subj ect of "thought"
more deeply, we shall have to enter the crevices of reality
designated by this word.
Let the term "dialectical series" not delude the reader
into believing that it necessarily represents some gran­
diose conception, as might be indicated by its theatrical
grandiloquence, reminiscent of the closest terminology
of the old romantic German systems and typical of an
age when philosophers were awesomely solemn and acted
publicly like ventriloquists of the Absolute. We are deal­
ing with something of no great importance and quite
commonplace, though convenient.
The term is confned to designating the following sum
of mental acts, which transpire in all attempts to concep­
tualize reality.
Every "thing" appears under one initial aspect, which
leads us to a second one, then on to another, and so on
in succession. For "the thing" is "in reality" the sum or
integral of its aspects. Hence here is what we have done:
47
THE ORIGIN OF PHILOSOPHY
I. Pause before each aspect and obtain a view of it.
2. Continue thinking or move on to a contiguous aspect.
3. Not abandon-that is, preserve-the aspects already
"viewed. "
4. Integrate them in a sufciently "total" view for the pur­
poses of the subj ect under consideration in each particular
instance.
"To pause," "to continue," "to preserve," and "to
integrate" are thus the four acts exercised by dialectical
thought. Each one of these acts represents a stage in our
inquiry or process of understanding or thought. One
could call them the junctures i n which our knowledge of
the thing is formed.
Well now, the quid lies in the fact that each "view" of
an "aspect" demands that we advance in order to see
another. The thing, as we have said, attracts us, forces us
to proceed after we have paused. This new "view"
prompted by the frst one, is going to constitute another
"aspect" of the thing-not a random one, however, but an
aspect of the thing contiguous with the frst. The "log­
ical" contiguity of the "views" (commonly called con­
cepts) derives from the actual contiguity of the "aspects. "
Thus it difers from contiguity through implication. Con­
cept # I is contiguous to concept # 2 because it is
immediately implied in the latter. Dialectical contiguity
is like the concept "the space around" suggested by the
concept "earth. " It is contiguity through complication.
Since so illustrious a thinker as Hegel referred to syn­
thetic or complicating thought as "dialectics," I am
striving by using this term to perpetuate the tradition.
Observe, however, the slight relation the present instance
bears to Hegel's dialectic. 1
Note that in geometry the path lying between one
I. I leave for some other work an explicit explanation of what
thi term as it i used here and as it is used in Hegel's work have
i common (very little) and i n what ways they difer.
DIALETICAL SERIES
49
point and the adjacent point constitutes a straight line.
We see then that dialectical thought proceeds only in a
straight line and turns out to be similar to the fen shui
or the dangerous spirits that haunted the Chinese. In
fact, those entities, abettors of good and evil upon men,
can be displaced only rectilinearly. Hence the edge of
Chinese roofs curve upward. Otherwise, a fen shui in­
stalled in the roof would sli de straight down and land in
the garden or orchard, a highly dangerous proximity,
whereas if the edge of the roof has an upward curve, the
spirit's only recourse is to shoot skyward.
The contiguity of mental steps makes thinking fall into
a series and one of the simplest sort. Clearly, then, when
I refer to a "dialectical series" it is simply and unfor­
tunately because what we are discussing is an ordinary,
homely series, comparable to a "series of numbers," a
"series of stamps, " or a "series of annoyances." The fact
that in this instance the series consists of thoughts, con­
cepts, ideas, or "views" is no cause for commotion.
Let us suppose that we began pondering on any sub­
j ect, great or small, and that we set down on a sheet of
paper, one beneath another, the thoughts arrived at,
guided through intuition or an image of the thing, until
we j udged it was time to stop. That will constitute the
"dialectical series X" according to which X
=
such and
such a subj ect. The subj ect title could be placed at the top
of the page and fled accordingly in a catalogue to be
available for handy reference. This is the procedure I
followed in the process of writing these pages, so that
none of the ideas that occurred to me would slip my mind.
Hence, the awesome term that held the promise of pro­
found truths, reveals in the end its humble status, that of
a mere cataloguing device, a memory aid for the author,
a guide to assist the reader so that he would not go astray.
This book is a series of dialectical series. The phenomenon
50 THE ORIGIN OF PHILOSOPHY
could have been variously labeled. If the reader considers
the l ot, he will realize that the one chosen by me, despite
its grandiloquent air, is the simplest and most unassuming.
This "gadget" or working tool, the dialectical series,
likewise facilitates the critic's probing process, since
either the numbers I , 2, 3 . . . or the letters A, B, C . . .
can be assigned to the various mental steps, thus conveni­
ently enabling the critic to pinpoint exactly what is
incomprehensible, seemingly inaccurate or needful of cor­
rection or supplementation. 2
2. Although unable now to dwell at length upon this, I should
like to note the amusing coincidence that numbering the "idea"
in a series might have with Plato's famous enigmatic "idea
numbers. " There, too, a parallel series of numbers was afxed to a
dialectical series of ideas, beginning with the frst all-encompassing
one and ending with the last concrete one-the "indivisible
species" or �TO/OV E110s. Hence a particular number corresponds
to a particular Idea-because both series are "isomorphs," a mathe­
maticians say nowadays. In his book Zaht und Gestalt bei Platon
und Aristoteles ( 1 924) , Stengel deciphers the twenty-three-centry­
old enigma of "ideal numbers" or "Ideas-numbers."
4
The Uni ty of Phi l osophy
LET US IMAGINE A pyramid and that we place ourselves
at a point situated on one of its angles. Whereupon we
take one step; that is, we move to an adj acent point either
to the right or to the left on the angle. With these to
points we have described a rectilinear direction. We con­
tinue moving from point to point, so that our movement
describes a straight line on that side of the pyramid. Sud­
denly, for some reason, arbitrary, convenient, or impulsive,
we halt. In principle, we could have proceeded much
farther in the same direction. This straight line is an
exact symbol for our frst dialectical series, which we
shall call Series A.
Now, without abandoning the line we were on, l et us
retrace our steps and place ourselves again at the point of
departure on the original angle. Once there, we decide
to keep going, always in a straight line, proceeding to the
other adj acent point which since we are going in the
opposite direction, leads us beyond the frst straight line.
Since, however, we are at a tip of the angle, the other
adj acent point, even if we look for it in the same direc­
tion, is no longer on the same side of the pyramid as the
previous one. Unwittingly, therefore, in going back, we
retrace in our inverse itinerary the original point of de­
parture and pass on, not only to another point, but to
another side of the pyramid.
This is what we shall now do. Maintaining strict con­
tinuity of thought, we shall take another look at the
original phenomena-the philosophical past-this time in
5 1
5 2
THE ORIGIN OF PHILOSOPHY
another direction, observing another of its facets, so that
the series of aspects which thereupon emerge before us
will be exceedingly diferent from the frst. Thus, de­
parting once again from the panorama of the history of
phil osophy, we shall produce a new straight mental line,
a second "dialectical series," which we shall call Series B.
If you recall, according to the "frst aspect" the phi lo­
sophical past resembled a "multitude of opinions about
itself." It was the frst view we had of that reality, and
frst views are normally taken from a dist: mce. 1 Every­
thing seems confused. We shall see how "confusion" is
an initial phase of all knowledge, witbou '.iich one
cannot progress to clarity. The important thing for the
individual who truly desires to think is that he not be
overly hurried but be faithful at each step of his mental
itinerary to the aspect of reality currently under view,
that he strive to avoid disdain for the preliminary distant
and confused aspects due to some snob sense of urgency
impelling him to arrive immediately at the more refned
conclusions.
In fact, the thing that was initially attractive about this
"multitude of opinions on the same thing" was the notion
"multitude. " We viewed the philosophical past as a drip
of water in which an infusion of doctrines swarmed
chaotically, without order or harmony, in open diver­
gence and universal babble, in mutual confict. The scene
was one of infnite mental upheaval. The history of
philosophy, in fact, has-and there is no reason for hiding
it-the amusing aspect of a pleasant insane asylum. Philos­
ophy, though it holds the promise of providing maximum
I. When this is not the case it means that the encounter is
abnormal and that reality presented to us is immediate, clear, and
precise. This produces such a choc in individuals that it elicits an
anomalous phenomenon-both i n the good and the pej orative
sense. One of these is the strange, sudden crises known as "con­
version," another "sudden ecstasy," another "bewilderment," etc.
THE UNITY OF PHILOSOPHY
5 3
logic-"truth, " "reason"-momentarily and in its his­
tori cal entirety, shows characteristics similar to insanity.
The reader ought to become accustomed to such meta­
morphoses, for he will witness many in this book.2
Obsessed by this multitudinous, divergent character,
we noticed nothing else and were inevitably carried in
the direction of Series A. But now having grown accus­
tomed to the apparent plurality and discrepancy of philos­
ophies, and having intellectually mastered them and
become convinced that in the end "there is no such thing,"
we can disconcern ourselves with that notion at least for
awhile, and confront another. Namely, that despite the
existence of many divergent opinions, all are opinions on
the sanle thing. This invites us to try to detect amid the
multitude of philosophies some unity, and even a oneness
in philosophy; to discover what the diverse doctrines have
in common. Otherwise it would be meaningless to call those
doctrines, despite their divergences, "philosophies" or any
similar name. Employing the term implies that beneath
their antagonistic masks, all are essentially philosophy­
that is, that philosophies are not a mere j umble of this,
that, and the other, but that all possess ultimately a unit.
That is, we hope, suspect, and presume that they do.
Let us then j ovially set forth on the rugged j ourney in
search of philosophy's unity. We will notice at once that
this new j aunt leads us inward into philosophies, toward
their core, an "inside, " an inwardness and reconditeness,
in comparison with Series A where everything viewed
was extrinsic, external, derma to-skeletal.
Well then, how shall we proceed? The reader perhaps
2. The reason for this is exceedingly simple. Since it is char­
acteristic of reality to reveal diferent aspect depending upon
where and how one regards it, each of these constitutes a "form"
or fgure, a "morphon" that reality assumes, and when perceived
by us, i interpreted as it "transformation," "transfguration," or
"metamorphosis."
5
4
THE ORIGIN OF PHILOSOPHY
may think that we ought to comence by taking each
philosophy one by one, in chronological order, and ex­
amine "its interior." Thus we might compare the core of
each and determine whether or not they coincide, whether
the same interior serves many diferent bodies.
In the frst place this would not constitute a pano­
ramic, total gaze at the entire philosophical past, which
is the course we decided to pursue at the conclusion of
Marias' book and which, as we said, was a sort of fare­
well to that continent of the past. In the second place,
probing deeply into each doctrine would mean we were
being untre to our frst view, which was concerned with
the unity of philosophy, and though it presents an ex­
ceedingly modest aspect, it should not be omitted. The
foundation and progress of science can be attributed to
not skipping over modest aspects. Physics exists because
mathematical astronomy exists and this, in turn, because
Kepler spent years respectfully and devoutly immersed
in the absurd fve-minute arc of discrepancy that existed
in the observation data regarding the position of the
planets, which had been noted with prodigious detail by
Tycho-Brahe in his "frst solution" to the system of thei
movements around the sun. According to the latter
fallacious solution the planets still described circular
orbits. During an impassioned labor of years Kepler's
circumferences, divergent from Tycho's data, became
fattened, mollifed, slightly elongated, and fnally re­
sulted in the famous ellipses that existed among mankind
until Einstein's time. Those ellipses, in combination with
Galileo's mechanical laws, certain general Cartesian meth­
ods, and additional subsequent factors, made possible the
concept of gravity and with it "Newtonian philosophy,"
the frst authentic system, one whose attainment derived
from thought and dealt with something real that man
possessed. In other words, it was the frst efective science.
THE UNITY OF PHILOSOPHY
5
5
And that is to say nothing if we turn our attention to the
minute diferences-in comparison to which Kepler' s
"fve minutes" seem gigantic-whose religious contempla­
tion resulted in the theory of relativity. And furthermore,
if we regard the matter from another side, an even more
modest one, and note that the work of Kepler, a genial
man, would have been impossible if Tycho-Brahe, a man
who was not a genius-unless genius be thought of simply
as patience-had not earlier devoted his whole life to the
humble task of gathering the most exact measurements
possible at that time on sidereal displacements, and this in
turn would have been impossible had an even humbler
man not been born in Portugal, a nation of fantastic
imprecision. This good man, Nunez, who doggedly per­
sisted in inventing an instrment to measure millimeter
decimals, the ingenious and renowned l0nius that pre­
serves forever, in Latin mummifcation, the humble name
of our neighbor Nunez.3 Let us therefore give due con­
sideration, at least in the essentials, to the frst aspect of
the philosophical past presented to us by this new respect
or facet-the "unity" of philosophies.4
3. Vice versa-as we shall subsequently see-had Kepler en­
countered metrica data of greater exactitude, even though it in no
way approached the fabulous precision attained by contemporary
physics, he would have failed, and physics would not have been
founded, for the mathematical resources at that time were not
sufcient to master such small complex diferences. This i ndicates
the extent to which science is a highly delicate organism whose
members, though disparate in nature, must advance with a sort of
"preordained harmony."
4. Nothing would be easier than to achieve this intent. It would
be merely a matter of pages. The limits of this book however, and
the abundance of material, oblige me in what herein follows, to
intersperse things that rigorously speaking pertain to more recent,
proximate aspects, which are not seen from a bird's eye view,
though that strictly i what belongs in this cha
p
ter. It is necessary,
however, for purely didactic reasons, to antiCIpate certain things.
What really matters is that everything essentia to thi aspect be
THE ORIGIN OF PHILOSOPHY
With respect to things defnitely past, our frst view is
generally not of a visual nature; it is neither ocular nor
is it of the mental order we shall subsequently examine
under the term "intuition. " We can only have a view of
something that "is there in person before us" in one guise
or other, either close or at a distance. A view constitutes
the immediate relation between our minds and a thing,
and from the moment we descry it upon the distant
horizon until it is directly within eye's reach, we merely
glide over forms that become increasi ngly precise and
clear in their direct relation to that thing. The radical
past, however, consists in that which "is not directly
before us." It consists in that which is gone, in that which
par excellence is absent. Our frst and most elementary
notice of it is not in seeing it but in hearing about it. Thus
in philosophy, the frst thing if any, which we the living
encounter is the series of terms, book titles, and indi­
vidual names that was involved in philosophizing. The
past is transmitted to us via names and things that we
have heard about it-through tradition, fables, legend,
chronicles, or history-sayings, sheer sayings. Hence the
frst contact with philosophy stems from what "is said"
about it. The Greeks called what was "said" about some­
thing "fame"-in the sense of our own popular expression
"fame has it . . . "
In addition there exists a relative past, one that is in
some degree still present-one might say it is a past that
said and as long as that is accomplished, no harm is done if certain
inessential things are included. Besides-and this admonition holds
true for the entire chapter-insofar a the strict phenomenon of
"philosophy seen from a distance" is concerned, the addition of
these closer views emanating from someone immersed in philoso­
phy, someone with more than a vague and remote inkling of it, can
only serve to suggest the explicit natre of philosophy to the
"uninformed," those who are unable to articulate it but who see,
hear, and vaguely sense it.
THE UNITY OF PHILOSOPHY
5 7
has not vanished totally. We retain a certain visual rela­
tionship with this past, and can still dimly perceive it.
The wrinkles on an old man's face inform us that he is a
living, present past. We don't have to be told that the man
existed: the fact that he existed before we did is forcefully
evident. This likewise occurs with rin-covered land­
scapes, with faded, tattered clothes, with ancient volcanic
mountains the only remain of which is a stony skeleton,
with our Tagus River, imprisoned in its narrow bed and
gashed into the hardness of the rocks. With our own eyes
we can see, if we have the slightest talent for physiog­
nomy, that the Tagus is an ancient river, a senescent
stream, fowing weakly along its hardened, calloused
river bed-in short, we are witnesses to the spectacle of
fuvial arteri osclerosis. (Anyone who is not grieved, or
at least saddened, by the sight of this decrepit river that
runs past Toledo, is either inherently blind, unworthy of
existence, or if he must exist, unworthy of peering at the
world. It is futile; he sees nothing. )
I repeat, however, that the closest most noral channel
of information5 about the historical past is through names.
The phenomenon is not peculiar to this particular sit­
uation. Names constitute the form of the distant, the
radically distant, relationship between our minds and
things. The frst communication we receive of most things
and our only one of a great number of them is thei
names, and only their names.
They emerge abruptly, drift into our ears when the
things therein designated are utterly removed from us-
5. In instances where the sole remains of the past are material
obj ects-artifacts, stones-and not verbal remains, we always sense
a lack of it inwadness. Hence-thanks primarily to recent
advances in research-we are confronted with entire mute civiliza­
tions, whose vestiges are present like a hieroglyph for which
meaning must be found. This is the diference between prehistory
and acheology on the one hand and phology on the other.
5
8
THE ORIGIN OF PHILOSOPHY
invisible, perhaps forever, on some faraway horizon.
Names thus are like the birds one sees on the high seas,
which fy out of nowhere toward the navigator, fore­
warning him of the presence of islands. Words, in fact,
are announcements, a promise of the thing, and in fact a
modicum of the thing. The Eskimo theory whereby Man
is a composite of three el ements: body, soul, and . . .
name is not as extravagant as appears. The ancient
Egyptians held the same belief. Further, one must not
forget "Where two or three are gathered together in my
name, there am I in the midst of them" ( Matthew 1 8: 20) . 6
Names are a "reference to things. " They stand in their
stead, in place of them. Language therefore is a symbol.
Something is symbolic when its presence serves as a rep­
resentative for another thing that is not present, some­
thing that we do not have before us. Aliquid stat pro
aliquo-is the symbolic relationship. The word is thus
the presence of the thing that is absent. This is its genius
-it permits a reality to continue to exist i n some way in
the place from which it has gone or where it never even
was. The "Himalayas," for example, conveys to me here,
in Estoril, where the only mountain in view is the puny
Cintra-it conveys to me "something akin" to the Hima­
l ayas, a vague shadowy spectral form of its huge bulk.
And while as we now talk about the Himalayas, we pos­
sess it, in some small measure, we tread it, we are in
contact with it-that is, we are in contact about it.
However, the presence endowed by the word to the
absent obj ect is, of course, neither solid nor real. The
representative never is the thing represented. Hence as
soon as a chief of state arrives in a foreign country, his
6. See elsewhere on Magical Logic and Ontology, where I dis­
cuss the phenomena whereby men regard thought = logos = word
as having derived from the i ndividual and as residing i n him.
[The epigraph aluded to wa apparently never written.-Ed. l
THE UNITY OF PHILOSOPHY
59
ambassador in that country ceases to exist. That's how
things are! A name, with respect to the thing named, rep­
resents, at best, only an outline, an abbreviation, a
skeleton, an extract: its concept. That, if properly under­
stood, is not such a soft task!
Hence a word's magical power of enabling a thing to
be simultaneously in two extremely remote places-there
where it actually is, and there where it is being discussed
-should be held in rather low esteem. For what we have
of the thing, when we have its name, is a caricature: its
concept. And unless we proceed with caution, unless we
evince distrust for words and attempt to pursue the things
themselves, the names will be transformed into masks,
which instead of enabling the thing to be in some way
present for us, will conceal the thing from us. While the
former is the magical gift of words, their feat, the latter
is their disgrace, the thing language constantly verges on
-a masquerade, a farce, mere j abber.
Whether we like it or not, though, the only thing that
each of us possesses of most things is its niggardly nomi­
nal mask-"words, words, words"-emanations, drafts,
gusts wafted by the social atmosphere, which we infuse
and which are lodged within us through inhalation.
Whereupon-because we possess the names of things­
we think that we can talk from them and about them.
And then someone comes along and says to us, "Let's
talk seriously about such and such a thing. " As if that
were possible! As if "talking" were something that could
be done with ultimate radical seriousness and not with the
pained conscience of someone performing a farce! If one
truly wishes to do something seriously the frst injunction
is to keep quiet. True knowledge, as we shall methodically
see, is silence and reserve.
Ó
The Authenti c Na me·
LET US TURN NOW to the various names that have been
given to this occupation which Western man has pursued
for twenty-six centuries, to the books that have perpetu­
ated it, and to the appellations and nicknames linguis­
tically imposed upon its practitioners.
Philosophy as such begins with Parmenides and Hera­
clitus. Its predecessors-Ionian "physiology," Pythago­
rism, Orpheism, Hecataeus-constitute a prelude and
nothing more, Vorspiel und Tanz.
Parmenides and others of his day named the subj ect that
they expounded "aletheia. " This was philosophy's original
name. Now the moment a name is born, the moment
something for the frst time is called by a word, is a mo­
ment of exceptional creative purity. The thing stands be­
fore Man still devoid of designation, without a vestige of
nomenclature, ontologically out in the raw, one might say.
No ideas, interpretations, words, or cliches exist yet be­
tween it and Man. A means must be found to express it,
to articulate it, to transpose the element and "world" of
concepts, logoi, or words. Which to choose? Let us note
in passing something we shall examine thoroughly at a
later point. The question of creating a word. Language is
precisely something not created by the individual but
something that is found by him, previously established
by his social environs, his tribe, polis, city, or nation. The
words of a language have their meaning imposed by col-
• [ Tite supplied.-Ed. l
6
THE AUTHENTIC NAME 6 1
lective usage. Speaking is a re-using of that accepted
meaning, saying what is already known, what everyone
knows, what is mutually known. We are now dealing,
however, with a new entity, one that has no usual name.
Finding a denomination for it cannot be regarded as
"talking," because no word yet exists for it-it is "talking
to oneself. " Only one person is beholding the "new
thing," and in selecting a word to name it, only he under­
stands it. Hence we are witnessing a function of speech
that is the opposite of language-that is, what people say
or what is commonly known. 1 Now it is necessary for
the person himself who sees the thing for the frst time to
understand some commonplace everyday expression, a
word whose meaning is analagous-which is all it can be
-to the "new thing. " The analogy, though, is a transpo­
sition of meaning; it is a metaphorical use of the word,
hence, a poetic one. When Aristotle discovered that
everything is "made of something, "2 the way chairs, tables,
and doors are made of wood, he called the substance from
which (Ta (� o{) all things are made, "wood"-u":
understood as wood par excellence, the ultimate and uni­
versal "wood" or "matter." Our word matter is simply
wood (in Spanish, madera) metaphorized.
Hence it turns out-and who would have thought so!
-that coming upon a technical term for a new rigorous
concept, the creation of a terminology is simply a poetic
process.
Vice versa, if we revivify the defnition of a technical
term, once it is determined, and attempt to understand its
essence, we resuscitate the then existent vital situation of
I. A systematic treatent of language is to be found in a yet
unpublished work of mine, Man and People, wherein its social
aspect is examined in the light of my sociologica doctrine [Man
and People, Chapters XI and XII ] .
2. Strictly speaking, the ten was created before Aristotle.
THE ORIGIN OF PHILOSOPHY
te bygone thinker who saw the "new thing" before him
for the frst time.
This circumstance, this vital experience in new Greek
thought, later to be known as philosophizing, was aptly
named by Parmenides and alert groups of his day as
"aletheia. "s In speculating on some ordinary, prosaic,
accepted ideas on reality, he discovered them to be false
but that one could discern behind them the reality itself,
appearing as if a concealing crust or veil or covering had
been removed, thus allowing the realty to emerge un­
clothed, naked, and patent. Thus, in the thinking process,
his mind had performed something akin to un-dressing,
un-covering, removing a veil or covering, re-vealing ( =
un-veiling) , de-ciphering an enigma or hieroglyphic.4
This literally is what the word a-Ietheia meant in popular
langage-discovery, exposure, denudation, revelation. By
A.D. I, with the advent of another radical discovery, a
new, great, and diferent philosophical revelation, the
word aletheia had in seven centuries of philosophy ex­
pended its fresh metaphorical import, and another term
had to be found for "revelation." This, in tne with the
Asiatic tenor of the times, was a Baroque word-apo­
kalipsis-which has exactly the same, though reinforced,
meaning as aletheia.
Aletheia, meanwhile, presents philosophy for what it
is-an endeavor at discovery and at deciphering enigmas
to place us in contact with the naked reality itself. Ale­
theia signifes trth. For trth must not be regarded as the
dead thing that twenty-six centuries of custom and inertia
would have us believe, but as a verb-something alive,
3. In the two or three previous generations-Ionian-the word
IITOp.i" (to recount) expresses what the
y
did, which subsequently
from a retrospective technical viewpoInt was called jvlloAo"ia
(natral science) .
4. See Meditations on Quixote, 1914 [ Complete Works, Vol. I;
i English tanslation, New York, W. W. Norton & Co., Inc.,
1961 ] .
THE AUTHENTIC NAME
something at its moment of attainment, of birth; in short,
as action. Current vigorous terms for expressing aletheia
= truth are: inquiry, quest for truth-that is, for the
naked reality that is concealed behind the robes of false­
hood. Due to some curious contamination between that
which is un-covered = reality, and our act of un-covering
or denuding it, we often speak about the "naked truth," a
tautology. That which is naked is reality and denuding it
is the truth, inquiry, or aletheia.
This, the original name of philosophy, is its tre or
authentic name5 and thus its poetic name. The poetic
name is the one we employ when inwardly referring to
something, when talking to ourselves in secret endophasia,
or inner speech. Ordinarily, however, we do not have the
ability to create those secret inner names whereby we
would understand ourselves with respect to things, and
we would say what they authentically are to us. We sufer
in our soliloquies from muteness.
The poet's role hinges upon his ability to create that
inner tongue, that wondrous argot comprised of only
authentic names. It turns out, as we read him, that the
poet's inner self as transmitted via his poetry-be it verse
or prose-coincides to a great extent with our own. That
is why we understand him: he provides the language for
our inner selves and thereby enables us to understand
ourselves. Hence the strange phenomenon whereby the
pleasure aroused by poetry and admiration for the poet
stem, paradoxically, from our notion of being plagiarized.
Everything he tells us we have previously "felt," except
that we did not know how to express it.6 The poet is the
5. It seems incredible that current linguistics still ignores the
fact that things do have "authentic names" and believes this to be
incompatible with the essentially changeable nature of language,
which is comprised almost of sheer accident.
6. What would happen to this normal, fundamental phenomenon
of human life at a time when ordinary men, mass-men, became
progressively petuant? As a matter of fact, something very au-
THE ORIGIN OF PHILOSOPHY
shrewd go-between with Man and himself.
"Truth," or "inquiry," ought to have been philosophy's
everlasting name. Nevertheless, it was called thus only
in its initial phase, that is, when the "thing itself"-in
this case, philosophizing-was a new pursuit, one still
unfami liar to people, devoid of a public existence, unable
to be seen from the outside. It was the authentic sincere
name privately given by the philosopher to what he
found himself doing, something that had not existed for
him earlier. He was alone with reality-"his philosophiz­
ing"-confronting it, in a state of grace before it, and
without any social precaution, he innocently gave it
its true name, the way those "terrible" poets, children,
would do.
But no sooner did philosophizing become a repetitive
occurrence, an habitual occupation, and people began
seeing it from the outside-the way people always see
everything-than the situation changed. No longer was
the philosopher alone with the phenomena in the in­
timacy of his philosophizing, but in addition to being a
philosopher, he became a public fgure, like a magi strate,
a priest, a doctor, a merchant, a soldier, a j ester, an execu­
tioner. That irresponsible impersonal character, social
milieu, that monster of n + I heads, people, began to
respond to the new reality: the "inquirer," that is, the
philosopher. And since the essence of the later-philoso­
phizing-was a much more inward labor than all other
callngs, the clash beteen one's outer social guise and
ing, which I have seen happen with increasing intensit and
frequency, often to an astonishing extent among the younger
generations: when a young person today reads and understands
us, he immediately thinks that the idea occurred to him. Just as
the writer, if he truly is one, appears to "plagiarize" the reader, so
today's impertinent reader seriously believes that he is the true
author and knew it all before. This is a stpefyig and grotesque
but nonetheless undeniable phenomenon.
THE AUTHENTIC NAME
one's inner self was greater. Then "things began to hap­
pen" to the word "aletheia," or "inquiry," a newborn
word, one still so utterly childlike, tremulous, and devoid
of subtlety. Words, which after all are modes of human
existence, also have their "mode of life. " And since in­
herent i n life is "having things happen," a word is no
sooner bo:n, than it is plunged into a rugged series of
adventures, some favorable and others adverse,7 until its
fnal disappearance and demise.
When the noun "aletheia" was invented for private use,
attacks from the outside world were unforeseen and hence
it was defensel ess in this respect. For no sooner were peo­
ple aware of the existence of phil osophers, or "inquirers,"
than they began assaulting them, misinterpreting them,
confusing them with other vague professions, whereupon
that marvelous, ingenuous name had to be abandoned and
another assumed, one born of spontaneous generation, in­
fnitely inferi or but more "practical"-that is, a more
inane, base, and cauti ous one. Now it no longer was a
question of naming the naked reality "to philosophize"­
that is, the thinker and it in solitude. The neighbors and
other people intervened-awful characters-and the name
had to have an eye on two fronts, it had to look to two
sides-at reality and at other men-to name the thing not
for one person alone but the Others as well. Looking in
two directions, however, means being cross-eyed. Let us
now observe how this cross-eyed, absurd name, Philoso­
phy, was born.
7. Recall the former brief allusion to the adventres that befel
the word "idea." Each word, in principle, possesses a biography,
the term used somewhat analogously as it is used with reference to
men. The reason that it is only analogous is that words, fnally,
pertain to "collective existence," which is analogous to "personal
exstence," the only tre life. [ See Man and People. ]
Ó
Phi l osophy E mbarks
on the Di scovery of
Another Worl dI
IN ITS FIRST ASPEcT-the verbal aspect-the philosophical
past, comprised of commonly heard names, gave the im­
pression of being a rather confused fel d. It gave no ink­
ling of the unity sought for in philosophy. On the con­
trary, things that were quite similar appeared under ex­
tremely dissimilar names, and things that were most dis­
similar under the same name. In sum, a hazy blurred
image emerged in which one perceived the throb of
divergent impulses. We would be wrong however in de­
ducing that the discovery of multiplicity rather than the
sought for unity meant that our time had been wasted. In
general, we must rely on the following rule, which for
the time being seeks merely to be a practical prescription
and perhaps simultaneously a tautology: "It is impossible
for any aspect of reality, if scrupulously analyzed, not to
convey some truth-a truth that is not only true but one
that must be taken into account, and which will acquire
its full meaning at perhaps a much later j uncture in our
progressive thinking."
Advancing from the "absent presence" or the names
I. [ According to the manuscript, this chapter concludes Tbe
Origin of Phitosopby. Chapters VII and X were written at a later
date, and together with the intermediary ones-Chapters VIII and
IX-form the Fragments on the Origin of Philosopby alluded to i
the Prelnary Note.-Ed. ]
66
DISCOVERY OF ANOTHER WORLD 6
7
for philosophical reality, which though now present, are
in the remote distance and on the most distant horizon
where obj ects become clouds, we have been viewing
philosophical doctrines externally, like plastic images, fg­
ures, or myths. Since Philosophy is thought, and hence
interiority, no view of it can be more inadequate than
one that views it simply as exteriority and sheer spectacle.
The second aspect of it more than illuminates the frst,
for behind the strange divergent landscapes and fauna j ust
presented by the mass of philosophies, we are now able
to discern the persistent existence of two worlds, the man­
ifest world and the latent or supra-world. The latent
world pulsates beneath the manifest world and its revela­
tion constitutes the supreme philosophical task. Thus phi­
losophy begins by bisecting a seemingly single world;
that is, in an apparently inverted operation, it duplicates
the world that there was and elicits another behind or
over it. The result, whether it be through bisection or
duplication, is the same: philosophy leaves us with two
worlds on our hands. The relationship between the two
worlds can be highly disparate. They may show no con­
tact whatsoever and as we shall presently see, appear to
be back to back. On the other hand, they may be inter­
mingled or involucrated so that the latent world is re­
vealed by viewing the manifest world. In short, both may
remain distant but connected, in continual cross-reference
to each other, a reference that merely serves to corrobo­
rate their separation.
So commanding is the persistent duality of worlds that,
despite the inadequate view of philosophy to be derived
from the second aspect and the irresponsibility of our im­
pression, it cannot help but stimulate our attention. This
attention aroused in us by what is seen, whether we want
it to or not, simultaneously whets our curiosity. Our minds
mobilize and move one step forward in order to view
68
THE ORIGIN OF PHILOSOPHY
te thing more clearly.
The orange incited us to move around it in order to
juxtapose the aspects of its spheroidal body. Its successive
aspects, though diferent, were all on the same plane, or
equidistant from us. The radius of our views around the
orange was equa1.2
In the present dialectical series, however, we announced
from the outset that our mental vector would proceed
in a penetrating sense. We were going to advance from
the extreme "outside"-names-to the extreme "inside"­
the unity of philosophy. This third stage, inspired by
curiosity to learn why philosophy is not content with one
world, the habitual one, but divides or superimpregnates
it, compels us to shuttle across the dividing line which, lke
a frontier, separates philosophy's "outside" from its "in­
side," its outer image from its innermost essential condi­
ton, its interiority. To do this we must for the frst time
abandon our panoramic contemplation of the philosoph­
ical past and, in principle, halt before each philosophy,
penetrate it-in short, study it.
(This, however, would be tantamount to retracing the
history of philosophy, a senseless repetition of JuHan
Marias' book. )
What would make sense for our present aim would be
a thorough analysis of the exemplary beginning of the
philosophical profession, to attain maximum understand­
ing of early philosophy; to learn thereby precisely why
it dualizes the world and how it calls forth, discovers, or
invents the latent world, the strange, nonhabitual world
that is characteristic of philosophy; then once this infor­
mation is isolated, to pursue, at its decisive moments, the
variation produced by this dual operation throughout the
2. Otherwise we would combine aspect of the spheroid from
diferent distances and our resulting image of the orange would be
deformed because of the lack of unit in perspective.
DISCOVERY OF ANOTHER WORLD 69
history of philosophy up to the present. This would fur­
nish us with philosophy's unity in the past. Confronted by
its past uni ty, clearly defned and unequivocal, and led
thus into the "immediate past" or the present, we can
then determine what ought to be done in the future. Our
backward gaze will have fulflled its mission and we will
be ready to turn our attention forward.
Historians are horrifed by chance. It piques and ofends
them because in their opinion-the childish opinion typ­
ical of hi storians-chance represents the negation of his­
torical science insofar as it is the enemy of "reason."
Moreover, since chance is constantly on the prowl be­
tween the lines of their writing like an enfant terrible,
chucking them under the chin and laughing at their "rea­
son," they regard it not only as the enemy of any potential
history but as a terribly insolent entity whose perpetual
presence and cynical self-exhibition lacks the decorum of
science. Clearly, however, future historians who-fnally!
-will be true historians, will not hesitate when encoun­
tering chance as a component of reality, to recognize it
and to emphasize its presence and infuence, to the same
extent as other historical "forces. " That is, they will dis­
regard what traditional usage, tyranized by logicians and
mathematicians, referred to as "reason," and they will
resolve to understand the historical reality and the reason
that is inherent in it and that is addressed to us, which
henceforth we shall call "historical reason." This book
will gradually confront us with that reason of the future,
which is markedly diferent from venerable "pure reason,"
but nonetheless is the exact opposite of vagueries, meta­
phors, utopias, and mysticisms. It is therefore a reason
that is much more rational than the old one, in which
"pure reason" appeared as an insensate enchantress, and
in accordance with this reason many things that hereto
70
THE ORIGIN OF PHILOSOPHY
fore were considered irrational will cease to sufer from
this pej orative label. In short, sufce it to say now that
historical reason, prepared to sallow reality without
repulsion, squeamishness, or scruples, manages to provide
a contour of rationality even to chance, heretofore the
demon of irrationality and the ci-devant enemy of history.
Philosophy itself begins with a monumental coinci­
dence, for it begins simultaneously, possibly even exactly
on the date, with the appearance of two men who, though
they belong to the same generation,3 inhabit diametric
poles of the Greek world-Eleusis and Ephesus-and it
begins in each in two opposite directions so that the doc­
trines of these two men at once and forever represent the
two most antagonistically conceivable forms of philos­
ophy, as though someone-Chance?-had taken pleasure
in leaving all of future philosophy from its very outset
in this initial divided position.4
Thus it is simply a question of didactic convenience
whether one begins an exposition of early philosophy with
the one or the other fgure, and in the present instance
there can be no room for doubt. Parmenides, that mad­
man of Reason, ofers a perfect entry into the vast extrav­
agance of philosophy, transmitting with peerless radicalism
the liveliest impression of and lack of sense in Logic.
Our exposition of Parmenides' doctrine may possibly
trn out to be more complete than heretofore existing
ones, for one must not lose sight of the concrete urgency
3. By "generation" I mean a given ffteen-year period. [ See
Man and Crisis, Complete Works, Vol. V. l
4. It i s not within the scope of this book to delve into the
chronological question posed by the life of both philosophers.
Sufce it to i ndicate that the greater comprehension one has of
each, the less evident is the (mutual) reference to and presumed
polemics of Parmenides and Heraclits. On the other hand,
examination and comparison of biographical data increasingly
confrms the trend initiated twenty years ago by Reinhardt to
consider them as strict contemporaries.
DISCOVERY OF ANOTHER WORLD
7
I
of our interest in it. We are not engaged in detailing the
history of philosophy, but in refecting upon it to discover
amid its vast exuberance the unity of this discipline. The
frst symptom encountered in our panoramic survey was
the duality of worlds displayed by philosophy, leading us
thereupon to an inner study of early philosophy with the
precise intention of learning why the latter is not content
with the habitual world but divides or duplicates it. This
then is one focal question in the interpretati on of frag­
ments from Parmenides. Anything else we learn will be
additional and gratuitous, but not the result of deliberate
inquiry.
Approaching the Parmenides fragments with this pre­
determi ned wariness, we are beset by a prior doubt. Is
philosophy, in fact, the frst to divide and duplicate the
world, or was a bisection previously performed by ante­
cedent disciplines? This question, an indispensable one,
must be peremptorily answered in the following manner:
We do not know whether a dual world existed prior to
philosophy, but we are presently unable to resolve our
ignorance inasmuch as we would then be obliged to ex­
amine chronological periods prior to the history of phi­
losophy, failing thereby to adhere to the aspect before us,
whose only past horizon is the philosophical past. Once
before5 we had occasion to suspect that eventually we
would be compelled to extend our temporal panorama
of Man' s intellectual comportment into the more remote
and dense past to make a thorough scrutiny of how
Man employed his mind before he began philosophizing.
Methodologically, however, this would be inexcusable
before having exhausted what the strict philosophical past
can yield. We have still not extracted anything of true value
from the latter. Its exploitation has only begun. Hence,
adhering to the rule of faithfulness to the aspect in view,
5. See Notes on Thinking [ Complete Works, Vol. V] .
THE ORIGIN OF PHILOSOPHY
let us confne ourselves to the texts of early philosophy
in order to try to extract from them an initial explana­
tion regarding the "unity" of philosophy. The issue of
what transpired prior to the advent of philosophy and
whether the world had by then been divided, does not
therefore concern us, for although it possibly was, the
reasons for its division were not the same immediate rea­
sons for which philosophy divides and duplicates it, and
by virtue of which it is born.
Parmenides' text itself will reveal what those two worlds
are and why phi losophy separates them. But adhering
strictly to a text, to what a thinker says, can mean two
highly diferent things: adhering to what is actually said;
adhering to the thinker's thought as a whole, but without
going beyond it to fnd precursors in other thinkers and
in collective thought.
We shall take the latter course, what I consider adher­
ing strictly to a text. For the frst-confning ourselves
literally to the textual content-would limit our under­
standing of that particular text and the assimilation of the
thought therein expressed. Furthermore it would ignore
the uni versal law of language whereby no statement is
an adequate summation of its intention, but merely an
abbreviation, an insinuation of what it means to say.6 All
articulated language partially states or considers as stated
many things that act upon the thinker, that form part of
his thought but are either "left unsaid because they are
assumed" or that he himself, because they seem so self­
evident to him, neglects to pursue.
Some of these tacit suppositions that Parmenides never
pursued-which he did not dismember and examine in­
dividually-must be made evident, brought out into the
open, or this Greek thinker may not be understood. One
6. See the chapter "La reviviscencia de los cuadros." [Papeles
sobre Veltzquez y Goya, Madrid, Revista de Occidente, 1 950.]
DISCOVERY OF ANOTHER WORLD
7
3
must realize that these suppositions do not actually con­
stitute thinking prior to Parmenides, for prior implies only
that which was and has ceased to be. Those suppositions
that operated prior to Parmenides, continued to operate
in him as they did after him and in fact until the period
of philosophical thought came to an end in Greece. They
do not therefore constitute a "before" or an "after" but
an "always" in relati on to Greek intellectual comport­
ment. Hence they are to be found in all Hellenic doctrine
as an ever-present actuali ty.
There are other thi ngs, however, that are not perma­
nent even in this relative sense, which are recent acquisi­
tions of coll ective thought, and which nevertheless con­
stitute for a particular thinker tacit suppositions or are
merely incidentally expressed in his work. They are his
"immediate histori cal implicati ons. " These implications
have to be made manifest and precise in order to under­
stand a text, because they are its basic context. 7
Stated with ultimate sobriety, this means: a thinker's
ideas always possess a subsoil, a soil, and an adversary.
None of these three entities is, literally, what is expressed
in a thinker's work. They remain peripheral, and the
thinker barely ever alludes to them. But in order to under­
stand him, they must be flled in. Every text is a fragment
of an unexpressed context.
The subsoil, composed of deep layers rooted in ancient
collective thought from which a particular thinker de­
rives his ideas, is generally something he is unconscious
of. The soil is of recent creation-the fundamental, newly
founded ideas accepted by the thinker. It is the soil in
which he is grounded, and from which his own unique
thought and ideas stem. Hence he does not refer to it,
just as one does not indicate to people the ground upon
7. An expositon of what I cal "categories of context" may be
found i n Chapters X ad XII of Man and People.
7
4
THE ORIGIN OF PHILOSOPHY
which one's feet tread at each moment. Finally, all thought
represents thought against, whether so indicated verbally
or not. Our creative thought is always shaped in opposi­
tion to some other thought, which we believe erroneous,
fallacious, and needful of correction. I call this the adver­
sary, a menacing bluf, which at a particular moment
looms above our soil, and hence, likewise emerges from
that soil, and in contrast with which the confguration of
our own doctrine takes form. The adversary is never an
inefectual past: it is always contemporary and seemingly
vestigial.
This sober distinction allows us to detail with complete
rigor that which mandatorily must be appended to Pa­
menides' text-the defnition of his soil and of his ad­
versary-and of something else that temporarily will not
be explored, though ultimately, at the proper moment, it
too will have to be reconstructed, to wit, his subsoil.
This, however, is not the time for it. For the present, we
shall confne ourselves to the minimum context, our com­
mentary limited only to what the thinker had in view,
that which he directly and clearly depended upon; hence,
what he considered as his soil and his enemy.
/
Man' s Perma nent Possi bi l i ti es
·
IN THE PAGES entitled "The Essence of Philosophy," Dil­
tey endeavors to concretize the concept of philosophy,
and to do this he compares, connects, and contraposes
the feld of philosophy with religion and poetry, applying
the latter in the larger sense of literature. In reading these
admirable pages, one thing is especially striking: religion,
philosophy, and literatre, vital functions of the human
mind, appear as permanent possibilities in man. That pre­
cisely is what one fnds surprising about Dilthey, who
more radically than his predecessors-Hegel and Comte­
taught us to view historicity as a constitutive element in
the human being. The apparent implication of historicit
is that all truly human entities are born one fne day and
die another. Nothing truly human if it is at all real, and
hence, concrete, can be permanent. This does not mean
that there is nothing constant in man. Otherwise we could
not talk about mankind, human life, the human being.
In other words, man has an invariable structure which
traverses all of his changes. That strcture is not real,
however, since it is not concrete, but abstract. It consists
in a system of abstract moments, which as such, demand
to be integrated in each instance with variable deter-
• [ As was noted in foomote I of Chapter VI, Chapter VII was
written after Chapters VIII and IX and inserted when Ortega
was writing the text that he prepared for homage to Jaspers. The
aforementioned Fragments on the Origin of Philosophy, published
i German, contains Chapters VII to X of this book. Thus not only
i it incomplete, but it page moreover were presented by the
author as "fragment."-Ed. 1
7
5
THE ORIGIN OF PHILOSOPHY
nants in order for the abstraction to be transformed into
reality. If we say that man always lives from certain be­
liefs, we are enunciating a truth that is a theorem per­
taining to the Theory of Life, but that truth does not
afrm anything real ; rather it manifests its own unreality
by leaving indeterminate the belief that he lives in every
instance, and is like an algebraic formula, a constant appeal
for us to fll in the empty places-leere Stelle.
In the light of this prefatory warning, the terms "re­
ligion," "philosophy," and "poetry" acquire an equivocal
meaning because one is uncertain whether they designate
abstractions or real forms adapted by life. And, in fact,
Dilthey's pages are flled with an incessant semantic re­
verberation because the terms j ump continually from their
abstract meaning to their concrete meaning and vice versa.
This terminological indecisiveness was exacerbated by a
general proclivity toward an impoverished vocabulary
displayed by the so-called "sciences of the mind." I have
elsewhere commented on the potential harm of employing
the same word-"poetry"-to designate the work of both
Homer and V erlaine. This likewise occurs with words like
"philosophy" and "religion. " Obviously, the conceptual
meaning of these nouns ought to be sufciently vague
and formal so that they may embrace the most diverse and
even contrary aspects. In principle there would be no
reason to criticize this course were it not for the fact that
we thereupon fnd the same word employed as a proper
noun to designate very concrete forms of human occupa­
tion. The problem has a certain contemporary signifcance
for philosophy because Western thought-and I refer to
the best of it-has of late, under this name, comported
itself in forms where the designation "philosophy" be­
comes highly questionable. Without attempting at the
moment to formalize an opinion on this matter, I merely
wish to suggest the possibility that what we are now
MAN
'
S PERMANENT POSSIBILITIES
7
7
beginning to engage in under the traditional aegis of phi­
losophy is not another phi losophy but something new
and diferent from all philosophy.
The fact is that when Di lthey fnally pinpoints what he
means by philosophy, he is describing a manner in which
mental mechanisms function, something that has not al­
ways operated in the history of mankind but that came
about one fne day i n Greece and has indeed come down
to us-with no guarantee, however, of its perpetuation.
Notwithstanding, we make no claim to having solved
the problem of whether those pursuits are or are not per­
manent possibilities in man. We have done exactly the
opposite-opened the subj ect in a somewhat peremptory
form.
Before embarking on any systematic considerations,
we ought to examine the religious attitude that confronted
the innovators of philosophy. This moment in Greek life
when philosophy began has singular value for the subj ect.
Once philosophy exists, the situation is less unique. Then
men are confronted with two forms of inner pursuit­
religi on and philosophy-which do not have to be created
but simply adopted, and the adoption can assume the most
diverse equations. Incumbent upon the development of
our problem is the necessity to diagnose if this religion
and philosophy, which coexist, are sensu stricto religion
and sensu stricto philosophy.
The early thinkers, however, were not confronted with
a philosophy outside of themselves to which they would
be attracted and induced to combine with their religion.
Instead they felt a profound need for some as yet non­
existent entity, which subsequently would be the thing to
receive the strange appelation-philosophy. What was it
that they were seeking? Why did they seek it? Does it
make sense to admit that had they remained within te
confnes of traditional religion they might have striven
THE ORIGIN OF PHILOSOPHY
to discover something as broad as the latter but com­
pletely diferent in content?
The only means of answering these questions is to im­
merse ourselves in the preserved fragments of those early
thinkers and, by gazing into the distance, try to discover
the same horizon as it appeared to those writers. For the
moment we are not so much concerned with the thesis
expressed in those fragments as in the attitude with which
those men responded to what they beheld.
o
The Atti tude of Parmeni des
an d Heracl i tus·
PARMENIDES AND HERACLITUS were probably born around
the year po B.C.l Thus their thought dates to around the
year 500. What was the nature of the mental soil in which
they were implanted? What intellectual trends, what gen­
eral modes of thought attracted their youthful minds?
What then-contemporary trends delineated for them the
adversary?
No mention of a proper noun appears in Parmenides'
work to serve as a guide. He "cites" neither friend nor
foe. And that is not accidental. Parmenides poured his
ideas into the mold of a solemn poem,2 which is in keep­
ing with the most characteristic literary genre of the pe­
riod-the theological-cosmogenic poem of the Orphic
mystics. The genre is mystical and tragic in tone, and the
language imposed upon it is aloof and mythical. Although
it is composed in the frst person, this person is abstract:
a youth-Kovpos-who for some reason is protected by
young goddesses, vague feminine divinities who are per­
haps the Muses or the Hours, for they are called "daugh-
" [Title supplied.-Ed. l
I. As I formerly indicated, a discussion on the chronological
relationship between the lives of both is not relevant here. What is
crucial for us-and striking-is that the works of both were simul­
taneous and occurred around 475.
2 . It seems highly improbable to me that the poem had a ttle,
and even more so that it be entitled On Nature, a is conventionally
held in Sexts Empericus. A much likelier name, i any, would
have been Aletheia.
79
80
THE ORIGIN OF PHILOSOPHY
ters of the Sun. " This vagueness in the lines, this shadow
spectral quality of the mythological setting evident in
Parmenides, clearly and unquestionably reveals that Par­
menides obliquely, coldly, and calculatingly adopted an
"archaic genre" and used it for his pronouncements. Or
to put it another way: Parmenides used the my tho logical­
mystical poem without any longer believing in it, as a
mere instrument of expression-in short, as a vocabulary.
The defunct beliefs lasted for a long time transformed
into mere words.3 Mythol ogy, once it is dead, has an
awesome tenacity. While a belief that is not ours remains
alive in others, we take it seri ously and grapple with it,
and at the least take care so that what we say is not con­
fused with what its adherents say. When, however, we
regard a belief to be mummifed, it becomes merely an
innocuous "manner of speaking. " Thus do we calmly
speak about the Orient as a regi on where things are born,
precisely because no one still believes i n the existence of
such a place i n cosmic space that specializes in births.
Not only does Parmenides speak about divine maidens,
but of a formidable Goddess who will teach him the
Truth and of a chariot led by the feetest, no doubt
winged, steeds, driven by the damsel s, and who will lead
him like an Amadis of Gaul along the "polyphemus road"
-the "famous path" that enables "the creature who
knows" to travel the entire universe and be left at the
gates of heaven. All of this constitutes a solemn theatrical
wardobe extracted by Parmenides from old trunks to
serve as a disguise precisely because he used it as a dis­
guise. All that we are obliged to explain is why this man
needed a disguise to say what he wished, why he be­
leved it expeditious to feign a religious, mythological
3. We still name a metal "mercury," Madrilenans go for a
stroll to Neptne's fountain, and some hapless souls sufer from
venereal diseases, that is, diseases of Venus.
PARMENIDES AND HERACLITS 8 1
tone so that the resounding thunder of his ideas might
descend upon us as pathetic outpourings, delivered in a
revelatory, apocalyptic tone via a goddess' lips. Had we
not foolishly disdained "Rhetorics and Poetics," which
studied general dicendi-the manner in which things can
be said-we would readily understand the reason why
Parmenides, in great seri ousness ( everything about Par­
menides is terribly serious) , rej ected didactic prose,
avoided personal comments, and transferred all of his elo­
cution to vaguely religious characters and fgures. It is
a stylistic necessity. It is not a whim. Style is the distortion
of common language to suit the author's special motives.
The most frequent motive behind stylization is emotion.
It manipulates tepid, ordinary, insipid language, kindling
and sharpening it, making it reverberate and quiver.4 Not
only does Parmenides reveal his discoveries but-with a
justifcation soon to be apparent to us-he is dazzled by
them, he is so overcome with exalted emotion that they
acquire a mystical value for him. If one believes that men
are endowed with airtight compartments, nothing human
will be understood. It is naive to believe that because a
science may be cold, a frigid truth, that its discovery
lacks the mystical element, that it is not fervid, impas­
sioned, and passionate. And yet, it has been, is, and wil
4. At other times when the emotion is of a diferent sort, wa
and timorous, stylization obtains the opposite efect; it further
decapitates normal language, it renders it even more inexpressive­
for example, i n diplomatic language everything is evasive, the
euphemism strongly supplants intuitive expression with fuzzy,
watered-down language. Bear in mind that these distortions of
normal language, which we call "stlizations," are not, at any given
moment, infnite but constitte an available or potential repertory
(one already invented or which the individual can invent for
the occaion) of limited casuistry. To defne the forms of styliza­
ton is not, therefore, a pointless task-attempting to fence in
the countryside, so to speak. In addition to the grammar of
normal speech, there is need to compose an ultra-grammar of
stylizaton.
THE ORIGIN OF PHILOSOPHY
inevitably and happily be that way always. Every "scien­
tifc" discovery-that is, every truth-suddenly confronts
us with an immediate vision of the world, hitherto un­
perceived and hence not taken into account. Abruptly, as
though a veil were removed, it becomes marvelously evi­
dent to us-we become "visionaries"-and in addition
feel as though we have been overcome by some strange
power and uprooted from our habitual "bourgeois" and
totally unmystical world into another one-we fall into
ecstacy or "rapture." Irrespective of our prior convictions
concerning the real and the divine, the commonplace and
the magical, the situation-the manner in which the mys­
tical experience is reproduced-is analogous. Descartes,
the innovator of the most radical "pure reason," "pure
rationalism"-a rationalism summoned to strangulate re­
lgion-discovered suddenly when very young, the
method (from the "mathesis universalis") whereupon he
experienced an ecstatic vision that he always regarded as
the culminating moment of his life and as something in
which he barely had a role, a divine gift, a transcendental
revelation. Shaken by that peculiar, unabashed emotion
typical of "discoverers," which is infnite humility, he in­
scribed in his personal notes: "X novembris 1 61 9, cum
plenus torem. Enthousiasmo, et mirabilis scientiae tunda­
menta reperirem. "·
Parmenides regarded the experience of his discovery as,
in a sense, a transcendental phenomenon and hence he was
most naturally led to employ a religious vocabulary and
imagery in order to express simultaneously his idea and
his emotion. And this he did precisely because he was not
fearful that his readers would take his mystical utterances
lterally. Hence not only does Parmenides' style indicate
• [ "1 0 November 1 61 9, when I was full of enthusiasm, and I
discovered the fundamenta principles of a wonderful knowl­
edge. " ]
PARMENIDES AND HERACLITUS 8 3
that he did not believe in the gods, but that likewise
amongst the social group whom he addressed, religious
faith no longer existed. For Panenides, the ultimate ra­
tionalist, to talk in tens of gods and of celestial excur­
sions, and to employ unwieldly images represents some­
thing extraordinary and feverish, which serves to satisfy
his need to express felt emotion. A genuine believer, how­
ever, would fnd Panenides' pen palid, tepid, and coldly
allegorical. Anaximander, eighty years earlier, had in­
vented prose and composed his exposition of physics in
it. This early prose had not yet been consolidated into
a "literary genre," for it was still unsure of itself, that is,
of being prose and only prose. When least expected, an
emotive, almost mythological gale would sweep over
Anaximander's "positivist" language, rufing the prosaic
idiom and imbuing it with visionary fashes. Hence Par­
menides had no choice. This explains why he resorted to
that fusty mechanism, the deus ex machina.
Heraclitus, on the other hand, cited names. He did not
dodge the issue. He demanded that Homer and Archilo­
chus be reprimanded (frag. I 2 ) . He called the master
Hesiod ignorant and unaware of the diference between
night and day (frag. 57 ) , he accused Pythagoras of being
a charlatan (frag. 12
9, dubious) , and charged Hesiod,
Xenophanes, and Hacataeus with concealing their igno­
rance regarding the only thing worth knowing behind
a hodgepodge of ideas ( frag. 40) . The only puppet not
beheaded was Thales, and of him he said: "He was the
frst astronomer. " One hair left on the wolf! The ab­
sence of any barbed insult indicates a positive attitude
on his part toward Thales and what the latter represented.
Noteworthy is the fact that all those cited by name were
deceased. Names of contemporaries are missing. One must
bear in mind that the most important characteristic in­
tellectual output of the sith century emanated from the
THE ORIGIN OF PHILOSOPHY
region that included Ephesus, the Ionic coast, and ad­
j acent islands.
Unlike Parmenides, Heraclitus speaks from his own un­
transferable individuality. His pronouncements, which
have bafed so many, and seem so utterly "enigmatic,"
fash forth like lightning from a mighty, highly individual­
istic I, from this concrete noninterchangeable man Hera­
clitus, born of the city's founding family, the Codridas,
endowed with "royal" status, in the highest sense of the
word, that is, his blood contained the inalienable, divine
heritage of "charisma." Heraclitus relinquished the exer­
cise of this divine sovereignty to his brother because even
it prevented him from being an absolute individual, the
highly unique Heraclitus he felt himself to be.
Before stating what this eminent person said, a brief
pause is in order to analyze the manner in which he said
it, the formal pattern of his language. Here is what one
fnds: Parmenides, though emanating from a distinguished
family and endowed with the monumental self-confdence
typical of the early thinkers-inspired both by conscious­
ness of their existence and of their thought, their aristo­
cratic heritage and their original thinking-imposed re­
spect everywhere by his mere presence. The aura of that
respectability appears even in Plato. In the fnal analysis,
however, he mingled among men, he argued with them­
his school initiated "discussion," dialectics, as a way of
life, striving to convince, not only to demonstrate, but
attempting to prove. Parmenides was not distant. Hence
in his work he had to create distance and to allow his
doctrine to pour forth from the veracious lips of a trth­
ful goddess. Heraclitus, on the other hand, the "king," felt
a sense of uniqueness and of unmitigated distance. He re­
tied, as I noted before, from public life, renouncing his
sacred magistracy. He felt electrifying contempt for the
masses of his fellow citizens and considered them in-
PARMENIDES AND HERACLITUS 8
5
capable of salvation because they did not possess man's
fundamental virte, which consists in the capacity to rec­
ognize superiority.1 Thus Heraclitus returned from the
public square to the solitary temple of Artemis. Later
he found this to be inadequate and he retired to the in­
nermost depths of a rugged mountain, akin to the merging
of iron and diamonds, within the bowels of the earth.
Rarely has a man possessed a more unlimited conviction
of his superiority over others. We shall soon see, however,
the underlying inverse reason: We shall see the utter
humility from which this absolute arrogance sprang and
derived its nourishment. Had Heraclitus still believed in
gods, he would have believed himself a God. Hence he
did not transpose his opinions, proj ecting them into some
worthier mouth. He did not have to add stylistic distance
to his own distance. His doctrine explains why he felt lke
a God-as, in principle, he believed any man had the
right to feel, provided he were not as foolish as men ae
wont to be.
One must further bear in mind that in Ionia, where
new thinking and "modern" life originated, the advance
was even greater than that at the other end of Hellas in
Magna Graeca and Sicily. The mythological distance was
greater and prose-the Roman paladin, simple didactic
expression without melodramatism or scenography-had
been solidifed. Forty years before, not far from Ephesus,
Hecataeus had written his books on geography and hs
tory in pure didactic prose, prose as prosaic and direct as
any to be found in a modern German Handbuch.6 Never­
theless, it was prose that was still inadequate for expound­
ing the strange, transcendental thought that was to be
5. An absurd defect, since i mankind it transpires amongt
those who are simply a wretched fock in need of a shepherd
(see frag. II) .
6. Which does not prevent his prose from occasionally ripplng
poetcally in Asanc fourishes.
86
THE ORIGIN OF PHILOSOPHY
philosophy.7 Thus Heraclits cold not write a continu­
ous text book. He expressed his ideas in spurts, in brief
pronouncements, which in their attempt each time to be
total statements, were stylistically "compressed" and a
sort of doctrinal dynamite. Hence his renowned "ob­
scurity. " Heraclits' style therefore consists in expressing
his highly individualistic being in the form of thunder­
ing pronouncements of the sort that can spout forth in
any biting, "fashing," electric conversation. They are
maxims, "slang expressions," and yet they have a certain
tone which reveals that Heraclitus was infuenced by a
genus dicendi very much in vogue at the time, one with
a religious transcendental overtone. This was none other
than the oracular and sibylline formulae. He himself in
two preserved "fragments" explained why he chose the
lterary genre of maxims. Granted his conviction that a
tinker should devote his thought to universal reason and
not be a recondite wizard dedicated to thought, he found
te most suitable vehicle to be similar to oracular and
sibylline divinations. Frag. 92 : "The Sibyl who in a de­
lrium utters things unj okingly, unadorned, and unper­
fumed, reaches milleniums with her voice, for she is
divinely inspired. " Frag. 93 : "The Lord, to whom the
oracle of Delphis belongs, neither afrms nor conceals, but
sggests. " Clearly-at that venerable, creative threshold
of philosophy-"suggestion" was being propounded as
philosophy's most suitable vehicle of expression. What
this entails precisely will occupy us at a later point. These
7. Perhaps it i further noteworthy that there has never been a
geus dicendi truly adequate as a vehicle for philosophizing.
Aristotle was unable to resolve this problem that fools ignore. His
work has been preserved because he held on to his own lesson
notes. I personally have had to contain myself for thirty years
while fools accuse me of producing ony literatre, and the worst
part i that even my own stdents fnd it necessary to pose the
question of whether I have been writing literature or philosophy,
along with other ridiculous provincial notions of this order!
PARMENIDES AND HERACLITUS
87
two statements of Heraclitus should, however, be inter­
preted as emanating from a man radically hostile to tra­
ditional religion, to the "mysteries," and the "cults. "8 His
discoveries nonetheless were experienced along with an
aspect of revelation, and the mystical impact of this ex­
perience found its natural expression in sentences quiver­
ing with quasi-religious emotion.
The foregoing stylistic observations pertaining to Par­
menides and to Heraclitus could scarcely have been
omitted, for they provide the underlying tone of all thei
statements, as will soon be concretely illustrated. A keen
understanding of style is, in this instance, of prime im­
portance. Since we possess but a few fragments of their
work and sparse information regarding the period, we
cannot neglect what unwittingly is interwoven in their
style. In fact our realization that mythology had degen­
erated for them into mere vocabulary, a modus dicendi,
is more conclusive than had they themselves stated that
mythology, traditional religion, and everything con­
nected with it represented for them the terminated past,
something that had descended beyond their vital horizon.
Heraclitus' violent attacks against the cult of the gods­
the idols-were directed toward the popular segments
of society in which archaic faith still persisted. He and
Parmenides, however, were combating newer purely
mythological forms of "religion," which were not the
traditional ones, and as we shall soon see, appeared on the
scene at the same time as the new mode of thought that
engaged Parmenides and Heraclitus: Orphic theology and
the "Dionysian mysteries." Mythology, the traditional
religion of the Greek city, by then constituted a subsoil
for both thinkers. They were not preoccupied or men­
tally involved with it; it was simply an old verbal usage,
automatic and habitual, such as oters comprised by lan-
s. See fragent 5, 14. and IS.
88 THE ORIGIN OF PHILOSOPHY
guage. Hence it did not matter, if a sentence called for
it, to fall back upon the Erinyes, and even less so, to refer
to Dike. Nevertheless, Heraclitus made it plainly evident
that believers in traditional religion "haven't the slightest
notion of what Gods and Heroes really are" ( frag. 5 ) .
Heraclitus' soil is composed of the intellectual trend
that had emerged a century before throughout Greece,
particularly in its purest and most pronounced form in
Thales of Miletus, in whom it frst appeared. In short,
what was referred to as Ionian natural science. Let us
seize the bull by the horns, that is, the one we had in our
fngers a moment ago. The only individuals mentioned
by Heraclitus without any appended insult are Bias and
Thales. And all that he said about the latter was that he
was the frst astronomer. Heraclitus therefore respected
the mode of thinking initiated by Thales, but he made it
clear that in comparison with his own knowledge, that
of Thales and his followers was specialists' knowledge,
nothing more than astronomy. In order to understand this
completely and to diagnose completely, or adequately,
the actual soil in which both proto-philosophers were
implanted, one must recall that Thales fourished around
the year 584. It is necessary, therefore, to picture with a
certain clarity the profound change that in rapid expan­
sion and accelerated development occurred in Greek life
around the year 600 until 500, the date when the work of
both proto-philosophers began.
Not only does each of us inhabit a spatial landscape
but also a temporal one, with its three dimensions of past
present, and future. Let us for the moment ignore the
latter. A certain horizon of the past extends into our own
present, it persists, it forms part of the strcture of our
lves and is an instrment therein. Like every landscape,
the past when viewed has perspective, close and distant
planes. Each one of these temporal plnes acts diferently
PARMENIDES AND HERACLITUS 8
9
upon our existence. In order to understand a man well
one must depict with some precision the chronological
topography of his horizon.
The names cited by Heraclitus allow us to reconstruct
with considerable clarity the perspective he had of events
of Greece's past up to his own day. And with slight mod­
ifcation-due to the fact that the settlements of the west
were somewhat less "advanced" than those of the east­
te picture serves Parmenides.
In one fragment (42 ) , Heraclitus mentioned Homer
and Archilochus together. In another-and in this order­
Hesiod, Pythagoras, Xenophanes, and Hecataeus (40) .
Note that the order i n which these names were cited
corresponds exactly to historical chronology. Heraclitus'
outbursts were written around 475. Hecataeus, the closest
to Heraclitus, died when the latter was around twenty
years old. Xenophanes, who was a few years older than
Hecataeus and Pythagoras, was probably born around
57 2 . These three men therefore "were around" when
Heraclitus' life began. Behind them in the intangible dis­
tance loomed a character utterly of the past, Hesiod, who
composed his Theogony around the year 700. Fifty years
earlier there was Homer and ffty years later, Archilochus.
Thus they were respectively a century and a half, two
centuries, and two and a half centuries removed from the
youthful Heraclitus-soo B.C. According to Greek tem­
poral optics prior to Aristotle, a century and a half is
not a precise time, but rather some hazy, indiscernible,
pure "antiquity. " Accordingly, Homer and Hesiod are
neither more nor less distant than Archilochus. Note
that fragment 40 is like a diptych: on the one side Hesiod,
and together on the other Pythagoras, Xenophanes, and
Hecataeus. In fragment 42 Homer is paired with Archil­
ochus. Hesiod therefore represents the converging point
of both groups of names: those completely "ancient" and
THE ORIGIN OF PHILOSOPHY
those completely "modern. " They represent for Heracl­
ts the two great terminal points of the past.
In addition to this nominative past, which lies foreshort­
ened in these fragments, is the impersonal one previously
discerned in other vituperative fragments-to wit, the
religious past. This too is divided into two terminal points
of perspective: religious "antiquity, " which with the te­
nacity characteristic of all things religious, survives
amongst the people, namely the Homeric and pre­
Homeric mythological tradition, the ancient popular gods
and the gods of the city. In addition, there existed a
"modern" religious past, which was in great vogue among
the intermediary social groups: the Dionysian and Orphic
mysteries. Around the year 600 both of these began in­
nundating the Greek world.9
Orphism, particularly, culminated around 550 in a for
that was completely new for Greece: theology. Myth­
ological religion had always been direct. It did not inspire
creation of this secondary form of religion, which con­
sists in speculation on the primary form-that is, theology.
Mythology by its very nature is ingenuous, whereas the­
ology is everything except ingenuous. In 550, Pherecydes
of Syros composed his theology, which was preceded and
followed by others under the legendary names of Epi­
menides and Onomacrito. One must bear in mind that
Orphism and its theologies were ranking intellectual phe­
nomena in Greek at the time that Parmenides and Hera­
clitus began writing, and that Pherecydes is a contempo­
rary of Anaximander and belongs to the generation im­
mediately preceding Pythagoras' . 1°
9. The pre-history of the Dionysian cult is obscure. No one
knows when or how this God of Thrace diverged so completely
from the Hellenic sphere. The fact is, however, that it did not
become an historic force unti the year 600.
1 0. Do not forget that according to my historiological concep­
tion, generations are very brief units of time-ffteen years-and
P AMENIDES AND HERACLITUS 9 I
The fact remains, however, that this great mass of the
intellectual past, both "ancient" and "moder," personal
and impersonal, was completely negated by Heraclitus
and Parmenides. They opposed it all, though this opposi­
tion was twofold. With regard to traditi onal religion and
"poetry" (Homer, Archilochus) Heraclitus' attitude was
summary. He did not seriously contest it since he realized
that it no longer existed as a belief among any of the aler
people of his day. It survived only among the "common
people. " On the other hand, when it came to the "mod­
ern," he adopted a boxer's stance. Proof of this varied
response is obvious and abundant. Whereas he devoted
only a few random remarks to the gods, the idol cult, and
to Homer and Archilochus in scattered fragments, his
battle against the "moderns" integrally constitutes all of
his doctrine. This diference is confrmed if we examine
Parmenides. Since the latter, however, did not cite names,
his work lacks incidental attacks. Thus Parmenides gives
no indication of a battle against "antiquity." Thales-as
we shall see-had to overcome the prevailing mythology
and he constantly confronted it; Parmenides did not touch
upon it.
On the other hand, Parmenides' doctrine, like that of
Heraclitus, was a constitutive and formal attack upon the
"modern. " It is important to distinguish between super­
fuous, coincidental attacks, apparent attacks against an
their most important historical characteristic is not-contrary to
the usual, old genealogy-to succeed one another, but on the
contrary, to overlap. There are always three "contemporary"
generations and the equation of their triple dynamism constitutes
the concrete reality of every historical date. It is well to recall that
it was I who relaunched-and this time seriously-the decisive
theme of generations. See Pinder, Das Problem der Generation,
19z8, Prologue. The exposition of my concrete doctrine of genera­
tons did not emanate from knowledge of Pinder. The complete
formularization was presented in the course on Galileo in the
Vadecilla Chair, 1 933. [Man and Crisis, Complete lVorks, Vol. V.]
92
THE ORIGIN OF PHILOSOPHY
obviously defnite enemy, and constitutive attacks that are
integral to a theory. Xenophanes provides a further ex­
ample and datum illustrative of the demise of Greek "an­
tiquity" and the fact that within a few years it no longer
existed upon the contemporary horizon even as an ad­
versary. Xenophanes was probably born in 565, hence a
half century before Heraclitus and Parmenides. The exist­
ing fragments of his poems reveal the dauntless, head-on
battle he waged against the gods and Homer, signifying
that the latter were still extant during his lifetime. They
constituted his adversary. Half a century later things
had changed. The gods and Homer were no longer a
burning issue for the elite. They had descended beyond
the horizon. The new adversary consisted, on the one
hand, of new forms of religion, which were occupying
the position formerly held by the undisputed empire of
ancient mythology and Homerism, and on the other hand,
of new forms of a nonreligious and even antireligious
category-in short, of a "scientifc" nature-which both
men found radically inadequate. One must carefully de­
mark the plane that both of these phenomena occupied
for the thinker born in the last twenty years of the sixth
century, or else he will be unable to perceive with total
clarity the signifcance of the utterly astonishing mental
agitation evident in the writings of Parmenides and Hera­
clitus.
The fact remains however that up to now the text of
these two men reveals only a negative past. Did they have
total disrespect for the entire intellectual past? There is
no doubt that they were two giants of discontent, two
fabulous heroes of contempt. Parmenides' poem, despite
its solemnity and hieratism, bristles throughout with in­
slts, and there is hardly a line imprinted in Heraclitus
that does not discharge a verbal blow. The reason for ts
ferocity will soon emerge. Let us baldly state, though,
PARMENIDES AND HERACLITUS
93
that both men were blind to all compromise and that
their ideas emerged with unparalleled radicalism.
Heraclitus, however, did evince symptoms of a positive
past. As noted, praiseworthy mention was given by him
to Bias of Priene and Thales of Miletus. The latter were
two of the "Seven Wise Men. "ll Thales, the oldest of the
Seven, was always considered the most prominent. With­
out attempting here to divine what comprised the Wise
Men's "wisdom," let us suggest only two of its attributes.
One: the Seven Wise Men's wisdom constituted the frst
secularized knowledge, removed in theme and method
from the preceding religi ous-poetic tradition. Further­
more, it represented knowledge that emanated directly
from individuals. Prior to that, everything with any claim
to "wisdom" was impersonal in nature. The individual's
role was that of a substratum for expressing wisdom that
he could not claim to have derived personally. One of the
essential qualities, however, of the wisdom of the Seven
Wise Men was that it originated in one particular eminent
individual. For reasons soon to be made evident, a Wise
Man was there to vouch for the wisdom and not the re­
verse: he was the tree to recommend the frit.
Although an exploration of the content of this "knowl­
edge" will not be undertaken here, a simple reading of the
representative names reveals two strata. There was, frstly,
the "wisdom" common to them all, but in addition to this
there were more specialized forms of individual creation
initiated or at least elucidated by particular individuals.
In fact, Thales was not only one of the Seven Wise Men,
but as Heraclitus himself notes, he was the "frst astron­
omer," that is, the innovator of physiology or Ionian
phy sics-the frst "scientifc" thinker to exist in the
I I. As is known, there existed various lists of "wise men" that
difered numerically and by the inclusion of like names. The
reduced "seven" frst appeared in Plato.
94
THE ORIGIN OF PHILOSOPHY
world. Periander was the frst trant. "Tyranny" and
"science" were contemporary inventions. Solon was the
legislator of Athens. The year 600 likewise marked the
innovation of legislation that stemmed from one indi­
vidual and of the literary genre of "law writing. "12 In
fact, the only thing in this human world, apart from rea­
son, considered worthy by Heraclitus was law, and to
be more precise, law created by man.
Thus Heraclitus' "positive past" was not meager, since
Ionian philosophy and its derivations-tyranny and legis­
lation-constitute two thirds of the "modernity" that in­
formed Greek intellectual life between 600 and 500 B.C.
If we balance things now, we fnd that the soil inhab­
ited by Parmenides and Heraclitus was formed by a
srange convolution of intellectual initiatives, which lke
an erption suddenly broke the "traditional" crust of
Greek life in the year 600. This convolution was com­
posed of the following elements: the Dionysian mysteries,
Orphism, proto-geography and proto-history, Ionian
physics, arithmetic, Pythagorian ethics and mysticism,
tranny and legislation. Part of that soil became the ad­
versary for Parmenides and Heraclitus, since an adversary
is always a contemporary, something standing in the same
soil and holding much in common. One does not combat
tat which is totally alien.
Our gleaning, however, has merely yielded us an in­
ventory of human forms, heterogeneous in aspect. We
must now try to understand them, and we shall under­
stand them only by fnding their common root, and in
addition, the clue that will enable us to discover beneath
their apparent divergence and dispersion thei common
inspiration. All of them began to fower during the frst
twenty years of the sith century. Proto-philosophy is
1 2 . It i known that Plato somewhat ironically regaded writen
laws as a literay genre.
PARMENIDES AND HERACLITUS
9
5
the fruit produced by that Spring exactly one century
afterward, between 500 and 470. We have now made the
preparations for attempting the historiological process:
the reconstruction of origins.
Every period is understood as emerging from one or a
few events, fundamental events, which as it were, are at
their core. What Greece was between 600 and 500 is
rooted in the following precise event: Around 650 Hel­
lenic colonization reached its last frontiers in all four
cardinal directions. The vital tide of Greek national ex­
pansion attained its peak. 13 Immediately-and this phe­
nomenon deserves broader consideration-the colonial
periphery began to react upon continental and metro­
politan Greece. Homer, a typical colonial product, had
preceded this by a century.
Greek culture, if we so label what comes to constitute
"classicism," as we know it, had long been anticipated
by the colonies. Science and philosophy, especially, were
originally colonial events. Athens delayed-two centuries!
-in creating an indigenous philosophy, and it could never
boast of many. Whenever philosophy is discussed, Athens
is the frst to come to mind. The truth is closer to the
contrary, and the question might well be asked if Athens
in fact was not a hindrance for philosophy, since its
tenacious reactionism consubstantial with its democracy,
was responsible for the pathological evolution of Greek
thought, which prevented it thereby from attaining full
maturity. This supposition, however-that Greek thought
remained sickly and hence abnormal in development­
has the ring of blasphemy not only for Hellenic wor­
shipers, but more generally, for all those who regard
historical events per se as something merely to be an­
notated. The latter approach is historical positivism. In
1 3 . The enargement produced by Aexander's campaigns was an
icreae in the number of states, rather than one of natona chan
g
e.
THE ORIGIN OF PHILOSOPHY
my judgment, however, history is a rich repertory of
possible operations that ought to be coordinated with
events, and these operations begin precisely once the event
has been noted. History, as I was saying, signifes not only
recounting the past but understanding it, and now I add
that if it signifes understanding it, it of necessity likewise
means criticizing it, and consequently becoming enthused,
anguished, and irritated by it, censuring, applauding, cor­
recting, and completing it, crying and laughing over it.
It is not a mere manner of speaking; history taken seri­
ously is integrally a form of life in which the historian
involves himself fully, if he is truly a man-partially with
his intellect, but also hounded by the entire pack of his
passions, cum ira et studio.
7
Phi l osophy and a Peri od
of Freedom
PHILOSOPHY was one fruit, among others, that was born
in Greece when its people entered the "period of free­
dom. "
Confning the word "freedom" primarily or exclusively
to law and politics, as though these were the root from
which the general confguration of human life known as
freedom springs, is an error that reduces and fattens the
enormity of the subj ect. The issue is indeed much
broader. Freedom is the aspect assumed by a man's whole
life when the diverse components in it reach a point in
their development to produce among themselves a par­
ticular dynamic equation. To have a clear idea of what
"freedom" is, presupposes having defned or found with
some rigor the formula for that equation.
Probably every civilization or curriculum vitae of a
related group of people passes through that form of life
known as freedom. It is a brief, glowing stage that un­
folds like noon between the morning of primitivism and
the decline of evening, the petrifcation and necrosis of its
senescence. The categorical stages of a civilization are
determined and discerned as modifcations of the funda­
mental relation between the two great components of
human life, man's needs and his possibilties.
In the primitive or early stage, man has the impression
that his circle of possibilities barely transcends that of his
needs. He feels that what man can do in his lfe coincides
97
THE ORIGIN OF PHILOSOPHY
almost strictly with what he has to do. His margin of
choice is extremely scant; or to phrase it diferently: there
is a paucity of things that man can do. Life does not have
an aspect of "richness" to him. Note that it is equally
incorrect to assign the term "riches" or wealth primarily
to the economic realm, as it was to consign the idea of
freedom to politics and to law. In both instances, the true
relationship consists in the fact that both j uridical free­
dom and economic wealth are, though extremely impor­
tant and symptomatic, only efects or manifestati ons of
generic freedom and vital wealth. Wealth in the economic
sense means simply that man is confronted with numer­
ous possibilities for possession and acquisition, or con­
cretely, with many things to own, buy, and sell. How
much or how little must be interpreted in relati on to the
subj ective consci ousness that man has of his needs. If one
generalizes this concept to all other orders of human
existence, besides the economic, the conclusion is as fol­
lows: Until a certain date, amongst a particular group of
people, individuals of a cultural ambit feel that they can
scarcely rely upon any possibilities other than those
strictly essential to their needs. Living therefore means
relying on what there is and thanking God that there is
enough to live! Something to eat, a little knowledge, a
little pleasure. Life is poverty. Man lives by utilizing the
frugal repertory of intellectual, technical, ritualistic, po­
litical, and festive resources labori ously created and ac­
cumulated by tradition. Under this sort of equation an
individual is never in the position of being able to choose;
for choice assumes that the circle of one' s possibilities is
notably greater than that of one's needs.1
I. Note what this means. In actuality, even withi n this vital
equation, the individual now and then is faced with the possibilit
of choice, but so infrequently does this happen that he is unaware
of it and does not regard it as a special function of his life. In
order for a mode of life to emerge with particular characteristcs
PHILOSOPHY AND A PERIOD OF FREEDOM
99
Gradually relations between the members of this his­
torical entity increase, as does intercourse, knowledge,
and trafc with its periphery, or with "foreigners. " Life
expands, at least spatially. The world one inhabits is en­
larged. Concomitantly, commerce, industry, and the dis­
covery of mines upon remote shores are initiated.2 Eco­
nomic wealth appears. Simultaneously, new techniques,
arts, and pleasures become abundant. Man experiences life
as consisting not solely of what there is but as the crea­
tion and extraction of new realities from oneself; hence,
life is no longer defned exclusively by its necessities, but
overfowing these, it consists in abundant possibilities. The
word "abundant" unwittingly is imposed; life is abun­
dance; the term expresses the hyperbolic relationship be­
tween possibilities and needs. There are more things, more
possible things, to do (haceres) than are needed. Luxury,
or lust, begins. Ipso facto the individual fnds that living is
a problem totally diferent from what it was in the archaic
stage. Then it meant abiding by what there was and . . .
thanking God for it! Resignation, humble gratitude to
God for granting the essentials. Now, however, the prob­
lem is reversed: one has to choose among many possibili­
ties. Life is symbolized by the cornucopia. One must
select. The basic emotion of existence is now the opposite
of resignation, for living means "having things in excess."
Whereupon the basic emotion of petulance, the super­
abundance of existence, of "humanism," begins. The real­
zation that new things have been invented becomes
and for men to take notice of it, mere existence is not enough.
The mode must appear often enough so that it assumes some
proportion and conspicuousness.
2. History's "regularity," or one might say monotony, is surpris­
ig. The pleonastic period is intiated in Phoenicia and Carthage
by the discovery of Spansh mines, in Greece by the mines i
Ponts, in Europe by the Portgese discovery on the African
coast of "The Mine" that is still called Elmina.
1 00 THE ORIGIN OF PHILOSOPHY
functionalized and man deliberately begins to invent. To
create a new life becomes a normal function of life­
something that would not have occurred to one during
the primitive stage of life. Revolutions begin.
Symptomatically the individual ceased to be totally
inscribed to tradition, even though his life was still par­
tially governed by it. Whether he wanted to or not, he
was the one to choose among the superabundant possi­
bilities. And let us not exclude amongst these the intel­
lectual possibilities. As countries frequented one another,
taveled, and became immersed in things exotic, they
leared diferent ways of seeing things, modi res consid­
erandi. The individual, instead of being dependent on a
single unquestioned repertory of opinions-traditions
was faced with a broad selection and forced to choose
by himself the one he found most convincing. The possi­
bilty and consequent necessity of selecting one's opinion
on something was the human experience upon which so
called "rationalism" was based. And to such a degree that
unbeknownst perhaps to the reader, we have been able to
describe this situation with the same words Aristotle em­
ployed centuries later in his defnition of science:
U'c/' (OTl � WroA'''" � 7'OToTt
T
(Science is the mos
persuasive supposition) .
Does this reveal clearly what i s signifed by "vital
wealth"? Man's existence-and the world in which it
tanspired-was enormously enlarged, its contents flled
to exuberance. For the frst time in civilization, man felt
that life was worth the efort of living. At the same time
the attitude toward religion changed. Religion always
iplies transcendence, even in the least transcendent
instance, as in Greece. Gods are ultra- or super-worldly
powers. Amid a life of poverty the individual needs God
so much that his life derives from God. Every act, every
moment of his existence has reference and connection
PHILOSOPHY AND A PERIOD OF FREEDOM 1 01
with the divinity. The very instruments of life are so
crude, so innately inefectual, and in themselves, so much
of this world, that man has little faith in their efcacy
and has faith only in the virtue with which God, through
magical rite, infuses them. This means that life itself and
this wretched world barely interpose between man and
God. As life swelled, however, and the world grew richer,
the increasing bulk of the worldly element intervened
between man and God, and separated them. Afrmation
of this world and of life in it became valid in its own
right. Irreligiousness was the result. Just as the afore­
mentioned cause separated men from tradition, so this
surrender to worldly life uprooted him from religion. All
the consequences encumbent upon the former were car­
ried to the extreme: amid a life of abundance man was
left uprooted, dangling in mid-air. He foated amid the
aerial element of his mounting possibilities. This was the
inevitable counterbalance. The stability and vital security
of an individual's existence were not automatically and
efortlessly bestowed upon him by innate adherence to
an unquestioned tradition, but the individual himself with
total awareness had to fabricate a foundation, a terra frma
to support himself. Hence he had no choice; using the
fuid, ethereal matter available from existing possibilities,
he had to construct for himself a world and a life. Now
this implies "rationalizing" simple existence, rather than
existing spontaneously, with abandon, without any ado.
When earlier I pointed out that during "periods of
freedom" men live upon a foundation of emotional pet­
ulance and superabundance, I did not imply thereby the
attribute of security. Human life is always insecure, a fact
implicit in every equation of it, although each refects a
diferent aspect. The insecurity of the poor man is one
and the insecurity of the rich man another. Thus the in­
security of the "free" prepotent man is extremely curious:
102 THE ORIGIN OF PHILOSOPHY
it means not knowing what to do simply because there
are so many things to be done, whereupon one has the
impression of being lost, of evaporating amid sheer pos­
sibilities. A concrete example of this sense of being lost,
of shipwreck amid abundance ( note that the very word
ab-undancia retains the image of an innundating, over­
whelming torrent) , occurs in the realm of thought, that
is, of opinions, a symptomatic phenomenon of such pe­
riods: namely, doubt. Doubt is not simply nonbelief.
Someone who holds no opinion about something is ig­
norant, but he does not doubt. Doubt presupposes that
one is confronted with positive opinions, each of which
might warrant belief, and precisely for that reason, mu­
tually paralyze their power to convince. Man is stranded
amid the various opinions, none of which is able to
sustain him frmly-hence he slips about amid the many
possible "know ledges" and fnds himself falling, falling
into a strange liquid medium . . . he falls into a sea of
doubts. Doubt is a fuctuation of opinion, that is, a des­
perate failing amid waves- fuctus. Hence doubt is a
"state of mind" that is not a permanent state, but unstable.
Man cannot remain in it. He must emerge from doubt
and for this he seeks a means. The means by which one
emerges from doubt and becomes lodged in frm con­
viction constitutes the method. Every method is a reaction
to a doubt. Every doubt is a postulation of a method.
Descartes in his invention of "methodical doubt" provides
a superb example of skill and intellectual elegance in com­
bining both elements with utter simplicity.
! Û
The Hi stori ca l Ori gi n
of t he Professi on of
Phi l osophy
·
WHAT IS the underlying meaning of Thales' assertion:
"All things are full of gods"? As in all assertions, someone
is saying something to someone; the textual meaning has
two dimensions. One consists in what the text appears to
be saying. The other is the fact that a particular individual
is addressing his statement to another individual or a
specifc group. Only through integrati on of both dimen­
sions can the concrete textual meaning be derived.
Let us endeavor to interpret Thales' assertion in its
strict textual sense. It would seem to signify that there
exist as many gods as things and occurrences, implying
thereby the futility of discriminating between things
and gods, or more properly still, that there are no things,
only gods. Since deities and things are mutually exclusive
and since gods pervade everything, then everything must
be devoid of things.
Thus it is unlikely that Thales in this context employed
the term gods in its usual, direct sense-that of religious
tradition-but in some oblique new sense. The primary
attribute of gods who were gods sensu recto was that of
representing the extraordinary in opposition to the ordi­
nary; the privileged, uncommon reality in contrast to
daily, habitual reality. At certain points and at certin
• [Tide supplied.-Ed.1
103
1 0
4
THE ORIGIN OF PHILOSOPHY
moments of reality God interened as a contrast to the
rest of reality in which God was not present. The most
ancient division in the human mind was between the
sacred and the profane. One might say that certain ex­
ceptional phenomena, aristocratic in nature, seemed to
exist in the world wherein the presence and intervention
of God occurred. What meaning can there be in this
democratization, this universalization of the divine seem­
ingly proposed by Thales' statement? Evidently that the
deities had ceased to represent the exceptional and the
extraordinary and had become ubiquitous and common­
place; that is, when Thales made reference to the gods,
in his mind they had lost their primary attribute and had
ceased to be actual gods, but had been transmuted into
mere things, or rather into something residing in each
ting that was the principle of its reality and its charac­
teristic modes of behavior. The gods were downgraded
into causes.
The enunciation of a geometrical theorem is directed
to no one in particular, but to men in general, to the
vernunftiges Wesen (rational being) whom Kant spoke
about with such enthusiasm. This indeterminateness re­
specting one's interlocutor is evinced by the statement
of the theorem, for the latter never alludes to any opinions
divergent from its own asserted content. Hence, a theorem
never conveys the impression of forming part of a dia­
logue. Now Thales' foregoing comment has essentially
the aspect of dialogue. He is rectifying, correcting a
preexistent opinion-to be precise, a "public opinion," or
common doxa-according to which gods reside only in
certain privileged phenomena. In its form of expression,
Thales' statement belongs to the epigrammatic style of the
Seven Wise Men. The latters' dialogues were held with
public opinion or with the other sages. XUA(7OV fu('v
f
pp
(VaL (It is difcult to be good) , Pittacus declared and
HISTORICAL ORIGIN OF PHILOSOPHY 1 05
Solon replied, xaAE4 Ta Ka. (The beautiful is difcult} .l
In an excellent article on "faith among the Olympic
gods"2 Bruno Snell says: ceder Gedanke, die Gotter
konnten vielleicbt nicht existieren, hat iberhaupt erst um
die Mitte des 5. Jaurhunderts geaissert werden konnen. "
The formula is wary and consequently ambiguous. Note
that implicit in it is the assumption that from the sixth
century up to that date, atheism had mounted, extended,
and intensifed among the Greeks. According to Snell,
Protagoras was the frst one to deny expressly the exist­
ence of the gods. Actually, Protagoras only claims that
it is impossible to know whether or not gods exist, or
granting that they do exist what their forms are, a thesis
which is in line with the universality of his skeptical rela­
tivism, and therefore loses much of its audacity. Do
Protagoras' words signify, however, a more resounding
negation of the gods than those of Heraclitus and
Xenophanes? Finally, Protagoras did not substitute an­
other reality for the gods, whereas Xenophanes and Hera­
clitus dislodged the Pantheon and in lieu of the plurality
of gods fundamental to Greek religion, they talked about
one God whose primary attribute was his oneness. Anax­
mander did the same thing, and was thereupon regarded
as an atheist. The God who appears at the conclusion of
an argument is obviously not a religious God, but a
theoretical principle. The discoverer no doubt was some­
one who had abandoned religious belief, and feeling lost
in a world whose traditional foundations were severed,
felt compelled to seek through intellectual free choice a
new foundation. This free choice of principles has been
called "rationality."
I. Wiamowitz, Sapho und Simonides, p. 1
7
4.
2. Da neue Bild der Antiquen, I, p. 1 1 3. 1 942. ("The idea that
the
g
ods perhaps did not exist, could be expressed, generally.
aound the mddle of the ft century.")
1 06 THE ORIGIN OF PHILOSOPHY
If the name philosophy is given to this free choice of
principles, it seems indubitable that the creation of phi­
losophy presupposes a stage of atheism. During the sixth
century, among certain enclaves in colonial Greece, re­
ligion ceased to be a possible way of life and consequently
a new position toward the changed existence had to be
devised in opposition to religious existence. In no way
was this opposition more clearly evident than in the use
of the term "god" for entities whose attributes invali­
dated the "popular gods" of Greek religion. We are
informed by Cicero of Antisthenes' statement in his
Physics: PopuloTes Deos multos, naturalem unum esse
(The gods of the people are many, but the god of nature
is one alone) . 3
Dating from Greek antiquity, the word "God" was
imbued with great semantic mobility. Plutarch in his
essay on "How a young man should interpret his reading
of the poets" asserted: "One must realize, and never lose
sight of the fact, that among poets [ reference is made to
Homer] the words Zeus, Zin at times designate God him­
self, but at other times Fortune, and often also Fate." ( § 6)
Similarly Cicero, i n the frst book of De natura deorm,
acts surprised when he naIvely discovers that philosophers
have applied the nouns theos, theion, daimon, etc. , to the
most diverse things, hence, using them contradictorily.
Thus he found that in Aristotle, God represents under­
standing as well as the stars in their incessant revolution.
On reading Timaeus we are surprised by the repeated
rectifcation Plato feels compelled to make when men­
tioning the "Gods" in this dialogue. At frst he employed
the word in its full religious sense, but forthwith realized
that the word then did not make sense since the gods
were no more than stars and the earth as such a sidereal
body. He was thereby obliged to correct himself and to
3. De natura deorem, I, XIII.
HISTORICAL ORIGIN OF PHILOSOPHY 1 07
use the term "Gods" in its physical sense. Note the clear
distinction and even derision in the double meaning
whereupon he distinguished between "the revolving or
orbicular gods and those which appear when they feel
like."4 This indicates that the terms still lacked a specifc
character of reality, which would have to be delineated
and which would not admit of contradictions, but that
tey had become instead titles of ontological nobility
bestowable upon the most diverse entities. Burnet sug­
gests that this ambiguous use of the term God by the
philosophers-as evinced in Aristophanes' The Clouds­
was the cause of the violent reaction aroused against them
by Athenian public opinion.
More, however, than in any pronouncement patently
denying the existence of religious gods, the atheism of
Ionian natural science was manifest in the mode of
tought that engendered it. This mode of thought repre­
sented the complete inversion of the mythical logos from
which the gods originated. Human reality, the "habitual
World" thereby was characterized by a limited, acci­
dental, and ominous potentiality. This experience of
human impotence-lfe itself-constituted a mental blow
and compelled one through "dialectical necessity" to de­
vise another inherently diferent reality: one of unlimited
potentiality, free from chance, and self-assured. This
reality was "the divine," the numenous substance out of
which were carved particular, specialized powers and
gods, from ephemeral deities to God in detailed biog­
raphy.
Thus, the mythical logos, in order to "explain" or
establish human reality, which is present reality, imagined
some other prior reality in an absolute before or alcher­
inga, in the terminology of Australian aborigines, created
precisely because in that prior realit tings were pos-
4. Tim., 4d""Ia.
1 08 THE ORIGIN OF PHILOSOPHY
sible that were not possible in the human present. Ionian
thought-not only among the natural scientists but
equally in Hecataeus-attempted inversely to explain the
before-the origin of things, the physis-by constructing
it in accordance with the experimental law of our lives.
Hence the present explains the past, which thus explained,
becomes an efective before, a past united in continuity
with the present, surviving in it, and thereby serving as
a permanent foundation. Consequently Hecataeus intro­
duced historical theory as an intellectual constrction of
te past by means of the present. Traditional opinion was
invalidated, stigmatized as humbug, and in contra position
te new opinion emerged as the solid one-that is, the
tre one. Thus it is seemingly essential to truth that it
emerge upon a background of errors recognized as such.
The onset of a mode of thought that so radically inverts
taditional thought and transforms the world into an in­
herently profane reality, does not seem possible unless
we imagine the early thinkers as being utterly devoid of
religious faith. It is neither necessary nor accurate to
assume an intensifcation of atheism during the ffth cen­
tury. More astonishing than commonly regarded, is the
fact that not a single text appeared among the Ionian
natural scientists in which the slightest role was attributed
to the traditional gods. Hence Thales' assertion ought not
to be interpreted in the sense that his ubiquitous gods ae
"divine" in natre, but exactly the opposite. The state­
ment is mildly ironic and euphemistic in character.
Important to note is the radical stylisic diference be­
tween the Ionian natural scientists and the founding
philosophical thinkers-Heraclitus, Parmenides, and Xen­
ophanes. The former calmly expounded their opinions,
whereas the latter angrily reared up against the populace
and heaved insults upon their predecessors either nomi­
natively or generically. So evident is this that the absence
HISTORICAL ORIGIN OF PHILOSOPHY 1 09
of a study of it is surprising. Why did philosophy begin
with an onrush of invective? A good deal of time had
elapsed between the Ionians and Heraclitus. The death
of Anaximenes, who was the last of the Ionians, probably
coincided with the birth of Heraclitus. This means that
a new type of man was probably in the forming during
the ffth century: the "thinker." The vagueness of the
word was beftting, since the reality thereby designated
was also vague. The thinker as such was not to exist for
another century and then in Plato's Academy-if one is
willing to concede that the thinker's existence has ever
been truly possible in history, our own times included.
Heraclitus' and Parmenides' generation found this new
human fgure, typifed both in character and profession,
already formed, though hazy. The frst practitioners of
this occupation, whose practice consisted in theory, were
incapable yet of regarding themselves as thinkers, j ust as
Julius Caesar could not see himself as a caesar. Their
occupation was an individual's concrete thing to do. The
occupation had to be practiced by a series of individuals
before it became not an individual concern but something
typical, delineating a type of person, and endowed with
the markings of a trade or magistracy. Hence the change
in style. Heraclitus, despite his hypertrophic individuality,
speaks as a magistrate of thought. Obviously they were
not yet addressing themselves to the common people, for
the latter did not yet have the slightest inkling about this
type of individual. They addressed themselves to certain
minority groups who were informed on particular in­
tellectual currents of the time, who discussed Homer and
Hesiod and were acquainted with Orphic theology, yet
fnally adhered to traditional opinions. For Heraclitus and
Parmenides, these groups represented the populace, and
they were the butt of part of their indignities. In a way,
insulting the populace is the thinker's characteristic tenor,
I 1 0 THE ORIGIN OF PHILOSOPHY
for his mission, his professional destiny, is to possess h
"own" ideas, in opposition to the doxa or public opinion.
If one were merely seeking for agreement, a new magis­
tracy would be unnecessary. Hence Heraclitus and
Parmenides were completely aware that in confronting
and opposing the doxa, their opinion was constitutively
paradoxa. This paradoxical character has prevailed
throughout all of philosophy's evolution. Similarly, Amos,
the frst Hebrew "thinker" and a contemporary of Thales,
made it evident that when God chose him for his profes­
sion, God imposed this mandate upon him: "Prophesy
against my people. "5 Every prophet is a prophet against,
as is every "thinker. " In the course of Plato's work, where
he speaks most concretely about the early "thinkers, " he
expressly emphasizes the paradoxical, and hence abstruse,
pattern of their thought, saying: "Their lack of concer
toward us reveals their uncommon contempt for common
men, and never worrying about whether we are able to
follow them or not, they each unperturbedly conclude
what they have to say. "6
Although the "thinker" by the beginning of the ffth
century already had a sense of self-awareness in his role
as such, and realized that he was performing an important
function, one with a special mission and the status of a
magistracy, his professional guise was not yet sufciently
consolidated for the populace, the genuine populace, to
perceive it and for him to assume a stance. Hence the
incomparable freedom that the Ionian natural scientists
enj oyed as the frst philosophers. The "thinker" was stil
not a social fgure.
The socialization of the "thinker" came about during
the ffth century. But with respect to this subj ect, our
incongrent information tends to grossly distort Greek
5. Amos VII, 1 5 .
6. Soph., 243 A.
HISTORICAL ORIGIN OF PHILOSOPHY I I I
history. Although we have substantial data on Athens,
we know very little about the other cities. About Sparta
itself, despite its historical stature, our information is so
scant that we are unable even to picture its daily life.
Sparta however could be overlooked in this context,
inasmuch as we are dealing with events pertaining to the
frst philosophers. We cannot however do likewise with
other cities, since it was there and not in Athens where
the "thinkers" were born and lived during the frst half
of the ffth century. It was in them and not in Athens
that this new type of individual was formed. What was
the relati on between him and the city he dwelled in? It
is impossible for us to formulate a notion of this. Our
grounds are only meager for suspecting that it difered
considerably from the relationship that existed between
the "thinker" and Athens from the fourth century on. It
is impossible, given our scant data, to interpret otherwise
the fact that most of this data consists in revealing the
philosopher in his displacement from one city to another
or else intervening in political struggles. This contrasts
with the predominant stability of philosophers in Athens
after 400.
We sufer therefore from a blindness of sixty years,
precisely the period during which the "thinker" as a social
fgure took form. We owe this blindness to the fact that
Athens, the only city that stands brightly illumined for
us in terms of information, was backward in relation to
te periphery of the Greek world insofar as "thought"
was concerned. On the periphery, theories had been de­
veloping for a century and a half, whereas no "thinker"
emerged amongst the Athenians. Pericles, with the snob­
bism beftting a good aristocrat, had to send for Anaxo­
goras around 460. Shortly afterward, around 440, we
enj oy full visibility and the "thinker" appears as a social
fgure, that is, as a new type of individual perceived and
I I 2 THE ORIGIN OF PHILOSOPHY
recognized as such by the demos. This does not imply
that their view of him was adequate. It could not be.
For a "people" as profoundly reactionary and intensely
adherent to traditional beliefs, it was an extremely un­
settling experience. Their "intellectual" backwardness,
which coincided with their political triumph over Greece
and their sudden fabulous surge in wealth, meant that
everything that had been fermenting in Hellas for a cen­
tury and a half, landed at one fell sweep upon the plazas
and porticos of Athens. Side by side with traditional
poetry and mitopeia, the Athenian public for the frst
time was abruptly presented with a variegated bounti­
fulness of the new products of the mind. Sophists came
from the East and delivered stylized speeches; they pub­
licized their "thinkers" (according to Aristophanes) ; they
expounded the new Ionian, Pythagorean, Eleatic science;
they ofered the spectacle of extracting models of geo­
metric bodies and armillary spheres from their boxes; they
explained ellipses with facts of the utmost simplicity and
devoid of all mystery. Meanwhile, the "sophist" Her­
odotus recounted exotic histories to the Greeks; he de­
scribed other lands and other peoples and what had
happened in them and to them. An avalanche of "para­
doxas" besieged Athens. Rumored about was the terrible
blasphemy that the stars were not deities but balls of
burning metal, like the Sun, for example, which according
to Anaxagoras was bigger than Peloponnesus.7
This was the frst time that the confrontation of the
"thinker" and populace was witnessed. It was inevitable
that people lost their bearings amid such chaotic inno­
vation and were unable to distinguish between the assorted
professions represented therein. Even elite groups such as
the poets were unable to grasp the distinction clearly. In
this early phase the "thinker" as a social fgure invariably
7. See Wilanowit, Plato, I, p. 65 55.
HISTORICAL ORIGIN OF PHILOSOPHY I I 3
appears in sketchy profle. This alone can explain the
extravagant appearance attributed by Aristophanes to
Socrates in The Clouds. It is a matter upon which philoso­
phers have shown the least perspicacity. Its solution re­
quires that one begin with the assumption that Aristo­
phanes knew what Socrates was, but that he was inspired
by the comic muse to distort what he beheld. It is pathetic
to view the eforts made by philologists to exonerate the
poet for this distortion as i f in any event one could log­
ically expect to fnd in The Clouds a congruent portrait
of the philosopher. It is pointless in this instance to dwell
specifcally on distortion, for it is self-evident. Every dis­
tortion reveals its orientation and the initial form of the
obj ect that has been exaggerated and decomposed. In The
Clouds the initial form is clearly revealed and one recog­
nizes that it did not depict Socrates the individual but
some vague fgure whom Aristophanes and most Athen­
ians of the day conceived of as the "thinker. " Note that
the most prominent feature of that caricature was one in
actuality furthest removed from the real Socrates, namely
an interest in "meteorology," in celestian phenomena.
One thing however is certain: a particular type of in­
dividual did emerge as a social fgure and was reacted to
by society. In fact, no sooner did Anaxagoras, the frst
philosopher, arrive in Athens, than the Athenian populace
began reacting with an unparalleled sentiment Cf uneasi­
ness. The Greeks found a word in their language to
categorize the varieties of human conduct that elicited
this displeasure: they called it 7E
P
LTTO< ( excessive) .
Aristotle explicitly relates that the populace criticized men
like Anaxagoras and Thales because the latter busied
themselves with 7EpLTTa ( extravagances) . 8 The word
does not translate readily into our tongues because of its
numerous semantic overtones. On the one hand it signes
8. Eth. Nik. 1 1 41 h, 3 .
1 1 4 THE ORIGIN OF PHILOSOPHY
an extraordinary act or work of laudatory value, and on
the other it denotes excessive, extravagant, and particu­
larly in the religious sense, improper and hence sacri­
legious conduct. Pedro Simon Abril, a sixteenth-centur
Spanish humanist, and a translator of the Ethics, trans­
lated 1€PITTd in this passage as "knowing too much."
To my mind that is the closest translation. 9
As soon as the populace became aware of the "thinker"
as a fgure, the latter's position altered radically, for the
social reaction was negative and the thinker in his action
had to resort to certain precautionary defenses. The re­
ligious attitude prevailed with full force among the
Athenian populace. This conviction included the belief
that certain earthly secrets existed which warranted the
respect of mortals, inasmuch as any knowledge of them
was the privilege of the gods. Hence, Athenians believed
that all attempts to scrutinize these secrets were tanta­
mount to disbelief in the gods. Everything that transpired
in heaven was divine. Hence "meteorology," which
sought to fathom celestial secrets, their origin, nature,
and pattern of behavior, appeared as a blasphemous en­
deavor. The ire of the demos could not be forestalled.
And in fact, in the last third of the sixth century, the
three most prominent philosophers in Athens-Anaxa­
goras, Protagoras, and Socrates-were either exiled, or
as in the case of the latter, "liquidated. "
We see in the reaction of the Athenian people macro
scopic confrmation that atheism was a basis for the new
profession initiated by the Ionians. The two forms of life
were from the start antagonistic and incompatible.
The "thinker's" new and difcult public position pro­
vided the origin of the name "philisophy," a name that i
9. Lason mis-translate, for te pasage must be interpreted i
reton to 1 1 77 b, 33.
HISTORICAL ORIGIN OF PHILOSOPHY I 15
strange, afected, and inexpressive. It is interesting to
observe, though, at how early a date "thinkers" were con­
cerned with what their profession should be called. In
Plato a page and a half is devoted to Protagoras tackling
this problem. It is revealed that the word "sophist" was
an ancient one and applicable to poets, musicians, and
soothsayers, but that once it became discredited and con­
ducive to arousing people's animosity, an attempt was
made to avoid it and to fnd substitutes. Plato would have
us believe that the word "sophist" is valid as he under­
stood it, although for the masses it meant the vague con­
glomeration of all the exponents of the new opinions.
Signifcant for us in the present context is that Plato
described the "thinker's" position in the face of public
opinion as a perilous one.
The "thinker" had to conceal the profession to which
he was dedicated by eschewing its revelatory name and
resorting to disguises and precautions, or 7
P
OOXp
7OtELO(at /at 7
p
o/aAV7TEo(at EVAc[Eta.10 Time and again
Plato alludes to the hostility encountered by the philoso­
pher in his social milieu, and even at the end of his life,
in the Laws-82 l A-Plato found it necessary to protest
tat scientifc inquiries, especially those of an astronomical
and philosophical nature, were of an impious nature­
oE Ooc{. So tenacious was this public attitude that even
Alexander of Aphrodesia explicitly labeled 7EptTTO{ (wise
men) as 7EptTTOV, (excessive) . l1
It is curious that never during this initial stage in
·
'
thought" was the name sop hoi applied to its practition­
ers even by themselves. The word was an ancient one.
It has an exact correspondent in the Latin sapiens, and its
root is Indo-European. Homologous expressions exsted
among the most primitive people to designate what per-
1 0. Prot. 3 1 6 d, 3 1 7 b.
II. Comm. i Met. 529 (982 b 29. 983 a. 2 ) .
I 1 6 THE ORIGI N OF PHILOSOPHY
haps constituted the oldest profession of mankind: a man,
generally an elder, entrusted with tasting foods to dis­
tinguish between those which were salutary for the tribe,
hence a sampler of pl ants in particular and a connoisseur
of tastes or savors, sapores. Plants savor of something,
sap or, due to their j uice-in Germanic Saft; they are
sapient. The term transfers from the obj ect to the subj ect
"one who understands savors"-the sapiens, the sophos.
This was probably the original Sisyphean meaning. This
meaning, however, extended to all dimensions of human
life, among them all the technical ones, always referring,
however, to a nontheoretical, still nonexistent type of
knowledge. The "knowledgeable" individual understands
certain things not because he possesses general ideas (the­
ories) about them, but because he lives in perpetual,
concrete contact with them, and is aware of their simul­
taneous individuality and their immense variety and
casuistry. Hence-someone who "understands" porcelain
or "antiques." It is an empirical and barely transferable
knowledge. Now, of all things worth understanding, is
human life itself, both personal and collective. The con­
tent of this knowledge pertaining to the structure of
human life and its vicissitudes was called "wisdom" and
it forms the "wisdom literature. " The ancient word
sophos thereupon suddenly acquired a more precise con­
notation referring to the Seven Wise Men, who were
all men of state. The best example of the content of their
knowledge exists in Solon's Elegies. Compare these with
the fragments of the "natural scientists" or of the proto­
philosophers Parmenides and Heraclitus. Solon was oc­
cupied only with human life and he did not theorize.
His doctrine of the seven ages exudes vital experience.
The concept of the Seven Wise Men, their utterances,
and their legend attained such popularity in Greece that
the name sophos became inadequate to designate the new
HISTORICAL ORIGIN OF PHILOSOPHY I 1 7
"thinkers." A more up-to-date, less prestigious, and more
modest word had to be found: sophistes. Whereas sophos
directly designates the man himself as being wise, sophist
denominates him professionally, be it in poetry, music,
the art of divination, etc. Since the work of the "think­
ers" -not only "natural scientists" and philosophers, but
grammarians, rhetoricians, travelers, etc.-meanwhile had
become consolidated into a body of "wisdoms," the ac­
quisition of which necessitated an apprenticeship and,
therefore, teaching, the name "sophist" seemed very apt
to designate the new generation of men who around the
year 4.50 became professionally engaged in a new feld:
the magistery of new ideas. Without being explicit, the
word retained the concept implicit in sophia and its mean­
ing denoted the concept of wielding and tansmitting
tastes or savors.
As previously indicated, this coincided with the "think­
er's" emergence as a social fgure to whom society reacted
with hostility. The new name thus immediately acquired
a pej orative connotation and likewise could not qualify
as the stable name for the "thinker."
This brings us to the beginning of the fourth century.
Plato is about to found his school near the Academy gym­
nasium. A school of what? Ten years following the death
of Socrates the "thinker's" public position had improved
somewhat, inasmuch as two generations of Athenians-
understanding this to mean certain groups belonging to
the upper classes-had already received the new educa­
ton or paideia. Nevertheless, the hostility of the demos
had not disappeared. Rather, the "thinkers" had become
inured to its existence and they no longer behaved with
the trusting nonchalance characteristic of their prede­
cessors during the sixth century and the frst half of te
ffth. The style of "thought" thereafter became veiled,
less spontaneous, and to a degree cautiously masked, s
I 1 8 THE ORIGIN OF PHILOSOPHY
as not to bestir the religious faith of the multitude. The
masses had reacted angrily to the "thinkers," not only
because the latter were atheists, but because their mode
of procedure seemed petulant and insolent. What name
would a man like Plato, educated in Socratic irony, select
for this profession and his message? The problem waS
complicated because the moment had arrived to cope
with the confusion created amongst the Athenian popu­
lace by the utter divergence of intellectual disciplines.
This augmented the urgency and the difculty of arming
oneself with a name that would be both defensive agains
public opinion and ofensive against the other forms of
"thought. " We are speaking now of a people whose
language is perhaps expressive of the greatest precision.
For a little over a century there had existed in the lan­
guage a word whose meaning was extremely vague and
noncommital-the word to philosophize. It had been tem­
porarily confned to a verb and an adj ective. The adj ec­
tive, I believe, frst appeared in Heraclitus, although the
term did not then have the meaning it was to acquire a
century later. 12 Even by the fnal years of the ffth cen­
tury it appeared in Thucydides, placed at a solemn j unc­
tre, upon Pericles' lips. It was paired with philokalein (a
lover of beauty) , another vague word, and the pairing
prevailed for a long time. Both exclude the sense of
professional practice. They convey, on the contrary, an
informal manner of treating the arts, poetry, and ideas
that were beginning to circulate among certain "elegant"
Athenians around 450, the meaning of which had prob­
ably not altered since its not too distant birth.
The compounds that begin with CLAO (philo-) ae
very numerous in Greek. If we scan through them in a
1 2. It i a curiou fragment, for it requires "philosophers" to
kow many things, whereas one of Heraclims' most comon
bate i againt "cauity."
HISTORICAL ORIGIN OF PHILOSOPHY I 19
historical dictionary we see that most of them were
formed in the last two-thirds of the ffth century and the
frst third of the fourth. Rarely does a particular mortho­
logical trend appear so pronouncedly in the nature of a
fashion. For it is not popular words that are involved, and
nearly all of them betray their "distinguished" origin.
We must not, however, identify our attitude respecting
these compounds with the prevailing attitude among the
Greeks who coined and used them habitually. The ten­
dency to use compound words is characteristic of the
Greek language. This proclivity simultaneously inclines
to the opposite and complementary phenomenon: a nation
given to employing many compounds is generally un­
aware of their compound nature but rather of the ensu­
ing unity wherein the compounds disappear. This be­
comes quite evident if we compare German, which is
prone to compounds, with the Romance languages. We
understand the compound precisely as a de-compound.
However, the instance of words beginning with ctAO,
even within the context of compounds, represents some­
thing very special ; for despite the fact that ctAO signifed
an independent word, it was transformed through over­
usage into something akin to a prefx. Thus its meaning of
"a liking" or "a taste for" was almost totally obliterated
and it retained only its frequentative, continuative sense,
the suggestion of the quality or disposition, or propensity.
In short, similar to the Latin sufxes osus and bundus. 13
The foregoing is in reference to the verb to philoso­
phize and its adj ective, whose existence can be traced to
around 500. With this i n mind, let us turn to the appear­
ance of the noun "philosophy, " which is our prime
interest, in the decade of 440.
Whoever examines all the positive and negative data
1 3 . For some interesting observations on the compounds of
�'AO, see Reith, Grundbegrite der stoiscben Etbik, pp. 24, 28, 29.
1 2 0 THE ORIGIN OF PHILOSOPHY
will recognize that it is not only unduly speculative to
place the appearance of the name "philosophy" as a new
and colorful expressi on among the coteries of "cultured"
individuals, who when it emerged, more or less sur­
rounded Pericles. Twenty years prior to this, Anaxagoras
had arrived in Athens where the new breed of the
"thinker" was as yet unknown. This unfamiliarity, plus
the retiring life attributed to Anaxagoras, delayed the
efects of his presence in the city, at least visibly. During
those years only one disciple truly emerged: Archelaus
-the frst Athenian philosopher, whose disciple was Soc­
rates. Meanwhile, however, the generation born ffteen
years after Pericles was infected by the new ideas and
felt great enthusiasm for the form of life introduced by
peripheral Hellenic "thinkers. " This induced men like
Zeno, and perhaps Parmenides, Prodicus, and Protagoras
to visit Athens and make brief appearances before elite
circles. In this atmosphere the noun "phi losophy" must
have begun to circulate, signifying the pursuit of all the
new disciplines, from natural philosophy to rhetoric. In
conj unction with all this, medicine enj oyed a peculiar
position.
Every word in a language is a usage formed within a
segment of society and thereupon extended, sometimes to
all of it. When one is dealing with a highly specialized
social group, some of the words employed by it cease to
be words of the language and are transformed into terms.
Language is quite a diferent matter from terminology. A
term is a word whose meaning is determined by a prior
defnition, and only by knowing the latter can one un­
derstand the former. Thus its meaning is precise. In
language, however, a word conveys its meaning without
prior defnition. Hence it is always imprecise. Now then,
te word "philosophy" did not originate as a term but as
a normal word i a language and even as such its profle
HISTORICL ORIGIN OF PHILOSOPHY I 2 I
was exceedingly vage. Its conversion into a ten can
symbolize the history of Athenian intellectual lfe during
the following half centur.
This conversion occurred in Plato. His entire work is
a dauntless attempt to render a rigorous meaning to the
word "philosophy." His preoccupation with this name,
however, dating from his earliest writing-that is, before
he himself had a precise concept of the discipline he was
later to refer to-is proof that his predilection for the
word was something inherited from Socrates.
In Socrates the need to fnd a name to encompass his
activity became increasingly acute and urgent. He was the
frst Athenian citizen to engage publicly in the new ideas,
be it to expound or to criticize them. After Anaxagoras
and Protagoras had been exiled, he unquestionably was
clearly aware of the danger of his behavior. Nevertheless,
no one was as intent as he upon distinguishing himself in
people's minds from the naturalists and the rhetoricians.
He was doubtlessly irritated to hear himself called, like
the latter, a Sophist. The fact remains that ffty years
later people were still calling him this. Was not "philoso­
phy" the ideal word for his position? It was a soft name,
difuse in contour, inofensive, and obviously anxious not
to appear petulant. And yet for his message precisely, it
ofered the opportunity to convey a new meaning simply
by employing the compound but de-compounding it, that
is, underscoring its etymology. An attempt to pick out a
name for something new within a language always
prompts the seeker to pause abnormally before words,
thereby isolating them almost as though they were words
from a foreign tongue. Viewed through such abnormal
optics-we have all had similar experiences-the etymol­
ogy emerges from within the word as though its skeleton
were emerging from its habitual body. Now, Socrates'
message was remarkably paradoxical, for in contrast to
1 2 2 THE ORIGIN OF PHILOSOPHY
the knowledge that was so ostentatiously faunted in
Athens in those times, the knowledge he claimed to pos
sess was a "knowledge-that-does-not-know," a docta ig­
norantia. It is a formal refusal to be considered as aoc[a
(sophos) and even less as a master of various branches of
knowledge, or as a Sophist. Precisely because his knowl­
edge was negative, it was flled with a yearning for that
which was lacking. By de-compounding the word, Soc­
rates probably found the most exact expression for what
he wishes to appear to be doing: striving, desiring to
know. This in no way ofered any positive step toward
concretizing what constitutes the aoc[a (sophia) of phi­
losophy, but it delineated with great exactness his personal
attitude. In this form, as a de-compound, the word ceased
to be a word in the language. Its etymology defned it
formally and furnished it with the hieraticism and asepti­
cism that diferentiated the "term" from the "word. " In
short, this kind of "j uggling" performed upon the usual
noun "philosophy" was one more ironic creation. Un­
doubtedly, the word, which like so many other com­
pounds with ctAO- (philo- ) was mannered to begin with,
increased in its deviation. Irony, however, is clearly dis­
simulation. The Socratic schools are all stances oriented in
diferent directions. Hence Plato's mannerism, at times
intense, must have seemed even more striking, thus pre­
venting him from ever being considered as an "Attic"
writer, The "Asianism" forever imputed to him was sim­
ply mannerism. Hence it should not be surprising that
possibly he is the author who employs the most com­
pounds with CtAo-. They come to almost sixty!
This development makes us suspect that the illustrious
discipline in all likelihood received its name primarily out
of defensive reasons, as a precaution the "thinker" had to
take against the wrath of his fellow-citizens who still
clung to a religious position. Even in Socrates the etymo
HISTORICAL ORIGIN OF PHILOSOPHY 1 23
logical sense was able to refect the negative knowledge
he wished to impart, although in Plato it had already lost
all connection with its intended content. The best proof
of this is the confict between Socrates and Plato for pos­
session of the name to designate the divergent profession
to which each was dedicated. The battle for this name
proves two things: frst, that by then the word was al­
ready imbued with a great attraction, and second, that its
meaning in the language was extremely vague-in other
words, the word barely denoted anything. Its meaning
consisted rather in saying nothing precise, and in fact the
only precise thing about it was its evasive meaning.
The name given to the philosophic profession would
have been markedly diferent had it not been chosen with
an eye to the "thinker's" social environment, but if the
tinker with utter spontaneity had chosen a word to ex­
press as accurately as possible what was transpiring per­
sonally within himself as he was philosophizing-hence,
a name of inner derivation. And in fact certain signs sug­
gest that for a time it seemed as though the word d'�9EU
(truth) might emerge as the name for philosophy. It was
not confned, as Plato indicated, to Protagoras' principal
work. Even more compelling is a certain discomfort to be
noted in Aristotle regarding the noun "philosophy," thus
impelling him to denominate "frst philosophy" which
he maintained constituted genuine philosophy. In actu­
ality, when he wished to diferentiate strictly between the
mode of thinking that he brought to the science of prin­
ciplesthat is, to prototypal science-and wanted to iso­
late it from other modes of thought that had been pursued
in Greece-poetry, Orphic cosmogonies and theologies,
"natural science"-he named the line of the coOoc�OavT£�
WEpt �� d'79E{a� (those who philosophized about tth) . u
This version, which is the usual one, makes no sense.
1 4· Met. 3, 983 b 3. He repeats it in 993 to 30.
1 2
4
THE ORIGI N OF PHILOSOPHY
Trth here does not mean any truth, but a type of radical,
steadfast truth attainable only through a given mode of
thought or a method. It designates simultaneously the re­
sult of the i nquiry and the intellectual manner for attain­
ing it. Now this was something ignored in ancient times.
It had been initiated merely a few generati ons before, and
hence in his Protreptikos he will speak more explicitly of
"the science [ qP01C] of that truth inaugurated by
Anaxagoras and Parmenides. "15 Time and again in Aris­
totelian writing 7€P� �< a>ta< (pertaining to truth)
signifes properly the name of a science, to be precise
philosophy in its strictest sense.
Although Aristotle believed that truth resi des in j udg­
ments, this residing must be conceived of as a mere lodg­
ing, for truth essentially is not the truth of a j udgment
but the truth of beings themselves or the beings in their
truth. Beings themselves do not appear in their truth,
which does not necessarily imply that their mode of ap­
pearance constitutes the error. It is simply not "true. " The
tuth of beings is inherently concealed and must be re­
vealed; it has to be discovered. The same thing happened
to the gods, though the latter revealed themselves of their
own free will and there was no means to control the
authenticity of their epiphany. Philosophy, in contrast,
appeared as a methodical procedure for obtaining revela­
tion-a'�(hta (trth) . If one wishes to use the term "lfe
experience" (vivencia) (ErZebnis) , this methodical reve­
lation was the underlying "Erlebnis" of the early philoso­
phers, and a'�{hta was hence the name that from thei
own inwardness, corresponded to their profession.
Now a further radical distinction must be made between
what philosophy is and what it is not if we are to com­
prehend how it originated and became diferentiated not
only from religion, but also from other modes of thinking.
1 5. Frag. 52.
HISTORICAL ORIGIN OF PHILOSOPHY I 25
That is, we must return t o that moment when Parmenides
began talking about something exceptionally strange,
which he called "being." How and why did such a sur­
prising adventure come about? People glibly repeat that
philosophy is a questioning of Being. As if questioning
oneself about such an irregular persona were the mos
natural thing in the world. This question must be exam­
ined a bit before one can talk about Being. It does not
seem likely that this is what men who had lost faith in te
gods and were discontent with CVUL� (nature) should set
out initially to seek. Perhaps Being at that time did not
instigate the primordial question. Perhaps Being was an
answer. When philosophy is said to be a questionng of
Being, the premise is that it is going to ty to discover te
constitutive attributes of Being or of "beings." This im­
plies however that one already has Being in front of him.
How did it come to exist in men's minds? Does it not
seem more likely that men, having lost the fundament
of their lives, questioned themselves about some X phe­
nomenon that would possess certain prior attributes
precisely the ones that j ustifed the quest?

JOSE

ORTEGA

Y

GASSET

THE ORIGIN OF PHILOSOPHY
AUTHORIZED TRANSLATION FROM THE SPANISH BY TOBY TALBOT

W·W·NORTON & COMPANY· INC· New York

COPYRIGHT

© 1967

BY

W.

W.

NORTON

II< COMPANY, INC.

First Edition

Library of Congress Catalog Card No.

67-11437

All rights reserved. Published simultaneously in Canada by George J. McLeod Limited, Toronto. Printed in the United States of America.
1234567890

Contents EDITORS' NOTE 7 1 2 THE PHILOSOPHICAL PAST 13 38 47 51 60 ASPECTS AND THE ENTIRETY 3 4 DIALECTICAL SERIES THE UNITY OF PHIWSOPHY 5 THE AUTHENTIC NAME 6 7 PHIWSOPHY EMBARKS ON THE DISCOVERY OF ANOTHER WORLD 66 7S 79 97 MAN'S PERMANENT POSSIBILITIES 8 9 10 THE ATTITUDE OF PARMENIDES AND HERACLITUS PHIWSOPHY AND A PERIOD OF FREEDOM THE HISTORICAL ORIGIN OF THE PROFESSION OF PHIWSOPHY 103 .

.

Ortega undertook the writing of an Epilogue to Julian Madas' History of Philosophy. that its 700! pages will be published shortly.. but with the title Epilogue to Julian Marias' History of Philosophy . I have been engaged in it for months. that I do not dare to venture great promises." In the summer of 1945. originally published in 1941. Toward the end of 1944. Ortega wrote to Madas: "The 'Epi­ logue' to your work will touch upon etymology and many other weighty topics. during his residence in Lisbon. i. But I do want you to know that I am up to my ears in your epilogue. is so problemati­ cal. And in 1946. Meanwhile the theme began to develop beyond its initial conception. On January 10. first in 7 . Everything nowadays though. all of which he wanted kept secret until the moment of its appearance. in June. I should like you however not to mention a word to anyone about it. Ortega announced to Madas that the epilogue would run to a 4oo-page volume. and hopefully the Epilogue will derive mutual benefit. the most important of his books. Ortega started giving a philosophy course in Lis­ bon. there are so many interferences to interrupt one's work. 1944. and on December 29 he again wrote to Madas: "The completed portion of the Epilogue will be included in it." Some months later.Edito rs' Note IN 1943. and naturally would be published separately from the History.e. and whose sec­ ond edition was currently in preparation. Ortega communicated to Marias his intention to detach a section from the Epilogue under the title The Origin of Philosophy.

but as Ortega points out in this book. Verlag. Februar 1953. Geburt­ stag am 23. . Piper & Co. the founding of the Institute de Humanidades." Despite the fact that this work was never concluded. .8 EDITORS ' NOTE Lisbon (0 Seculo. with no guarantee. April 13) and then in Madrid (ABC." a finished portion of Origin of Philosophy (in Oftener Horizont. This entire volume provides an example of historic rea­ son in operation on the central theme of the roots and his­ torical justification of philosophy. these writings constitute a decisive step in posing the problem of what philosophy is-its essential unity-in the same manner that historic reason is discovered through a retrospective contemplation of its total past and through the attempt to reconstruct the dramatic occasion of its origin." And he continues. however. "Festschrift fiir Karl Jaspers zum 70. under the title Stucke aus einer "Geburt der Philosophie. various other commit­ ments. April 26)." R. and The Origin of Philosophy . . One of the multiple tasks in which man has engaged is that of making philoso­ phy. I wish to suggest the possibility that what we are now beginning to engage in under the traditional aegis of philosophy is not another philosophy but something new and different from all philosophy. "Without attempting now to formalize an opinion on this matter. Epilogue . he announced-keeping the secret-among his works in preparation. His arrival in Spain. to which he always planned to return. of its perpetuation. In 1953 he published as an homage to Jaspers. Mu­ nich) . an occupation that has not been a permanent one for humanity. "came about one fine day in Greece and has indeed come down to us. and new works interrupted publication of the aforementioned writings.. lengthy trips.

Nihil invita Minerva [Nothing with Minerva unwilling] OLD LATIN SAYING. ACCORDING TO CICERO .

.

Th e Orig in of Philosop hy .

.

A statement is a kind of act. pre-existent texts. It would please me in this epilogue to avail myself of both these lessons. This act and habit 13 . a heretofore nonexistent one. however. Utmost sobriety was available to Marias since the doctrines expounded by him were exist­ ing doctrines. rendering us in the process two les­ sons: one in the history of philosophy. He has performed his j ob admirably.AN n NOW. Caprice signifies doing anything among the many things that can be done.1 Th e P h i losop h ica l Past ." Hence. although with regard to the latter. Its opposite is the act and habit of choosing from among many things precisely the one that demands to be done. I am unable to follow his ex­ ample completely. doctrines that had been previously devel­ oped and to which one could refer in various texts. is something that follows a logos-in this instance. Having committed myself. or doing. asceticism. the history of philosophy. WHAT? Julian Marias has presented us with an eventful film. I shall endeavor to perform it with a measure of brevity. philosophical doctrines or "statements. and scrupulous commitment to a didactically inspired task. and if possible. and the other in sobriety. and thus we can hardly refer to it in ampler. An epilogue. What is a reader to do upon concluding a history of philosophy? Caprice is to be avoided. This task I have undertaken at Marias' behest. it consists in the things one can say about things that have already been said-constituting thereby a fu­ turistic statement. with the clarity de­ manded by the intent of this book.

To remain in the past means to be dead. The fact that the term elegance is nowadays a most irritating one is its highest recom­ mendation. provides the realization that. The first thing is to cast a final retrospective gaze at the sweeping avenue of philo­ sophical doctrines. must con­ tinue. in which we cull the essence of the philosophical past. This term is possibly the origin of our word int-elligencia. In fact. The past comes to an end in the final chapter of Marias' text. Bound for where? The past borders on the future. one could practically say that the present is a mere pretext for the existence of the past and of the future. We do not remain upon the shore of the continent on which we now stand. the search for green pastures. but instead does what should be done and says what should be said. is a vessel with fragile walls. Elegant is the man who neither does nor says any old thing. though we might desire to do so. There is nothing equivocal about what one is to do after he finishes reading a history of philosophy. since the latter is the art of choosing the best conduct. In any event. it is impossible to remain there. it is the science of what has to be done. It is automatically presented to us. A retrospective glance. is such a tenuous line that it merely serves to j oin and unite them. and take leave of it. The present. Not one "philosophical system" among those for­ mulated appears adequately true to us.a by the Latins.14 THE ORIGIN OF PHILOSOPHY of choosing selectively was at first designated as eligent. the readers. With the final glance of travelers pursuing their inexorable destiny. Anyone who pre- . for the pres­ ent. and then elegantia. ele­ gance would have been an apter name for what we in­ stead awkwardly categorize as ethics. filled almost to the brim with memories and expectations. but we. we sum up the past. at least in man. evaluate it. which theoretically separates them. the juncture where both derive meaning.

At best. To my mind. a thought appears as though emerging from a previous one because it is simply an expansion of some­ thing implicit in the first. Hence a final backward gaze invariably incites in us an alternate forward one. however. Thoughts can be linked with evidence in two ways. Whereupon we say that the first thought implied the second. at the present juncture. to some of the multitudinous things encompassed by both of these gazes. we think of a nearly round obj ect of a given size. toward a philosophy yet to come. likewise a bit depressed in the equatorial zone-in short. but must. By the first. and according to recent findings. of course. This epilogue can merely serve to give expression. There is. slightly depressed around both polar regions. the reader has had a complete panoramic view of the philosophical past presented to him. only to someone fully conscious of what he is doing-is suffering an optical illusion. remove and add to it no small number of pieces. anyone who adopts a philosophy of the past does not leave it intact.THE PHILOSOPHICAL PAST 15 sumes to be able to settle into some bygone doctrine­ and I refer. we have no choice but to attempt to construct one of our own. in view of sub­ sequent philosophies. a spheroid. Should we desire to think of the body of the Earth. By the end of a history of philosophy. . This is analytic thought: a series of thoughts develops from an initial thought by virtue of progressive analysis. that is what demands to be said. in order to adopt it. another manner of connection evi­ dent between ideas. Unable to find lodging among the philosophies of the past. The history of the philosophical past catapults us into the still empty spaces of the future. This view initiates in any reader-pro­ viding he has not bogged down in the process but has retained his inner bearings--a dialectical series of thoughts. albeit ele­ mentary and speculative.

contemplating. we are compelled to recognize their mu­ tual "identification. a space that confines or situates it." This process is syn­ thetic or dialectic thought. however. Leibnitz-lmplication appeared to be the only evident connection between twO ideas. we think also of the space around it.THE ORIGIN OF PHILOSOPHY This alone. Now it is evident that the concept of the "surrounding space" was not included or implied in the concept "spheroid. in philosophic tradition-particularly the immediate one. And since. as will be suggested subsequently in this epilogue. It turns out. that it was not analytic thought or implication. however. namely. Yet in actuality we have no alternative. that is. His successors-Fichte. The connection between them is thus much stronger than in analytic thought. was most responsible for clarifying its nature. we juxtapose. The concept "spheroid" does not implicate. it complicates the concept "surrounding space. lest the for­ mer remain incomplete. By the latter method we may think about the concept implied in the antecedent. the space around the spher­ oid. and much remains yet to be done. or simultaneously think about. Husserl. is what we are interested in thinking about. he believed that synthetic thought was not evident. the first idea irresistibly imposes upon us the second. Nonetheless. that we are unable to think of this in isolation. Hegel-took into account the role of evidence." although there was no obligation to think about it." Nevertheless.1 In a dialectical series of thoughts. we are stilI on the threshold of the task of mastering it. This addition was unforeseen and unintentional. Kant "discovered" it and named it. it is serene and seemingly self-contained. Schelling. if we think of the spheroid. In synthetic thought. for upon thinking of this. and likewise our thinking on it. and once it is thought about. The first concept wants for naught. . I. but still remained unaware of its origin and mode of operation. each thought presents a complication and impels one on to the next thought. though prior to Kant no one had focused upon its peculiarity. then. who barely discussed synthetic thought. Philosophy of course has always practiced synthetic thought. only its negative aspect.

the dialectical series continues. he does not remain at peace. A somewhat analogous process occurs in chess: a player feels incapable of anticipating. halts. It is the very fact of the human condition. but we must. and consequently feel lost. velis nolis. The brute fact of having suspended it does not signify failure to realize the obvious urgency to pursue our thinking. two possible plays. Some stop sooner than others. and this is not merely a manner of speaking. however. then. he foresees the imminent threat of checkmate." for he always discovers that he has not thought anything out completely. Man genuinely has no recourse but to "continue thinking. This major fact does not clash with another minor one. each of an equal number of moves and each emerging from a given position of the pieces on the board. or simply differing capacities to pursue undeviat­ ingly and lucidly a lengthy chain of ideas account for our violent interruption of the dialectic series.THE PHILOSOPH ICAL PAST however. The dialectic is the obligation to continue thinking. to retrace in its principal phases . But other pressures in life. but it continues to bleed within us. but an actual reality. de facto. juxta­ pose another concept. Having decided to suspend anticipation of further moves. illness. on the contrary. does not mean that we did not have to continue thinking. he is in­ capable of greater effort. or else recognize that he might just as well not have thought at all. Although we stop. We might say in this instance that evidence of the connection between two concepts exists prior to any thought on the second. not only may we. is arrested. This. We cut it short. Yet. and ceases to think at a given point in a dialectical series. and the need to pur­ sue it is incumbent upon us. but must integrate it with what has already been thought. for it is that which impels us to the second. Let us endeavor. namely that each of us. without getting utterly confused.

is the countenance of the past.2 that too was their initial impression. 3. that by its formal recognition of the latter's invalidity. Aristotle continually reviews earlier doctrines. is that once the profession of philosophy exists formally.3 Hence the his2. Our first impression is that of a multitude of opinions on the same subj ect. it identified itself as another philosophy. and by stopping there. and by their contradiction they are mu­ tually incriminatory of error. from all prior ones. Nothing seemingly would be more "natural" in the history of philosophy than if now and then some appeared that bore no precedent to others. in the nature of multitudes. and further." Ruin. but that were spontaneous and a nihilo. not from an historical viewpoint. The philosophical past thus strikes us at first glance as a congeries of errors. But . Hence Agrippa's famous trope or argu­ ment against the possibility of attaining truth: the "dis­ sonance of opinions"-diafonia ton doxon. some opinions contradict others. Historical perspective perhaps is evinced in Aristotle only in his reference to certain philosophers as "the ancients"-hoi palaioi-and his observation that they are still amateurs-apeiria. in fact. maintained that "when turning our gaze to the past the first thing we observe is ruins.THE ORIGIN OF PHILOSOPHY the dialectical series of ideas automatically released in us by a retrospective view of the philosophical past. referring more generally to all of human life. Thence the past is viewed as error. but all emerge from their predecessors. for a read­ ing of history reveals how each new philosophy began with a denunciation of its predecessor. Hegel. and-after a certain point-one can say. Systems ap­ pear as aborted attempts to construct the edifice of truth. by not continuing their thinking. skep­ ticism was born. Noteworthy is the fact that we are not the ones to dis­ cover the breach of error in bygone doctrines. When the Greeks paused in their creative trajectory of doctrines to cast their first retrospective glance of pure historical contemplation. no philosophy appears to begin anew. One fact that ought to be more startling to us than it ordi­ narily is. but as if they were contemporary opinions that must be taken into account.

but in a manner of speaking. l . if I may rightly thus refer to human opin­ ion and reasoning. of the baroque style. It repre­ sents an effort to construct doctrine after doctrine." We said earlier that each philosophy sets out by revealing the errors of its predecessor or predeces­ sors and that in so doing it is another philosophy. bringing ruin upon itself. Thus it is not merely the abstract fact of "dissonance" that makes us view the past as error. an effort to eliminate preceding errors this has never happened. particularly in relation to our present com­ ments on the force of the dialectical process and to other state­ ments that will follow regarding hilosophy as tradition. This would be senseless if each philosophy were not formally. the manner in which Western man expressed himself in every order of life between 1550 and 1700: "When I reflect upon this turbulent sea. unintentionally. 4. for Quincuageszma Sunday. though once each is constructed it is beheaded by its successor. then. thought the first one through "completely."4 In the dialectical series. SECOND THOUGHT We have not. and time is strewn with corpses.THE PHILOSOPHICAL PAST tory of philosophy is simultaneously an exposition of sys­ tems and. Sermon on the Law of Go . by the way. discrediting itself. whereas the reverse has. This awesome experience of failure is perfectly expressed in the following passage by Bossuet-an outstanding ex­ ample. a critique of them. This bears emphasis. to a great extent. however. I find it impossible in so vast a realm to corne upon any secure shelter or tranquil retreat that has not been memorialized already by the shipwreck of some celebrated navigator. One can seek no refuge in it. it is the past itself that is daily committing suicide. in some dimension. this is the first thought: The history of philosophy prima facie reveals the past to us as a defunct world of errors.

THIRD THOUGHT We are currently accustomed to regard truth as some­ thing quite unattainable. to the extent that when reading the history of philosophy he is taken aback by the Greeks' tenacious efforts to explain the possibility of error.20 THE ORIGIN OF P H I LOSOP HY -which provides us with a sudden illumination and dis­ closes a second aspect of the past. despite their nature and precisely because of it. That error exists seems the most "natural" thing in the world to him. And so on successively. as time moves on. One might say that this habituation to the existence of error. He does not question its existence. Each philosophy profits from the mistakes of previous ones and is born. but now the errors. we are prone to think of error as being overly likely. the past appears to us as an arsenal and a trea­ sury of errors. contemporary man confronts the existence of error lightly. This attitude is reasonable. as to a domestic obj ect. are trans­ formed into involuntary instruments of the truth. Si­ multaneously. whereas by its second aspect. therefore. He accepts it without further ado. which is less salutary. at least. secure a limine that it. In its initial aspect. error possessed a purely negative dimension. philosophy accumulates in its saddle bag a collection of recognized errors. We continue to see it as consistently committing errors. The shipwrecks that Bossuet spoke about are per­ petuated in the guise of buoys and beacons that provide warning of reefs and sand bars. In this second aspect. errors as such acquire a positive facet. will not fall prey to those same errors. which ipso facto are transformed into truth-seek­ ing aids. In this manner. Paradoxically. however. is the same thing as con- . The history of philosophy can now be likened to a scalded cat fleeing the house in which it was burned.

sense­ lessly. meant simply abandoning oneself from one moment to the next." hence our be5. Editorial Revista de Occidente. This denigration. (Madrid." Innumerable events have hitherto prevented me from publishing the book which. Inc. The existence of language is. indicative of megalomania." precisely because "they did not question anything".THE PH ILOSOPH ICAL PAST 21 temporary man's innate skepticism. should develop my entire social doctrine. under the title "Man and People. Translated in English as Man and People (New York.5 The word "skepticism" is a technical term coined in Greece at the summit of Greek intelligence. W. that is. Anything is called skepticism! As if skepticism could be an innate state of mind. like almost every­ thing in language. in opposition to which others seemed "unquestionable. but in its most radical essence. known as lan­ guage. Believing in something assumes an active nonbelieving in other things. I fear. and. it does not refer simply to people who "did not believe in anything. was at a lecture delivered in Valladolid in 1934. mighty and base. Usage is the social fact par excellence. W. is produced mechanically. senseless. It is everything human dehu­ manized. It designated certain dreadful men who denied the possi­ bility of truth. [EI hombre y la gente. under that same title. Hence. Norton & Co.. which in turn implies having questioned many things. indeed. and society is. not accidentally. or bestowed upon someone with no prior effort on his part! The blame for this rests upon that force. in a way. the basis of a new sociology." At all times and in all places numer­ ous men have existed who "did not believe in anything.." and transformed into a mere mechanisrn. a continual denigration of words. a primordial and basic illusion of man. The first time I publicly expounded this notion of society. 1 963 ). however. liv­ ing. without any inner response or posi­ tion in the face of any dilemma. 1 957). both delightful and repellent. Language is a usage. that such a statement may in turn be equally frivolous.] . for them. "despiritualized.

22

THE ORIGIN O F PHILOSOPHY

lief in them. This explains why I speak in quotes about the sort of person who now exists and always has-the individual who "doesn't believe in anything." I wish thereby to indicate the inadequacy of so qualifying his state of mind, inasmuch as genuine nonbelief does not occur in him. Such an individual neither believes nor fails to believe. He is outside of all such matters; he does not "engage" reality or nothingness. He exists in a lifelong state of somnolence. Things neither exist nor nonexist for him and therefore he does not feel the brunt of either belief or disbelief in them.6 This temperament of stupor toward life is nowadays classified as "skepticism" through a debasement of the word. A Greek would be unable to understand this current use of the word, for the designa­ tion "sceptics"-skepticoi-for him, applied to terrifying men. Terrifying not because they "didn't believe in any­ thing"-that was their business! -but because they would not allow one to live; they descended upon one and up­ rooted one's belief in the things that seemed most true, instilling in one's head, as though with gleaming surgical instruments, a series of tight, rigorous, inescapable argu­ ments. All of which implied that those men had previously performed upon their own living flesh, without anes­ thetic, the same operation-they had conscientiously made themselves "nonbelievers." And even prior to engaging in this, they had stubbornly driven themselves to create the sharp instruments, those "arguments against the truth" that they employed in their task of amputation. The word reveals the Greek view of the skeptic: a figure diamet­ rically opposed to the somnolent type of individual who
6. Man, of course, always stands amid countless elemental beliefs, the major portion of which he is unaware. With respect to this, see my study Ideas y Creencias [Ideas and Beliefs, Vol. V). The theme of nonbelief, which the above text touches upon, is discussed on the level of patent human affairs, upon which men speak and argue.

THE PH ILOSOP HICAL PAST

abandons himself and allows himself to be carried along by life. They called him an "investigator," but since this term, too, has deteriorated in form, let us say, to be more exact, that they called him a "seeker." The philosopher at that early date was a man of extraordinary mental and moral energy. The skeptic, however, was even more so, for whereas the former exhausted himself in the quest for the truth, the latter was not content with that alone ; he went further, he continued thinking and analyzing the truth until it was proven invalid. Thus, along with the basic meaning of "seeker," the Greek word has traces of such connotations as "hyperactive person," "heroic," and to a considerable degree, "sinister hero," "indefati­ gable," and hence, "fatiguing," someone with whom one "can do nothing." He was the human drill. Note that the term "skeptic" only later became a classification for a philosophical school, a doctrine-the first semantic debase­ ment of the term.7 Originally it signified the vocational,
7. The reason for this: One who is a skeptic in accordance with some mode, because he belongs to a school, is such as a recipient, and not as a result of his own creation; hence he is a "secondary," habitualized skeptic, or to some extent deficient and inauthentic. Likewise, and for similar though not identical reasons, the word is gradually losing significant vigor. Traditional linguistics recognizes the phenomena in its most external manifestation and speaks of strong and weak words, and even with respect to a word of the varying degree of strength, weakness, "emptiness" (Chinese gram­ mar), etc., in its meaning. Clearly, however, if language on the one hand represents a degeneration of words, it must necessarily constitute in addition a marvelous generative force. A word sud­ denly becomes charged with a meaning that it conveys to us with a plasticity, relief, clarity, suggestiveness, or, one may deign to call it, a superlative force. Without any effort on our part to vitalize its meaning, it discharges its semantic charge upon us like a spark of electricity. I call this "the word in due form," which acts as an incessant revelation. It is perfectly feasible to go through the dictionary and take the pulse of semantic energy of each word at a given date. The classic comparison of words with currency is legitimate and fruitful. The reason for their similarity is identical: usage. Linguists could profitably inquire into this topic. Not only

TH E ORIGIN OF PH ILOSOPH Y

incoercible calling of certain particular individuals, a here­ tofore unheard of and never practiced profession, and hence one without an established name, one that had to be named by what they were seen doing: seeking or "scrutinizing" truths, that is, subjecting truths to further scrutiny than other people, questioning things beyond the point where philosophers believe that through their effort they are unquestionable. Clearly, then, the true skeptic, unlike contemporary man, is not inherently endowed with his skepticism. His doubt is not a "state of mind," but something acquired, the result of a process as laborious as the most compressed dogmatic philosophy. In the generations before our own-let us not at the moment pinpoint exactly when or why-a decline oc­ curred in what Plato called the "quest for Being," or for truth. Although there has existed a vast and fertile curios­ ity-hence the expansion and exquisite refinement in the sciences---a surging impulse toward clarification on fun­ damental problems is now notably lacking. One of these problems is that of truth and its correlate, authentic Reality. The aforementioned generations luxuriated in the progressive miracle of the natural sciences, which ter­ minate in techniques. They allowed themselves to be transported by train and automobile. Note, however, in passing, that since 1880 Western man has not possessed one governing philosophy. Positivism was the last. Since then only a particular individual, or a particular limited social group, are possessors of a philosophy. Indubitably
would they disclose many interesting facts-these they already possess-but also some new and heretofore undisclosed linguistic categories. For some time-despite the fact that I know next to nothing about linguistics-I have attempted, tangentially, to remark upon the accomplishments and shortcomings of language; for although I am not a linguist, I have certain things to say that perhaps are not utterly trivial.

al­ though the phonetics of the word would seem to promise no less awesome a spectacle.THE PHILOSOPHI CAL PAST 25 since 1800 philosophy has progressively ceased to be a component of general culture and hence a present his­ torical factor. The impossibility of an absolute error need merely be suggested. Moreover. This same asthenia in attacking the problem of truth is what also prevents us from viewing error as a formidable problem. In its second aspect. he did not "continue thinking. In the final analysis it is revealed to be an error not because it was untrue. So inconceivable is the latter that it thrusts us headlong into another dreadful enigma : senselessness. The problems of error and of de­ mentia are mutually intertwined. since at the outset it was believed to be a truth. And if we analyze more closely the nature of the "refutation"-as they say in the seminaries employing this ghastly term-that one philosophy exerts upon its predecessor. The earlier philosopher stopped prematurely in the dialectical series of his thoughts." The fact is that . but with that in mind we must realize that we have carried our thinking about the concept of the "precious error." the error transmuted into positive and fertile magnitude. The error must contain some element of truth. it was proven an error as the result of detection. This makes it evident that it contained no small measure of truth if it was able to substitute for it so well. the philosophical past appears as an arsenal and treasury of errors. Only the individual who is in a position to question things with precision and urgency-whether they defi­ nitely exist or not-is able to experience genuine belief and disbelief. only half-way. it is apparent that the process is not at all similar to an electrocution. It is impossible for a philosophy to be an absolute error. Never before in Europe's history has this happened. but because it was not true enough.

but because they are surpassed by other more complex ones. It disappears because it is assimilated into another more complete one. and thereafter men had to go about picking up the pieces one by one and putting them together. the Hegelian dialectic should not be thought of in connection with my foregoing and future discussion of the "dialectical series. a term I translate as "absorption. In Hegel. apprehends it. the received thesis does not remain exactly as it was in the old. In the new system. receives the accomplished labor. reason was broken into bits.26 T H E ORIGIN O F PHILOSOPHY his successor utilizes the former doctrine. and by applying fresh vigor. Let us recognize that the defective idea. and simply avoids the mistake of stopping there. is what Hegel called Aufhebung. "Absorption" is such an evident and repeated phenomenon that it leaves no room open for doubt. however. leaving no trace. Simmel talks about a "broken-plate society" 8. . or as is usually said.l�ow the mask has been removed and we view errors as incomplete partial truths. Likewise. The aspect of e�'ror as it prima facie appears to us turns out to be a mask ." hence. it is completed. portions of truth. convicted of error. without any exertion. and as such is unre­ lated to the foregoing statements. it is in addition an integral thesis of his entire system. disappears within the new intellectual creation. not through annihilation. is able to employ it as a point of departure and advance still further. "they are partially true. The process is clear: The earlier philosopher exerted himself to reach a particular point-like the aforementioned struggling chess player­ whereas his successor." ." The absorbed element disappears into the absorber and thereby is simultaneously abolished and preserved. You might say that before men began to think. Thus it is actually a new and different idea from the original criticized and subsequently incorporated one. This adventure of ideas that die.s This brings us to a third aspect of the philosophical past. incorporates it into his new repertory of ideas.

In our present philosophical conduct and in the doctrine produced thereby. each one agreeing to surrender his piece to one of his friends upon his death. where one can pursue that path no further. as it were. would themselves remain at that point and be. It is obligatory to try a different one. FOURTH THOUGHT The philosopher who lived for twenty-five hundred years can be said to exist. A point is reached. with respect to Reality. must be undergone. but with a change of direction. the predecessor. however. Each of them is a "path" or "road"-methodos-whereby a segment of the truth is traversed and one of its aspects contemplated. In this manner the fragments grad­ ually fell into the hands of the last survivor. Some friends at the conclusion of a commemorative din­ ner decided to break a plate and to divide the pieces." the successors would have had to un­ dergo them. This is tantamount to . For that-for it to be different-one must bear its predecessor in mind. it is a continua­ tion of the former." According to this third aspect. the succession of philosophers appears as one single philosopher who lived for twenty-five hundred years dur­ ing which he "continued thinking. who was able to reconstruct the plate.THE PH ILOSOPH I CAL PAST that existed in Germany at the end of the last century. From this view­ point. the philosophical past is revealed to us as a vast melody of intellectual experiences through which man has been passing. If previous philosophers had not undergone those "experi­ ences in thought. and hence. Those insufficient or partial truths are experiences in thought that. we view and take into con­ sideration a substantial portion of previous thought on themes relating to our discipline. in this sense. he is the present-day philoso­ pher.

richness. dimension. When we first comprehend philosophy. The philoso­ pher always sees them. though possibly not clearly. the former. Moreover. we are struck by the truth it contains and reflects--t hat is. it absorbs. it would strike us then and there as the very truth. and possibly an entire older system will appear in the more modern one in the guise of merely a stump or rudiment. consciously. This nonetheless does not nullify and invalidate the first impression. Hence the study of each philosophy. one can discern in vague outline. even for someone expert in such encounters. the germs of many subsequent ideas--if one takes into account the degree of explicitness. the archaic doctrine remains true "for the moment"-under­ standing truth to be something that takes place in the mental itinerary toward a more complete one. Each philosophy contains elements of the others. like the necessary steps in a dialectical serks. there is no philosophy that does not contain them all. If one feels that this can- . were we for the moment unfamiliar with other philosophies. The radical problems are inexorably linked to one another and departure from any one leads to the other. is an unforgettable illumination. 'fhe presence of these elements will be evident to a greater or lesser degree. that they persist and survive in our own philosophy. the reverse also obtains: If a prior philosophy is examined. The latter arrival is more complete because it includes. Subse­ quent consideration leads to rectification: such and such a philosophy is not valid. This is patently and incontestably so. and still incomplete embodiment. and connectedly. This can not help being so. and distinction typical of the times when the antiquated philosophy was conceived. but another is. Since the problems of philosophy are radical problems. if a past philosophy is compared with its predecessors.T H E ORIGIN OF P H I LOSOPHY declaring that past philosophies are our collaborators.

but a road that in the process winds upon itself.. however. all philosophies have a very good mutual understanding of one another: they constitute a conversation that has lasted for nearly three milleniums. This brings us to a fourth aspect of the philosophical past. The efficacy of old ideas is perpetually re­ stored in us and becomes everlasting. Instead of imagining the philosophical past as a line stretched horizontally in time. Now. if you prefer another image. a perpetual dialogue and dispute held in a common tongue. weighing upon us and upon the present. contrary to what the layman believes. the new aspect compels us to imagine it as a vertical line. The past was thus pro­ vided with an affirmation. and becomes a load on the traveler's back-it is transformed from a road into luggage. Hence. we realize that those formed experiences must be continually reconstructed. The previous aspc'.THE P H I LOSOPHICAL PAST 29 not properly be called seeing. one may call it blindly sensing. Or. but finally dead. because the past continues to operate. one can view philosophizing hu­ manity as a long. however. albeit with the benefit of having been received ready-made. It remained. namely the philo­ sophical viewpoint itself and the perennial existence of the same difficult problems. Thus we do not leave them behind. long road that must be traversed century after century. This process of the philosophical past is simply one . a justification.t allowed us to regard the melody of intellectual experiences through which man must pass in confronting certain themes. Our philosophy is what it is because it finds itself mounted upon the shoulders of its predecessors-like "the human tower" number per­ formed in the circus by a family of acrobats. but our present philosophy is in great part the current resuscitation of all the yesterdays of philosophy. where it was-in the realm of what has been. It was an archeological view. Embalmed.

we also possessed the future. at eternity-thus do we resemble. is precisely what is problematic. verb con­ . In modern times a great step forward has been made in the ability • Pasado (the past) in Spanish finds its counterpart in the pasar (to hap pen) and repasar (to review) . he enables that which once was to subsist within "in the form of what has been. to some small degree.THE ORIGIN OF PHILOSOPHY example of what happens with all the human past. we do not p ossess it except in the measure in which we predict it. If. unsure. which is "being in the form of having been. the past is obliterated. Other things do not possess it because they are only a consequence of the past: cause and effect are left behind." see my study History as a System [ Complete Works. The future. God. in like sense. Man. with much less cause. 10. V ol . nevertheless. though. preserves it within himself. its preservation (the quality that is most specifically human is not so-called intellect. VIJ. VI] ."11 This possession of the past. See my Prologue to the Count of Yebes book [Complete Works. The historical past is not past simply because it is not now in the present-that would be an extrinsic charac­ terization-but because it has passed or happened to other men whom we remember.-Trans. to prophesy. 9. though not solely in the past. Vol. Regarding this category of historical reason. but "felicitous memory" ) . he accumulates it. our lives would be a total imitation of eternity-as Plato held. making the entire cept linguistically compact. Hence man's perpetual urge to divine. that which can or cannot be. for possession of the past in the present is one of the characteristics of eternity.· Man is the only being who is a product of the past. and consequently it keeps happening to us in our continual repassing or reviewing of it. with respect to time itself. however. but an attempt.l0 is equivalent to a modest attempt. who consists in the past.

LVI. it signifies remembering and foreseeing." For being eternal does not mean enduring. De Divinatione i. fatiguing. and accuracy. which I have anticipated for years. and say whether it is not the definition of physical sci­ ence. Self-eternalization however is the opposite. and continuing to exist in the future. is content with "keeping up appearances"-Ta <I>atvop. vigor. in­ stead of maneuvering around the bull he succeeded in getting the bull to maneuver around him. he has also attained greater possession of his past. In a sense it accomplishes with time what Belmonte accomplished with bulls.wu u'. since it signifies that one has had to span alJ of time. everlasting being-a task that is. and display astounding scope." I believe. XLIX (I quote from the Didot edition because I have none other at my disposal).THE PHILOSOPHICAL PAST 31 to predict: natural science rigorously predicts many fu­ ture events. but allowing the past and future to attain the present and occupy it. insofar as one can concretely presume. or having existed in the past. man will probably engage in assimilating the past with unpar­ alleled zeal and urgency. Meanwhile. does not appear until I. It is curious to note that the Greeks did not qualify as knowledge sensu stricto an intellectual method such as our physical science which. and hence "eternalize" himself more in that dimension. it means not moving from the present. That is simply self­ perpetuation. Man is thus now on the brink of increasing his measure of "eternity." Consult Cicero's treatise De Divinatione for a definition of the latter. II. ."ftv-but they did end up calling it an "ingenious devination. the dawn of historical reason. taken probably from Posidonius. The pity is that the bull of Time.!1 Man is able to predict more and more of the future. The term "ingenious divination. I call this phenomenon. according to them. existing in the present. finally. When the present conflicts come to an end.

" even that which is actually possible. The dialectical series we have pursued is not. retro­ gression. a chain of arbitrary thoughts that are justifiable only on a personal basis. so a thinker finds that a series of mental steps are imposed upon him. it is to the advantage of each to unite and j oin hands. Man's "eternity. and even vanishment. that those portions of truth are inte­ grated by being resuscitated in contemporary philosophy. This retrospection of ours makes it evident that it is a matter of indifference whether the philosophical past is designed as an accumulation of errors or an accumulation of truths. but they consti­ tute the mental itinerary anyone must pursue who sets out to reflect upon the reality: "the philosophical past. and finally. We thereupon realize that this would be impossible if said mistake were not partially true. and the evo­ lution of science is ever threatened by involution. No one has assured us that the scientific spirit will persist in mankind." It is not arbitrary. is only probable. Just as a physicist finds that in a normal experiment things happen in a determined way. the first thing that is noticed is the multitude of contradictory opinions-and hence erroneous ones-whereupon we realize how each philosophy evades the mistake incurred by its precursor and thus profits from it. Each of the two judgments is partial. because in fact it contains elements of both. in its thematic points. Man must always tell himself what the fifteenth-century Burgundian gentleman chose as a motto: Rien ne m'est sur que la chose incertain-the only thing I am certain of is uncertainty.T H E ORIGIN OF P H I LOSOPH Y always ends up horning the man who strives to become eternal. His concentration or detainment at particular junctures may . nor are we responsible for the fact that in departing from its totality. that repetition in a modern laboratory produces the same result. and instead of fight­ ing each other.

THE PHILOSOPHICAL PAST

33

vary, but all are stations a t which his intellect will pause momentarily. As we shall see, the function of intellect is to pause, and therefore to detain the reality that confronts man. In the process of following the series, the time ex­ pended will vary depending upon one's abilities, physical bent, climatic conditions, and state of repose or disquiet.12 The adroit mind generally covers an elementary dialec­ tical series, such as the one here expounded, with utmost speed. This skill is born of training, and is neither more nor less mysterious than gymnastics or "memory train­ ing." Anyone can be a philosopher if he wants to-as­ suming he is willing to make the eifort, and in fact, wealth acts almost as a greater detriment than poverty.13 With the realization that the philosophical past is, in reality, indifferent to its aspect of error and to its aspect of truth, we ought in our behavior to abandon neither, but to inte­ grate both. A truth, if it is not complete, is something with which one cannot remain-where one cannot stay or stand. Re­ call the initial example of the spheroid and the space around it. No sooner does one dwell upon the former
12. I shall utilize this occasion to insert a pedagogical interpola­ tion directed to inexperienced young individuals-young signify­ ing that one is professionally inexperienced. It is very likely that such a reader may react to my foregoing statements in the follow­ ing way: "This is all self-evident and trivial. We all know that every day is not the same. Therefore, the writer in saying this and in heaping up expressions that amount to the same thing-that is, 'how one feels'-is indulging in 'rhetoric.' In any event, none of this represents a philosophical problem." To which I must reply that when he reaches p . . . (indication that the page is blank in the manuscript, and that apparently the author never got to write it) let him recall this reactIon of his, for he will thereupon receive a choc that is extremely useful in learning how to read philo­ sophical texts. 13. Cf. my essay Man and Crisis, concerning how wealth and the superabundance of possessions are the causes of great and sometimes horrendous historical crises [Complete Works, Vol. V ] .

34

THE ORIG IN OF PHILOSOPHY

than he is forced into thinking about the "space around it." Hence, the common expression "X stands mistaken" has great intrinsic meaning, if we care to note it. Implicit in it is the suggestion that error is precisely "a state where one cannot stand."14 If one could stand mistaken there would be no sense in pursuing the truth. And in fact our language employs another related expression, which re­ veals something implicit in the former one: "X has fallen into the same mistake as . . . " Hence, being mistaken means falling-the very opposite of "standing." In other instances this problematical "standing" in error is given a bias, always a negative and moral one; not only does it represent a fall but "an error is committed . . . ," thereby placing the responsibility for the fall upon the one who has fallen. Since past truths15 are incomplete one cannot stand or rest on them, and fOT that reason alone, they are errors. If there are errors of another sort-that is, errors that are simply errors, whose error does not consist sheerly in their fragmentary nature but in their content and sub­ stance-that is a topic which at present need not be elab­ orated. Let us interrupt this dialectical series not because, strictly speaking, it ought not to be pursued, but because the occasion of this epilogue does not allow for further
14. To clarify: Inherent in th i s expression is a reprobative in­ tention . X does something that for one reason or other cannot be done-he stands mistaken. This pertains to a class of expressions such as-X is a traitor, Y tells lies, Z confuses things-which, though affirmative gramatically, state negative concepts. The nega­ tion is stated in the predicate, which is also affirmative in gram­ matical form, although the speaker clearly and admittedly recognizes that it un q uestionably constitutes a negative reality. 15. To speak about "past truth" seemingly indicates that truth has a date attached to it, that it dates, whereas truth has always been defined as something apart from time. We shall subsequently explore this further, but for the present I merely wish to advise the reader that this is not a verbal lapsus and that if it is a crime it is not unpremeditated.

THE PH ILOSOP H I CAL PAST

35

elaboration, and enough has been said already. According to the foregoing, however, is error not the interruption of a dialectical series, the failure to "continue thinking"? This would be true, were we to consider the foregoing as complete; but what we are doing is simply deciding that it is adequate for the present scope and pertinence of our subject. Obviously everything in the preceding series, as well as in our initial backward glance, was simply an attempt at a broad macrocosm. Clearly, countless things remain to be said in the direction of that thought. In addition to which, the foregoing statements are ele­ mentary-and elementary things are invariably the most crude and gross, though they must be stated and cannot justifiably be omitted.16
16. Neither my allotted space nor the didactic aim of this book permit me to expand more freely on this subj ect. As I speak, I can imagine some readers who are not too skilled yet in the ways of philosophy. To facilitate their task I have provided this first dialectical series with a form and even a certain typographical relief that underscores the stages of thought as it advances in its progressive complication or synthesis. In the remaining pages I shall abandon such a procedure in order to progress more rapidly, tacitly assuming that the reader will understand and provide many of the intermediary steps. Whenever possible, however, it is desirable to spare readers the demoralizing annoyance resulting from intimations that certain things of greater interest and substance have remained unformu­ lated, failing to provide the reader with any concrete notion of what is being withheld. Since this, in turn, is impractical in most instances, without incurring a hermetic manner of expression­ one compounded of laconism and technicality-only now and then and by way of example is there space to enumerate specific topics that were not touched upon. The reader thereby gains confidence in a writer, trusts him, and is convinced that intimations of latent profundities and postponed rigorisms are actualities. In short, it is to the advantage of both reader and author that the latter's silence not be open to misinterpretation, or to the accusation of vacuous­ ness, but that it be even clearer than the things he says. With this in mind I am herewith enumerating a few of the many topics that the series begun in this chapter would eventually encounter were it to continue. I shall mention those that lend

this means that all of philosophy. what analagous profession existed among men? If philosophy is. is historical. Why in each period does philosophy stop at a particular point? 5. is the kind familiar since the days of Aristotle and recognizable ever since as the opposite of historicity-the in­ variable. Have certain experiences been absent from the melody of intellectual experiences comprised by the philosophical past? This for me would be of particular significance insofar as the reader would then realize that the statements in this text do not pre­ suppose the historical process of philosophy to be "the way it should have been. But since everything that exists must be concrete it reason exists. after a brief reflection on what we have just done. authentic reason. The traditional concept of reason is abstract. even of an empirical nature. moreover. by its concrete circumstance." that which "it should have been. we are going to begin another dialectical series whose point of departure will be the same (the philosophic past) but whose route will be different. important omissions. that which it "had to be. Why did philosophy begin. utopian. gaps.THE ORIG I N OF PHILOSOPHY On the other hand. According to Hegel. and when and where did it begin? 3. the solution of which would demand lengthy investigations. imprecise. Before philosophy began." the fact is that reason. which would not be philosophy. the his­ torical process-the human one in general and the philosophical one specifically-has been perfect. 2. is "rational"­ though one clearly understands that this "rationality" (which he believes history to possess) is not historical "reason. Did this beginning." History. which will yield us an important onto­ logical theorem. open problems." but with slight modification." that it is free from imperfections. etc. ballast philosophy with millenary limitations from which it must free Itself? 4. I shall have more to say on this inomissible subject further on. it is imperative to invert Hegel's formula and maintain that rather than history being "rational." I. with facts and "data. from its onset to the present." See this author's History as a System [ 1935] and his early formu- . the "eternal. themselves to brief statement and can be understood without special preparation and are. he maintains. would appear as merely one member of a "dialectical" series of much greater breadth than it is." In my opinion. serious defects. and unchronological. it will have to be "concrete reason. in its turn. merely one step taken by thought upon the heels of another.

lations of the idea.THE P H I LOSO P H I CAL PAST 37 and People. III. V. 1939l and in my Prologue to Veinte A fios de Caza Mayor by the Count of Yebes [ I 943 l ( Complete Works. Something o n the historicity of reason appears in Being in One's Self and Being Beside One's Self [Buenos Aires. II. The Modern Theme [ 1 923 l . Vols. The essay Being in One's Self and B eing Beside One's Self forms Chapter I of Man . and VI) .

He will note that what he actually observed of the wall during the second interval does not coincide exactly with what was seen initially. but com­ pelled us to mobilize. and likewise from one "idea" to an­ other. we would have been content with one-the first. But specks. at first unseen.2 As pects a nd th e E ntirety IF FOR THE TIME BEING we suspend our interest in the philosophical past and reflect instead upon the process undertaken in developing the foregoing dialectical series. shapes. though unperceived. though one has the impression that they were there all along. to shuttle back and forth from one aspect to the other. the reality confronting us­ the philosophical past-would not allow this. However." By choice. If the reader turns his eyes to the surface of a table. This is not because the wall itself has changed during this brief period. shadings of color. or an idea of a thing. slight spots. It would have been the most convenient. The past appeared to us under different aspects. Who is to blame for the inevitable labor imposed upon us-the thing itself or our own minds? Let us see. are at second glance revealed ( "revealed" being employed here in its photographic sense) . Were the reader to feel compelled-and this is nearly impossible38 . or to the wall that is now perhaps in front of him. and if he persists awhile in this ocular inspection. In fact these appear abruptly. he will notice something both trivial and strange. or even to this page. each of which was formulated by us into what is generally referred to as "a notion. little cracks. we can arrive at an important generalization.

it is our eye that has moved. unforgettable experience-what Goethe referred to as a "Protophenomenon"-and to it I literally owe an entire dimension of my doctrine: namely. For an intimation of this. The obj ect. even if our eye had not wandered. This scene would be repro­ duced indefinitely if he continued to gaze at the wall indefinitely. for me. makes our attention wander. Vol. allowed fresh aspects of itself to escape. the latter. However. that the thing is the master Of the man-a statement of much graver import than can be fully surmised here. In the first moment.ASPECTS AND THE ENTIRETY 39 to conceptualize. guiding the eyes so as to reveal the marvelous structure and the incredible geometrical. what he saw at each interval. in the second upon others. however. that is to verbalize. This is at times a compelling phenomenon of paradig­ matic value. see my essay "Hegel's Philosophy of History and Historiography. the leaf attracts one's gaze. wounded to the core. the wall. And with each glance cast by the eye. was an un­ premeditated. in this instance. architectural grace fonned by the countless tiny nerves. we would have focused upon certain components. too. . This. at first one sees only its general outline and then the leaf itself." 1928 [ Complete Works. he would realize that the two fonnulas or con­ cepts of the wall differed. add here that I have never concluded looking at a leaf. then upon another. If one takes a little leaf from a tree and gazes at it persistently. and each time we focused anew. sketching one's itinerary over the surface. remained still. because the wall. the wall would have responded with another countenance. pro­ pelling it. would keep issuing forth unsuspected contents in a never-ending process of self-revelation. the same thing would have happened. IV] . directing its visual axis first upon one section.1 I must. A clearer example is perhaps offered us in looking at an I. like an inexhaustible spring of reality.

one hemi­ sphere (approximately) . generally known as "discursive. This perusal assumes that one has time. causing us displacement and effort."2 that is. This. step by step. compels us to traverse reality. At each step. making stops. Obviously. and up to now mankind has had only one million years at its disposal. the thing so vehe­ mently demands to be seen in its entirety that we are impelled and literally forced to revolve around it. a perfect analogy to the dialectical series. If we were ubiquitous and could see it simultaneously from all van­ tage points. Our shifting motion around the orange in order to keep seeing it would present. At first we see only one of its faces. and on the other. We would see it in its totality at one glance. One may claim that time could have been 2 . though. In this instance. Hence "views" of Reality have not been extremely abun­ dant to date. At each step. whereas each individual has but little. which has already disappeared. the intellectual sensu stricto. the correlative "aspects" of the thing. or reality. Hence we are also the cause of our effort. if the process were not silent.THE ORI G I N OF PHILOSOPHY orange. is not the proper place to delve into the question. on the one hand. the "concepts" or "notions" or "ideas" . is directly responsible for making us pass on from one aspect to another. . the orange would not possess "different as­ pects" for us. moving by fits and starts. we obtain one "view" of it and these views are. and then we must move in order to see successive hemispheres. The quality of our thinking. but must be content with successive views. with the result that we never see the orange all at once. The term is confusing because thinking has an intuitive aspect and also a "logical" or conceptual aspect. however. the appear­ ance of the orange is different. the intuitive. but connected to its prede­ cessor. this occurs because at any given moment we are able to study it only from one vantage point. There is no doubt that the orange.

IV. although to direct this would necessitate. determining first why history wastes so much time. These views are simultaneous "aspects of the thing. its ritardando and its accelerando. Furthermore. compact example of the literal truth of the fore­ going statement.3 True. will judge petulantly that all of this is merely a play on words. its adagio and its allegro cantabile. Hence it is the response of the thing to being looked at. for that of a nation or even all of mankind.the "aspect" of the thing is insep3. 4 . and since the look in each case is of a particular nature-at that moment and in that instance it looks at something from a given point of view. for that is what causes "aspects" to emerge. Now under discussion is the fact that at any given moment we are in possession of only a limited number of cumulative views of reality. above and beyond wasting so much time. why "God's mills grind away so slowly. See note 12. among other things. But it is not something relating to the thing alone. p. the reader who is not in the habit of seeing the things described by the author. men would be obliged to expend even more in the dedication to "la recherche du temps perdu. . Iliad. but who remains on the outside looking at the words he utters. The act of looking collaborates in it. etc. it is-to state it crudely-a piece of the thing. but its divergent tempo. for clearly a great deal of it has been wasted. one must take into account not only historical time. This would result in the fantastic but obvious conse­ quence whereby. and of how one is sometimes compelled to engage in "the search for lost time" for its own sake. or for someone else's. 1 60.AS PECTS AND T H E ENTIRETY utilized better.4 In short. like at shoes in a shop window. 3 3 ." as even H omer in his day realized. why it does not progress more rapidly."5 The present occasion is not opportune for such an endeavor. I must refer him to a forthcoming book of mine where he will find a most concrete. 5 . an "aspect" cannot exist with­ out someone to behold it." The "aspect" appertains to the thing.

these aspects pertain to the thing and are not "subjective. granted that they are only a reply to the question elicited by every look. which means however that these sciences emerge as it were from some previous thing which.6 If it were possible to integrate the countless "aspects" of a thing.) ." The functioning of apparatuses and mechanisms is not pertinent to our topic. physics." According to a popular expression. . we must be content with possessing merely "aspects" of the thing and not the thing itself-as Aristotle and Saint Thomas believed. And in fact. they are not the thing itself. is the cause of their own existence. radical phe­ nomenon-the presence of the thing before men's eyes in the form of "aspect" or "views. Reality puts it on for us. we would say that the "aspect" is the "face shown" by reality. Nowa­ days.THE ORIG IN OF PH ILOSOPHY arable from the observer. however." Since this is impossible. for the thing is the "entirety. What from the vantage point of the thing is an "aspect. though from the subject's standpoint-for an in­ dividual to extract his "views. etc. while the radical phenomenon now being discussed is in no way psychological. in fact. we would be able to fathom the thing itself. It is a matter of indifference to us whether they 6. Allow me to reiterate: Since in the final analysis it is always the thing. to a given scrutiny. notion." from man's is the "view" taken of the thing. and physiology examine these functions. this term has only a psychological mean­ ing. but only its "aspects. Undoubtedly for a thing to present its "aspects" and-what amounts to the same thing. Psychology. It is com­ monly called an "idea" (concept. in some par­ ticular aspect. which is revealed to a point of view." On the other hand." all physical and psychic functions must be called into operation. in lieu of "aspect" one could justifiably endow the word "face" with terminological value in ontology. from the primary.

Who nowadays would believe it. It had its great moment. or to give it another name. far from it. and still less a Romanic one. It was nothing less than the Idea. not a Latin one. This is not to suggest that psychology is not an intensely interesting field. having precedence over all "scientific facts. muddled." and called it the "royal art"­ � f3a(1L>"LK� TI. authentic. for even in psychology it does not possess a precise." a word that is in its ultimate stage of deterioration and debasement. It literally reigned in Syracuse with Dion. and diverting quality. though only for a matter of days. Plato referred to their usage as "dialectics. its cul­ mination. although I have always been interested in the field and therefore could have stimulated curiosity. Ten years ago I was eager to undertake in Spain a campaign on behalf of psychology. Germain. the Platonic Ideas. considerable rigor. And metaphysical phenomena-which are not mysterious or supernatural. an ontological one. most ordinary and everyday order-are the truest phe­ nomena or "facts" in existence. particularly in Barcelona and Madrid. or It is a metaphysical phenomenon. .ASPECTS AND THE ENTIRETY 43 function in one way or another. in view of their present drab. and useless role! 7. a friend and disciple of Plato. I am not a psychologist nor could I have devoted myself to becoming one. and in Athens it was practically the "ruling" opinion for some time. encouraged individuals to pursue professions in it. one that ought to attract more individuals be­ cause of its greater accessibility. utilizing the enthusiasm and outstanding organizational abilities of Dr. It is not a psychological phenomenon. unequivocal meaning. in Greece-for it is a Greek word. and fostered coteries of the studious and curious around those individuals who had already been resolutely and without support engaged in this science. It would therefore be helpful to banish from philosoph­ ical terminology the word "idea. It can be studied with modest preparation and yield posi­ tive and creative results.XY7J." which assume the existence of the former. All that counts is the result: man is able to see things. but of the simplest.

" which supposes that someone is always seeing it.44 THE ORIGIN OF P H I LOSOPHY Diable. This language into which being is translated.s The terms perspective and knowledge are almost equivalent. qu'it a mal tourne ce mot "idee"! The most exact rendering of the term Idea. an admonishment that knowledge is not only a "modus cognoscentis. leaf of a tree-are adequate fOT the moment to justify the terminology. Knowledge. and Marburg's school.\iYEO"OuL-to be talking precisely about things. for the terminology effectively states what really happens." "respects. in its ultimate and radical concretion. For in fact. as the ancients held. a silent one. it is in the nature of Reality to possess "aspects. at least in those instances. "perspective. nor is it the "thing itself" in the mind per modum cognoscentis. an articulate one. as Plato used it." And he was not concerned with psychology but with ontology. are fundamental themes to be treated subsequently. Knowledge-and I allude to it here only obliquely-is perspective. the given examples-wall. to the language of know­ ing. nor is it a copy of the thing. is no more nor less than the language. the posi­ tivists. table. nor a construction of the thing as supposed by Kant. hence it is not a mere presentation of the thing itself in the mind. subjecting it to translation as though from one language to another-one might say from the language of being. never­ theless. the former is. the logos." and. We shall see this at a later point. But it is an "interpretation" of the thing itself. This chapter simply seeks to establish a terminology. Why we speak about Reality. and not to argue the truth represented therein. pa�e of a book. in general. etc." since inherent in Reality is man standing before it and looking at it. why ultimately we maintain that it has "aspects. would be "aspect." the essence of which is to be constructed into a perspective. How­ ever. as the scholastics maintained. in addition. 8." but a positive modification of that which is known-something Saint Thomas would not accept-that it is the thing transformed into mere "aspects" and only "aspects. is dia­ lectics-ihu. ..

For thought. the thought it represents. signifies simply that reality contains precisely what thought purports it to contain." ." Finally. If I say that the snow is white. in an "economical" form. words. but simply its abbreviation. the latter is an epistomological concept and as such. the viewed reality­ the p henomenon "knowledge"-is in both instances the same and It is only our point of view that has altered. what we carelessly classify as thinking is not precisely that. and will continue to repeat unceasingly in these pages. But this designation. and language thereby enables us to "open an intellectual credit" with which. with two functions : first. that the idea in fact conceptualizes that which exists in reality." On the one hand. aside from other functions that are not of prime im­ portance. like great industries. I am saying something true because I do truly encounter in the snow that which I call "whiteness. In most cases. In this function each word is only a "token" for the actual execution of a thought. it will sometimes have to be viewed from the position of men and at other times from that of things. and names are con­ cerned. This function is the correlative of another. whose claim is the meeting of due credits. Hence. Bear in mind that language. thus saving us the effort of actually performing the act of thinking by means of the representative concepts and ideas. is contradictory. the other function of language is the decisive one : each word is an invitation to us to see the thing it denominates. or to put it differ­ ently. Since knowledge is a matter between men and things. enabling us to manipulate a large number of concepts. the 9. intuition. The banking business however cannot consist solely in opening credits. The subj ect. we found sciences. aside from many other deficiencies.9 What are generally referred to as "true ideas" are those that represent or correspond to realities.ASPECTS AND T H E ENTIRETY 45 The word enunciates the views in which the aspects of Reality appear before us. "view" and "aspect." If I say that it is black. Hence it may be helpful to have dual terms. is in the ultimate and fundamental analysis "a stage of seeing something and fixing one's attention on a particular part of the thing seen. for implicit in it is an equivocal and dual use of the term "reality. both terms have the advantage of being a constant reminder that thought is ultimately "seeing." We shall therefore say that thinking means "focusing on something of that which is seen." having the thing before us-that is. I repeat. of ideas.

First of all. the is possesses secondary and defective meanings. abstract "as­ pect. one is alluding to the "reality of the idea" and disregarding the "reality pos­ sessed by the thing that is real. and partial meaning: "that which." That "the snow is white" is in part true. many white things exist whose whiteness is a different shade than the snow-hence the predicate "whiteness. though not completely true. " 1 0 1 0 ." applied to snow. in j eopardy of being a false one. it was inevitable that the same ambiguity be reproduced in the use of the term "truth. because it leads us to believe that corroborating the truth of an idea is reduced to confirm­ ing that one "real" feature of the idea." but in its decisive nature of reality. Thirdly. is partially true because it is not an error. however. This is the most frequent cause of our mistakes." likewise possesses maximum meaning that would be ful­ filled only if the predicate expressed everything that the snow is. enunciating an "authentic aspect" rather than seeking its integration by confronting the idea not only in its de­ clared "aspect. partial truth. The word "is" in the statement "the snow is ." The latter is an "onto­ logical" concept and signifies the thing in accordance with what it is-and the thing is simply the "entirety. in other words. viewed. In this sense." extirpated from the thing. it is a fact that some snows. snow is countless other things besides being white. most of our "true ideas" represent only one of the components of the thing encountered. means primarily "that which is completely true" and only sec­ ondarily does it have the more modest." and hence always possessing "additional aspects. are not white. is true only if we assume it to be that particular shade. and apprehended by our minds at a particular moment-and therefore merely a partial. resigned. of "being whole. though "real" in the primary sense of the term. Like "reality" and "truth." its integration.THE ORIGIN OF PHILOSOPHY opposite occurs. Secondly. . which is not made clear in the proposition and thus renders the statement an incomplete. because the snow does possess whiteness. even freshly fallen ones. Given the unavoidable parallelism between the problems of Reality and the problems of Truth. . ." however. Hence." It is too often forgotten that this word. even in most ordinary parlance.

then on to another. which transpire in all attempts to concep­ tualize reality. though convenient." Our reflection on what transpired within us during those "dis­ courses" or mental processes. Let the term "dialectical series" not delude the reader into believing that it necessarily represents some gran­ diose conception. Hence here is what we have done: 47 .3 D i a l ectica l S e ri e s THE ILLUSTRATION o f the orange and o f our own conduct in tracing the first four aspects presented by the philo­ sophical past. We are deal­ ing with something of no great importance and quite commonplace. For "the thing" is "in reality" the sum or integral of its aspects. provides us with a prelimi­ nary understanding of the nature of a "dialectical series. Every "thing" appears under one initial aspect. which leads us to a second one. The term is confined to designating the following sum of mental acts. reminiscent of the closest terminology of the old romantic German systems and typical of an age when philosophers were awesomely solemn and acted publicly like ventriloquists of the Absolute." This preliminary understanding is enough to enable us to use and apply the term in this immediate context. when we probe the subj ect of "thought" more deeply. we shall have to enter the crevices of reality designated by this word. and so on in succession. At a later point. constitute two "dialectical series. as might be indicated by its theatrical grandiloquence.

" 4." "to continue. preserve-the aspects already "To pause. but an aspect of the thing contiguous with the first. attracts us. Pause before each aspect and obtain a view of it. as we have said. the slight relation the present instance bears to Hegel's dialectic.THE ORIG IN OF PHILOSOPHY I. the quid lies in the fact that each "view" of an "aspect" demands that we advance in order to see another. Well now." "to preserve. Not abandon-that is. Observe. This new "view" prompted by the first one. forces us to proceed after we have paused. The thing. . Continue thinking or move on to a contiguous aspect. "viewed. The "log­ ical" contiguity of the "views" (commonly called con­ cepts) derives from the actual contiguity of the "aspects.1 Note that in geometry the path lying between one - I. I leave for some other work an explicit explanation of what this term as it is used here and as it is used in Hegel's work have in common (very little) and in what ways they differ. Dialectical contiguity is like the concept "the space around" suggested by the concept "earth. 2. 3. however. One could call them the junctures in which our knowledge of the thing is formed. Integrate them in a sufficiently "total" view for the pur­ poses of the subj ect under consideration in each particular instance. is going to constitute another "aspect" of the thing not a random one." It is contiguity through complication. Each one of these acts represents a stage in our inquiry or process of understanding or thought. however. Since so illustrious a thinker as Hegel referred to syn­ thetic or complicating thought as "dialectics." I am striving by using this term to perpetuate the tradition." Thus it differs from contiguity through implication. Con­ cept # I is contiguous to concept # 2 because it is immediately implied in the latter." and "to integrate" are thus the four acts exercised by dialectical thought.

that of a mere cataloguing device. This book is a series of dialectical series. a guide to assist the reader so that he would not go astray. the thoughts arrived at. The contiguity of mental steps makes thinking fall into a series and one of the simplest sort. those entities. so that none of the ideas that occurred to me would slip my mind. In fact. until we judged it was time to stop. That will constitute the "dialectical series X" according to which X = such and such a subj ect. great or small. ideas. con­ cepts. Hence. Otherwise. then. This is the procedure I followed in the process of writing these pages. Hence the edge of Chinese roofs curve upward. a fen shui in­ stalled in the roof would slide straight down and land in the garden or orchard. The subj ect title could be placed at the top of the page and filed accordingly in a catalogue to be available for handy reference. The phenomenon . Clearly. guided through intuition or an image of the thing. and that we set down on a sheet of paper.DIALETICAL SERIES 49 point and the adjacent point constitutes a straight line. homely series. the spirit's only recourse is to shoot skyward. can be displaced only rectilinearly. a memory aid for the author. whereas if the edge of the roof has an upward curve." or a "series of annoyances. one beneath another." a "series of stamps. Let us suppose that we began pondering on any sub­ j ect. We see then that dialectical thought proceeds only in a straight line and turns out to be similar to the fen shui or the dangerous spirits that haunted the Chinese." The fact that in this instance the series consists of thoughts. a highly dangerous proximity. comparable to a "series of numbers. reveals in the end its humble status. when I refer to a "dialectical series" it is simply and unfor­ tunately because what we are discussing is an ordinary. or "views" is no cause for commotion. abettors of good and evil upon men. the awesome term that held the promise of pro­ found truths.

beginning with the first all-encompassing one and ending with the last concrete one-the "indivisible species" or �TO/l.2 . This "gadget" or working tool. B. despite its grandiloquent air. . In his book Zaht und Gestalt bei Platon und A ristoteles ( 1 924) ." There. he will realize that the one chosen by me. . a parallel series of numbers was affixed to a dialectical series of ideas. Although unable now to dwell at length upon this. is the simplest and most unassuming." as mathe­ maticians say nowadays." . If the reader considers the lot. thus conveni­ ently enabling the critic to pinpoint exactly what is incomprehensible.OV E11l0s. the dialectical series. I should like to note the amusing coincidence that numbering the "ideas" in a series might have with Plato's famous enigmatic "ideal numbers. likewise facilitates the critic's probing process. seemingly inaccurate or needful of cor­ rection or supplementation.50 THE ORIGIN O F PHI LOSOPHY could have been variously labeled. 3 . too. . Hence a particular number corresponds to a particular Idea-because both series are "isomorphs. C . 2. or the letters A. Stengel deciphers the twenty-three-century­ old enigma of "ideal numbers" or "Ideas-numbers. 2. can be assigned to the various mental steps. since either the numbers I .

without abandoning the line we were on. we retrace in our inverse itinerary the original point of de­ parture and pass on. Whereupon we take one step. This is what we shall now do. arbitrary. With these two points we have described a rectilinear direction. we halt. Since. which we shall call Series A. This straight line is an exact symbol for our first dialectical series. Maintaining strict con­ tinuity of thought. let us retrace our steps and place ourselves again at the point of departure on the original angle. Once there. we shall take another look at the original phenomena-the philosophical past-this time in 51 LET US IMAGINE A . but to another side of the pyramid. proceeding to the other adjacent point which since we are going in the opposite direction. leads us beyond the first straight line. however. the other adjacent point. that is. or impulsive. we are at a tip of the angle. always in a straight line. is no longer on the same side of the pyramid as the previous one. for some reason. not only to another point. we move to an adjacent point either to the right or to the left on the angle. Sud­ denly. we could have proceeded much farther in the same direction. convenient. We con­ tinue moving from point to point. we decide to keep going.4 Th e U n ity of P h i l oso phy pyramid and that we place ourselves at a point situated on one of its angles. Unwittingly. Now. so that our movement describes a straight line on that side of the pyramid. therefore. even if we look for it in the same direc­ tion. in going back. In principle.

When this is not the case it means that the encounter is abnormal and that reality presented to us is immediate.1 Every­ thing seems confused. ." We viewed the philosophical past as a drip of water in which an infusion of doctrines swarmed chaotically. We shall see how "confusion" is an initial phase of all knowledge. Philos­ ophy. that he strive to avoid disdain for the preliminary distant and confused aspects due to some snob sense of urgency impelling him to arrive immediately at the more refined conclusions. and first views are normally taken from a dist: mce. de­ parting once again from the panorama of the history of philosophy. One of these is the strange." another "sudden ecstasy. This produces such a choc in individuals that it elicits an anomalous phenomenon-both in the good and the pejorative sense. in fact. without order or harmony. and precise. though it holds the promise of providing maximum I. so that the series of aspects which thereupon emerge before us will be exceedingly different from the first. in open diver­ gence and universal babble. we shall produce a new straight mental line. The scene was one of infinite mental upheaval." It was the first view we had of that reality.. The history of philosophy.:iJich one cannot progress to clarity . clear. according to the "first aspect" the philo­ sophical past resembled a "multitude of opinions about itself. observing another of its facets. sudden crises known as "con­ version. Thus.52 TH E ORIGIN OF P H I LOSOPHY another direction. has-and there is no reason for hiding it-the amusing aspect of a pleasant insane asylum. The important thing for the individual who truly desires to think is that he not be overly hurried but be faithful at each step of his mental itinerary to the aspect of reality currently under view." which we shall call Series B. In fact." another "bewilderment. in mutual conflict. If you recall. the thing that was initially attractive about this "multitude of opinions on the same thing" was the notion "multitude. a second "dialectical series." etc. witb ou '.

a "morphon" that reality assumes. an "inside. Otherwise it would be meaningless to call those doctrines. and the other. and confront another. toward their core. The reason for this is exceedingly simple. despite their divergences. we noticed nothing else and were inevitably carried in the direction of Series A. The reader ought to become accustomed to such meta­ morphoses. Well then. shows characteristics similar to insanity. and presume that they do.THE UNITY OF PHILOSO P H Y 53 logic-"truth." . but that all possess ultimately a unity. all are opinions on the sanle thing. for he will witness many in this book. We will notice at once that this new j aunt leads us inward into philosophies. Since it is char­ acteristic of reality to reveal different aspects depending upon where and how one regards it. Let us then j ovially set forth on the rugged j ourney in search of philosophy's unity. derma to-skeletal. we hope. external. and even a oneness in philosophy. Namely. is interpreted as its "transformation. Employing the term implies that beneath their antagonistic masks. each of these constitutes a "form" or figure. that. in comparison with Series A where everything viewed was extrinsic. that philosophies are not a mere jumble of this." "reason"-momentarily and in its his­ torical entirety. that despite the existence of many divergent opinions." an inwardness and reconditeness.2 Obsessed by this multitudinous. divergent character." "transfiguration. and when perceived by us." we can disconcern ourselves with that notion at least for awhile. "philosophies" or any similar name. suspect. This invites us to try to detect amid the multitude of philosophies some unity. all are essentially philosophy­ that is. But now having grown accus­ tomed to the apparent plurality and discrepancy of philos­ ophies." or "metamorphosis. how shall we proceed? The reader perhaps 2. to discover what the diverse doctrines have in common. and having intellectually mastered them and become convinced that in the end "there is no such thing. That is.

in combination with Galileo's mechanical laws. became flattened." the first authentic system. which is the course we decided to pursue at the conclusion of Marias' book and which. The foundation and progress of science can be attributed to not skipping over modest aspects. it was the first effective science. . total gaze at the entire philosophical past. In other words. and ex­ amine "its interior. it should not be omitted. In the second place. whether the same interior serves many different bodies. and finally re­ sulted in the famous ellipses that existed among mankind until Einstein's time. because Kepler spent years respectfully and devoutly immersed in the absurd five-minute arc of discrepancy that existed in the observation data regarding the position of the planets. and though it presents an ex­ ceedingly modest aspect. Physics exists because mathematical astronomy exists and this.54 THE ORIGIN OF PHILOSOPHY may think that we ought to commence by taking each philosophy one by one. In the first place this would not constitute a pano­ ramic. was a sort of fare­ well to that continent of the past. mollified. one whose attainment derived from thought and dealt with something real that man possessed. in turn. certain general Cartesian meth­ ods. slightly elongated. which had been noted with prodigious detail by Tycho-Brahe in his "first solution" to the system of their movements around the sun. Those ellipses. as we said. and additional subsequent factors. According to the latter fallacious solution the planets still described circular orbits. divergent from Tycho's data. which was concerned with the unity of philosophy. During an impassioned labor of years Kepler's circumferences." Thus we might compare the core of each and determine whether or not they coincide. probing deeply into each doctrine would mean we were being untrue to our first view. in chronological order. made possible the concept of gravity and with it "Newtonian philosophy.

though that strictly is what belongs in this chap ter. The limits of this book however.THE UNITY OF PH ILOSO P H Y 55 And that is to say nothing if we turn our attention to the minute differences-in comparison to which Kepler's "five minutes" seem gigantic-whose religious contempla­ tion resulted in the theory of relativity. for the mathematical resources at that time were not sufficient to master such small complex differences. however. the humble name of our neighbor Nunez. oblige me in what herein follows. must advance with a sort of "preordained harmony. and the abundance of material.4 3. This good man. at least in the essentials.3 Let us therefore give due con­ sideration. Nunez." 4. for purely didactic reasons. though disparate in nature. What really matters is that everything essential to this aspect be . It would be merely a matter of pages. the ingenious and renowned l10nius that pre­ serves forever. And furthermore. to the first aspect of the philosophical past presented to us by this new respect or facet-the "unity" of philosophies. even though it in no way approached the fabulous precision attained by contemporary physics. and physics would not have been founded. a man who was not a genius-unless genius be thought of simply as patience-had not earlier devoted his whole life to the humble task of gathering the most exact measurements possible at that time on sidereal displacements. It is necessary. Nothing would be easier than to achieve this intent. to antiCIpate certain things. a genial man. Vice versa-as we shall subsequently see-had Kepler en­ countered metrical data of greater exactitude. he would have failed. and this in turn would have been impossible had an even humbler man not been born in Portugal. if we regard the matter from another side. and note that the work of Kepler. This indicates the extent to which science is a highly delicate organism whose members. to intersperse things that rigorously speaking pertain to more recent. proximate aspects. in Latin mummification. who doggedly per­ sisted in inventing an instrument to measure millimeter decimals. an even more modest one. which are not seen from a bird's eye view. a nation of fantastic imprecision. would have been impossible if Tycho-Brahe.

" those who are unable to articulate it but who see. legend. " In addition there exists a relative past. book titles. someone with more than a vague and remote inkling of it. which we the living encounter is the series of terms. The radical past. and indi­ vidual names that was involved in philosophizing. . . consists in that which "is not directly before us. and from the moment we descry it upon the distant horizon until it is directly within eye's reach. can only serve to suggest the explicit nature of philosophy to the "uninformed. fables. and vaguely sense it. it is neither ocular nor is it of the mental order we shall subsequently examine under the term "intuition. A view constitutes the immediate relation between our minds and a thing. we merely glide over forms that become increasingly precise and clear in their direct relation to that thing. chronicles. the addition of these closer views emanating from someone immersed in philoso­ phy." We can only have a view of something that "is there in person before us" in one guise or other. no harm is done if certain inessential things are included. either close or at a distance. or history-sayings. Thus in philosophy. Our first and most elementary notice of it is not in seeing it but in hearing about it. The Greeks called what was "said" about some­ thing "fame"-in the sense of our own popular expression "fame has it . hear. one that is in some degree still present-one might say it is a past that said and as long as that is accomplished." It consists in that which is gone. . in that which par excellence is absent. the first thing if any. Hence the first contact with philosophy stems from what "is said" about it. however. sheer sayings. our first view is generally not of a visual nature. The past is transmitted to us via names and things that we have heard about it-through tradition. Besides-and this admonition holds true for the entire chapter-insofar as the strict phenomenon of "philosophy seen from a distance" is concerned.THE ORIGIN OF P H ILOSOPHY With respect to things definitely past.

we are witnesses to the spectacle of fluvial arteriosclerosis. The wrinkles on an old man's face inform us that he is a living. tattered clothes. calloused river bed-in short. (Anyone who is not grieved. a senescent stream. we always sense a lack of its inwardness Hence-thanks primarily to recent advances in research-we are confronted with entire mute civiliza­ tions. . with ancient volcanic mountains the only remain of which is a stony skeleton. This likewise occurs with ruin-covered land­ scapes. he sees nothing. . present past. by the sight of this decrepit river that runs past Toledo. with our Tagus River. We don't have to be told that the man existed: the fact that he existed before we did is forcefully evident. ) I repeat. unworthy of peering at the world. is either inherently blind. imprisoned in its narrow bed and gashed into the hardness of the rocks. They emerge abruptly. flowing weakly along its hardened. the radically distant. stones-and not verbal remains. We retain a certain visual rela­ tionship with this past. or if he must exist. relationship between our minds and things. It is futile . that the closest most normal channel of information5 about the historical past is through names. and only their names. with faded. however. The phenomenon is not peculiar to this particular sit­ uation. With our own eyes we can see. and can still dimly perceive it. In instances where the sole remains of the past are material obj ects-artifacts. or at least saddened. whose vestiges are present like a hieroglyph for which meaning must be found. unworthy of existence. The first communication we receive of most things and our only one of a great number of them is their names. if we have the slightest talent for physiog­ nomy. that the Tagus is an ancient river.THE UNITY OF PH ILOSOP H Y 57 has not vanished totally. Names constitute the form of the distant. This is the difference between prehistory and archeology on the one hand and philology on the other. drift into our ears when the things therein designated are utterly removed from us5.

However.6 Names are a "reference to things. a promise of the thing. Hence as soon as a chief of state arrives in a foreign country. . See elsewhere on Magical Logic and Ontology. in fact. we are in contact with it-that is. we pos­ sess it. fore­ warning him of the presence of islands. and . The representative never is the thing represented. And while as we now talk about the Himalayas.58 THE ORIGIN OF PHILOSOPHY invisible. his 6." They stand in their stead. Names thus are like the birds one sees on the high seas. Further. Something is symbolic when its presence serves as a rep­ resentative for another thing that is not present. which fly out of nowhere toward the navigator. The word is thus the presence of the thing that is absent. [The epigraph allu ded to was apparently never written. are announcements. name is not as extravagant as appears. we are in contact about it. The ancient Egyptians held the same belief. where I dis­ cuss the phenomena whereby men regard thought = logos = word as having derived from the individual and as residing in him. in some small measure. one must not forget "Where two or three are gathered together in my name. in place of them. perhaps forever. conveys to me here.l . on some faraway horizon. neither solid nor real.-Ed. The "Himalayas. soul. . The Eskimo theory whereby Man is a composite of three elements: body. Language therefore is a symbol. where the only mountain in view is the puny Cintra-it conveys to me "something akin" to the Hima­ layas. a vague shadowy spectral form of its huge bulk. the presence endowed by the word to the absent obj ect is. in Estoril. Aliquid stat pro aliq u o-is the symbolic relationship. Words. there am I in the midst of them" ( Matthew 1 8: 20) . of course. we tread it. and in fact a modicum of the thing. This is its genius -it permits a reality to continue to exist in some way in the place from which it has gone or where it never even was. some­ thing that we do not have before us." for example.

is silence and reserve. with respect to the thing named. will conceal the thing from us.THE UNITY OF PH ILOSOPHY 59 ambassador in that country ceases to exist. and there where it is being discussed -should be held in rather low esteem. the latter is their disgrace. as we shall methodically see. words. . which instead of enabling the thing to be in some way present for us. an abbreviation. only an outline. when we have its name. And unless we proceed with caution. is not such a soft task! Hence a word's magical power of enabling a thing to be simultaneously in two extremely remote places-there where it actually is. Whereupon-because we possess the names of things­ we think that we can talk from them and about them. the only thing that each of us possesses of most things is its niggardly nomi­ nal mask-"words. For what we have of the thing. if properly under­ stood. That. drafts. which we infuse and which are lodged within us through inhalation. the thing language constantly verges on -a masquerade." As if that were possible ! As if "talking" were something that could be done with ultimate radical seriousness and not with the pained conscience of someone performing a farce ! If one truly wishes to do something seriously the first injunction is to keep quiet. "Let's talk seriously about such and such a thing. And then someone comes along and says to us. words"-emanations. mere j abber. at best. though. True knowledge. That's how things are! A name. a skeleton. the names will be transformed into masks. unless we evince distrust for words and attempt to pursue the things themselves. While the former is the magical gift of words. a farce. an extract: its concept. their feat. Whether we like it or not. is a caricature: its concept. rep­ resents. gusts wafted by the social atmosphere.

Which to choose? Let us note in passing something we shall examine thoroughly at a later point. ontologically out in the raw. Its predecessors-Ionian "physiology. Now the moment a name is born. or words. or nation. and to the appellations and nicknames linguis­ tically imposed upon its practitioners. Language is precisely something not created by the individual but something that is found by him. city. one might say. or cliches exist yet be­ tween it and Man. Hecataeus-constitute a prelude and nothing more. previously established by his social environs." Pythago­ rism. to articulate it. without a vestige of nomenclature. logoi. The thing stands be­ fore Man still devoid of designation. No ideas. is a mo­ ment of exceptional creative purity. polis.5 Th e Authe ntic N a m e · LET US TURN NOW to the various names that have been given to this occupation which Western man has pursued for twenty-six centuries. interpretations. Parmenides and others of his day named the subject that they expounded "aletheia. words. his tribe. to transpose the element and "world" of concepts. l 60 . Vorspiel und Tanz. Orpheism." This was philosophy's original name. Philosophy as such begins with Parmenides and Hera­ clitus. The words of a language have their meaning imposed by col• [Title supplied. to the books that have perpetu­ ated it. The question of creating a word.-Ed. the moment something for the first time is called by a word. A means must be found to express it.

is a transpo­ sition of meaning. saying what is already known. a word whose meaning is analagous-which is all it can be -to the "new thing. the creation of a terminology is simply a poetic process. Hence we are witnessing a function of speech that is the opposite of language-that is. the tenn was created before Aristotle. tables." The analogy. Finding a denomination for it cannot be regarded as "talking. and doors are made of wood. We are now dealing. what people say or what is commonly known. Strictly speaking. a poetic one. the ultimate and uni­ versal "wood" or "matter. what everyone knows. madera) metaphorized."2 the way chairs." and in selecting a word to name it. Chapters XI and XII ] . what is mutually known. Vice versa. once it is determined. When Aristotle discovered that everything is "made of something. with a new entity. 2 . wherein its social aspect is examined in the light of my sociological doctrine [Man and People. only he under­ stands it. A systematic treatment of language is to be found in a yet unpublished work of mine. however. hence. Speaking is a re-using of that accepted meaning. "wood"-u":1/­ understood as wood par excellence. we resuscitate the then existent vital situation of I. Hence it turns out-and who would have thought so! -that coming upon a technical term for a new rigorous concept. if we revivify the definition of a technical term." Our word matter is simply wood (in Spanish. it is a metaphorical use of the word." because no word yet exists for it-it is "talking to oneself." Only one person is beholding the "new thing. one that has no usual name.1 Now it is necessary for the person himself who sees the thing for the first time to understand some commonplace everyday expression. . he called the substance from which (Ta (� o{j) all things are made. Man and People.T H E AUTHENTIC NAME 61 lective usage. though. and attempt to understand its essence.

I. un-covering. with the advent of another radical discovery. and different philosophical revelation. in the thinking process. in tune with the Asiatic tenor of the times. New York. I. Norton & Co. a new. great. By A."s In speculating on some ordinary. later to be known as philosophizing. which subsequently from a retrospective technical viewpoInt was called j6vlTloAo"'(ia.i" . he discovered them to be false but that one could discern behind them the reality itself. and patent. meanwhile. W. his mind had performed something akin to un-dressing. re-vealing (= un-veiling) . Aletheia. prosaic. See Meditations on Quixote.4 This literally is what the word a-Ietheia meant in popular language-discovery.D. was a Baroque word-apo­ kalipsis-which has exactly the same. This circumstance. Ale­ theia signifies truth. revelation. accepted ideas on reality.. but as a verb-something alive. the word aletheia had in seven centuries of philosophy ex­ pended its fresh metaphorical import. presents philosophy for what it is-an endeavor at discovery and at deciphering enigmas to place us in contact with the naked reality itself. 4. the two or three previous generations-Ionian-the word (to recount) expresses what they did. in English translation. this vital experience in new Greek thought. denudation." This. meaning as aletheia. 3. de-ciphering an enigma or hieroglyphic. Thus. exposure. removing a veil or covering. In IITTOp. For truth must not be regarded as the dead thing that twenty-six centuries of custom and inertia would have us believe. was aptly named by Parmenides and alert groups of his day as "aletheia. and another term had to be found for "revelation. 19 14 [ Complete Works. appearing as if a concealing crust or veil or covering had been removed. thus allowing the reality to emerge un­ clothed.THE ORIGIN OF PHILOSOPHY the bygone thinker who saw the "new thing" before him for the first time. (natural science) . W. 1 96 1 ] . naked.. Vol. though reinforced. Inc.

and our act of un-covering or denuding it. This. quest for truth-that is. which is comprised almost of sheer accident. of birth . as we read him. from our notion of being plagiarized. fundamental phenomenon of human life at a time when ordinary men. Everything he tells us we have previously "felt." except that we did not know how to express it. that wondrous argot comprised of only authentic names.6 The poet is the 5. Due to some curious contamination between that which is un-covered = reality. as action. The poetic name is the one we employ when inwardly referring to something. in short. Hence the strange phenomenon whereby the pleasure aroused by poetry and admiration for the poet stem. Ordinarily. when talking to ourselves in secret endophasia. however. Current vigorous terms for expressing aletheia = truth are: inquiry. The poet's role hinges upon his ability to create that inner tongue. the original name of philosophy. became progressively petulant? As a matter of fact. What would happen to this normal. inquiry. That is why we understand him: he provides the language for our inner selves and thereby enables us to understand ourselves. we often speak about the "naked truth. something very amus- . It turns out. 6. It seems incredible that current linguistics still ignores the fact that things do have "authentic names" and believes this to be incompatible with the essentially changeable nature of language. or aletheia. mass-men. we do not have the ability to create those secret inner names whereby we would understand ourselves with respect to things. and we would say what they authentically are to us. for the naked reality that is concealed behind the robes of false­ hood. that the poet's inner self as transmitted via his poetry-be it verse or prose-coincides to a great extent with our own." a tautology.THE AUTHENTIC NAME something at its moment of attainment. is its true or authentic name5 and thus its poetic name. That which is naked is reality and denuding it is the truth. paradoxically. We suffer in our soliloquies from muteness. or inner speech.

devoid of a public existence. he became a public figure." or "inquiry. an habitual occupation. that is. But no sooner did philosophizing become a repetitive occurrence. appears to "plagiarize" the reader. No longer was the philosopher alone with the phenomena in the in­ timacy of his philosophizing. so today's impertinent reader seriously believes that he is the true author and knew it all before. He was alone with reality-"his philosophiz­ ing"-confronting it. . but in addition to being a philosopher. children. if he truly is one. he innocently gave it its true name. in a state of grace before it. a doctor. Nevertheless. the way those "terrible" poets. a j ester. the clash between one's outer social guise and ing." that is. would do. and without any social precaution.T H E ORI G I N OF P H ILOSOPHY shrewd go-between with Man and himself. And since the essence of the latter-philoso­ phizing-was a much more inward labor than all other callings. "Truth." ought to have been philosophy's everlasting name. a priest. he immediately thinks that the idea occurred to him. the philosopher. began to respond to the new reality: the "inquirer. That irresponsible impersonal character. people. social milieu. which I have seen happen with increasing intensity and frequency. a soldier. something that had not existed for him earlier. like a magistrate. philosophizing-was a new pursuit. This is a stupefying and grotesque but nonetheless undeniable phenomenon. and people began seeing it from the outside-the way people always see everything-than the situation changed. often to an astonishing extent among the younger generations: when a young person today reads and understands us. it was called thus only in its initial phase. when the "thing itself"-in this case. It was the authentic sincere name privately given by the philosopher to what he found himself doing. one still unfamiliar to people. an execu­ tioner. that monster of n + I heads. a merchant. unable to be seen from the outside. Just as the writer.

absurd name. a more inane." And since in­ herent in life is "having things happen. in principle. Then "things began to hap­ pen" to the word "aletheia. confusing them with other vague professions. the term used somewhat analogously as it is used with reference to men. also have their "mode of life. whereupon that marvelous. and cautious one. base." which is analogous to "personal existence. than it is plunged into a rugged series of adventures. Let us now observe how this cross-eyed." a word is no sooner bo::'n. in­ finitely inferior but more "practical"-that is. Looking in two directions. pertain to "collective existence. it had to look to two sides-at reality and at other men-to name the thing not for one person alone but the Others as well. ] . misinterpreting them. and devoid of subtlety. some favorable and others adverse. [ See Man and People." a newborn word. means being cross-eyed. Words. Philoso­ phy. the thinker and it in solitude.THE AUTH ENTIC NAME one's inner self was greater." Each word. possesses a biography. ingenuous name had to be abandoned and another assumed. For no sooner were peo­ ple aware of the existence of philosophers.7 until its final disappearance and demise. The reason that it is only analogous is that words. one still so utterly childlike. When the noun "aletheia" was invented for private use. however. was born. The neighbors and other people intervened-awful characters-and the name had to have an eye on two fronts. one born of spontaneous generation." than they began assaulting them. tremulous. finally." the only true li fe . or "inquirers. 7. Recall the former brief allusion to the adventures that befell the word "idea." or "inquiry. Now it no longer was a question of naming the naked reality "to philosophize"­ that is. attacks from the outside world were unforeseen and hence it was defenseless in this respect. which after all are modes of human existence.

We would be wrong however in de­ ducing that the discovery of multiplicity rather than the sought for unity meant that our time had been wasted. 66 . [According to the manuscript. which for the time being seeks merely to be a practical prescription and perhaps simultaneously a tautology: "It is impossible for any aspect of reality. a hazy blurred image emerged in which one perceived the throb of divergent impulses. On the con­ trary. we must rely on the following rule.] Origin of Phitosopby . not to convey some truth-a truth that is not only true but one that must be taken into account. things that were quite similar appeared under ex­ tremely dissimilar names. gave the im­ pression of being a rather confused field. and things that were most dis­ similar under the same name. this chapter concludes Tbe Chapters VII and X were written at a later date. comprised of commonly heard names. It gave no ink­ ling of the unity sought for in philosophy.6 P h i l oso p h y E m b a rks o n th e D iscove ry of A n oth e r Worl d I IN ITS FIRST ASPEcT-the verbal aspect-the philosophical past." Advancing from the "absent presence" or the names I. and which will acquire its full meaning at perhaps a much later juncture in our progressive thinking. In general. if scrupulously analyzed.-Ed. In sum. and together with the intermediary ones-Chapters VIII and IX-form the Fragments on the Origin of Philosopby alluded to in the Preliminary Note.

The result. On the other hand. The relationship between the two worlds can be highly disparate. like plastic images. simultaneously whets our curiosity. Our minds mobilize and move one step forward in order to view . in continual cross-reference to each other. that is. it duplicates the world that there was and elicits another behind or over it. we have been viewing philosophical doctrines externally. appear to be back to back. whether it be through bisection or duplication. The latent world pulsates beneath the manifest world and its revela­ tion constitutes the supreme philosophical task. it cannot help but stimulate our attention. are in the remote distance and on the most distant horizon where objects become clouds. fig­ ures. for behind the strange divergent landscapes and fauna just presented by the mass of philosophies.DISCOVERY OF ANOTHER WORLD 67 for philosophical reality. or myths. we are now able to discern the persistent existence of two worlds. which though now present. despite the inadequate view of philosophy to be derived from the second aspect and the irresponsibility of our im­ pression. Thus phi­ losophy begins by bisecting a seemingly single world. This attention aroused in us by what is seen. and hence interiority. So commanding is the persistent duality of worlds that. they may be inter­ mingled or involucrated so that the latent world is re­ vealed by viewing the manifest world. the man­ ifest world and the latent or supra-world. The second aspect of it more than illuminates the first. They may show no con­ tact whatsoever and as we shall presently see. Since Philosophy is thought. no view of it can be more inadequate than one that views it simply as exteriority and sheer spectacle. both may remain distant but connected. in an apparently inverted operation. a reference that merely serves to corrobo­ rate their separation. In short. whether we want it to or not. is the same: philosophy leaves us with two worlds on our hands.

however. Its successive aspects. inspired by curiosity to learn why philosophy is not content with one world. The radius of our views around the orange was equa1. the strange. or equidistant from us. would be tantamount to retracing the history of philosophy. To do this we must for the first time abandon our panoramic contemplation of the philosoph­ ical past and.2 In the present dialectical series." its outer image from its innermost essential condi­ tion. we announced from the outset that our mental vector would proceed in a penetrating sense. like a frontier. We were going to advance from the extreme "outside"-names-to the extreme "inside"­ the unity of philosophy. This third stage. study it. at its decisive moments. however. the habitual one. were all on the same plane. halt before each philosophy. then once this infor­ mation is isolated. to pursue. its interiority. compels us to shuttle across the dividing line which. ) What would make sense for our present aim would be a thorough analysis of the exemplary beginning of the philosophical profession. separates philosophy's "outside" from its "in­ side. to attain maximum understand­ ing of early philosophy. (This. nonhabitual world that is characteristic of philosophy. in principle. discovers. to learn thereby precisely why it dualizes the world and how it calls forth. the variation produced by this dual operation throughout the 2. or invents the latent world. a senseless repetition of JuHan Marias' book. penetrate it-in short.68 THE ORIG I N O F P H I LOSOPHY the thing more clearly. Otherwise we would combine aspects of the spheroid from different distances and our resulting image of the orange would be deformed because of the lack of unity in perspective. though different. . The orange incited us to move around it in order to juxtapose the aspects of its spheroidal body. but divides or superimpregnates it.

Our backward gaze will have fulfilled its mission and we will be ready to turn our attention forward. clearly defined and unequivocal. and in accordance with this reason many things that hereto- . chucking them under the chin and laughing at their "rea­ son. Historians are horrified by chance.DISCOVERY OF ANOTHER WORLD 69 history of philosophy up to the present. tyranized by logicians and mathematicians. to the same extent as other historical "forces. This would fur­ nish us with philosophy's unity in the past. which henceforth we shall call "historical reason. Clearly. It piques and offends them because in their opinion-the childish opinion typ­ ical of historians-chance represents the negation of his­ torical science insofar as it is the enemy of "reason. however. we can then determine what ought to be done in the future. in which "pure reason" appeared as an insensate enchantress." That is. meta­ phors. future historians who-finally! -will be true historians." they regard it not only as the enemy of any potential history but as a terribly insolent entity whose perpetual presence and cynical self-exhibition lacks the decorum of science. to recognize it and to emphasize its presence and influence." This book will gradually confront us with that reason of the future. since chance is constantly on the prowl be­ tween the lines of their writing like an enfant terrible. and mysticisms. which is markedly different from venerable "pure reason. It is therefore a reason that is much more rational than the old one." Moreover." but nonetheless is the exact opposite of vagueries. referred to as "reason. will not hesitate when encoun­ tering chance as a component of reality. and led thus into the "immediate past" or the present." and they will resolve to understand the historical reality and the reason that is inherent in it and that is addressed to us. Confronted by its past unity. they will dis­ regard what traditional usage. utopias.

Our exposition of Parmenides' doctrine may possibly turn out to be more complete than heretofore existing ones. offers a perfect entry into the vast extrav­ agance of philosophy. for one must not lose sight of the concrete urgency 4 . or scruples.3 inhabit diametric poles of the Greek world-Eleusis and Ephesus-and it begins in each in two opposite directions so that the doc­ trines of these two men at once and forever represent the two most antagonistically conceivable forms of philos­ ophy. Complete Works. and in the present instance there can be no room for doubt. Suffice it to indicate that the greater comprehension one has of each. It is not within the scope of this book to delve into the chronological question posed by the life of both philosophers. Parmenides. On the other hand. possibly even exactly on the date. transmitting with peerless radicalism the liveliest impression of and lack of sense in Logic. that mad­ man of Reason. heretofore the demon of irrationality and the ci-devant enemy of history.4 Thus it is simply a question of didactic convenience whether one begins an exposition of early philosophy with the one or the other figure. examination and comparison of biographical data increasingly confirms the trend initiated twenty years ago by Reinhardt to consider them as strict contemporaries. Man and Crisis. Vol. suffice it to say now that historical reason. with the appearance of two men who. though they belong to the same generation. prepared to swallow reality without repulsion. By "generation" I mean a given fifteen-year period. the less evident is the (mutual) reference to and presumed polemics of Parmenides and Heraclitus. as though someone-Chance?-had taken pleasure in leaving all of future philosophy from its very outset in this initial divided position. [See . Philosophy itself begins with a monumental coinci­ dence. In short. V . manages to provide a contour of rationality even to chance. l 3. squeamishness. for it begins simultaneously.70 THE ORI G I N O F PHILOSOPHY fore were considered irrational will cease to suffer from this pej orative label.

Hence. . but we are presently unable to resolve our ignorance inasmuch as we would then be obliged to ex­ amine chronological periods prior to the history of phi­ losophy. whose only past horizon is the philosophical past. leading us thereupon to an inner study of early philosophy with the precise intention of learning why the latter is not content with the habitual world but divides or duplicates it. See Notes on Thinking [ Complete Works. We are not engaged in detailing the history of philosophy. must be peremptorily answered in the following manner: We do not know whether a dual world existed prior to philosophy. Approaching the Parmenides fragments with this pre­ determined wariness. but in reflecting upon it to discover amid its vast exuberance the unity of this discipline. in fact. The first symptom encountered in our panoramic survey was the duality of worlds displayed by philosophy. V ] . the first to divide and duplicate the world. Anything else we learn will be additional and gratuitous. This then is one focal question in the interpretation of frag­ ments from Parmenides. failing thereby to adhere to the aspect before us.DISCOVERY OF ANOTHER WORLD 7I of our interest in it. this would be inexcusable before having exhausted what the strict philosophical past can yield. but not the result of deliberate inquiry. Its exploitation has only begun. Methodologically. an indispensable one. 5. adhering to the rule of faithfulness to the aspect in view. We have still not extracted anything of true value from the latter. Is philosophy. however. we are beset by a prior doubt. Vol. or was a bisection previously performed by ante­ cedent disciplines? This question. Once before5 we had occasion to suspect that eventually we would be compelled to extend our temporal panorama of Man's intellectual comportment into the more remote and dense past to make a thorough scrutiny of how Man employed his mind before he began philosophizing.

For the first-confining ourselves literally to the textual content-would limit our under­ standing of that particular text and the assimilation of the thought therein expressed. neglects to pursue. and by virtue of which it is born. that form part of his thought but are either "left unsaid because they are assumed" or that he himself. for although it possibly was. The issue of what transpired prior to the advent of philosophy and whether the world had by then been divided. adhering to the thinker's thought as a whole. an insinuation of what it means to say . does not therefore concern us.T H E ORIGIN OF PHI LOSOPH Y let us confine ourselves to the texts of early philosophy in order to try to extract from them an initial explana­ tion regarding the "unity" of philosophy.6 All articulated language partially states or considers as stated many things that act upon the thinker.] . brought out into the open. can mean two highly different things: adhering to what is actually said. Parmenides' text itself will reveal what those two worlds are and why philosophy separates them. what I consider a dher­ ing strictly to a text." [Papeles sobre Veltizquez y Goya. Revista de Occidente. One 6. but without going beyond it to find precursors in other thinkers and in collective thought. 1 950. or this Greek thinker may not be understood. Furthermore it would ignore the universal law of language whereby no statement is an adequate summation of its intention. but merely an abbreviation. We shall take the latter course. Some of these tacit suppositions that Parmenides never pursued-which he did not dismember and examine in­ dividually-must be made evident. because they seem so self­ evident to him. the reasons for its division were not the same immediate rea­ sons for which philosophy divides and duplicates it. But adhering strictly to a text. See the chapter "La reviviscencia de los cuadros. to what a thinker says. Madrid.

It is the soil in which he is grounded. and which nevertheless con­ stitute for a particular thinker tacit suppositions or are merely incidentally expressed in his work." These implications have to be made manifest and precise in order to under­ stand a text. and from which his own unique thought and ideas stem. for prior implies only that which was and has ceased to be. There are other things. what is expressed in a thinker's work. Hence they are to be found in all Hellenic doctrine as an ever-present actuality. literally. which are recent acquisi­ tions of collective thought. just as one does not indicate to people the ground upon 7. The soil is of recent creation-the fundamental. Those suppositions that operated prior to Parmenides. continued to operate in him as they did after him and in fact until the period of philosophical thought came to an end in Greece. An exposition of what I call "categories of context" may found in Chapters X and XII of Man and People.7 Stated with ultimate sobriety. They do not therefore constitute a "before" or an "after" but an "always" in relation to Greek intellectual comport­ ment. however. is generally something he is unconscious of. Every text is a fragment of an unexpressed context. The subsoil. because they are its basic context. But in order to under­ stand him. this means: a thinker's ideas always possess a subsoil. They are his "immediate historical implications. Hence he does not refer to it. newly founded ideas accepted by the thinker. a soil. and the thinker barely ever alludes to them.DISCOVERY OF ANOTHER WORLD 73 must realize that these suppositions do not actually con­ stitute thinking prior to Parmenides. and an adversary . None of these three entities is. be . composed of deep layers rooted in ancient collective thought from which a particular thinker de­ rives his ideas. They remain peripheral. they must be filled in. that are not perma­ nent even in this relative sense.

however. and in contrast with which the configuration of our own doctrine takes form. This. a menacing bluff. all thought represents thought against. which we believe erroneous. Finally. to wit. hence. whether so indicated verbally or not. The adversary is never an ineffectual past: it is always contemporary and seemingly vestigial. . and needful of correction. For the present. which at a particular moment looms above our soil. his subsoil. I call this the adver­ sary . what he considered as his soil and his enemy. we shall confine ourselves to the minimum context. at the proper moment. likewise emerges from that soil.74 THE ORIG I N OF PHILOSOPHY which one's feet tread at each moment. that which he directly and clearly depended upon. it too will have to be reconstructed. fallacious. is not the time for it. though ultimately. Our creative thought is always shaped in opposi­ tion to some other thought. our com­ mentary limited only to what the thinker had in view. and hence. This sober distinction allows us to detail with complete rigor that which mandatorily must be appended to Par­ menides' text-the definition of his soil and of his ad­ versary-and of something else that temporarily will not be explored.

"-Ed. The apparent implication of historicity is that all truly human entities are born one fine day and die another. published in German. The aforementioned Fragments on the Origin of Philosophy. appear as permanent possibilities in man. That pre­ cisely is what one finds surprising about Dilthey. applying the latter in the larger sense of literature. but its pages moreover were presented by the author as "fragments. It consists in a system of abstract moments. human life. concrete. and contraposes the field of philosophy with religion and poetry. and to do this he compares.7 Ma n ' s Perma n e n t Possi b i l ities· IN THE PAGES entitled "The Essence of Philosophy. however. In other words. Otherwise we could not talk about mankind. one thing is especially striking: religion. Nothing truly human if it is at all real. That structure is not real. demand to be integrated in each instance with variable determi• [As was noted in foomote I of Chapter VI. This does not mean that there is nothing constant in man. and literature. contains Chapters VII to X of this book. but abstract. since it is not concrete. and hence. which as such. Thus not only is it incomplete. In reading these admirable pages. connects. can be permanent." Dil­ they endeavors to concretize the concept of philosophy. philosophy.1 75 . the human being. who more radically than his predecessors-Hegel and Comte­ taught us to view historicity as a constitutive element in the human being. vital functions of the human mind. Chapter VII was written after Chapters VIII and IX and inserted when Ortega was writing the text that he prepared for homage to Jaspers. man has an invariable structure which traverses all of his changes.

comported itself in forms where the designation "philosophy" be­ comes highly questionable. a constant appeal for us to fill in the empty places-leere Stelle." and "poetry" acquire an equivocal meaning because one is uncertain whether they designate abstractions or real forms adapted by life. And.THE ORIG IN OF P H I LOSOPHY nants in order for the abstraction to be transformed into reality. The problem has a certain contemporary significance for philosophy because Western thought-and I refer to the best of it-has of late." "philosophy. but that truth does not affirm anything real. In the light of this prefatory warning. This likewise occurs with words like "philosophy" and "religion. If we say that man always lives from certain be­ liefs. Without attempting at the moment to formalize an opinion on this matter. in fact. I merely wish to suggest the possibility that what we are now ." I have elsewhere commented on the potential harm of employing the same word-"poetry"-to designate the work of both Homer and V erlaine. This terminological indecisiveness was exacerbated by a general proclivity toward an impoverished vocabulary displayed by the so-called "sciences of the mind. Dilthey's pages are filled with an incessant semantic re­ verberation because the terms jump continually from their abstract meaning to their concrete meaning and vice versa. the conceptual meaning of these nouns ought to be sufficiently vague and formal so that they may embrace the most diverse and even contrary aspects. we are enunciating a truth that is a theorem per­ taining to the Theory of Life. the terms "re­ ligion. under this name." Obviously. In principle there would be no reason to criticize this course were it not for the fact that we thereupon find the same word employed as a proper noun to designate very concrete forms of human occupa­ tion. rather it manifests its own unreality by leaving indeterminate the belief that he lives in every instance. and is like an algebraic formula.

he is describing a manner in which mental mechanisms function. Once philosophy exists. something that has not al­ ways operated in the history of mankind but that came about one fine day in Greece and has indeed come down to us-with no guarantee. Instead they felt a profound need for some as yet non­ existent entity. we ought to examine the religious attitude that confronted the innovators of philosophy.' MAN S PER MANENT POSS I B ILITIES 77 beginning to engage in under the traditional aegis of phi­ losophy is not another philosophy but something new and different from all philosophy. Incumbent upon the development of our problem is the necessity to diagnose if this religion and philosophy. which coexist. The fact is that when Dilthey finally pinpoints what he means by philosophy. are sensu stricto religion and sensu stricto philosophy. were not confronted with a philosophy outside of themselves to which they would be attracted and induced to combine with their religion. Before embarking on any systematic considerations. and the adoption can assume the most diverse equations. we make no claim to having solved the problem of whether those pursuits are or are not per­ manent possibilities in man. What was it that they were seeking? Why did they seek it? Does it make sense to admit that had they remained within the confines of traditional religion they might have striven . This moment in Greek life when philosophy began has singular value for the subj ect. however. Then men are confronted with two forms of inner pursuit­ religion and philosophy-which do not have to be created but simply adopted. the situation is less unique. however. of its perpetuation. Notwithstanding. We have done exactly the opposite-opened the subj ect in a somewhat peremptory form. The early thinkers. which subsequently would be the thing to receive the strange appelation-philosophy.

. by gazing into the distance.THE ORIGIN OF PHILOSOPHY to discover something as broad as the latter but com­ pletely different in content? The only means of answering these questions is to im­ merse ourselves in the preserved fragments of those early thinkers and. For the moment we are not so much concerned with the thesis expressed in those fragments as in the attitude with which those men responded to what they beheld. try to discover the same horizon as it appeared to those writers.

C. It seems highly improbable to me that the poem had a title.l Thus their thought dates to around the year 5 00. a discussion on the chronological relationship between the lives of both is not relevant here. As I formerly indicated. if any. The genre is mystical and tragic in tone. What was the nature of the mental soil in which they were implanted? What intellectual trends. would have been Aletheia. What is crucial for us-and striking-is that the works of both were simul­ taneous and occurred around 475 . He "cites" neither friend nor foe. l I.The Attitu d e of Pa rme n i d e s a n d H e ra cl itus· 8 PARMENIDES AND HERACLITUS were probably born around the year po B.-Ed. and the language imposed upon it is aloof and mythical. this person is abstract: a y outh-Kovpos-who for some reason is protected by young goddesses.2 which is in keep­ ing with the most characteristic literary genre of the pe­ riod-the theological-cosmogenic poem of the Orphic mystics. 2 . and even more so that it be entitled On Nature. as is conventionally held in Sextus Empericus. for they are called "daugh" [Title supplied. vague feminine divinities who are per­ haps the Muses or the Hours. 79 . And that is not accidental. Although it is composed in the first person. what gen­ eral modes of thought attracted their youthful minds? What then-contemporary trends delineated for them the adversary ? No mention of a proper noun appears in Parmenides' work to serve as a guide. Parmenides poured his ideas into the mold of a solemn poem. A much likelier name.

and who will lead him like an Amadis of Gaul along the "polyphemus road" -the "famous path" that enables "the creature who knows" to travel the entire universe and be left at the gates of heaven. . however. and calculatingly adopted an "archaic genre" and used it for his pronouncements. We still name a metal "mercury. driven by the damsels. clearly and unquestionably reveals that Par­ menides obliquely. no doubt winged. mythological 3. All that we are obliged to explain is why this man needed a disguise to say what he wished. precisely because no one still believes in the existence of such a place in cosmic space that specializes in births. and at the least take care so that what we say is not con­ fused with what its adherents say. diseases of Venus." Thus do we calmly speak about the Orient as a region where things are born. steeds. When. Not only does Parmenides speak about divine maidens. this shadowy spectral quality of the mythological setting evident in Parmenides. While a belief that is not ours remains alive in others. has an awesome tenacity.80 T H E ORIG IN O F PHILOSOPH Y ters of the Sun. we take it seriously and grapple with it. and some hapless souls suffer from venereal diseases. as a vocabulary. Or to put it another way: Parmenides used the my tho logical­ mystical poem without any longer believing in it. coldly. it becomes merely an innocuous "manner of speaking. as a mere instrument of expression-in short. we regard a belief to be mummified." This vagueness in the lines. The defunct beliefs lasted for a long time transformed into mere words. once it is dead. All of this constitutes a solemn theatrical wardobe extracted by Parmenides from old trunks to serve as a disguise precisely because he used it as a dis­ guise. why he be­ lieved it expeditious to feign a religious." Madrilenians go for a stroll to Neptune's fountain. that is. but of a formidable G oddess who will teach him the Truth and of a chariot led by the fleetest.3 Mythology.

It manipulates tepid. insipid language. . he is so overcome with exalted emotion that they acquire a mystical value for him. nothing human will be understood. it further decapitates normal language. which we call "stylizations. infinite but constitute an available or potential repertory (one already invented or which the individual can invent for the occasion) of limited casuistry. If one believes that men are endowed with airtight compartments. delivered in a revelatory. The most frequent motive behind stylization is emotion. there is need to compose an ultra-grammar of stylization. It is a stylistic necessity . that it is not fervid. And yet. it renders it even more inexpressive­ for example. in diplomatic language everything is evasive. To define the forms of styliza­ tion is not. making it reverberate and quiver. and passionate. and will 4. the euphemism strongly supplants intuitive expression with fuzzy. avoided personal comments.PARMENIDES AND H ERACLITUS 81 tone so that the resounding thunder of his ideas might descend upon us as pathetic outpourings. It is not a whim. apocalyptic tone via a goddess' lips. impas­ sioned. therefore. that its discovery lacks the mystical element. In addition to the grammar of normal speech. It is naive to believe that because a science may be cold." which studied general dic endi-the manner in which things can be said-we would readily understand the reason why Parmenides.4 Not only does Parmenides reveal his discoveries but-with a justification soon to be apparent to us-he is dazzled by them. a frigid truth. in great seriousness (everything about Par­ menides is terribly serious) ." are not. it has been. wary and timorous. Style is the distortion of common language to suit the author's special motives. kindling and sharpening it. watered-down language. Had we not foolishly disdained "Rhetorics and Poetics. At other times when the emotion is of a different sort. at any given moment. so to speak. and transferred all of his elo­ cution to vaguely religious characters and figures. a pointless task-attempting to fence in the countryside. stylization obtains the opposite effect. is. ordinary. Bear in mind that these distortions of normal language. rej ected didactic prose.

" "pure rationalism"-a rationalism summoned to strangulate re­ ligion-discovered suddenly when very young. the commonplace and the magical." . in a sense. when I was full of enthusiasm. Hence not only does Parmenides' style indicate • [ " 1 0 November 1 6 1 9. hitherto un­ perceived and hence not taken into account. Every "scien­ tific" discovery-that is. cum plenus torem. Abruptly. et mirabilis scientiae tunda­ menta reperirem. and I discovered the fundamental principles of a wonderful knowl­ edg e ] . Descartes. a transcendental revelation. Shaken by that peculiar. he in­ scribed in his personal notes: "X novembris 1 6 19. the situation-the manner in which the mys­ tical experience is reproduced-is analogous. a transcendental phenomenon and hence he was most naturally led to employ a religious vocabulary and imagery in order to express simultaneously his idea and his emotion." Irrespective of our prior convictions concerning the real and the divine.THE ORIGI N OF PHILOSOPHY inevitably and happily be that way always. the method (from the "mathesis universalis" ) whereupon he experienced an ecstatic vision that he always regarded as the culminating moment of his life and as something in which he barely had a role. the innovator of the most radical "pure reason. as though a veil were removed."· Parmenides regarded the experience of his discovery as. unabashed emotion typical of "discoverers. a divine gift. And this he did precisely because he was not fearful that his readers would take his mystical utterances literally. it becomes marvelously evi­ dent to us-we become "visionaries"-and in addition feel as though we have been overcome by some strange power and uprooted from our habitual "bourgeois" and totally unmystical world into another one-we fall into ecstacy or "rapture." which is infinite humility. every truth-suddenly confronts us with an immediate vision of the world. Enthousiasmo.

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that he did not believe in the gods, but that likewise amongst the social group whom he addressed, religious faith no longer existed. For Pannenides, the ultimate ra­ tionalist, to talk in tenns of gods and of celestial excur­ sions, and to employ unwieldly images represents some­ thing extraordinary and feverish, which serves to satisfy his need to express felt emotion. A genuine believer, how­ ever, would find Pannenides' pen palid, tepid, and coldly allegorical. Anaximander, eighty years earlier, had in­ vented prose and composed his exposition of physics in it. This early prose had not yet been consolidated into a "literary genre," for it was still unsure of itself, that is, of being prose and only prose. When least expected, an emotive, almost mythological gale would sweep over Anaximander's "positivist" language, ruffling the prosaic idiom and imbuing it with visionary flashes. Hence Par­ menides had no choice. This explains why he resorted to that fusty mechanism, the deus ex machina. Heraclitus, on the other hand, cited names. He did not dodge the issue. He demanded that Homer and Archilo­ chus be reprimanded (frag. I 2 ) . He called the master Hesiod ignorant and unaware of the difference between night and day (frag. 57 ) , he accused Pythagoras of being a charlatan (frag. 1 2 9, dubious) , and charged Hesiod, Xenophanes, and Hacataeus with concealing their igno­ rance regarding the only thing worth knowing behind a hodgepodge of ideas (frag. 40) . The only puppet not beheaded was Thales, and of him he said: "He was the first astronomer." One hair left on the wolf! The ab­ sence of any barbed insult indicates a positive attitude on his part toward Thales and what the latter represented. Noteworthy is the fact that all those cited by name were deceased. Names of contemporaries are missing. One must bear in mind that the most important characteristic in­ tellectual output of the sixth century emanated from the

THE ORIGIN OF PHILOSOPH Y

region that included Ephesus, the Ionic coast, and ad­ j acent islands. Unlike Parmenides, Heraclitus speaks from his own un­ transferable individuality. His pronouncements, which have baffled so many, and seem so utterly "enigmatic," flash forth like lightning from a mighty, highly individual­ istic I, from this concrete noninterchangeable man Hera­ clitus, born of the city's founding family, the Codridas, endowed with "royal" status, in the highest sense of the word, that is, his blood contained the inalienable, divine heritage of "charisma." Heraclitus relinquished the exer­ cise of this divine sovereignty to his brother because even it prevented him from being an absolute individual, the highly unique Heraclitus he felt himself to be. Before stating what this eminent person said, a brief pause is in order to analyze the manner in which he said it, the formal pattern of his language. Here is what one finds: Parmenides, though emanating from a distinguished family and endowed with the monumental self-confidence typical of the early thinkers-inspired both by conscious­ ness of their existence and of their thought, their aristo­ cratic heritage and their original thinking-imposed re­ spect everywhere by his mere presence. The aura of that respectability appears even in Plato. In the final analysis, however, he mingled among men, he argued with them­ his school initiated "discussion," dialectics, as a way of life, striving to convince, not only to demonstrate, but attempting to prove. Parmenides was not distant. Hence in his work he had to create distance and to allow his doctrine to pour forth from the veracious lips of a truth­ ful goddess. Heraclitus, on the other hand, the "king," felt a sense of uniqueness and of unmitigated distance. He re­ tired, as I noted before, from public life, renouncing his sacred magistracy. He felt electrifying contempt for the masses of his fellow citizens and considered them in-

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capable of salvation because they did not possess man's fundamental virtue, which consists in the capacity to rec­ ognize superiority.1i Thus Heraclitus returned from the public square to the solitary temple of Artemis. Later he found this to be inadequate and he retired to the in­ nermost depths of a rugged mountain, akin to the merging of iron and diamonds, within the bowels of the earth. Rarely has a man possessed a more unlimited conviction of his superiority over others. We shall soon see, however, the underlying inverse reason: We shall see the utter humility from which this absolute arrogance sprang and derived its nourishment. Had Heraclitus still believed in gods, he would have believed himself a God. Hence he did not transpose his opinions, proj ecting them into some worthier mouth. He did not have to add stylistic distance to his own distance. His doctrine explains why he felt like a God-as, in principle, he believed any man had the right to feel, provided he were not as foolish as men are wont to be. One must further bear in mind that in Ionia, where new thinking and "modern" life originated, the advance was even greater than that at the other end of Hellas in Magna Graeca and Sicily. The mythological distance was greater and prose-the Roman paladin, simple didactic expression without melodramatism or scenography-had been solidified. Forty years before, not far from Ephesus, Hecataeus had written his books on geography and his­ tory in pure didactic prose, prose as prosaic and direct as any to be found in a modern German Handbuch.6 Never­ theless, it was prose that was still inadequate for expound­ ing the strange, transcendental thought that was to be
5. An absurd defect, since in mankind it transpires amongst those who are simply a wretched flock in need of a shepherd (see frag. II) . 6. Which does not prevent his prose from occasionally rippling poetically in Asianic flourishes.

This was none other than the oracular and sibylline formulae. one with a religious transcendental overtone.86 THE ORIGIN O F PH ILOSOPHY philosophy. Perhaps it genus dicendi is further noteworthy that there has never been a truly adequate as a vehicle for philosophizing. These 7. "slang expressions. Granted his conviction that a thinker should devote his thought to universal reason and not be a recondite wizard dedicated to thought. and unper­ fumed. unadorned. 9 2 : "The Sibyl who in a de­ lirium utters things unj okingly. 9 3 : "The Lord. What this entails precisely will occupy us at a later point. but suggests. for she is divinely inspired. Aristotle was unable to resolve this problem that fools ignore. creative threshold of philosophy-"suggestion" was being propounded as philosophy's most suitable vehicle of expression. he found the most suitable vehicle to be similar to oracular and sibylline divinations." Frag." electric conversation. His work has been preserved because he held on to his own lesson notes." and yet they have a certain tone which reveals that Heraclitus was influenced by a genus dicendi very much in vogue at the time. Frag. and the worst part is that even my own students find it necessary to pose the question of whether I have been writing literature or philosophy. I personally have had to contain myself for thirty years while fools accuse me of producing only literature. "flashing. He himself in two preserved "fragments" explained why he chose the literary genre of maxims. Hence his renowned "ob­ scurity. reaches milleniums with her voice. He expressed his ideas in spurts. along with other ridiculous provincial notions of this order! . were stylistically "compressed" and a sort of doctrinal dynamite. which in their attempt each time to be total statements." Clearly-at that venerable. in brief pronouncements. to whom the oracle of Delphis belongs." Heraclitus' style therefore consists in expressing his highly individualistic being in the form of thunder­ ing pronouncements of the sort that can spout forth in any biting.7 Thus Heraclitus could not write a continu­ ous text book. neither affirms nor conceals. They are maxims.

b e inter­ preted as emanating from a man radically hostile to tra­ ditional religion. however. as will soon be concretely illustrated. traditional religion. Heraclitus' violent attacks against the cult of the gods­ the idols-were directed toward the popular segments of society in which archaic faith still persisted. in this instance. and IS. is more conclusive than had they themselves stated that mythology." and the "cults." Mythology. . to the "mysteries. automatic and habitual. the traditional religion of the Greek city. and as we shall soon see. The foregoing stylistic observations pertaining to Par­ menides and to Heraclitus could scarcely have been omitted. He and Parmenides. Since we possess but a few fragments of their work and sparse information regarding the period. however. it was simply an old verbal usage. for they provide the underlying tone of all their statements. we cannot neglect what unwittingly is interwoven in their style. See fragments 5.PARMENIDES AND HERACLITUS 87 two statements o f Heraclitus should. In fact our realization that mythology had degen­ erated for them into mere vocabulary. 14. something that had descended beyond their vital horizon. were combating newer purely mythological forms of "religion. of prime im­ portance." which were not the traditional ones."8 His discoveries nonetheless were experienced along with an aspect of revelation. and everything con­ nected with it represented for them the terminated past. by then constituted a subsoil for both thinkers. appeared on the scene at the same time as the new mode of thought that engaged Parmenides and Heraclitus: Orphic theology and the "Dionysian mysteries. such as others comprised by lans. and the mystical impact of this ex­ perience found its natural expression in sentences quiver­ ing with quasi-religious emotion. A keen understanding of style is. a modus dicendi. They were not preoccupied or men­ tally involved with it.

it forms part of the structure of our lives and is an instrument therein. it persists. or adequately. and future. to fall back upon the Erinyes. And all that he said about the latter was that he was the first astronomer. if a sentence called for it. The only individuals mentioned by Heraclitus without any appended insult are Bias and Thales. that of Thales and his followers was specialists' knowledge. Each one of these temporal planes acts differently . with its three dimensions of past. Nevertheless. Hence it did not matter. It is necessary. the past when viewed has perspective.88 THE ORIGIN OF PHILOSOPHY guage. Heraclitus therefore respected the mode of thinking initiated by Thales. one must recall that Thales flourished around the year 584. and even less so. therefore. nothing more than astronomy. Not only does each of us inhabit a spatial landscape but also a temporal one. the date when the work of both proto-philosophers began. what was referred to as Ionian natural science. Heraclitus' soil is composed of the intellectual trend that had emerged a century before throughout Greece. the actual soil in which both proto-philosophers were implanted. present. that is. Let us seize the bull by the horns. Heraclitus made it plainly evident that believers in traditional religion "haven't the slightest notion of what Gods and Heroes really are" ( frag. 5 ) . Let us for the moment ignore the latter. the one we had in our fingers a moment ago. to picture with a certain clarity the profound change that in rapid expan­ sion and accelerated development occurred in Greek life around the year 600 until 500. close and distant planes. In order to understand this completely and to diagnose completely. to refer to Dike. in whom it first appeared. Like every landscape. A certain horizon of the past extends into our own present. In short. particularly in its purest and most pronounced form in Thales of Miletus. but he made it clear that in comparison with his own knowledge.

pure "antiquity. indiscernible. the closest to Heraclitus. Hesiod therefore represents the converging point of both groups of names: those completely "ancient" and . Xenophanes. and Hecataeus (40 ) .C. In one fragment (42 ) . two centuries. and together on the other Pythagoras.PARMENIDES AND HERACLITUS 89 upon our existence. Hesiod. These three men therefore "were around" when Heraclitus' life began. In order to understand a man well one must depict with some precision the chronological topography of his horizon. In another-and in this order­ Hesiod. Hecataeus. died when the latter was around twenty years old. Fifty years earlier there was Homer and fifty years later. Xenophanes. Heraclitus mentioned Homer and Archilochus together. Homer and Hesiod are neither more nor less distant than Archilochus. and Hecataeus. was probably born around 5 7 2 . who composed his Theogony around the year 700. Heraclitus' outbursts were written around 475. Xenophanes. and two and a half centuries removed from the youthful Heraclitus-soo B. And with slight mod­ ification-due to the fact that the settlements of the west were somewhat less "advanced" than those of the east­ the picture serves Parmenides. a century and a half is not a precise time. Archilochus. Pythagoras. In fragment 42 Homer is paired with Archil­ ochus. Note that the order i n which these names were cited corresponds exactly to historical chronology. Note that fragment 40 is like a diptych: on the one side Hesiod. Thus they were respectively a century and a half. Behind them in the intangible dis­ tance loomed a character utterly of the past. but rather some hazy. The names cited by Heraclitus allow us to reconstruct with considerable clarity the perspective he had of events of Greece's past up to his own day. who was a few years older than Hecataeus and Pythagoras. According to Greek tem­ poral optics prior to Aristotle." Accordingly.

Do not forget that according to my historiological concep­ tion. that it did not become an historic force until the year 600. namely the Homeric and pre­ Homeric mythological tradition. 1 0. the religious past. One must bear in mind that Orphism and its theologies were ranking intellectual phe­ nomena in Greek at the time that Parmenides and Hera­ clitus began writing. The pre-history of the Dionysian cult is obscure. which was in great vogue among the intermediary social groups: the Dionysian and Orphic mysteries. the ancient popular gods and the gods of the city. Pherecydes of Syros composed his theology. Myth­ ological religion had always been direct. In addition. there existed a "modern" religious past. In addition to this nominative past. which lies foreshort­ ened in these fragments. Mythology by its very nature is ingenuous.1° 9. survives amongst the people. culminated around 550 in a form that was completely new for Greece: theology. generations are very brief units of time-fifteen years-and ." They represent for Heracli­ tus the two great terminal points of the past. which con­ sists in speculation on the primary form-that is." which with the te­ nacity characteristic of all things religious. which was preceded and followed by others under the legendary names of Epi­ menides and Onomacrito. In 5 50. however. It did not inspire creation of this secondary form of religion. particularly. theology. This too is divided into two terminal points of perspective: religious "antiquity.THE ORIGIN OF PHILOSOPHY those completely "modern. and that Pherecydes is a contempo­ rary of Anaximander and belongs to the generation im­ mediately preceding Py thagoras'. Around the year 600 both of these began in­ nundating the Greek world. No one knows when or how this God of Thrace diverged so completely from the Hellenic sphere. is the impersonal one previously discerned in other vituperative fragments-to wit. The fact is.9 Orphism. whereas the­ ology is everything except ingenuous.

See Pinder. Proof of this varied response is obvious and abundant. was a constitutive and formal attack upon the "modern." On the other hand. Whereas he devoted only a few random remarks to the gods. when it came to the "mod­ ern. his work lacks incidental attacks.PARMENIDES AND HERACLITUS 9I The fact remains. apparent attacks against an their most important historical characteristic is not-contrary to the usual. coincidental attacks. 19z8. It survived only among the "common people. V. though this opposi­ tion was twofold. old genealogy-to succeed one another. his battle against the "moderns" integrally constitutes all of his doctrine. however. Archilochus) Heraclitus' attitude was summary.] . [Man and Crisis. Thus Parmenides gives no indication of a battle against "antiquity ." It is important to distinguish between super­ fluous. He did not seriously contest it since he realized that it no longer existed as a belief among any of the alert people of his day. 1 9 3 3 . Parmenides did not touch upon it. On the other hand. that this great mass of the intellectual past. It is well to recall that it was I who relaunched-and this time seriously-the decisive theme of generations. like that of Heraclitus. Das Problem der Generation. Prologue." he adopted a boxer's stance. The exposition of my concrete doctrine of genera­ tions did not emanate from knowledge of Pinder. and to Homer and Archilochus in scattered fragments. They opposed it all. to overlap. did not cite names. There are always three "contemporary" generations and the equation of their triple dynamism constitutes the concrete reality of every historical date. The complete formularization was presented in the course on Galileo in the Valdecilla Chair. but on the contrary. With regard to traditional religion and "poetry" (Homer. however. Since the latter. Parmenides' doctrine. both "ancient" and "modern. was completely negated by Heraclitus and Parmenides." Thales-as we shall see-had to overcome the prevailing mythology and he constantly confronted it. Vol." personal and impersonal. the idol cult. This difference is confirmed if we examine Parmenides. Complete lVorks.

. though. head-on battle he waged against the gods and Homer. or else he will be unable to perceive with total clarity the significance of the utterly astonishing mental agitation evident in the writings of Parmenides and Hera­ clitus. Let us baldly state. of new forms of religion.92 THE ORIGIN O F PH ILOSOPHY obviously definite enemy. The exist­ ing fragments of his poems reveal the dauntless. of new forms of a nonreligious and even antireligious category-in short. and constitutive attacks that are integral to a theory. despite its solemnity and hieratism. Xenophanes provides a further ex­ ample and datum illustrative of the demise of Greek "an­ tiquity" and the fact that within a few years it no longer existed upon the contemporary horizon even as an ad­ versary. Did they have total disrespect for the entire intellectual past? There is no doubt that they were two giants of discontent. Xenophanes was probably born in 565. The fact remains however that up to now the text of these two men reveals only a negative past. on the one hand. hence a half century before Heraclitus and Parmenides. which were occupying the position formerly held by the undisputed empire of ancient mythology and Homerism. two fabulous heroes of contempt. They constituted his adversary . Parmenides' poem. and there is hardly a line imprinted in Heraclitus that does not discharge a verbal blow. bristles throughout with in­ sults. and on the other hand. The reason for this ferocity will soon emerge. They had descended beyond the horizon. The new adversary consisted. The gods and Homer were no longer a burning issue for the elite. Half a century later things had changed. One must carefully de­ mark the plane that both of these phenomena occupied for the thinker born in the last twenty years of the sixth century. of a "scientific" nature-which both men found radically inadequate. signifying that the latter were still extant during his lifetime.

" let us suggest only two of its attributes. Although an exploration of the content of this "knowl­ edge" will not be undertaken here. praiseworthy mention was given by him to Bias of Priene and Thales of Miletus. In fact. it represented knowledge that emanated directly from individuals. everything with any claim to "wisdom" was impersonal in nature."ll Thales. Thales was not only one of the Seven Wise Men. removed in theme and method from the preceding religious-poetic tradition. however. a simple reading of the representative names reveals two strata. there existed various lists of "wise men" that differed numerically and by the inclusion of like names. As is known. One of the essential qualities. For reasons soon to be made evident. he was the "first astron­ omer. Heraclitus. however. The latter were two of the "Seven Wise Men. One: the Seven Wise Men's wisdom constituted the first secularized knowledge. Further­ more. of the wisdom of the Seven Wise Men was that it originated in one particular eminent individual. With­ out attempting here to divine what comprised the Wise Men's "wisdom. a Wise Man was there to vouch for the wisdom and not the re­ verse: he was the tree to recommend the fruit. but in addition to this there were more specialized forms of individual creation initiated or at least elucidated by particular individuals. the oldest of the Seven. was always considered the most prominent." that is. As noted. the innovator of physiology or Ionian phy sics the first "scientific" thinker to exist in the - II. There was. The reduced "seven" first appeared in Plato. but as Heraclitus himself notes. the "wisdom" common to them all.PARMENIDES AND HERACLITUS 93 that both men were blind to all compromise and that their ideas emerged with unparalleled radicalism. did evince symptoms of a positive past. Prior to that. firstly. . The individual's role was that of a substratum for expressing wisdom that he could not claim to have derived personally.

C. "Tyranny" and "science" were contemporary inventions. proto-geography and proto-history. heterogeneous in aspect. law created by man. Part of that soil became the ad­ versary for Parmenides and Heraclitus. If we balance things now. We must now try to understand them. Proto-philosophy is 1 2 . the only thing in this human world. which like an eruption suddenly broke the "traditional" crust of Greek life in the year 600. and we shall under­ stand them only by finding their common root. Thus Heraclitus' "positive past" was not meager. however. since an adversary is always a contemporary. we find that the soil inhab­ ited by Parmenides and Heraclitus was formed by a strange convolution of intellectual initiatives. All of them began to flower during the first twenty years of the sixth century. and in addition. This convolution was com­ posed of the following elements: the Dionysian mysteries. has merely yielded us an in­ ventory of human forms. Periander was the first tyrant. the clue that will enable us to discover beneath their apparent divergence and dispersion their common inspiration. tyranny and legislation. Pythagorian ethics and mysticism."12 In fact. considered worthy by Heraclitus was law. The year 600 likewise marked the innovation of legislation that stemmed from one indi­ vidual and of the literary genre of "law writing. One does not combat that which is totally alien. Our gleaning. regarded written . Solon was the legislator of Athens. and to be more precise. Ionian physics. It is known that Plato somewhat ironically laws as a literary genre. Orphism.94 THE ORIGIN OF PHILOSOPHY world. arithmetic. apart from rea­ son. since Ionian philosophy and its derivations-tyranny and legis­ lation-constitute two thirds of the "modernity" that in­ formed Greek intellectual life between 600 and 500 B. something standing in the same soil and holding much in common.

This supposition. The truth is closer to the contrary. between 500 and 470. Science and philosophy. rather than one of national chang e. The enlargement produced by Alexander's campaigns was an increase in the number of states. In 1 3 . since its tenacious reactionism consubstantial with its democracy.13 Immediately-and this phe­ nomenon deserves broader consideration-the colonial periphery began to react upon continental and metro­ politan Greece.PARMENIDES AND HERACLITUS 95 the fruit produced by that Spring exactly one century afterward. fundamental events. had long been anticipated by the colonies. The latter approach is historical positivism. however-that Greek thought remained sickly and hence abnormal in development­ has the ring of blasphemy not only for Hellenic wor­ shipers. was responsible for the pathological evolution of Greek thought. which as it were. . were originally colonial events. had preceded this by a century. if we so label what comes to constitute "classicism. and it could never boast of many. are at their core. which prevented it thereby from attaining full maturity. We have now made the preparations for attempting the historiological process: the reconstruction of origins. Athens is the first to come to mind. a typical colonial product. Athens delayed-two centuries! -in creating an indigenous philosophy. The vital tide of Greek national ex­ pansion attained its peak. Every period is understood as emerging from one or a few events. but more generally. Whenever philosophy is discussed. Homer. for all those who regard historical events per se as something merely to be an­ notated. Greek culture. especially. What Greece was between 600 and 500 is rooted in the following precise event: Around 650 Hel­ lenic colonization reached its last frontiers in all four cardinal directions." as we know it. and the question might well be asked if Athens in fact was not a hindrance for philosophy.

cum ira et studio. but also hounded by the entire pack of his passions. anguished. and now I add that if it signifies understanding it. applauding. if he is truly a man-partially with his intellect. it of necessity likewise means criticizing it. and irritated by it. history is a rich repertory of possible operations that ought to be coordinated with events. censuring. It is not a mere manner of speaking. and completing it. and consequently becoming enthused.THE ORIGIN OF PHI LOSOPHY my judgment. crying and laughing over it. . and these operations begin precisely once the event has been noted. History. however. as I was saying. cor­ recting. signifies not only recounting the past but understanding it. history taken seri­ ously is integrally a form of life in which the historian involves himself fully.

Freedom is the aspect assumed by a man's whole life when the diverse components in it reach a point in their development to produce among themselves a par­ ticular dynamic equation." Confining the word "freedom" primarily or exclusively to law and politics. is an error that reduces and flattens the enormity of the subj ect. In the primitive or early stage. It is a brief. He feels that what man can do in his life coincides 97 . Probably every civilization or curriculum vitae of a related group of people passes through that form of life known as freedom. The issue is indeed much broader. that was born in Greece when its people entered the "period of free­ dom. as though these were the root from which the general configuration of human life known as freedom springs. The categorical stages of a civilization are determined and discerned as modifications of the funda­ mental relation between the two great components of human life.9 P h i l os o p h y a n d a Peri o d of Fre e d o m PHILOSOPHY was one fruit. presupposes having defined or found with some rigor the formula for that equation. glowing stage that un­ folds like noon between the morning of primitivism and the decline of evening. among others. man has the impression that his circle of possibilities barely transcends that of his needs. man's needs and his possibilities. the petrification and necrosis of its senescence. To have a clear idea of what "freedom" is.

technical. How much or how little must be interpreted in relation to the subj ective consciousness that man has of his needs. ritualistic. besides the economic. In order for a mode of life to emerge with particular characteristics . po­ litical. Note that it is equally incorrect to assign the term "riches" or wealth primarily to the economic realm. Living therefore means relying on what there is and thanking God that there is enough to live! Something to eat. a little knowledge. His margin of choice is extremely scant. or con­ cretely. amongst a particular group of people. as it was to consign the idea of freedom to politics and to law. the true relationship consists in the fact that both juridical free­ dom and economic wealth are. even within this vital equation.THE ORIGI N OF PH ILOSOPHY almost strictly with what he has to do. Man lives by utilizing the frugal repertory of intellectual. the individual now and then is faced with the possibility of choice. with many things to own. and festive resources laboriously created and ac­ cumulated by tradition. Note what this means. or to phrase it differently: there is a paucity of things that man can do. Wealth in the economic sense means simply that man is confronted with numer­ ous possibilities for possession and acquisition. though extremely impor­ tant and symptomatic. individuals of a cultural ambit feel that they can scarcely rely upon any possibilities other than those strictly essential to their needs. and sell. Life does not have an aspect of "richness" to him. In both instances. but so infrequently does this happen that he is unaware of it and does not regard it as a special function of his life. buy. In actuality.1 I. only effects or manifestations of generic freedom and vital wealth. If one generalizes this concept to all other orders of human existence. a little pleasure. the conclusion is as fol­ lows: Until a certain date. Life is poverty. for choice assumes that the circle of one's possibilities is notably greater than that of one's needs. Under this sort of equation an individual is never in the position of being able to choose.

knowledge. Now. in Greece by the mines in Pontus. Concomitantly. it consists in abundant possibilities. but overflowing these. The reali­ zation that new things have been invented becomes and for men to take notice of it. . humble gratitude to God for granting the essentials. of "humanism. The basic emotion of existence is now the opposite of resignation.PHILOSOPHY AND A PERIOD OF FREEDOM 99 Gradually relations between the members of this his­ torical entity increase. . the super­ abundance of existence. thanking God for it! Resignation. Man experiences life as consisting not solely of what there is but as the crea­ tion and extraction of new realities from oneself. Luxury. hence. the prob­ lem is reversed : one has to choose among many possibili­ ties. in Europe by the Portuguese discovery on the African coast of "The Mine" that is still called Elmina." or one might say monotony. The pleonastic period is initiated in Phoenicia and Carthage by the discovery of Spanish mines. The mode must appear often enough so that it assumes some proportion and conspicuousness. mere existence is not enough. Life is symbolized by the cornucopia. and pleasures become abundant. and the dis­ covery of mines upon remote shores are initiated. The word "abundant" unwittingly is imposed. to do (haceres) than are needed. new techniques. There are more things. and traffic with its periphery. at least spatially. commerce. or lust. History's "regularity. life is abun­ dance. Ipso facto the individual finds that living is a problem totally different from what it was in the archaic stage. or with "foreigners. Simultaneously. the term expresses the hyperbolic relationship be­ tween possibilities and needs. as does intercourse. arts." begins. more possible things. begins." Whereupon the basic emotion of petulance." Life expands. for living means "having things in excess. is surpris­ ing. . industry. 2 .2 Eco­ nomic wealth appears. One must select. The world one inhabits is en­ larged. Then it meant abiding by what there was and . life is no longer defined exclusively by its necessities. however.

To create a new life becomes a normal function of life­ something that would not have occurred to one during the primitive stage of life. he was the one to choose among the superabundant possi­ bilities. And to such a degree that unbeknownst perhaps to the reader. Whether he wanted to or not. we have been able to describe this situation with the same words Aristotle em­ ployed centuries later in his definition of science: Ur'crn]/L'Y} (O'Tl � WroA'Y}'. Does this reveal clearly what is signified by "vital wealth"? Man's existence-and the world in which it transpired-was enormously enlarged. traveled. even though his life was still par­ tially governed by it. Symptomatically the individual ceased to be totally inscribed to tradition. As countries frequented one another. For the first time in civilization.or super-worldly powers.1 00 T H E ORIG I N OF P H I LOSO P H Y functionalized and man deliberately begins to invent. Every act. The individual. its contents filled to exuberance. even in the least transcendent instance. Revolutions begin. And let us not exclude amongst these the intel­ lectual possibilities. they learned different ways of seeing things. The possi­ bility and consequent necessity of selecting one's opinion on something was the human experience upon which so­ called "rationalism" was based. modi res consid­ erandi. as in Greece. Amid a life of poverty the individual needs God so much that his life derives from God. Religion always implies transcendence.'" � 7T'O'ToTttT'Y} (Science is the most persuasive supposition). every moment of his existence has reference and connection . At the same time the attitude toward religion changed. man felt that life was worth the effort of living. instead of being dependent on a single unquestioned repertory of opinions-traditions­ was faced with a broad selection and forced to choose by h imself the one he found most convincing. and became immersed in things exotic. Gods are ultra.

Irreligiousness was the result. and separated them. through magical rite. This was the inevitable counterbalance. the increasing bulk of the worldly element intervened between man and God. using the fluid. As life swelled. Just as the afore­ mentioned cause separated men from tradition. that man has little faith in their efficacy and has faith only in the virtue with which G od. without any ado. This means that life itself and this wretched world barely interpose between man and God. so this surrender to worldly life uprooted him from religion. ethereal matter available from existing possibilities.PHILOSOPHY AND A PERIOD OF FREEDOM 101 with the divinity. Hence he had no choice . with abandon. All the consequences encumbent upon the former were car­ ried to the extreme : amid a life of abundance man was left uprooted. a terra firma to support himself. and in themselves. rather than existing spontaneously. although each reflects a different aspect. a fact implicit in every equation of it. The very instruments of life are so crude. When earlier I pointed out that during "periods of freedom" men live upon a foundation of emotional pet­ ulance and superabundance. so much of this world. dangling in mid-air. so innately ineffectual. The stability and vital security of an individual's existence were not automatically and effortlessly bestowed upon him by innate adherence to an unquestioned tradition. He floated amid the aerial element of his mounting possibilities. Affirmation of this world and of life in it became valid in its own right. Thus the in­ security of the "free" prepotent man is extremely curious: . and the world grew richer. Human life is always insecure. The insecurity of the poor man is one and the insecurity of the rich man another. infuses them. but the individual himself with total awareness had to fabricate a foundation. however. he had to construct for himself a world and a life. I did not imply thereby the attribute of security. Now this implies "rationalizing" simple existence.

a des­ perate flailing amid waves--fluctus. mu­ tually paralyze their power to convince.102 THE ORIGIN O F PHILOSOPHY it means not knowing what to do simply because there are so many things to be done. he falls into a sea of doubts. Hence doubt is a "state of mind" that is not a permanent state. . over­ whelming torrent) . that is. of opinions. Doubt is not simply nonbelief. He must emerge from doubt and for this he seeks a means. Every method is a reaction to a doubt. Man is stranded amid the various opinions. whereupon one has the impression of being lost. occurs in the realm of thought. Man cannot remain in it. . . Every doubt is a postulation of a method. and precisely for that reason. Doubt presupposes that one is confronted with positive opinions. Doubt is a fluctuation of opinion. Descartes in his invention of "methodical doubt" provides a superb example of skill and intellectual elegance in com­ bining both elements with utter simplicity. The means by which one emerges from doubt and becomes lodged in firm con­ viction constitutes the method. A concrete example of this sense of being lost. of evaporating amid sheer pos­ sibilities. Someone who holds no opinion about something is ig­ norant. but unstable. but he does not doubt. none of which is able to sustain him firmly-hence he slips about amid the many possible "know ledges" and finds himself falling. each of which might warrant belief. of shipwreck amid abundance (note that the very word ab-undancia retains the image of an innundating. doubt. that is. falling into a strange liquid medium . a symptomatic phenomenon of such pe­ riods: namely.

that there are no things. someone is saying something to someone. only gods. implying thereby the futility of discriminating between things and gods. then everything must be devoid of things. direct sense-that of religious tradition-but in some oblique new sense. the textual meaning has two dimensions. Only through integration of both dimen­ sions can the concrete textual meaning be derived.1 103 .10 Th e H isto rica l O rig i n of t h e P rofessi o n of Ph i l oso p h y · WHAT IS the underlying meaning of Thales' assertion: "All things are full of gods"? As in all assertions. Since deities and things are mutually exclusive and since gods pervade everything. Let us endeavor to interpret Thales' assertion in its strict textual sense. or more properly still. uncommon reality in contrast to daily. One consists in what the text appears to be saying. The primary attribute of gods who were gods sensu recto was that of representing the extraordinary in opposition to the ordi­ nary. At certain points and at certain • [Tide supplied. habitual reality.-Ed. the privileged. The other is the fact that a particular individual is addressing his statement to another individual or a specific group. Thus it is unlikely that Thales in this context employed the term gods in its usual. It would seem to signify that there exist as many gods as things and occurrences.

a theorem never conveys the impression of forming part of a dia­ logue.u(J'\ov fp. One might say that certain ex­ ceptional phenomena.1 04 THE ORI G I N OF PHILOSOPHY moments of reality God intervened as a contrast to the rest of reality in which God was not present. Thales' statement belongs to the epigrammatic style of the Seven Wise Men. The most ancient division in the human mind was between the sacred and the profane. The enunciation of a geometrical theorem is directed to no one in particular. XUA(7TOV f. This indeterminateness re­ specting one's interlocutor is evinced by the statement of the theorem. but had been transmuted into mere things. for the latter never alludes to any opinions divergent from its own asserted content.p. The gods were downgraded into causes. Now Thales' foregoing comment has essentially the aspect of dialogue. seemed to exist in the world wherein the presence and intervention of God occurred." or common doxa-according to which gods reside only in certain privileged phenomena. What meaning can there be in this democratization. this universalization of the divine seem­ ingly proposed by Thales' statement? Evidently that the deities had ceased to represent the exceptional and the extraordinary and had become ubiquitous and common­ place . a "public opinion. to the vernunftiges Wesen (rational being) whom Kant spoke about with such enthusiasm. correcting a preexistent opinion-to be precise. but to men in general. Pittacus declared and .(VaL (It is difficult to be good) . aristocratic in nature. Hence. or rather into something residing in each thing that was the principle of its reality and its charac­ teristic modes of behavior. when Thales made reference to the gods. The latters' dialogues were held with public opinion or with the other sages. He is rectifying. that is. In its form of expression. in his mind they had lost their primary attribute and had ceased to be actual gods.

a more resounding negation of the gods than those of Heraclitus and Xenophanes? Finally. Anaxi­ mander did the same thing. generally. ("The idea that the gods p erh aps did not exist. atheism had mounted." The formula is wary and consequently ambiguous. The God who appears at the conclusion of an argument is obviously not a religious God. Do Protagoras' words signify. 1 1 3 . they talked about one God whose primary attribute was his oneness. 2. and therefore loses much of its audacity. The discoverer no doubt was some­ one who had abandoned religious belief.l In an excellent article on "faith among the Olympic gods"2 Bruno Snell says: ceder Gedanke.\d (The beautiful is difficult} . Actually." I. and intensified among the Greeks. This free choice of principles has been called "rationality. extended. Protagoras only claims that it is impossible to know whether or not gods exist. a thesis which is in line with the universality of his skeptical rela­ tivism. Das neue Bild der Antiquen. Protagoras was the first one to deny expressly the exist­ ence of the gods. Note that implicit in it is the assumption that from the sixth century up to that date. and feeling lost in a world whose traditional foundations were severed. Protagoras did not substitute an­ other reality for the gods. however. hat ilberhaupt erst um die Mitte des 5. whereas Xenophanes and Hera­ clitus dislodged the Pantheon and in lieu of the plurality of gods fundamental to Greek religion. 1 942. around the middle of the fifth century. xaAE7r4 Ta Ka. die Gotter konnten vielleicbt nicht existieren. Wilamowitz. or granting that they do exist what their forms are. felt compelled to seek through intellectual free choice a new foundation. Sapho und Simonides. p. According to Snell. Jaurhunderts geailssert werden konnen.") . I. 1 74.H I STORICAL ORIGIN OF P H ILOSOPHY 1 05 Solon replied. and was thereupon regarded as an atheist. p. could be expressed. but a theoretical principle.

but the god of nature is one alone) . it seems indubitable that the creation of phi­ losophy presupposes a stage of atheism. to the most diverse things. among certain enclaves in colonial Greece. On reading Timaeus we are surprised by the repeated rectification Plato feels compelled to make when men­ tioning the "Gods" in this dialogue." ( § 6 ) Similarly Cicero. daimon. in the first book of D e natura deorum. acts surprised when he naIvely discovers that philosophers have applied the nouns theos. Thus he found that in Aristotle. Plutarch in his essay on "How a young man should interpret his reading of the poets" asserted : "One must realize. God represents under­ standing as well as the stars in their incessant revolution. During the sixth century. theion. Zin at times designate God him­ self. XIII. In no way was this opposition more clearly evident than in the use of the term "god" for entities whose attributes invali­ dated the "popular gods" of Greek religion. and never lose sight of the fact. He was thereby obliged to correct himself and to 3. and often also Fate. re­ ligion ceased to be a possible way of life and consequently a new position toward the changed existence had to be devised in opposition to religious existence.3 Dating from Greek antiquity. but forthwith realized that the word then did not make sense since the gods were no more than stars and the earth as such a sidereal body.. We are informed by Cicero of Antisthenes' statement in his Physics: PopuloTes Deos multos. using them contradictorily.1 06 THE ORIG IN OF P H ILOSOPHY If the name philosophy is given to this free choice of principles. etc. the word "God" was imbued with great semantic mobility. I. . At first he employed the word in its full religious sense. but at other times Fortune. De natura deorem. naturalem unum esse (The gods of the people are many. hence. that among poets [reference is made to Homer] the words Zeus.

in the terminology of Australian aborigines. This experience of human impotence-life itself-constituted a mental blow and compelled one through "dialectical necessity" to de­ vise another inherently different reality: one of unlimited potentiality.H ISTORICAL ORIGIN OF PHILOSOPHY 1 07 use the term "Gods" in its physical sense. Burnet sug­ gests that this ambiguous use of the term God by the philosophers-as evinced in Aristophanes' The Clouds­ was the cause of the violent reaction aroused against them by Athenian public opinion. More. which is present reality. Note the clear distinction and even derision in the double meaning whereupon he distinguished between "the revolving or orbicular gods and those which appear when they feel like. Tim." the numenous substance out of which were carved particular. than in any pronouncement patently denying the existence of religious gods. created precisely because in that prior reality things were pos4. This mode of thought repre­ sented the complete inversion of the mythical logos from which the gods originated. specialized powers and gods. imagined some other prior reality in an absolute before or alcher­ inga. which would have to be delineated and which would not admit of contradictions. Thus."4 This indicates that the terms still lacked a specific character of reality. but that they had become instead titles of ontological nobility bestowable upon the most diverse entities. the "habitual World" thereby was characterized by a limited. free from chance. from ephemeral deities to God in detailed biog­ raphy. in order to "explain" or establish human reality. acci­ dental. the mythical logos. . This reality was "the divine. and self-assured. however. 4Od"""4 I a. and ominous potentiality.. the atheism of Ionian natural science was manifest in the mode of thought that engendered it. Human reality.

and in contra position the new opinion emerged as the solid one-that is. the physis-by constructing it in accordance with the experimental law of our lives. and thereby serving as a permanent foundation. does not seem possible unless we imagine the early thinkers as being utterly devoid of religious faith. a past united in continuity with the present. the true one. which thus explained. stigmatized as humbug. Parmenides. Hence Thales' assertion ought not to be interpreted in the sense that his ubiquitous gods are "divine" in nature.1 08 T H E O R I G I N OF P H I LOSOP H Y sible that were not possible in the human present. Consequently Hecataeus intro­ duced historical theory as an intellectual construction of the past by means of the present. Ionian thought-not only among the natural scientists but equally in Hecataeus-attempted inversely to explain the before-the origin of things. is the fact that not a single text appeared among the Ionian natural scientists in which the slightest role was attributed to the traditional gods. The state­ ment is mildly ironic and euphemistic in character. becomes an effective before. More astonishing than commonly regarded. Important to note is the radical stylistic difference be­ tween the Ionian natural scientists and the founding philosophical thinkers-Heraclitus. The former calmly expounded their opinions. surviving in it. whereas the latter angrily reared up against the populace and heaved insults upon their predecessors either nomi­ natively or generically. It is neither necessary nor accurate to assume an intensification of atheism during the fifth cen­ tury. The onset of a mode of thought that so radically inverts traditional thought and transforms the world into an in­ herently profane reality. Traditional opinion was invalidated. So evident is this that the absence . and Xen­ ophanes. Thus it is seemingly essential to truth that it emerge upon a background of errors recognized as such. but exactly the opposite. Hence the present explains the past.

who was the last of the Ionians. though hazy. Why did philosophy begin with an onrush of invective? A good deal of time had elapsed between the Ionians and Heraclitus. since the reality thereby designated was also vague. delineating a type of person. The occupation had to be practiced by a series of individuals before it became not an individual concern but something typical. whose practice consisted in theory . despite his hypertrophic individuality. For Heraclitus and Parmenides. Hence the change in style. already formed. Their occupation was an individual's concrete thing to do. In a way.H I STORICAL ORIG I N OF P H I LOSOP H Y 1 09 of a study of it is surprising. They addressed themselves to certain minority groups who were informed on particular in­ tellectual currents of the time. The first practitioners of this occupation. our own times included. yet finally adhered to traditional opinions. who discussed Homer and Hesiod and were acquainted with Orphic theology. Heraclitus' and Parmenides' generation found this new human figure. The thinker as such was not to exist for another century and then in Plato's Academy-if one is willing to concede that the thinker's existence has ever been truly possible in history. these groups represented the populace. Obviously they were not yet addressing themselves to the common people. . were incapable yet of regarding themselves as thinkers. probably coincided with the birth of Heraclitus. The death of Anaximenes. insulting the populace is the thinker's characteristic tenor. This means that a new type of man was probably in the forming during the fifth century: the "thinker. just as Julius Caesar could not see himself as a caesar. and they were the butt of part of their indignities. typified both in character and profession. speaks as a magistrate of thought. for the latter did not yet have the slightest inkling about this type of individual. Heraclitus." The vagueness of the word was befitting. and endowed with the markings of a trade or magistracy.

and hence abstruse. Hence the incomparable freedom that the Ionian natural scientists enj oyed as the first philosophers. in opposition to the doxa or public opinion. a new magis­ tracy would be unnecessary. The "thinker" was still not a social figure. where he speaks most concretely about the early "thinkers. saying: "Their lack of concern toward us reveals their uncommon contempt for common men. the genuine populace. The socialization of the "thinker" came about during the fifth century. is to possess his "own" ideas. and never worrying about whether we are able to follow them or not. Hence Heraclitus and Parmenides were completely aware that in confronting and opposing the doxa. Amos." In the course of Plato's work. their opinion was constitutively paradoxa. This paradoxical character has prevailed throughout all of philosophy's evolution. our incongruent information tends to grossly distort Greek 5."5 Every prophet is a prophet against."6 Although the "thinker" by the beginning of the fifth century already had a sense of self-awareness in his role as such. they each unperturbedly conclude what they have to say. the first Hebrew "thinker" and a contemporary of Thales. . Amos VII. to perceive it and for him to assume a stance. and realized that he was performing an important function.. his professional guise was not yet sufficiently consolidated for the populace. made it evident that when God chose him for his profes­ sion. one with a special mission and the status of a magistracy. But with respect to this subject. 243 A.I 10 THE ORIGIN OF PHILOSOPHY for his mission." he expressly emphasizes the paradoxical. 1 5 . as is every "thinker. God imposed this mandate upon him: "Prophesy against my people. 6. Soph. Similarly. his professional destiny. If one were merely seeking for agreement. pattern of their thought.

whereas no "thinker" emerged amongst the Athenians. Our grounds are only meager for suspecting that it differed considerably from the relationship that existed between the "thinker" and Athens from the fourth century on. We cannot however do likewise with other cities. Shortly afterward. Pericles. What was the relation between him and the city he dwelled in? It is impossible for us to formulate a notion of this. It is impossible. theories had been de­ veloping for a century and a half. given our scant data. around 440. On the periphery. precisely the period during which the "thinker" as a social figure took form. Although we have substantial data on Athens. the only city that stands brightly illumined for us in terms of information.HISTORICAL ORIGIN OF PHILOSOPHY I I I history. as a new type of individual perceived and . despite its historical stature. We owe this blindness to the fact that Athens. This contrasts with the predominant stability of philosophers in Athens after 400. to interpret otherwise the fact that most of this data consists in revealing the philosopher in his displacement from one city to another or else intervening in political struggles. About Sparta itself. that is. since it was there and not in Athens where the "thinkers" were born and lived during the first half of the fifth century. It was in them and not in Athens that this new type of individual was formed. our information is so scant that we are unable even to picture its daily life. was backward in relation to the periphery of the Greek world insofar as "thought" was concerned. we know very little about the other cities. inasmuch as we are dealing with events pertaining to the first philosophers. We suffer therefore from a blindness of sixty years. had to send for Anaxo­ goras around 460. with the snob­ bism befitting a good aristocrat. Sparta however could be overlooked in this context. we enj oy full visibility and the "thinker" appears as a social figure.

the "sophist" Her­ odotus recounted exotic histories to the Greeks. landed at one fell sweep upon the plazas and porticos of Athens. In this early phase the "thinker" as a social figure invariably 7. it was an extremely un­ settling experience. . like the Sun. p. which according to Anaxagoras was bigger than Peloponnesus. Sophists came from the East and delivered stylized speeches.7 This was the first time that the confrontation of the "thinker" and populace was witnessed. which coincided with their political triumph over Greece and their sudden fabulous surge in wealth. An avalanche of "para­ doxas" besieged Athens. they explained ellipses with facts of the utmost simplicity and devoid of all mystery. Meanwhile. I. they offered the spectacle of extracting models of geo­ metric bodies and armillary spheres from their boxes. It was inevitable that people lost their bearings amid such chaotic inno­ vation and were unable to distinguish between the assorted professions represented therein. See Wilanowitz. Their "intellectual" backwardness. Rumored about was the terrible blasphemy that the stars were not deities but balls of burning metal. for example. Side by side with traditional poetry and mitopeia. he de­ scribed other lands and other peoples and what had happened in them and to them. they pub­ licized their "thinkers" (according to Aristophanes) . the Athenian public for the first time was abruptly presented with a variegated bounti­ fulness of the new products of the mind. meant that everything that had been fermenting in Hellas for a cen­ tury and a half. This does not imply that their view of him was adequate. It could not be. Even elite groups such as the poets were unable to grasp the distinction clearly.I I2 THE ORIG I N OF P H I LOSOPHY recognized as such by the demos. 65 55. they expounded the new Ionian. For a "people" as profoundly reactionary and intensely adherent to traditional beliefs. Plato. Eleatic science. Pythagorean.

(extravagances) . ." in celestian phenomena. On the one hand it signifies 8. no sooner did Anaxagoras. One thing however is certain: a particular type of in­ dividual did emerge as a social figure and was reacted to by society. 8 The word does not translate readily into our tongues because of its numerous semantic overtones. the first philosopher. but that he was inspired by the comic muse to distort what he beheld. Every dis­ tortion reveals its orientation and the initial form of the obj ect that has been exaggerated and decomposed.H I STORICAL ORIGIN OF P H I LOSOPHY I I 3 appears in sketchy profile. It is pointless in this instance to dwell specifically on distortion. This alone can explain the extravagant appearance attributed by Aristophanes to Socrates in The Clouds. arrive in Athens. (excessive) . It is a matter upon which philoso­ phers have shown the least perspicacity. for it is self-evident. Eth. than the Athenian populace began reacting with an unparalleled sentiment Cif uneasi­ ness." Note that the most prominent feature of that caricature was one in actuality furthest removed from the real Socrates. namely an interest in "meteorology. 1 1 4 1 h. Its solution re­ quires that one begin with the assumption that Aristo­ phanes knew what Socrates was. In fact. Aristotle explicitly relates that the populace criticized men like Anaxagoras and Thales because the latter busied themselves with 7TEpLTTa. It is pathetic to view the efforts made by philologists to exonerate the poet for this distortion as if in any event one could log­ ically expect to find in The Clouds a congruent portrait of the philosopher. Nik. 3 . In The Clouds the initial form is clearly revealed and one recog­ nizes that it did not depict Socrates the individual but some vague figure whom Aristophanes and most Athen­ ians of the day conceived of as the "thinker. The Greeks found a word in their language to categorize the varieties of human conduct that elicited this displeasure: they called it 7TEP LTTO<.

Protagoras.1 14 THE ORIGIN OF PHILOSOPHY an extraordinary act or work of laudatory value. the three most prominent philosophers in Athens-Anaxa­ goras. in the last third of the sixth century. and on the other it denotes excessive. Athenians believed that all attempts to scrutinize these secrets were tanta­ mount to disbelief in the gods. Hence." which sought to fathom celestial secrets." a name that is 9. And in fact. and pattern of behavior. improper and hence sacri­ legious conduct. and a translator of the Ethics. The two forms of life were from the start antagonistic and incompatible. Everything that transpired in heaven was divine. and Socrates-were either exiled. their origin. nature. trans­ lated 1T€PITTd. in this passage as "knowing too much. or as in the case of the latter. for relation to 1 1 77 b. The ire of the demos could not be forestalled. and particu­ larly in the religious sense. Pedro Simon Abril. the latter's position altered radically. extravagant. for the social reaction was negative and the thinker in his action had to resort to certain precautionary defenses. The re­ ligious attitude prevailed with full force among the Athenian populace. Lass on mis-translates." To my mind that is the closest translation. This conviction included the belief that certain earthly secrets existed which warranted the respect of mortals. 3 3 .9 As soon as the populace became aware of the "thinker" as a figure." We see in the reaction of the Athenian people macro­ scopic confirmation that atheism was a basis for the new profession initiated by the Ionians. Hence "meteorology. The "thinker's" new and difficult public position pro­ vided the origin of the name "philisophy. a sixteenth-century Spanish humanist. the passage must be interpreted in . "liquidated. appeared as a blasphemous en­ deavor. inasmuch as any knowledge of them was the privilege of the gods.

an attempt was made to avoid it and to find substitutes. musicians. 2). 3 1 6 d.cf. though. especially those of an astronomical and philosophical nature. 3 1 7 b. 983 a. although for the masses it meant the vague con­ glomeration of all the exponents of the new opinions. Prot. at how early a date "thinkers" were con­ cerned with what their profession should be called.10 Time and again Plato alludes to the hostility encountered by the philoso­ pher in his social milieu. The word was an ancient one. It has an exact correspondent in the Latin sapiens. In Plato a page and a half is devoted to Protagoras tackling this problem. and inexpressive. Significant for us in the present context is that Plato described the "thinker's" position in the face of public opinion as a perilous one. Plato would have us believe that the word "sophist" is valid as he under­ stood it. Homologous expressions existed among the most primitive people to designate what per1 0. It is interesting to observe.H I STORICAL ORIGIN OF PHILOSOPHY I 15 strange. and soothsayers. in the Laws-82 lA-Plato found it necessary to protest that scientific inquiries. So tenacious was this public attitude that even Alexander of Aphrodesia explicitly labeled 7TEptTTO{ (wise men) as 7TEptTTOV.> (excessive) . 529 (982 b 29.V7TTEo(Jat EVA. . The "thinker" had to conceal the profession to which he was dedicated by eschewing its revelatory name and resorting to disguises and precautions. affected. and even at the end of his life. or 7TPOO'X'lp4 7TOtELO'(Jat /Cat 7Tp o/CaA.l1 It is curious that never during this initial stage in · ' thought" was the name sop hoi applied to its practition­ ers even by themselves. were of an impious nature­ oE O'ocl)O{. in Met. I I. but that once it became discredited and con­ ducive to arousing people's animosity. Comm. and its root is Indo-European. It is revealed that the word "sophist" was an ancient one and applicable to poets.[3Eta.

still nonexistent type of knowledge. The term transfers from the obj ect to the subj ect "one who understands savors"-the sapiens. among them all the technical ones. is human life itself. The concept of the Seven Wise Men. and their legend attained such popularity in Greece that the name sophos became inadequate to designate the new .I 16 THE ORIG I N OF P H I LOSOP H Y haps constituted the oldest profession of mankind: a man. the sophos. sapores. concrete contact with them. to a nontheoretical. they are sapient. who were all men of state. hence a sampler of plants in particular and a connoisseur of tastes or savors. however. The "knowledgeable" individual understands certain things not because he possesses general ideas (the­ ories) about them. both personal and collective. This meaning. and is aware of their simul­ taneous individuality and their immense variety and casuistry. entrusted with tasting foods to dis­ tinguish between those which were salutary for the tribe. but because he lives in perpetual. The best example of the content of their knowledge exists in Solon's Elegies. Hence-someone who "understands" porcelain or "antiques. Solon was oc­ cupied only with human life and he did not theorize. always referring. This was probably the original Sisyphean meaning. however. generally an elder." It is an empirical and barely transferable knowledge. His doctrine of the seven ages exudes vital experience. their utterances. extended to all dimensions of human life." The ancient word sophos thereupon suddenly acquired a more precise con­ notation referring to the Seven Wise Men. Plants savor of something. due to their juice-in Germanic Saft. Compare these with the fragments of the "natural scientists" or of the proto­ philosophers Parmenides and Heraclitus. sap or. of all things worth understanding. The con­ tent of this knowledge pertaining to the structure of human life and its vicissitudes was called "wisdom" and it forms the "wisdom literature. Now.

Nevertheless. Plato is about to found his school near the Academy gym­ nasium. etc." A more up-to-date. and more modest word had to be found : sophistes. be it in poetry. Since the work of the "think­ ers"-not only "natural scientists" and philosophers. Whereas sophos directly designates the man himself as being wise. the word retained the concept implicit in sophia and its mean­ ing denoted the concept of wielding and transmitting tastes or savors. The style of "thought" thereafter became veiled. the name "sophist" seemed very apt to designate the new generation of men who around the year 4. less prestigious. As previously indicated. travelers. but grammarians. etc. music.-meanwhile had become consolidated into a body of "wisdoms. Rather. the "thinkers" had become inured to its existence and they no longer behaved with the trusting nonchalance characteristic of their prede­ cessors during the sixth century and the first half of the fifth.50 became professionally engaged in a new field : the magistery of new ideas. A school of what? Ten years following the death of Socrates the "thinker's" public position had improved somewhat. Without being explicit." This brings us to the beginning of the fourth century. therefore. The new name thus immediately acquired a pejorative connotation and likewise could not qualify as the stable name for the "thinker. the art of divination. this coincided with the "think­ er's" emergence as a social figure to whom society reacted with hostility. the hostility of the demos had not disappeared. inasmuch as two generations of Athenians-­ understanding this to mean certain groups belonging to the upper classes--had already received the new educa­ tion or paideia. less spontaneous. so . teaching. sophist denominates him professionally. and to a degree cautiously masked." the ac­ quisition of which necessitated an apprenticeship and.H I STORICAL ORIG I N OF P H I LOSOPHY I 17 "thinkers. rhetoricians.

For a little over a century there had existed in the lan­ guage a word whose meaning was extremely vague and noncommital-the word to philosophize. The adj ec­ tive. an informal manner of treating the arts. select for this profession and his message? The problem waS complicated because the moment had arrived to cope with the confusion created amongst the Athenian popu­ lace by the utter divergence of intellectual disciplines. poetry.12 Even by the final years of the fifth cen­ tury it appeared in Thucydides. It had been tem­ porarily confined to a verb and an adj ective. the meaning of which had prob­ ably not altered since its not too distant birth. What name would a man like Plato." . The masses had reacted angrily to the "thinkers. on the contrary. for it requires "philosophers" to know many things. I believe. and ideas that were beginning to circulate among certain "elegant" Athenians around 450. It was paired with philokalein (a lover of beauty). The compounds that begin with CPLAO (philo-) are very numerous in Greek.I 18 THE ORIGIN OF PHILOSOPHY as not to bestir the religious faith of the multitude. placed at a solemn junc­ ture. If we scan through them in an 1 2 . This augmented the urgency and the difficulty of arming oneself with a name that would be both defensive against public opinion and offensive against the other forms of "thought. another vague word. educated in Socratic irony." not only because the latter were atheists. and the pairing prevailed for a long time. but because their mode of procedure seemed petulant and insolent." We are speaking now of a people whose language is perhaps expressive of the greatest precision. first appeared in Heraclitus. although the term did not then have the meaning it was to acquire a century later. It is a curious fragment. upon Pericles' lips. whereas one of Heraclims' most common battles is against "casuistry. They convey. Both exclude the sense of professional practice.

identify our attitude respecting these compounds with the prevailing attitude among the Greeks who coined and used them habitually. Whoever examines all the positive and negative data 13." which is our prime interest. however. even within the context of compounds. similar to the Latin suffixes osus and bundus. With this in mind. We must not. let us turn to the appear­ ance of the noun "philosophy. �'AO. with the Romance languages. . for despite the fact that cptAO signified an independent word. the suggestion of the quality or disposition. Grundbegritfe der stoiscben Etbik. The ten­ dency to use compound words is characteristic of the Greek language. s For some interesting observations on the compounds of ee Reith. Rarely does a particular mortho­ logical trend appear so pronouncedly in the nature of a fashion. and nearly all of them betray their "distinguished" origin. which is prone to compounds. it was transformed through over­ usage into something akin to a prefix. 28. pp.13 The foregoing is in reference to the verb to philoso­ phize and its adj ective. We understand the compound precisely as a de-compound. represents some­ thing very special. Thus its meaning of "a liking" or "a taste for" was almost totally obliterated and it retained only its frequentative. in the decade of 440. or propensity.H ISTORICAL ORIG I N OF PHILOSOPHY I 19 historical dictionary we see that most of them were formed in the last two-thirds of the fifth century and the first third of the fourth. 24. In short. For it is not popular words that are involved. the instance of words beginning with cptAO. This proclivity simultaneously inclines to the opposite and complementary phenomenon: a nation given to employing many compounds is generally un­ aware of their compound nature but rather of the ensu­ ing unity wherein the compounds disappear. continuative sense. This be­ comes quite evident if we compare German. However. whose existence can be traced to around 5 00. 29.

who when it emerged. Anaxagoras had arrived in Athens where the new breed of the "thinker" was as yet unknown. When one is dealing with a highly specialized social group. the generation born fifteen years after Pericles was infected by the new ideas and felt great enthusiasm for the form of life introduced by peripheral Hellenic "thinkers. however. This unfamiliarity. In language." This induced men like Zeno. at least visibly. In this atmosphere the noun "philosophy" must have begun to circulate. signifying the pursuit of all the new disciplines. sometimes to all of it. a word conveys its meaning without prior definition. In conjunction with all this. Twenty years prior to this. Thus its meaning is precise. Now then. plus the retiring life attributed to Anaxagoras. Hence it is always imprecise. some of the words employed by it cease to be words of the language and are transformed into terms. and perhaps Parmenides. delayed the effects of his presence in the city. A term is a word whose meaning is determined by a prior definition. Prodicus. however. Meanwhile. from natural philosophy to rhetoric. medicine enj oyed a peculiar position. During those years only one disciple truly emerged : Archelaus -the first Athenian philosopher. and only by knowing the latter can one un­ derstand the former. and Protagoras to visit Athens and make brief appearances before elite circles. Every word in a language is a usage formed within a segment of society and thereupon extended. the word "philosophy" did not originate as a term but as a normal word in a language and even as such its profile .1 20 T H E ORIGIN OF P H I LOSOPH Y will recognize that it is not only unduly speculative to place the appearance of the name "philosophy" as a new and colorful expression among the coteries of "cultured" individuals. Language is quite a different matter from terminology. more or less sur­ rounded Pericles. whose disciple was Soc­ rates.

Now. it offered the opportunity to convey a new meaning simply by employing the compound but de-compounding it. he unquestionably was clearly aware of the danger of his behavior. dating from his earliest writing-that is. diffuse in contour. His entire work is a dauntless attempt to render a rigorous meaning to the word "philosophy. inoffensive. like the latter. before he himself had a precise concept of the discipline he was later to refer to-is proof that his predilection for the word was something inherited from Socrates. The fact remains that fifty years later people were still calling him this. underscoring its etymology. however. Nevertheless. Was not "philoso­ phy" the ideal word for his position? It was a soft name. And yet for his message precisely. no one was as intent as he upon distinguishing himself in people's minds from the naturalists and the rhetoricians. be it to expound or to criticize them. and obviously anxious not to appear petulant. for in contrast to .HISTORICAL ORIG IN OF PHILOSOPHY I 2 I was exceedingly vague. Viewed through such abnormal optics-we have all had similar experiences-the etymol­ ogy emerges from within the word as though its skeleton were emerging from its habitual body. Its conversion into a tenn can symbolize the history of Athenian intellectual life during the following half century. He was doubtlessly irritated to hear himself called. He was the first Athenian citizen to engage publicly in the new ideas. An attempt to pick out a name for something new within a language always prompts the seeker to pause abnormally before words. In Socrates the need to find a name to encompass his activity became increasingly acute and urgent. thereby isolating them almost as though they were words from a foreign tongue. a Sophist. Socrates' message was remarkably paradoxical. This conversion occurred in Plato. that is." His preoccupation with this name. After Anaxagoras and Protagoras had been exiled.

They come to almost sixty! This development makes us suspect that the illustrious discipline in all likelihood received its name primarily out of defensive reasons. as a precaution the "thinker" had to take against the wrath of his fellow-citizens who still clung to a religious position. which like so many other com­ pounds with cptAO. This in no way offered any positive step toward concretizing what constitutes the aocp[a (sophia ) of phi­ losophy. Its etymology defined it formally and furnished it with the hieraticism and asepti­ cism that differentiated the "term" from the "word. Hence it should not be surprising that possibly he is the author who employs the most com­ pounds with CPtAo-. however. Hence Plato's mannerism. this kind of "juggling" performed upon the usual noun "philosophy" was one more ironic creation. but it delineated with great exactness his personal attitude. increased in its deviation. Un­ doubtedly. Soc­ rates probably found the most exact expression for what he wishes to appear to be doing: striving. In this form.122 THE ORIGIN OF PHILOSOPHY the knowledge that was so ostentatiously flaunted in Athens in those times.) was mannered to begin with. must have seemed even more striking. the word. Precisely because his knowl­ edge was negative. as a de-compound. is clearly dis­ simulation. at times intense." a docta ig­ norantia. or as a Sophist. By de-compounding the word. desiring to know. The Socratic schools are all stances oriented in different directions. it was filled with a yearning for that which was lacking.(philo. thus pre­ venting him from ever being considered as an "Attic" writer. the word ceased to be a word in the language. the knowledge he claimed to pos­ sess was a "knowledge-that-does-not-know. Even in Socrates the etymo- . It is a formal refusal to be considered as aocp[a (sophos) and even less as a master of various branches of knowledge. The "Asianism" forever imputed to him was sim­ ply mannerism." In short. Irony.

The best proof of this is the conflict between Socrates and Plato for pos­ session of the name to designate the divergent profession to which each was dedicated. 3. . Even more compelling is a certain discomfort to be noted in Aristotle regarding the noun "philosophy. The name given to the philosophic profession would have been markedly different had it not been chosen with an eye to the "thinker's" social environment. The battle for this name proves two things: first. the word barely denoted anything. (truth) might emerge as the name for philosophy. 983 b 3. as Plato indicated. and second. Orphic cosmogonies and theologies. makes no sense. "natural science"-he named the line of the cf)/. Its meaning consisted rather in saying nothing precise. that by then the word was al­ ready imbued with a great attraction. which is the usual one. And in fact certain signs sug­ gest that for a time it seemed as though the word d'\�9EUJ. that its meaning in the language was extremely vague-in other words.u This version. 1 4· Met. He repeats it in 993 to 30." thus impelling him to denominate "first philosophy" which he maintained constituted genuine philosophy. a name of inner derivation. to Protagoras' principal work. when he wished to differentiate strictly between the mode of thinking that he brought to the science of prin­ ciples-that is. to prototypal science-and wanted to iso­ late it from other modes of thought that had been pursued in Greece-poetry.HISTORICAL ORIGIN OF PHILOSOPHY 1 23 logical sense was able to reflect the negative knowledge he wished to impart. and in fact the only precise thing about it was its evasive meaning.AoO'ocp�O'avT£� WEpt �� d'\7J9E{a� (those who philosophized about truth ) . although in Plato it had already lost all connection with its intended content. but if the thinker with utter spontaneity had chosen a word to ex­ press as accurately as possible what was transpiring per­ sonally within himself as he was philosophizing-hence. In actu­ ality. It was not confined.

Now this was something ignored in ancient times. to be precise philosophy in its strictest sense. Although Aristotle believed that truth resides in judg­ ments. 15.1 24 THE ORIG I N OF P HILOSO PHY Truth here does not mean any truth. Now a further radical distinction must be made between what philosophy is and what it is not if we are to com­ prehend how it originated and became differentiated not only from religion. for truth essentially is not the truth of a judgment but the truth of beings themselves or the beings in their truth. steadfast truth attainable only through a given mode of thought or a method. this residing must be conceived of as a mere lodg­ ing. Philosophy. but a type of radical. and a'\'�{hta." The truth of beings is inherently concealed and must be re­ vealed. in contrast. a>. If one wishes to use the term "life experience" (vivencia) (ErZebnis ) ."15 Time and again in Aris­ totelian writing 7T'€P� �<. (pertaining to truth) signifies properly the name of a science.P01l7JCTt<. The same thing happened to the gods. Frag. was hence the name that from their own inwardness. and hence in his Protreptikos he will speak more explicitly of "the science [q. Beings themselves do not appear in their truth. corresponded to their profession. though the latter revealed themselves of their own free will and there was no means to control the authenticity of their epiphany. 5 2 .] of that truth inaugurated by Anaxagoras and Parmenides. It designates simultaneously the re­ sult of the inquiry and the intellectual manner for attain­ ing it.:r/hta<. appeared as a methodical procedure for obtaining revela­ tion-a'\'�(hta (truth ) . this methodical reve­ lation was the underlying "Erlebnis" of the early philoso­ phers. it has to be discovered. but also from other modes of thinking. which does not necessarily imply that their mode of ap­ pearance constitutes the error. It had been initiated merely a few generations before. . It is simply not "true.

questioned themselves about some X phe­ nomenon that would possess certain prior attributes­ precisely the ones that justified the quest? . Perhaps Being at that time did not instigate the primordial question. having lost the fundament of their lives. w e must return t o that moment when Parmenides began talking about something exceptionally strange. This question must be exam­ ined a bit before one can talk about Being. As if questioning oneself about such an irregular persona were the most natural thing in the world. How did it come to exist in men's minds? Does it not seem more likely that men. which he called "being. the premise is that it is going to try to discover the constitutive attributes of Being or of "beings. Perhaps Being was an answer.H ISTORICAL ORIGIN OF PHILOSOPHY I 25 That is. When philosophy is said to be a questioning of Being." How and why did such a sur­ prising adventure come about? People glibly repeat that philosophy is a questioning of Being. It does not seem likely that this is what men who had lost faith in the gods and were discontent with CPVUL� (nature) should set out initially to seek." This im­ plies however that one already has Being in front of him.

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