[132] {150}









[133] {151}


Despite the paucity of reliable historical data available for studying the origins of the philosophy of Plato and Aristotle, there is nonetheless one indisputable fact, to wit, that their philosophy in its origins is linked to the work of Socrates, and that Socrates' work represents a decisive point of inflection in the intellectual trajectory of the Greek world and of all European thought. But that work too is found to be enveloped, if not in the obscurity, then at least in the anonymity of his immediate disciples. We possess only the direct testimony of Plato, Aristotle, and Xenophon, each of whom had a particular objective in mind. As occurred with the work of the pre-Socratics, we know that of Socrates only through its reflection in Plato and Aristotle. Hence, any attempt to positively and directly represent his mode of thinking must yield to a more modest task, the only one in fact realizable, viz. a determination of which dimensions of his work might have given rise to the reflections of Plato and Aristotle. Interpretation of Socrates hinges ultimately on an interpretation of the origin of the philosophy of the Academy and the Lyceum. Both questions are substantially the same. And something similar could be said with respect to nearly all pre-Socratic philosophy.

The earliest accounts all agree that Socrates occupied himself solely with ethics, and that he introduced dialogue as the method for ascertaining something universal about things. Innumerable interpretations have been given of these accounts. For some, Socrates was an Athenian intellectual, a martyr of science; for others, he dedicated himself only to ethical problems. But while Socrates appears as a philosopher in both of these conceptions, in still others he is presented only as a man {152} betaken with a desire for personal perfection, having no philosophical trappings whatever.

On the other hand, it is apparent that Plato, in respect of any of these three hypothetical dimensions, carried on Socrates' work, as did Aristotle with respect to Plato. True, modern philology has found it necessary to do some significant retouching to the portrait, with respect to details. Nevertheless, the fact remains.

But this does not necessarily mean that the line "Socrates-Plato-Aristotle" is continuous or direct.

Perhaps we should slightly modify the geometric image of a trajectory, and substitute for it that of a pencil of rays at whose center we find Socrates himself. Aristotle, instead of being a linear [134] continuation of Plato, is more a restatement of philosophical problems from the very root where Plato began. If we wish to go on speaking of a continuation, it is more than anything else the continuation of an attitude and a preoccupation, rather than that of a system of problems and concepts. To be sure, the continuity of attitude implies a partial community of problems and the ensuing discussion of points of view. But first and foremost in Aristotle is the effort with which he repeats a limine the intellectual thrust of Plato. Likewise, Plato repeats the intellectual thrust which he has learned from his master Socrates, starting indeed from the same root as that from which Socrates' own reflection began. Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle are, as I said, more like the rays of a pencil emerging from a finite point of history. What Socrates introduces into Greece is a new mode of Wisdom. This will require considerable explanation. The nature of this article authorizes me to concentrate upon just one general idea, and for this it is necessary to precisely fix the nature of what has been termed "pre-Socratic philosophy." This in turn will call forth some ideas about the historical interpretation of a philosophy.

[135] {153}



Every philosophy has at its base, as a presuppostion, a certain experience. In contrast to what Absolute Idealism maintained, philosophy is not born of itself. And this is true in several respects. First, if what Idealism claimed were true, we could scarcely explain why philosophy should not have existed fully mature in every corner of the globe since the beginning of humanity. Secondly, there is the fact that philosophy exhibits a changing repertoire of problems and concepts. And finally, above all, the position of philosophy within the human spirit has undergone manifest changes. In fact, we shall have occasion in this study to point out how philosophy, which at its inception designated something very close to a religious wisdom (insofar as it occupied itself with the ultimate and permanent things of the world and life), later became a form of knowledge about the universe, giving rise still later to an investigation of things inasmuch as they are; and the list could easily be extended.

But the fact that all philosophy starts from an experience does not mean that it remains locked therein, i.e. that it is a theory of said experience only. No experience whatsoever is so rich that philosophy can limit itself to merely being its conceptual mold; nor is any philosophy so original that it implies an experience which cannot be reduced to others. Moreover, it is in no wise true that philosophy must be a conceptual extension of the basic experience. Philosophy may contradict and nullify the experience which serves as its base, or even ignore it altogether and anticipate new forms of experience. But neither {154} of these two actions would be possible except by an immersion in the basic experience which will permit the intellectual leap of philosophy. This means that a philosophy only acquires a precise physiognomy when referred to its basic experience.

"Experience" means something acquired in the course of life's real happening. It is not a conjunction of thoughts forged by the intellect, either truly or otherwise; but rather that which the spirit captures in its commerce with things. In this sense, experience is the natural place of reality. Consequently, any other reality will of [136] necessity be implied and called forth by experience if it is in fact rationally knowable. We do not here prejudge the nature of that experience; in particular, we urge a complete uprooting of the notion of experience as a conjunction of some personal data of consciousness. In all probability, these data of consciousness, as such, do not belong to that radical experience. Rather, as I said earlier, we are dealing with the experience which man acquires in his commerce with real things.

It would be a serious error to identify this experience with personal experience. There are probably very, very few men who have a personal experience in the fullest sense of the word. But, even admitting that everyone has some such experience, even in the richest and most favorable case it only makes up an intimate and miniscule nucleus within a much greater arena of non-personal experience. This non-personal experience turns out to be integrated, above all, with an enormous mantle of experience that comes to man through his living with others, whether in the precise form of the experience of others, or in the form of a grey precipitate of impersonal experience, integrated through the uses and applications of the men surrounding him, etc. In a more peripheral, but still larger zone, this form of experience extends so as to constitute the world, epoch, and time in which one lives.

And this experience is made up not only of dealings with objects, but also of the consciousness which man has of himself, of which there are three aspects: (1) as repertory of what men have thought about things, their opinions and ideas concerning them; (2) the particular manner {155}in which each epoch senses its own insertion into time, its historical consciousness; (3) the convictions which man carries in the depths of his individual life, touching the origin, meaning, and destiny of his person and that of all others.

It would be of great interest to explore the peculiar relation subsisting between these diverse strata of experience. It is not possible to do so in the present study, but it is imprecindable to point out that each of these zones, in its solidarity with the others considered as moments of a unique experience, has a proper and, up to a certain point, independent structure. Thus experience, in the sense of structure of the world in an epoch, can at times even find itself in opposition to the content of the other zones of experience. The Jew and the heretic during the Middle Ages lived in a Christian world, within which they were eo ipso heterodox. Today we are at the point where Catholics are the true heterodox, [137] relative to our de-Christianized world. In the Middle Ages there were heretical minds; the mentality was, nevertheless, Christian. For the effects of this study, what matters to us here is to point out the basic experience of a philosophy, in the modest sense of presenting the mentality from which it springs.

Analysis of the basic experience reveals, first, what immediately comes into view: its particular content. In reality, this is what men at times have understood formally by history: the collection of the so-called historical facts. But if history pretends to be something more than a documentary filing cabinet, it must seek to make the content of a world and an epoch intelligible.

And provisionally we may say that every experience arises only thanks to a situation. The experience of man, as I said, is the natural place of reality thanks precisely to its internal limitation, which permits it to apprehend some things and some aspects of them, to the exclusion of others. Every experience has a unique and proper outline, and this outline is the objective correlate of the situation in which man finds himself installed. Depending on how he is situated, the things of his experience will likewise be situated. History must try to place our mind in the situation of the {156} men whose epoch we are studying, not so as to lose us in diaphanous profundities, but so as to mentally repeat the experience of that epoch, to see the facts "from the inside." Naturally, this requires a painful effort, difficult and prolonged. The intellectual discipline which enables us to realize it is termed philology.

Moreover, experience is always experience of the world and of things, including man himself; and this presupposes that man in fact lives in and among things. Experience consists of that peculiar manner by which things place their reality n the hands of man. Experience, then, presupposes something prior, something like the existence of a visual field within which diverse perspectives are possible. This comparison already indicates that the existence of man in and among things is not comparable to that of a point lost in the infinity of nothingness. Even in this dimension of man, apparently so vague and so primary, his existence is limited, as is the visual field for the eyes. This limitation is called horizon. The horizon is not a simple external limitation of the visual field; it is rather something which, when limiting it, constitutes it and therefore fulfills the role of a positive principle for it. So positive, in fact, that it justly leaves before our eyes what may be outside of [138] it, as "the beyond," which we do not see and which extends without limit and is constantly pricking man's deepest curiosity. And in fact, besides those things which are born and die in the world, there are other things which enter into it, coming from the horizon, or disappearing beyond it. In every case, the relations of distance and proximity inside the horizon confer upon things their primary dimension of reality for man.

And, being the limiting object it is, the horizon must be constituted by something from which it arises. Without eyes there would be no visual horizon. Every horizon implies a constituent principle, a foundation which is proper to it.

These three factors of the experience of an epoch, viz. its content, the situation and the horizon (which are one with respect of to their foundation) are three dimensions of the experience distinct changeableness. {157} Maximum lability characterizes the content of experience; much slower to change but ultimately more variable is the movement of situation. The horizon changes extremely slowly, so slowly, that men scarcely are aware of its mutation and tend to believe in its fixedness. Moreover on that very account they hardly even recognize its existence. Something similar happens to the passengers in an airplane, whose panorama varies as insensibly as the hands of a clock.

This change cannot be assimilated to a type of growth, maturity, and death of epochs or cultures, despite what the metaphor of biological evolution applied to history may have led some to believe for many years. This latter idea, which Spengler took as the basis for his works, is perhaps its most insostenable aspect. The experience constituting an historical epoch, while being the natural place of reality, is nothing more than its natural place. But man's existence is not limited to being situated in a place, even though real, The "reality of the world," in turn, is not the reality of life; the former reality is limited only to offering to that other reality called "man" an infinite conjunction of possibilities for existence. Things are situated, primarily, in that sediment of reality called "experience" as possibilities offered to man for existing. Among them, man accepts some and discards others. This decision is what transforms the possible into the real for his life. With it, man is subject to constant change because that [139] new real dimension which adds to his life at the same time modifies the overall picture of his experience and, therefore, the group of possibilities offered to him the following instant. With his decision, man sets out along a determinate trajectory, on account of which he is never sure of not having definitively missed perhaps the best opportunities of his existence. The following moment presents a completely {158} different picture: some opportunities closed off, others dwindling, perhaps still others greatly enlarged, and even a few new and original ones. And since the actuality of the possible, inasmuch as it is possible, is movement in accordance with what Aristotle long ago told us, so likewise the being whose reality emerges from its possibilities is consequently a changeable being. And so it changes through time, not remaining in any one state. Things are not in movement because they change, but rather change because they are in movement. When the actualization of possibilities is the fruit of a proper decision, then there are not only states of movement, but happenings. Man is a being which happens, and to this happening is given the name "history."

For some time a free being has been defined precisely as the entity which is the cause of itself (St. Thomas). Therefore it follows that, in man, the root of history is freedom. Everything else is nature. The error of idealism centered on a confusion of freedom with an all-embracing indetermination. The freedom of man is a freedom which, like that of God, only exists formally in the manner of being determined. But, in contrast to the divine freedom, creator of things, human freedom is only determined by choosing from among diverse possibilities. Since these possibilities are "offered" to man, and since this offering in turn depends partially upon human decisions themselves, man's freedom takes on the form of an historical occurrence.

Out of the enormous complex of what there is to say about the study of the origins of Attic philosophy, I do not desire at the moment to discuss anything other than the mentality within which it was born, and then only in its purely intellectual aspects. Applying the considerations we have just noted to the intellectual life, we find ourselves noticing, for example, that the thought of each epoch, besides containing what it properly affirms or denies, points to other different thought, sometimes mutually self-contradictory. Every affirmation or negation, in fact, however categorical it may be, is incomplete or at least postulates other affirmations or denials, and only united with them does it possess the full measure [140] of truth. For this reason Hegel said that truth is always the all and the system. But this does not prevent-rather, it implies-{159}that an affirmation be true or false within its own limitations. In the face of this one can discern the various directions in which affirmations can be developed. Of them, some will be true; others, false. As long as the primitive affirmation is not disjunctively linked to one or the other, it is still true. Human thought, when taken statically in a moment of time, is what it is, i.e. true or false; but when taken dynamically in its future projection is true or false depending on the route upon which it embarks. The Christology of St. Iraneus, for example, is naturally true. But some of his affirmations, or at least, some of his expressions, are such that depending on whether one inclines his thought a little to the right or a little to the left, will fall on the side of Arius or that of St. Athanasius. Prior to this decision they are still true. After it they will be taken in one sense and won't be taken in the other. Together with thoughts in the fullest sense thought, history is replete with that type of thought which we might call incipient. Or, in other words, thought has an incipient dimension in addition to its declarative dimension. Every thought thinks something in a full sense and begins to think something in a germinal way. And this is not a reference to the fact that from some thought others can be deduced by logical reasoning. Rather, it refers to something prior and more radical, which affects not so much the knowledge which thought purveys as the very structure of thought as such. Thanks to it, man possesses an intellectual history. We shall see forthwith an exemplary case of the functioning of this kind o f incipient thought, with regard to some thoughts which offer two possibilities only slightly different, one of which has led to the splendid flowering of European intellectualism, while the other has born the mind to the dead ends of Asiatic speculation. And indeed we do not refer only to the fact that these possibilities which are offered to the mind are true or false, but whether or not the corresponding routes are dead ends. In each instant of his intellectual life, every individual (and every epoch) finds himself facing the danger that he could be advancing along a road which is a dead end.

Most likely Socrates' labor has caused us to walk not along a dead end road, but along that {160} leading to what will become the European intellect as a whole. The "work" of Socrates is inscribed in the mental horizons of Greek thought. It is situated there in a [141] particular manner, determined by the dialectic of earlier situations traversed by "the great thinkers." This allowed him a special experience of man and of things, from which will emerge in time the philosophy of Plato and Aristotle.

[142] {161}



The mental horizon of ancient man is constituted by movement, in the broadest sense of the word. Besides the movements or external alterations which things suffer, the things themselves are found to be subject to an inexorable caducity. They are born one day, only to die later. This universal change involves man too, not just as an individual, but considered socially; family, city, and country find themselves subject to an incessant change regulated by an inflexible destiny which determines the good of each. In this universal change the generation of living things acquires exemplary importance. One could even affirm, as we shall see later, that the radical form in which the Greek conceived cosmic movement is so definitively oriented toward generation that the same verb, gignomai, expresses the two ideas of generation and happening.

For ancient man, this idea of movement as generation forms a dividing line in the fundamental schema of the universe. Here below is the earth, ge, the realm of the perishable and the corruptible, of things subject to generation and corruption. Above are the heavens, ouranos, made up of ungenerated and incorruptible things (at least in the terrestrial sense of the word), subject only to a local movement of cyclic character. And in the ouranos are the theoi, the immortal gods.

Recall how different is the horizon in which the man of our era discovers the universe. He finds not the caducity, but the nihility. Whence his scheme of the universe is not at all like {162} that of the Greek. On one side are things, on the other, man. Man exists among things so as to make his life with them, a life which consists in the determination of a transcendent and eternal destiny. For the Greek heaven and earth exist; for the Christian, heaven and earth are the world, the seat of this life; opposite it, there is the other life. Therefore the Christian scheme of the universe is not the dualism of "heaven-earth," but that of "world-soul."

What is the foundation which makes it possible for movement to constitute the horizon of ancient man's visual field?

Man is a natural being. And, within nature, he belongs to the least constant region of it, the earth. Man is a being endowed with [143] life, a living being, a zoion, which analogously to other living beings is born and dies after a life which is, ultimately, ephemeral. But in contrast to the others this living being carries within himself a strange property.

The other living things, though having life, do nothing more than he alive. This is true whether we speak of a tree or an animal; to live is simply to be alive, i.e. carrying out those acts which spring forth from the living thing itself and which are oriented to its internal perfection. In a plant, these movements are only oriented toward the atmosphere or the earth, at least in the sense of growth. In an animal, the movements are oriented by a "tendency" and a "notice," thanks to which it "discerns" and .works" toward the capture of things or flees from them.

But in man there is something completely different. Man is not limited to being alive, to carrying out his vital functions. His ergon forms part of an overall scheme, of a hios, which in many ways is indeterminate; and man himself, in a certain sense, is the one who must determine what he is through deliberation and decision. He not only is alive, but partially is creating his life. This is the reason man's nature has the strange power of understanding and manifesting what it does, in all its dimensions, to the man who does them and to the things with which he works, ta pragmata. The Greeks gave the name logos to this power, which the Latins translated, rather unfortunately, by ratio, reason. Man is a living being endowed with logos. The logos gives us to understand {163} what things are. And, when expressed, gives others to understand, i.e. those who discuss and deliberate about these pragmata, which in this sense we might call "affairs." In this way the logos, besides making the existence of each man possible, also makes that form of human coexistence possible which we call living in society. Living in society is having common affairs. Therefore the plenitude of living in society is the polis, the city. The Greek interpreted man indifferently as an animal endowed with logos or as a political animal. If the concrete content of the polis is the work of a nomos, of a statute, and it tends toward eunomia, good government, then for a Greek its existence is a "natural" occurrence. The polis exists, just as rocks or stars exist.

By means of the logos, then, man regulates his daily actions, with the intention of "doing them well." The Greek ascribed this function of the logos to that part of the vital human principle which is not found "mixed" with the body, which does not serve to [144] animate it, but just the reverse, to direct its life, bearing it above the impressions stemming from its vital functions to the region of what things truly are. This part acquired the name of nous, mens. In reality the logos does nothing but express what the mens thinks and discovers. It is the principle of what is most noble and superior in man.

For a Greek the mind has two dimensions. On one side, it consists of that marvellous power of concentration man possesses, an activity which makes patent to him an object in respect of its most intimate and proper character. For this reason Aristotle compared it to light. Let us call it reflection or thought. But it is not just a faculty of thinking which as such can be correct or can err, but a thinking which on account of its own nature is surely and infallibly directed to the heart of its object. It is something, therefore, which when it acts for itself in the fullest sense arranges all things-even the most distant-face to face with man, proclaiming their true physiognomy and make up above and beyond the fleeting impressions of life, The realm of the mind, the Greeks used to say, is the "always." (Plato, Republic 484b4). {164}

But on the other hand, the Greek never conceived the mind as a kind of inalterable focal point in the depths of man. It is a sure and infallible thinking; but in this respect it is a type of "sense of reality" which, like an astute presentiment, puts man in contact with the intimate part of things. For this reason Aristotle compared it to a hand. The hand is the instrument of instruments, since any instrument is so by virtue of being "handleable." Analogously, for man the mind is the natural location of reality. Therefore to a Greek it has a much deeper sense than that of pure intellection. It extends to all dimensions of life, and to everything real in it. This sense is, therefore, susceptible to sharpening or blunting. No one completely lacks it, though the sense may be found paralyzed at times (a demented person); but normally it functions invariably, according to the state of man, his temperment, age, etc. It is something which, through refinement stemming from use made of it during life, can only be mature in old age. Only an old man fully possesses this sense, this' knowledge of reality, acquired through the "experience of life," in the commerce and real contact with things. [145]

In any case, to work on conformity with nous, with the mind, is to work basing one's judgements on the unchangeable things of the universe and of life. This knowledge of the unchangeable, of what is always out there in the farthest reaches of the universe, the Greek (like every other nation that has learned to express itself) called Sophia, wisdom. Life participates unequally in it, from the senseless person all the way up to the wise man, and including the merely "prudent." This Sophia, as experience of life, sometimes becomes a Sophia, an exceptional and superhuman knowledge of the ultimate things of reality. For a Greek, Sophia thus understood has a strictly supratemporal existence. It is a gift of the gods. Consequently it has a primarily religious character. Man is capable of possessing it because he has a property, nous, in common with the gods. Hence Aristotle says of the mind that it is the most divine part of us (Met. 1074bl6). The primitive Greek had conceived it as a divine power fulling everything and {165} communicated to man alone among all living things, thus conferring upon him his special rank. Those to whom it was given in an exceptional and almost superhuman way (982b28), as harbingers of truth, are the wise men, and their doctrine is Sophia, Wisdom.

I have anticipated here some ideas which logically should have come later. But it seemed preferable to me to straightway point out the objective, even at the cost of having to immediately retrace a few steps.

To summarize, for a Greek, man as living being only exists in the universe basing himself on this presumed aspect of the permanence which his mind offers him. And then the mutability of everything real is converted into the horizon of his vision of the universe and of human life itself. And then too is wisdom born. Naturally, we need not assume that the Greeks had an explicit awareness of it. It may even have been impossible for them to have tiad such an awareness, because the salient characteristic of an horizon is not to. be seen as such when viewed directly, so as to compel us to see the things within it. But we, situated in a much broader horizon, can clearly recognize it. {166}

[146] {167}




Within this horizon, Greek wisdom saw itself involved in a chain of situations which it is appropriate for us to set down.

1. Wisdom as possession of the truth about Nature. On the coasts of Asia Minor the kind of Greek thinker appears who for the first time confronts the totality of the universe. This was Anaximander. He deals not with nature only in respect of its birth through divine action or extra-worldly agents (as was the case in Oriental thought), but with its own reality. And this reality, though not excluding any of the aforementioned actions of the gods, nevertheless has in itself a unitary and radical structure by virtue of the fact that all things existing in the heavens or on earth are born, live and revert to the universe itself-and not just to the gods. This universal breeding ground, from which everything there is, is born, is Nature, physis. These thinkers, with Anaxagoras at their head, conceive of this birth as a great act of life. And there are two dimensions to it. On one hand, things are born from Nature, as something it produces "from itself" (arkhe). Here Nature seems to be endowed with its own structure, independently of theogonic and cosmogenic vicissitudes. On the other hand, the generation of things is conceived as a movement in which they {168} go on autoconforming in that type of substance which is Nature. In this sense, Nature is not a principle, but something which, for this first early bud of thought, constitutes the permanent underlying content which there is in everything, a mode of substance from which all things are made (Aristotle, Met. 983bl3). With the idea of "Permanence" of this content, Greek thought definitively abandoned all channels of mythology and cosmogeny, in order to create what later will be science and philosophy. Things, in their natural generation, receive their substance from Nature. Nature itself is then something which remains eternally fertile and [147] imperishable, "immortal and always young," as Euripides termed it, at the base of as well as above the caducity of particular things, an inexhaustible fountain of them (apeiron). For this reason the Greek thought of eternity in a primitive way as a perfect returning to begin, with no change whatever; as a perpetual youth, in which actions revert to those executing them, so as to be repeated again and again just as youthfully. Even linguistically it has been possible to see (cf. Benveniste) how the terms aion and juvenis, eternity and youth, have an identical root (*ayu- *yu-) expressing eternity in a perennial youth, as an eternal returning, as a cyclical movement. Therefore the great Greek thinkers, and even Aristotle himself, called nature "the divine" (to theion). For the ancient polytheistic religions, in fact, to be divine meant to be immortal, but with an immortality deriving from an inexhaustible reservoir of vitality.

For a Greek, Nature is also something "divine," theion, in this sense. It embraces all things; it is present in each of them. And this presence is vital; sometimes it is asleep, others, awake. These variations have a cyclical character. They happen in an orderly and measured way; and this is time (khronos).

Those who thus remove the veil hiding Nature and reveal what always is to man are called Wise Men (sophoi), or as Aristotle says, "those who philosophize about reality." This truth consisted in nothing but the discovery of Nature. Therefore {169} when speaking of it, Aristotle employed "seeking truth" and "seeking Nature" as synonymous (Phys. 19la24). The works of these wise men were inevitably poems entitled "About nature." With another name, but the same motive, Aristotle called them physiologoi, those who seek the explanation of Nature.

Men brought this discovery to a conclusion through the exceptional power of their mind, which was capable of concentrating on and encompassing in its scrutinizing glance (this is what the Greek word theoria meant) the totality of the universe, and of penetrating even to its ultimate root, thus communicating with the divine. (Aristotle, Met. 1075a8).

The content of these various systems of thought is basically what today we would call astronomy or meteorology. The phenomena in which Nature manifests herself par excellence are [148] just those great atmospheric and astronomical events through which the supreme powers governing all things in the universe are unleashed. For the rest, the theoria consisted primarily in "gazing at the sky and the stars." Contemplation of the celestial dome led to a first intuition of the regularity, proportion, and cyclical character of the great movements of Nature. Finally, the generation, life, and death of living things returns us to the mechanism of Nature. And this is manifest-above all in these three orders-to whomever possesses the energy to remove tie veil hiding it (Heraclitus had already said that Nature likes to hide itself). This is the truth which gives us that type of knowledge.

In order to fully appreciate the scope of this attitude, let us situate ourselves at the root from which it emerges. We are dealing, in fact, with a type of wisdom, and consequently with that kind of knowledge which touches the ultimate things of the world and of life, fixing its destiny and directing its actions. Thus far, the Greek, Chaldean, Egyptian, and Indian are in agreement. {170}

But for the Chaldean and Egyptian, heaven and earth are products of the gods, who have nothing to do with their nature. Theogony thus becomes cosmogeny. What this shows us is the place which each thing possesses in the world, the hierarchy of powers hovering over it. Therefore the oriental wise man interprets the meaning of events. The content of his wisdom is, in large measure, to "presage."

But the glance of the Indo-European world will one day linger on the spectacle of the universe in its totality. Rather than refer it to a past time and describe its origin, or project it onto the future and so foretell its meaning, the Indo-European pauses before it, "marveling," at least momentarily. Through marvel, Aristotle tells us, wisdom in fact is born. At this moment, things appear fixed and yet quivering in the compact bulk of the universe. This brief pause of the mind before the world sufficed to separate the Indians, Iranians, and Greeks from the rest of the Orient. We no longer have cosmogeny, or at least the cosmogeny will contain in incipient form something very different. Wisdom ceases to be "presage" so as to convert itself into Sophia and Veda.

Let us now direct our attention to what happens within this vision. If we attend to what they say, we shall see that the Greek wise men find themselves quite close to the Indo-Iranian. There is no more than a slight inflection signaling a difference which at this origin is almost infinitesimal and virtually imperceptible. But that [149] small difference will yield the route which, through the course of history, carries European man along new paths.

Just as with the Greek thinkers, there are in some Vedic hymns and in the Brahmanas and the most ancient Upanishads references to the universe as a whole, to the totality of what there is and what there isn't. The entire universe is fixed in the Absolute, in the Brahman. But upon reaching this point, the Indian directs himself to this universe, either to flee from it or to submerge himself in its divine root, and he makes this flight or immersion the key to his existence. Such is the identity of Atman and Brahman. Man feels himself part of an absolute totality, and reverts to it. The wisdom of the Veda has above all an operative character. True, one day it will attempt to pass through stages {171} resembling a speculative form of knowledge. But this knowledge is always a cognitive action, oriented toward the Absolute; it is a communion with the Absolute. Instead of an Ionian physiology, we have a Brahman theosophy and theurgy.

Very different is the situation of the Greek wise man. It is not the case that he does not wish to assume a governing function with respect to the meaning of life. Aristotle is still saying that one of the meanings which the word 'Wise man' had in his time is that of governing others, and not being governed by anyone else (Met. 982al7). His governing function is based on a thoroughgoing knowledge encompassing everything which exists, especially the most difficult and inaccessible things common to men (982a8-12). But this knowledge is not operative, or better, is not so in the same way it is for the Indian. Greek wisdom is pure knowing. Instead of compelling man to fling himself at the universe, or flee from it, Greek wisdom causes man to withdraw, before nature and before himself. And this marvelous withdrawal allows the universe and things to remain before his eyes, so he can see things born from the universe, such as they are. The operation of the Greek mind is a doing which consists of doing nothing with the universe except letting it be, before our eyes, such as it is. Then the universe properly appears before our eyes as Nature. Such an operation has no other outcome than patency. Therefore its primary attribute is truth. If the Greek wise man governs or directs life, it is with the pretension of basing it upon truth, of making man live on the [150] truth. This is the slight inflection on account of which Wisdom, as discovery of the universe, ceases to be a possession of the Absolute so as to convert itself simply into possession of the truth of its Nature. By virtue of this almost insignificant decision the European intellect was born with all its fecundity, and it began to investigate the far reaches of Nature. The Orient, in contrast, directed itself toward the Absolute along a dead-end road with respect to the understanding. {172}

The wisdom of the great pre-Socratics seeks to tell us something about Nature, in no other way than through Nature itself. In the truth of the Greek wise man, the discovery of Nature has no purpose other than the discovery itself; consequently it is a theoretical attitude. Wisdom ceases to be primarily religious so as to become theoretical speculation.

But it would be a profound error to think that this speculation is, in the first Greek thinkers, something similar to what later would be called episteme, and what we tend to call "science." Rather than science, this theoretical knowledge is a theoretic vision of the world. The fact that the few pre-Socratic fragments we possess have come to us through thinkers almost all of whom postdate Aristotle has managed to distort our image of Pre-socratic knowledge. Indeed if we possessed all their writings, most likely they would scarcely resemble what we understand by philosophy and science. Their contemporaries themselves must have perceived the expression and task of the wise man as an awakening to a new world through marvel. It was like an awakening to the light of day. And, as Plato makes reference in the myth of the cave, the man who for the first time sallies forth into the sunlight of midday from the darkness quickly senses the pain of the obfuscation, and his movements are an uncertain probing, directed by the remembrance of the past darkness more than by the new light. In his vision and in his life this man sees and lives in the light, but interprets everything from the darkness. Whence the markedly confused and bidimensional character of this wisdom in the state of awakening. On one side, he moves in a new world-in the world of truth, but he interprets it and understands with remembrances taken from the old world, from the myth. Thus, these wise men still have the clothing and accent of the religious [151] reformer and oriental preacher. Their "discovery" is still presented as a type of "revelation." When Anaximander tells us that Nature is "principle," the function he assigns it seems to be overwhelmingly that of domination. Wisdom itself still has many religious trappings; the men consecrating themselves to it end up leading a bios theoretikos, a theoretic existence, which recalls the life of the {173} religious communities, and the philosophic schools have an air of sect (cf. the Pythagorean life).

This still-confused character of the new Wisdom becomes clearly evident in the twofold reaction which ensued in the mind with respect to the idea of the Theos. Anaximander's "principle" continued in Pherekydes with what it possessed of "domination;" this was the Orphic theo-cosmogeny. But, at the same time this "principle", with respect to its content of "root" or physis, began to be converted into Theos; this was the work of Xenophanes. In Pherekydes the labors of the Ionians became lost once again in myth. In Xenophanes, on the other hand, theogony became a type of Ionian physics of the gods, a first sketch of theology.

Out of the origins of Sophia, then, we have the three ingredients of which it will never see itself deprived: a theory (Ionian); a life (Pythagorean); and a new theological-religious attitude (Xenophanes). But these three elements still possess a nebulous existence; nothing has been achieved except to point up a new vision of the world, and with it a new type of Wise man.

One step yet remains to situate the mind of the Wise man in a different posture.

2. Wisdom as vision of being. In the first half of the 5th century BC a decisive epoch was reached in the work of Parmenides and Heraclitus.

Of course, there is a profound antinomy in their respective conceptions of the universe; Parmenides' is the quiescent one, Heraclitus' the changeable one. To be sure, things are not so simple and easy when we get down to detail. Still, we cannot deny that the antinomy, even when reduced to its just proportions, continues to be there. Nonetheless it seems to me much more important to emphasize the common dimension in which their thought moves, rather than stress the antinomy.

For the wisdom of the Ionians, speculation about the universe led to the discovery of Nature, the principle from which things emerge and, in a certain respect, the substance out of which they are made. So for Parmenides and Heraclitus, "to proceed {174} from [152] nature" means "to have being," and the substance of which things are made is equivalent to "what things are." Nature thus becomes the principle of what things "are." This implication between Nature and being, between physis and einai, is the almost superhuman discovery of Parmenides and Heraclitus. In reality, one could say that only with them did philosophy begin.

It is nevertheless fitting to make a few observations about this intellectual operation.

It would be quite anachronistic to pretend that Parmenides and Heraclitus created a concept of being, however modest. Nor is it true that their thought refers to what we would today call being in general. It would be necessary to delve much deeper into the history of Greek philosophy, and go all the way to Aristotle, in fact, to reach the borders (and just the borders) of the problem involving the concept of being. Nor does there exist in Parmenides and Heraclitus any speculation that, without becoming a concept, still moves about in the element of being in general. For Parmenides, his presumed "being" is a spherical mass; for Heraclitus, fire. Naturally, this should have been sufficient for centering interpretation of their fragments on Nature, on that same Nature which the lonians discovered to us; and not on being or entity in general. Parmenides' poem in fact carries the title About Nature, the same as that of Heraclitus. But even with the question circumscribed this way, one should not forget that neither Heraclitus nor Parmenides seeks to give us anything like a theory of substance for each particular thing; rather, they tell us something in regard to Nature, i.e. what makes up the universe, independently of the caducity of the things with which we live. When they are facing Nature, and these things pass before their eyes, Parmenides and Heraclitus both relegate them (though for different reasons) to a secondary plane, always obscure and problematic, in which they appear to us as if they were not fully being. Therefore they are foreign to Nature, although confusedly founded upon it. On the other hand, the only thing which interests Parmenides and Heraclitus {175} is that very Nature which, though sustaining all things, is not identified with them.

Both Parmenides and Heraclitus consider Ionian physics as inadequate, because ultimately it is a conception which pretends to tell us about Nature, and therefore about something which is principle and sustainer of all common things, but ends up restricting itself to only one of them-water, air, etc. That which [153] Parmenides and Heraclitus are going to say "About Nature" is not this. The first thing they do is remove themselves from the "everyday dealing" with ordinary things, replacing it by a "knowledge" which man obtains when he concentrates so as to penetrate into the intimate truth of things. The man who knows in such a way is rightly called the Wise Man. And the wisdom of the wise man should vouchsafe to us what Nature is; but it will not give us the everyday information which the layman requires for conduct of his usual affairs. "Way of truth" as opposed to "opinion of man," Parmenides called it; and Heraclitus affirmed for his part that the Wise Man is separated from all others.

Of what does this wise man make use? We have already anticipated the answer several pages ago: what the Greeks called nous (and what we, for the time being, have called mind). And in order to be in accordance with the new meaning of Wisdom, we should translate nous by "mind thinking." But this thought is not a logical thinking, nor is it a reasoning process or a judgement. If one wishes to employ current academic parlance, we should have to appeal rather to an "apprehension" of reality. Only much later would the disciples of Parmenides and Heraclitus translate this apprehension into judgements. We shall soon see why.

This thinking mind has present before its eyes all things, and that which it apprehends in them is something radically common to everything which there is.

What is this common thing? The proper function of the mind is not to be a faculty of thinking, which can be correct as well as err, but to possess a kind of profound and luminous touch making us see things in a certain and infallible way. Therefore what we are given are things in their actual reality; {176} or in scholastic terms, the formal object of the mind must be actual reality. And this is what is common to everything there is.

Both Parmenides and Heraclitus consider that things have reality, above all; they are, independently of whether they are in one or another way for the purposes of daily life. "What there is" becomes identical with "what is." Therefore Nature will consist, so to speak, in that in virtue of which there are things. It is then obvious that as root of what things "are" it is called to eon, "that which is being." With some justification Reinhardt observes that the neuter here represents a first archaic form of the abstract. Warm things have in themselves "the warm." The things that there are must have, analogously,-if I may be permitted the [154] expression-the "is being." And I add the "is" to emphasize the idea that "to be" means something active, a type of actuality. When we say, for example, "this is white," we wish to give someone to understand that the "is" has, in a certain way, an active acceptation, according to which the "white" is not a simple attribute dumped on the subject, but the result of an action emanating from it, viz. that of making the thing white, or making the thing "be white." The "is" is not a simple copula, nor "to be" a simple verbal name. We deal strictly with an active verb. One might replace it with "to happen," in the sense of being something which has reality. So, the manner in which Parmenides and Heraclitus conceive Nature actualizes, even without intending to do so, a sense of being as reality. They do not stop to give us a concept of the physical "is." But its meaning is shaped by the end to which this road leads. The underlying meaning (which is brought out in the results) is what there is of philosophy in the physics of Parmenides and Heraclitus; but, I repeat, it was not systematically thought out in the form of a concept.

The difference between Parmenides and Heraclitus becomes apparent when we pin down the active sense of the "is."

For Parmenides, the things of the universe "are" when they have consistency, when they are fixed, stable, and solid. Physical reality is eqivalent to solid fixedness, to solidity. Everything existing is real insofar as it is based on something stable and solid. Nature is the one thing (monon) which fully "is," the one solid thing truly such, i.e. complete, without lacunae or {177} emptiness. Non-being is empty and distant. Parmenides' Nature is a compact sphere. It alone fully deserves the name of "being;" not the changeable things of our daily life.

For Heraclitus, on the other hand, "to be" is equivalent to "having become." Heraclitus' celebrated becoming is not universal change, as Cratylus affirmed much later, but a gignesthai, a verb whose root possesses the double meaning of generation and happening, of an "is being produced." But in this case, "is being destroyed" too. And in both dimensions, things are;" if one wishes, "are sustained." The originating substance from which everything emerges, Nature, is fire. Fire is a principle [155] which does not only produce some things, but nourishing itself on the being of others, destroys them. It is a principle which is superior, in a certain way, to being and non-being, since from it both of the latter are extracted. It is at one and the same time, and in one act, the force of being and of non-being; fire does not subsist other than by consuming some things (principle of non-being), just so that through this very act others acquire their being (principle of being). And this is not the dialectical unity of being and non-being, but the cosmic unity of generation and destruction in one natural force. Each thing thus proceeds from its contrary. And to this internal "structure" Heraclitus gave the name harmonia.

But, prescinding from the antithetical content of the two conceptions, there is something in a way common to them, and more important than the differences. Understanding being as a "being", the force making things "to be here" is either a pure power of being (Parmenides), or a power of being and non-being (Heraclitus). So employing an a priori denomination, we could say that Nature is something like a stable "power of being. " Even in Plato being will be spoken of as dynamis, power or capacity.

And this "power of being" is shown to man in a special "sense of being," which is, therefore, a principle of truth. For Parmenides and Heraclitus this sense, call it thinking mind or logos (or the internal articulation of both), is above all a cosmic principle. In Parmenides the matter is clear. And it is no less so for the logos of Heraclitus. The logos is, in man, {178} something which says one thing with many words, and the many words only become a logos through something which makes them a one. Taken from what the logos says, from what is said, this means that each one of the things expressed by the words is only real when there is some link submerging it in that unitary total, and when it is an emergence from it. And this link is the "is" referring everything to its contrary. Therefore Heraclitus conceives the logos as the power of unity of Nature, whose structure of contrarily is subject to a plan and measure.

Man has a part in this logos and in this mind; they are revealed to him as a type of interior voice or internal guide, reflecting and expressing from the depths of our being what things are, that to [156] which we must attend when we wish to speak truly about them. Our mind and our logos are, therefore, the principle of Wisdom. however different the conception of wisdom reached by Parmenides and Heraclitus may be, they both agree that from this moment, Wisdom will forever be ascribed to the vision of what things are. The Wise man directs himself to the discovery of being. Only that which is can be known. That which is not cannot be known.

To fully understand what this conception means, let us recall once again that the primitive physiologist employed the idea of physis and phyein, nature and birth, in their most active and concrete acceptation. Therein two dimensions are included. On the one side, there is the fact that things "are born from" or "die into." On the other, the end of this process is that things come to be or cease to be. We believe that from the same root from which the word genesis is derived comes the verbal form expressing happening. The Ionians used the verb gignomai, "to engender" or "happen", in a form which does not refer exclusively to either of the two foregoing senses, and which by the same token means both at the same time, while they continue to be united in their common root. But this common root, which is the only one the Ionians fully thought out, points to a choice between these two possibilities.

So, when Nature is considered in its first dimension, we come to the vision of a whole from which things are born and {179} whence they are nourished. Each thing is, thus, a "fetus" of this whole. This is the path along which the Vedas and the earliest Upanishads have trod, both starting from the whole, as Brahman.

But Greek thought preferred to follow the second possible dimension of birth, of gignomai. Nature then appears rather as a power of being." The dynamic aspect of the power is conserved, but totally immersed in "being."

The primitive philosophical literature of India is not based on the verb as-, to be, but on the verb bhu-, which is equivalent to the Greek phyein, with the meaning of birth and engendering. All of the exhuberant intellectual richness of things is expressed by the innumerable forms and derivatives to which the second verb has given rise. Things are bhuta-, engendered; entity is bhu-, born, etc. The verb as-, on the other hand, does not have any other mission than that of a simple copula with no consequences whatever. Indeed, it is so bereft of consequences that Indian thought never arrived at the idea of essence. It is not the case that [157] the Vedanta completely lacks something equivalent to our notion of essence. But it is nothing but a remote equivalence. For the Greeks essence is a purely logical and ontological characteristic; it is what in things corresponds to their definition and what gives them their own nature. In contrast, the Indian always subordinates these notions to others more elemental and of a different character. For him, essence is before all else the most pure extract of the activity of things; in the same sense in which we today still employ the word when we speak of a perfume's essence, even to the point where one of the most primitive denominations of what we call essence is rasa-, which properly speaking means "sap," "juice," generating and vital principle. This difference transcends even the idea of being. Whereas for Parmenides, and even for the Greeks in general (in sketchy terms) the characteristic of being is 'being now, persisting," and therefore being immutable, not changing. (akineton), for the Vedanta being (sat-) is rather what a thing possesses in itself, in perfect tranquility, in unalterable peace (shanti-). This contraposition between Eleatic quiet and Vedantic calm or peace cannot be {180} forgotten for the sake of external analogies, and it will serve to prevent a precipitous confounding of on and sat-. Indian thought is the reality that would have been Greece, and a fortiori all of Europe, but for Parmenides and Heraclitus; in Aristotelian terms, a speculation about things as a whole, without ever making the "they are" intervene; something which only very remotely recalls the gnosis.

This minor variation in the object of thought sufficed to give rise to Parmenides and Heraclitus.

Interpreting the Brahman as universal soul (identity of Atman and Brahman) the Indian arrived at a type of ontogony. Taking Nature as a power of being, we shall arrive at an ontology.

But first it is necessary to take one more step, which will be the work Of the generations immediately after the Persian Wars. And from now on, Wisdom will no longer be a simple vision of Nature, but a vision of what things are, of the principle and substance which makes them to be, of their being.

3. Wisdom as rational knowledge of things. The generations following the Persian Wars realized the fruit of this gigantic conquest.

The new life created in Greece enormously enriched what had been the normal world of the Greeks up until then. Above all we should point out the gradual development of a certain number of [158] branches of knowledge, apparently quite modest, whose increasing importance will become a decisive factor of Hellenic intellectual life. These branches of knowledge were given the name tekhnai; we would translate it as techniques. But the Greeks understood the word in a completely different sense. For us, technique is a making, a doing; for the Greek, it is a knowing how to make or do. The concept of tekhne pertains to the order of being, even to the point that Aristotle sometimes applies this name to Wisdom itself. The aforementioned branches of knowledge refer principally to knowing how to cure, how to count, how to measure, how to build, how to conduct battles, etc. For many years this state of affairs had been developing; but now finally these branches of knowledge take on a life of their own. And the men of this epoch find themselves with these new types of knowledge alongside the pieces {181} of old and exemplary Wisdom; and they see the new knowledge applied not to the huge and divine mass of Nature, but to the objects necessary for life, which Sophia had disenfranchised, tossing them outside the realm of being.

The profound modifications which primitive Sophia had suffered at the hands of the Ionians penetrated the public conscience to some extent. The creation of classical drama clearly illustrates this new situation. Regardless of its origins, and aside from the various interpretations to which its elements can give rise, there is not the slightest doubt that in Aeschylus and Sophocles tragedy constitutes-among other things-a means of transmitting to the public Wisdom about gods and about man. But tragedy is a message whose particular character once again brings to light differences affecting the very structure of Sophia. While the new thinkers sought a type of wisdom which refers to Nature, tragedy directed itself preferentially to the primitive religious base of Wisdom. And the differences between these two became quite pronounced in the method which they utilized to transmit their content. The new thinkers based themselves on exercise of the mind; the tragedians, on impression, pathos, It could be said that while the work of the philosophers was the noetic form of Wisdom, tragedy represents the pathetic form of Sophia. Later the noetic wisdom will so invade the soul of the Athenians that their religious base will wind up, even in tragedy itself, relegated to a simple, virtually inoperative survival; this was the work of Euripides.

But there is more. Not, only is the new Wisdom set over against religious W isdom; but within the former, within the noetic [159] Wisdom, the tekknai, the techniques, the realms of knowledge of which man is discoverer and practitioner in daily life, a new situation will be created with respect to philosophy. The sheer volume of knowledge they encompass make it difficult to sustain the old.

The collision between nous and tekne, technique, was felt quite keenly. Up to this point the gods had delivered to man everything but nous, the organ which discovers the destiny and course of events. To be sure the nous had no pretension of supplanting the gods in respect of this latter function; but within a more limited and circumscribed arena, every Athenian-not just the wise man-felt himself endowed with that divine faculty, {182} even if just for the creation of the modest everyday branches of knowledge constituting the techniques. Nevertheless, the Greeks suddenly felt a type of deification; a dominion up to now priviledged to the gods passed into the hands of man. The matter was more complicated than at first glance it might seem to be. In this regard, compare Aeschylus' Prometheus Bound with Sophocles' Antigone, and it will immediately become clear what sort of new route the emerging technical knowledge will oblige the Greek to embark upon. In Aeschylus technique is presented as a theft from the gods, and therefore as something ultimately coming from them. But for the following generation, in Sophocles, technical knowledge is a creation of man, an invention for which his own nature gives him the capability. And this forces a change in the panorama of Wisdom itself. Not only is there a split between religious Sophia and noetic Sophia, but moreover this latter will travel along new paths. Together with the creations of the great Sophoi, we have the wisdom which consists in discovering and using the physis of things.

Perhaps the contrast is nowhere more apparent than in the tekhne latrike, or medicine which holds the place of honor due to the quantity of medical knowledge accumulated as well as its development. It is not that traditional knowledge does not occupy a central place in the Corpus Hippocraticum. Quite the contrary. The pseudo-hippocratic treatise About the Number Seven is in fact the exponent of a cosmic interpretation of human nature. In it a rigorous parallelism is established between the structure of the cosmos and that of the human body. For the first time the idea and the expression for microcosmos appears as applied to man, at least in a literal and not purely metaphorical sense. Macrocosmos and [160] microcosmos possess isonomy, whence the idea of sympathy which will constitute the firm base of medicine and practically all of Greek Wisdom, especially during the epoch of Hellenism. We may note in passing that the historical problem raised by this small point is of quite unsuspected breadth. There is a paralellism, often literal, with Iranian texts in which fragments of the lost Damdat-Nask are preserved. A thoroughgoing philological examination demonstrates {183} that the Iranian text predates the Greek. The Greek notion of isonomy owes something, then to the influence of Iran on Greece, probably through Miletus. This is the only fact and convincing document we have dealing with the celebrated problem of the relations between Greece and Asia.

Together with this basic conception, and founded in large measure upon it, several Hippocratic authors reveal the new idea of the mechanism of health and sickness. Thus, for example, there is the treatise About Sacred Epilepsy. Here is where the full thrust of the new problem facing the Greek thinkers reveals itself, and shows as well the ever-increasing distance separating the Greeks from other civilizations, such as the Indian. For Hippocrates epilepsy is not an infirmity any more or less divine than the rest. But this has no bearing on our problem. The decisive point is the general attitude which Hippocrates thus takes toward sickness. He does not doubt that Nature is the work of the gods, but he deems that trying to obtain natural effects by offering sacrifices to them is not devotion but impiety, because it amounts to asking the gods to amend their great work, Nature. Only the study of Nature enables man to create his medical technique. Let us recall how different will be the route upon which the Brahman Indians are about to embark, at about the same time. Not only will sacrifice continue to occupy a central place in their conception of the world, but moreover its force becomes decisive. Sacrifice is something to which the very gods themselves are subject. Whence the substantization and divinization of the force inherent in sacrifice, even to the point of converting it into radical divinity and ultimate structure of the universe. The cosmos is nothing but an enormous sacrifice, and the sacrifices which men offer to their gods are at one and the same time a compendium of and communion with the [161] physical universe. But while India will reach its metaphysics through the ever richer and more complicated paths of operative knowledge, Greece will dedicate its purely theoretic knowledge to the internal structure of things, {184} first of Nature and then the common things of everyday life, to which the technical nous will enthusiastically be consecrated.

This everyday world, so rich and fertile, cannot remain outside of philosophy. "Things," in their primary meaning, are not just nature, natural things (physei onta); things are also that with which man occupies himself in life and of which he makes use to satisfy his necessities or to enjoy himself. In this sense, the Greek termed them pragmata and khremata. And it is these things which pose an urgent problem for philosophy.

But in the work of Parmenides and Heraclitus themselves there is something which is going to permit the new reality to be saved. Wisdom, let us recall, is a knowledge about things which are. The organ by which we reach them, the thinking mind, in turn consists of making us see that things are, in fact, in one or another way. But even when the first difficulties upon which the philosophy of Ephesus and Elea stumbles are resolved, "is" and "being" remain drifting about as a result of this speculation.

I have already observed that for Parmenides and Heraclitus "is" still carries an active meaning stemming from phyein and gignomai, to be born. Nevertheless, now, thanks to the work of these two titans of thought, the "is" acquires a substantivity of its own, becoming independent of "being born" and taking on a meaning more and more removed from this latter verb. The intellectual process in which this occurs characterizes the labor of the three generations following Empedocles, and it takes place in two perfectly convergent senses.

On the one hand, when speculating about the Ionians' Nature, both Parmenides and Heraclitus understood it, as we saw, as "that which is being," that which is the very force of being. Let us leave aside, for the moment, the negative aspect of the question, i.e. that world disqualified by the Wise man as something which, ultimately, "is" not in the fullest sense. If we direct our attention to the positive aspect, above all to what Parmenides tells us "about that which is," we shall find that this "is," which in Eleatic philosophy still has an active meaning, begins to attract the attention of its successors in a form which will lose its active meaning so as to signify only the conjunction of characteristics [162] constitutive of "that which" is: something solid, compact, continuous, {185} one, whole, etc. The "is" then refers only to the result and not to the active force conducing to it. Thus "denaturalized," i.e. completely independent of Nature and birth, the "is" leads to the idea of thing. It is known that already in the Indo-European languages, the primary process leading to the formulation of abstract nouns was not an "abstraction" of properties, but rather the substantiation of certain actions of human nature or the human body and psyche. "Scent" is primitively the substantiated act of "to be scenting" (let us not go into greater detail). And with this substantivation, the world turns out to be divided between "things," on one hand, and "events" which happen to things, or actions which they execute. At this point things lose-even semantically-the active sense of the action which they began to substantivate and whose name served to designate them; scent is then a thing. And so I believe that from a merely semantic point of view, this process culminates in the idea of being which Parmenides and Heraclitus introduce. Things are born and die; in between they "are being." The substantivation of this act is the first vague intuition of the idea of being; to eon is the impersonal form of "to be being." But upon being substantivated, this action produces a serious division. On one hand, the "to be being" is converted into "that which is," the entity; on the other, there is the ontological vicissitude of "to come to last in, or to cease" to be, with respect to that which is. Being loses its active character; it is then the idea of a thing. And physical processes are simple vicissitudes adventitious to things.

But then we have a minor inconvenience, viz. that there are many things. The common things of life leave aside their common character so as to be converted into single, isolated "things"; the khremata will immediately become ta onta, entitites. And hence the world in which we all live, and which initially was left as disqualified, again enters into philosophy in a new form, that of the "many things." The idea of thing was born, then (and this is the essential point on which I wish to insist) at the moment {186} in which the "is" completely left aside its active dimension stemming from "to be born," so as to direct itself exclusively to one of several incipient possibilities implied in that verb, which [163] refer to the condition of the object "born" or "engendered."

But on the other hand there is something more. Knowing, we said, was for Parmenides and Heraclitus just knowing what is. This meant that, since nature is "that which is being," so too the mens is a "sense of being" which affirms itself in reality. This "is" was thus, in a certain way, the very substance of the mind and the logos. So, when the "is" became independent of "to be born, " it became independent also of this human reality. Thus "life-less" and "mind-less" it acquires an autonomous rank, the "is" as a copula. Up to now it had not borne any function in philosophy. But now it is going to enter by means of the door opened to it by Parmenides and Heraclitus. Thought, besides being impression and vision, will be affirmation or negation. The support of the "is" will then preferentially be the logos, the logos of everyday life; that which tells what man thinks about life and which served to define it now will in its turn enter into philosophy as "affirmation and "negation."

And the two developments which the "is" undergoes, when it loses the active meaning it had by virtue of its primitive roots in "to be born" and in the thinking mind, converge in a unique way. The "is" of the copula will be understood, first and foremost, as the "is" of things, and conversely. Hence a completely new situation comes about, namely affirmation or negation with respect to things.

Clearly-we hasten to say so-as of this moment there is speculation neither about the idea of a thing nor about affirmations regarding things. But speculation recoils upon "things" and continues to be oriented toward them, inasmuch as they are expressed in an affirmation or negation. This is the genial product of the new spirit.

More concretely, we may first consider the question from the side of things. For a long time philosophers, following Empedocles and Anaxagoras, had maintained-at least in principle-the idea of Nature conceived as the root of things. Properly speaking, only Nature would deserve the title of "being" in the fullest and truest sense. And to be sure none of the things of our everyday world is, {187} ultimately, "thing" in its fullest sense; and precisely on account of not being so, its birth and death cannot be interpreted as a true generation, but rather as a simple composition and decomposition. [164] And this in turn implies the existence of many other true things. Nature contains "many things," this time in a strict sense, whose combination yields everyday things. Each one of them will be a true thing in the sense of Parmenides. When the Greek applied the idea of thing to the normal world, he saw himself inexorably compelled to keep on disqualifying it, but this time dissolving it into a multiplicity of true things, whose tightly packed conjunction constitutes Nature. Empedocles will call these "true things" the "roots of all," and he supposed them to be four in number. Anaxagoras termed them "seeds," and believed that they were infinite, but without separation, so that in any piece of reality, however small, there is something of everything. A generation later, Democritus will continue regarding them as infinite in number, but he separates them by the void, whose reality is then proclaimed for the first time; this is the idea of the atom. The following generation, with Archytas, will revert more to a type of point-force, which is inextensive but extensible. Plato will label all these things with the generic name "elements" (stoikheia). Understanding things will be knowing how they are composed of these elements. So we may say that Empedocles and Anaxagoras speak of everyday things as the domination of some roots or seeds over others; Democritus, of combinations of atoms; Archytas, of geometric configurations. In each case, everyday things are characterized by what, since Democritus, has been called 'schema' or 'figure' (skhema, eidos).

The organ which realizes this interpretation of the universe is the logos, which affirms or denies one thing of another. Provisionally we should assume that each one of the terms of the affirmation is, in turn, a "thing;" being and not being will be being united and separated. Affirming or denying will be no more than uniting or separating with the logos. Thus Empedocles, for example, will say that the birds are mostly fire. The "fire-thing" is, on one hand, the being of the bird; but on the other, it gives us to understand what the bird is. The logos, which primarily {188} meant to say or understand, has thus come to mean what is understood; and therefore fire is, at one and the same time, the being of the bird and its explanation. The Greek will continue calling this explanation "logos." And it is a logos which is of the thing, prior to being of the individual who expresses it. It is, as a Greek would say, the logos of the on, of the entity, and hence something pertaining to the structure of this latter. Thus the world of the [165] logos is born. The idea of a plurality of things leads to the idea of being as explanation, to the idea of the rationality of things. The way for this idea had already been prepared by the "measure" of Heraclitus, but only now does it fully develop.

Indeed, after reaching this new state, the natural place of true reality will be reason and explanation. And that marvelous combination of explanations, of logoi, which we call "reasoning," will now begin to function. This was first and foremost the work of Zeno; but also to some extent of Parmenides, as is commonly said, though in rudimentary form. For this first archaic form of logic, affirming and denying will be uniting or separating things, from which arise Zeno's celebrated paradoxes. Regardless of their ultimate meaning, it is from this point that any interpretation of them must start. And in this logic we can already recognize the staggering leap which Aristotle will later have to make in order to discover things together with their "affections or accidents," by which he will turn the logos inside out and create the edifice of classical logic.

In the following generations, that of Democritus and that of Archytas, this instrument will yield the first splendid products of the Athenian spirit: mathematics, the theory of music, and astronomy; also, the theory of the temperaments will begin to be codified. Only twice will a symptomatic shuddering pass through the world of the logos, namely when Plato asks if the elements of reason are, in turn, rational, and when Theatetus rationally discovers, in the square root of two, the reality of the irrational. But this matters little.

In the course of these three generations, which closely followed upon one another, there was an enormous outpouring of mental creation. Things acquired rational structure: being is explanation. The mind was converted into understanding and immersed in the logos; "is" no longer is the object of vision, but of intellection and speech. {189} Wisdom has ceased to be a vision of being in order to become science; the Wise man will progressively turn his eyes away from Nature so as to fix them on individual things; Nature, with a capital N, will yield to nature, with a small n. Each thing has its own nature. The mission of the Wise man is to describe it. The wise man will henceforth be the scientist. Aristotle, in fact, points [166] out to us that "wise man" is applied to him who has a strict and rigorous knowledge of things (Met. 982al3).

And all of this is the work of that miniscule factor which has slipped into the European mind so as to torture it without respite: the "is."

4. Wisdom as Rhetoric and Culture. As a result of the Persian Wars, more happened than the development of the new branches of knowledge which gave rise to science. Primarily, indeed, the position of the citizen in public life changed, and along with this change a new tekhne was born, a new technical knowledge, politics. The logos of man is not just the faculty of understanding things; it is also, as we have indicated, that which makes living in society possible. People live in society, in fact, when there are common affairs. And no affair becomes common without giving a certain publicity to the thought of each person. We said in the previous paragraph how each individual thing found its way into philosophy via the logos which enunciated it. Likewise, the logos of each citizen will find its way into philosophy. And via this second dimension of the logos philosophy will journey to unsuspected regions. Such will be the work-in part, at least-of the Sophists, headed by Protagoras. It is not that the work of the Sophists is exclusively or even primarily philosophy; but indisputably it involves a philosophy which is sometimes explicit, and other times implicit.

Of course the Sophists' work, in respect of its philosophical content, is only possible thanks to Parmenides and Heraclitus, however paradoxical that may seem. Let us recall once again how the "is" set itself free from its active meaning, with regard to things as well as to thought. Let us now consider this thought, not insofar as it describes things, but in its public function, in speech. Of what does one speak? Of things. But things making up public life are "affairs." Science as we saw immediately interpreted these pragmata and khremata as onta; instruments, {190} utensils, and measures of life were, above all, "things." Now, on the other hand, that which science called "things" pass to a second plane. The first is things in the sense that we occupy ourselves with and make use of them. In this second, wider sense, there are many "things" which are not entitites, e.g. business affairs, and science itself. It is about things thus understood that men speak among themselves. In the citizen's life the hours of the skhole, of idleness or rest from business, will play a key role. And there in the agora, [167] in the public square, the citizen, free from his business affairs, dedicates himself to "treating" of his affairs concerning things. And this is the public or political life.

Now, the "is" of conversation is going to be the "is" of things such as they appear in daily life. The logos of conversation is not a simple description, but expresses an affirmation in the face of those of the other participants. The "is' then reflects what makes conversation possible, that to which every affirmation tends and before which every affirmation will bend. When the "is" acquired its own rank in the process of intellection, then there was affirmation and denial of things. When the "is" was thematically introduced into dialogues, it meant rather "what is," i.e. truth. Every affirmation pretends to be true, pretends to feed on the "is" and base itself there. The "is" is common to all, the "society" of living in society. Thanks to it, simple elocution becomes dialogue. One must not forget this connection when interpreting the meaning of what is going to happen; logic, as a theory of truth, was essentially born from dialogue. Reasoning was, above all, discussing.

The "is," as truth, primarily affects speech and thought themselves. Together with the works of his contemporaries Empedocles and Anaxagoras, entitled About Nature, one of the works of Protagoras was called About Truth. To be sure, Parmenides had already spoken of the way of truth. But then it was the name of the road leading to things; here it has become the name of things insofar as they are investigated by man. And this leads by new routes to the problem of the "is," because as long as man does nothing but contemplate things and enuntiate them, {191} he has nothing but things before his eyes. But when he engages in dialogue, that which things are becomes apparent through what another says. That which I immediately have before my eyes, then, is not things, but the thoughts of another. The problems of being are automatically converted into the problems of speech. The explanation of things gives way to my personal explanation, to the point where the primary intuition that something is true comes from something on which all are in agreement.

Now if everyone said the same thing, there would be no problem. But in fact there are problems when men, seeking to live from things, find themselves in disagreement. In principle, conversation will serve to put them into agreement. And here we have the basic fact from which Protagoras will begin. The "is" [168] only makes living in society possible by conserving what each person says. From this two consequences ensue.

First, discord manifests that the "is," as principle of dialogue and foundation of societal living, means the "way of viewing things." Being means "seeing." To each person-this is the meaning of dialogue-things appear in a certain way. But this is not any sort of subjectivism; on the contrary, it means that one cannot speak of what things are or are not, except insofar as men are referred to them. This reference is essential to the everyday things of life and what they constitute as such. What happens is simply that things "appear" before man. For these men, the being of the everyday things of life means "appearing." Something which did not appear before anything or anybody would not be an object of life. The criterion of being and not-being of things as khremata, as common things, is an appearing before men. This is the celebrated phrase of Protagoras. In it he proclaims something trivial and unobjectionable: man's life is the touchstone of the being of things we deal with in life.

The "is" of things thus understood will immediately come up against the being of things in the other sense, as existing entitites in Nature. Then, Protagoras is going to try to act like a Wise man of antiquity. He will want to "scientifically" ground the things of life. Taken as things existing in {192} Nature, the affirmation of Protagoras leads to making a relation of the "is," a pros ti, as Sextus Empiricus would say when explaining the doctrine of the Sophist from Abdera. The "physical" reality of things is no more than a relation. Nothing is anything in itself; only by virtue of its relations with other things. And in this system of relations there is one which is decisive for men, that of "appearing." Things appear before man, they seem to man to be in a certain way. Being as a relation becomes patent in knowledge as opinion, as doxa. This is not subjectivism or relativism, but a relationism.

And there is another consequence as serious as the first. Opinions are not taken as verbal declarations, but as affirmations which pretend to be true, and which emerge, therefore, from the being of things. At this point it comes to mind that if there are diverse opinions, it is because there is a diversity in each thing. More concretely, to each opinion-in principle, at least-there corresponds another diametrically opposite, which also thrives on explanations drawn from things, because things appear oppositely to my neighbor. The legein, the speech of the political animal, is [169] subject to an antilegein, to a contra-speech or contradiction. And as both are drawn from the same thing, the only possible conclusion is that the relation constituting the thing's being is, in itself, anti-logical or self-contradictory. Whence the inexorable necessity to discuss. The discussion is essentially contradictory, because being is constitutively anti-logical. Such is the philosophy of Protagoras. We are now far removed from the rationality of being which the science of this contemporaries discovered. Everything is disputable, because nothing has a firm consistency; being is inconsistent. Here we have the inconsistency of being face to face with its consistency. And, by a strange paradox, this mode of existing in the polis, in the city, will try to find scientific foundations. The influence of medicine, on this point, has been decisive. One can affirm, virtually without fear of erring, that while physics and mathematics bore the Greeks to the world of reason, medicine was the great argument for the world of the sophists. True, as we saw Anaxagoras affirmed that there is something of everything in each thing. Archytas and the mathematicians, though admitting the reationality of things, also considered them to be in perpetual {193} geometric movement. But the decisive science for the Sophists' point of view was medicine. The importance of health and sickness, not just for perceiving things, but even for thinking about them, is such that thought once again tended to become a mode of perception. Appearing and seeming took on more and more the acceptation of "sensing". And "being" will end up meaning "being sensed." The inconsistency of being will terminate in a theory of knowledge as sensible impression. And the sophists will try to translate the thesis of Parmenides and Heraclitus into the new philosophy.

But let us return to situate "opinion" in the general framework of public life, only in the function of which does the entire development have meaning. Provisionally every opinion has a certain character of firmness; otherwise it would be a fleeting impression without interest. But it does not receive that firmness from things, which indeed lack it. The firmness of an opinion stems only from him who professes it. Whence, if life requires firm [170] opinions, it will be necessary to educate man. Wisdom is not yet a science, it is simply something placed at the service of the education (paideia) of his physis. And as a result, it goes beyond the sphere of the purely intellectual; it does not exclude knowledge, but puts it at the service of the formation of man. Of which man? Not of man in the abstract, but the citizen. What formation? Political. Feigning ignorance of truth, the sophists believed they had formed the new men of Greece. How?

When the citizens speak about their affairs, it is to acquire convictions. Everything else is directed to this point. Thus, just as reasoning is what leads to the scientific logos, antilogy leads directly to the technique of persuasion, which is something like the logic of opinion. Just as being is appearing, persuading will be causing one opinion to appear stronger than another. And the desired goal will be reached when the adversary begins to vacillate {194} or is convinced. Discourse will be substituted for reasoning; we now have Rhetoric. From this moment Wisdom, as civic education, crystallizes on the intellectual side into rhetoric.

But rhetoric requires materials, what we would call ideas. Ideas, through their social dimension, acquire the character of everyday things, something destined to be manipulated rather than understood, in the double form in which ideas can be manipulated, viz. apprehended and taught, converted into mathema. Wisdom as rhetoric leads to Wisdom as instruction. Education consists in cultivating man and the ideas in him through instruction. With this, the sophist forms cultured men, full of ideas and capable of utilizing them to create opinions endowed with public consistency. The same Greek word designating opinion serves also to designate fame. Rhetoric and Culture: here we have the Wisdom of Athenian public life.

* * *

Let us summarize: Wisdom, which in its origins was a knowledge of the ultimate things of life and the world-very close, therefore, to religion-became on the coasts of Asia Minor a discovery or possession of the truth about Nature. With Parmenides and Heraclitus, this truth became a vision of what [171] things are. The vision of being became concrete, on one hand, in rational science; on the other, in the rhetoric and culture of Athenian civic life. Such was the situation in which Socrates found the world, a situation whose dynamic ingredients are essential to him and which are going to constitute the point of departure of his activity.

[172] {195}




In the opening lines of his Memorabilia, Xenophon tells us the following:

He did not even discuss that topic so favoured by other talkers, "the Nature of the Universe": and avoided speculation on the so-called "Cosmos" of the Professors, how it works, and on the laws that govern the phenomena of the heavens: indeed he would argue that to trouble one's mind with such problems is sheer folly. In the first place, he would inquire, did these thinkers suppose that their knowledge of human affairs was so complete that they must seek these new fields for the exercise of their brains; or that it was their duty to neglect human affairs and consider only things divine? Moreover, he marveled at their blindness in not seeing that man cannot solve these riddles; since even the most conceited talkers on these problems did not agree in their theories, but behaved to one another like madmen. As some madmen have no fear of danger and others are afraid where there is nothing to be afraid of, as some will do or say anything in a crowd with no sense of shame, while others shrink even from going abroad among men, some respect neither temple nor altar nor any other sacred thing, others worship stocks and stones and beasts, so is it, he held, with those who worry with "Universal Nature." Some hold that What is is one, others that it is infinite in number: some that all things are in perpetual motion, others that nothing can ever be moved at any time: {196} some that all life is birth and decay, others that nothing can ever be born or ever die. Nor were those the only questions he asked about such theorists. Students of human nature, he said, think that they will apply their knowledge in due course for the good of themselves and any others they choose. Do those who pry into heavenly phenomena imagine that, once they have discovered the laws by which these are produced, they will create at their will winds, waters, seasons and such things to their need? Or have they no such expectation, and are they satisfied with knowing the causes of these various phenomena?

Such, then, was his criticism of those who meddle with these matters. His own conversation was ever of human things. The problems he discussed were, What is godly, what is ungodly; what is beautiful, what is ugly; what is just, what is unjust; what is prudence, what is madness; what is courage, what is cowardice; what is a state, [173] what is a statesman; what is government, and what is a governor; these and others like them, of which the knowledge made a "gentleman," in his estimation, while ignorance should involve the reproach of "slavishness." [From the translation of E.C. Marchant, Loeb Classical Library, Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1965. Reprinted by permission.]

This is, of course, not the only text passage; but it is, certainly, one of the most important, because in the compass of a few lines we see grouped together the majority of the terms which have been appearing in our exposition. Hence the passage is suitable, as are few others, for placing the work of Socrates in perspective.

Let us also add the testimony of Aristotle according to whom "Socrates ... was busying himself about ethical matters and neglecting the world of nature as a whole but seeking the universal in these ethical matters, and fixed thought for the first time on definitions." (Met. 987bl).

The image of Socrates described for us in Plato's Apology is all too well known: the just man who prefers to accept the law, even though it requires his life.

One thing is thus clear: Socrates assumes a certain attitude toward the Wisdom of his time, and on this basis begins his own work.

[174] {197}




Let us first consider the attitude of Socrates toward the Wisdom of his time.

The world in which Socrates lived had witnessed a fundamental experience of man that, insofar as it touches upon our question, may be summarized in three points: (1) the constitution of the city-state providing each person, with his own opinions, access to public life, (2) the crisis of traditional knowledge; and (3) the development of new branches of knowledge. The participation of the citizen in public life gives rise to the flowering of rhetoric and the ideal of the cultivated man. In this culture recourse was also made to the great exemplars of traditional knowledge: Anaximander, Parmenides, Heraclitus, etc., not for the truth they could impart, but rather for their public renown. Hence knowledge ceased to be Wisdom and became something manipulable, in topos, topics, utilized for some appropriate benefit or for the creation of one's personal renown via polemic. Zeal and insolence have an identical root: the topic. On the other hand, the new branches of knowledge complacently opposed themselves to classical forms of wisdom. For while the latter were something divine, the tekhnai were born, according tp the myth of Promethius, on the occasion of a theft from the gods. With these teknai men acquired the wisdom of life. They are knowledge obtained in the course of life and are available to all through instruction; they are mathemata.

This experience is found inscribed in a special situation, that of public life. And the experience thus receives its special character, which is much more essential to Socrates than its content. All of it {198} is an experience of subjects and things dealing with life, and above all public affairs. Therein is where it acquires its proper scope and meaning.

In fact, not only that which was known, "ideas," was public property, but knowledge itself became so too. Knowledge degenerated into conversation, dialogue into disputation. In disputation, things appear subject to antinomy, and it is therein where the antilogical character of the "is" of things stands [175] revealed, i.e. where they lose all their transcendence and gravity. From the "is" the great forms of wisdom were born, which became converted into topics at the very moment of losing their point of support in the consistency of the " is. " And if the " is " is antilogical, everything is true in its own way, in the mode of each individual thing. And in this evaporation of the "is," man himself disappears. Man's being is converted into a simple posture. Let us say this same thing differently: nothing has importance for the sophist, and therefore nothing matters to him except his own opinions; and this not because they are important, but because other people give them importance; not because he takes them seriously, but because others do so. Consequently Aristotle said that sophistry was not Wisdom, but the appearance of Wisdom. In other words, it was intellectual frivolity. Hence, if indeed sophistry ended up disqualified by virtue of its content, it nevertheless posed a problem for philosophy, the problem of the existence of the sophist. Sophistry, like philosophy, did not attract Socrates' attention, nor that of Plato, nor that of Aristotle, except for the sensualist interpretation of being and science, to which Protagoras at some moments alluded. But the sophist, yes. Plato's Sophist and Aristotle's polemic are in fact nothing other than the metaphysics of frivolity.

To this situation of Sophistry corresponds that of Socrates. Socrates is situated in a certain way before this type of existence, and on that in turn the content of his own existence will depend.

Socrates has not taken the content of the intellectual experience of his contemporaries and isolated it from the situation out of which it emerged. Quite the contrary; and it is necessary to emphasize this in order to understand the full scope of Socrates' attitude toward the content of the understanding. {199}

Faced with the miasma of publicity, Socrates' first action was to withdraw from public life. he realized that he was living in a time when the best in man could only be saved by retiring to a private life. And this attitude was anything but an elegant or aloof posture. Protagoras had a modicum of intellectual substance, but the two generations of sophists following him did nothing-in terms of the understanding-but converse and pronounce discourses of addle beauty, quite distinct from true dialogue and discussion. For this, indeed, one needs things. The seriousness of dialogue and the arduousness of discussion are only possible through the substance of things. When being is dissolved [176] in pure antilogic, and converted totally into pure insubstantiality, man sees himself abandoned to the caprices of frivolity. And what is it that caused the reality and gravity of the "is" to be lost to these men? Quite simply, the loss of that very thing which made it patent before the eyes of the great thinkers: the thinking mind. When speech makes itself independent of thinking, and this latter ceases to gravitate wholly around the center of things, the logos is left free and unfettered. Logos has, in fact, two dimensions, private and public. Thought, on the other hand, only has one, private. The only thing we can do is express thought in the logos. And this is the constitutive risk involved with all expression, viz. ceasing to express thoughts, only to be a pure talking as if one were thinking. When this situation arrives, man can do no more than be silent and return to thought. The retreat of Socrates is not a simply posture like the posture of the sophists; it is the meaning of his life itself, determined, in turn, by the meaning of his being. Consequently it is an essentially philosophical attitude.

Socrates' attitude toward traditional Wisdom is going to be conditioned by this position in which he has situated himself. Provisionally we may say that Socrates judges it from the point of view of its efficacy in life, such as it pretends to be expressed in the men with whom he lives. That appeal to the one or the many, to the finite or the infinite, to rest or movement, is absolutely insufficient to lay the foundations for daily life. This is his point of departure, none other. And for proof, in the passage {200} from Xenophon previously quoted, Socrates presents as a decisive argument the fact that after knowing the structure of the cosmos, we cannot manipulate it to suit our needs anyway. Socrates, then, completely prescinds for the moment from what there may be of truth or falsity in these speculations; what interests him is to underline their futility as means for life. It is true that previously he had called those who occupied themselves with Nature "demented. " But this is another aspect of the question, intimately linked with the former, to which we shall return later. That Wisdom which leads to antilogic-which is what is most essential for Socrates-clearly reveals that the wise men are in this respect de-mented; they lack mens, nous. Their Wisdom has completely abandoned the noein so as to hurl itself into talking alone, into the legein.

And this which obliges him to withdraw is likewise what determines his attitude. Wisdom was born from the thinking mind. [177] But when this mind was lost, Wisdom ceased to be. Knowledge is now no longer the product of an intellectual life, but a simple recipe of ideas. For this reason Socrates disposes of it. But clearly that which leads him to dispose of it is, at the same time, the only way of saving it. Socratic irony is the expression of the noetic structure which is going to save Wisdom.

And we have the proof that this is his attitude in that we are told nothing about the physical discussions of Democritus, nor about the incipient Athenian mathematics. Naturally. For us, who have reaped the magnificent legacy of Greek mechanics, astronomy, medicine, and mathematics, it seems that this is what Hellenic science was. But let us recall that all this science began to expand and acquire its enormous volume precisely in the generation immediately following Socrates. In Plato's Academy we are told that people were so impressed by the quantity of new knowledge they reckoned more than a lifetime would be required to master it all. And Democritus, a contemporary of Socrates, had the reputation of being the last true encyclopedist of knowledge. It is evident, then, that those branches of knowledge-the only ones which for we Europeans are important-were very rudimentary and miniscule in {201} Socrates' time, and were completely overshadowed by the great monuments of traditional knowledge: Parmenides, Heraclitus, even Empedocles and Anaxagoras. When one speaks of Socrates' negative attitude toward science, it will be necessary to avoid the mistake of including therein what we are accustomed to call Greek science. This is especially true when we consider that many of these sciences were cultivated, and at times greatly advanced, by persons who belonged to schools of Socratic inspiration. For the rest, to pretend that Socrates only had to dedicate himself to the sciences in order to not deprecate them is simply not a reasonable position.

The only thing which might be added, with regard to these new branches of knowledge, is what we have already seen with regard to classical wisdom. Could it be that these new scientists were also losing their minds? This is the great risk of science, and most likely these apprehensions were not foreign to Socrates' soul.

To summarize, Socrates' attitude before the intellectual world of his epoch is, above all, the negation of its posture, viz. public life. Socrates retires to his house, and in that withdrawal recovers his nous and leaves traditional Wisdom in abeyance. The "is" returns to recover its importance and seriousness. Things, then, [178] regain consistency; they again offer resistance and pose authentic problems. Together with this, man himself acquires gravity. What he does and doesn't do and how he does it are always linked to something prior to himself: what he and things "are." The reapparition of the "is" constitutes the restoration of real Wisdom.

But, of what Wisdom? For nothing returns to be exactly like it was. This is the second question: Socrates' positive action. {202}

[179] {203}



Whatever may have been Socrates' positive contribution in the realm of philosophy, it was already predetermined by the form in which he was situated. Was he or was he not an intellectual? A unique answer cannot be given to this question. For us, i.e. for the generations who followed him, yes. For his epoch, and probably for himself too-we all, more or less, judge ourselves based on our own world-no.

For this epoch, no, because Socrates did not dedicate himself to any task then deemed intellectual. He did not occupy himself with cosmology, nor did he debate the traditional problems of philosophy. He was not, to be sure, the inventor of the concept and the definition. The Aristotelian expressions need not be taken in rigorously technical sense they since have had. In reality, Aristotle limited himself to saying that Socrates sought what things are in themselves, not in virtue of their circumstances, and that he tried to pay close attention to the meanings of words so as not to let himself be swept away by the brilliance of the discourses. Neither is it very probable that he arrived at great ethical discoveries; at least, it is not clear to us that he occupied himself with anything more than personal and public virtue in their various dimensions. How could he have been taken for an intellectual? How could he have taken himself for one? The intellectual of his epoch was an Anaxagoras, an Empedocles, a Zeno, a Protagoras, perhaps. Socrates was none of this, nor did he wish to be part of it. He wanted rather not to be part of it.

Was he then simply a just man, a man of perfect moral character? We do not know with scientific certainty what moral theory he professed, nor even {204} the details of his life. On the other hand, politics has contributed at times, with its errors, to creating great historical figures in the imagination of citizens. But in any case his indisputable moral elevation alone would not have justified his philosophical influence. And this has been decisive. All the critical history of the world would be incapable of erasing this fact, whose physiognomy might be confused but whose [180] content is gravitating there imperturbably.

Let us say it again. Socrates has not created science; he has created a new type of intellectual life, of Wisdom. His disciples have reaped the fruit of that new life. And as happened to Parmenides and Heraclitus in their time, so it happens to Socrates: he awakens to a new life, and that life is understood, at the beginning, in the light of the old. Therefore to some, Socrates was another sophist; to others, a good man. To his offspring he was an intellectual. In reality, he simply inaugurated a new type of Sophia, nothing more, but nothing less.

Up to now we have not seen this Wisdom except in a negative way, viz. Socrates' withdrawal before the intellectuality of the day, his forceful rejection of it. Socrates remains aloof from public life, withdrawn to his private existence. He abandons rhetoric so as to take being and thought seriously. But it would be an error to suppose that this represented a complete state of isolation. Socrates was not a solitary thinker. The fact that one's life has private aspects does not mean that it is isolated. There is, on the contrary, the danger that the recluse will find, in his isolated solitude, a kind of notoriety, and therefore of publicity. That some of his disciples thus misunderstood his attitude is well known. We are not speaking of that, nor about what solitude was for Descartes, for example. The solus recedo of Descartes, that remaining alone with oneself and one's thought, is quite far removed from Socrates, for the simple reason that there has never been any Greek who has taken this mental attitude. Where Socrates retires is to his house, to a life similar to that of anyone else, without involving himself in the novelties of any progressive conception of life, such as was done by the Athenian elite. But neither does he permit himself to be impressed {205} by the mere power of the past. He has his friends, and talks with them. For any good Greek, talking was as closely united with thinking as praying with reciting for a Semite. The praying (oratio) of a Semite is just that, praying, something in which one's os, one's mouth, participates. For a Greek, there is no speaking isolated from thinking; the logos is one and the other at the same time. He always understood thought as a silent dialogue of the soul with itself, and dialogue with others as a sonorous thinking. Socrates is a good Hellene; he thinks while talking and talks while thinking. Indeed, from him has come dialogue as a mode of thought.

But, how does Socrates live? At least, how does he understand [181] that he should live? This is the most important question.

Provisionally, as we have already seen, it is with nous, with mind. Aristotle tells us that he exercised his thought, his dianoia. Nevertheless, there is something confused here. Traditional philosophy had arisen from the thinking mind, and nourished itself therein, both in the soul of the philosopher as well as in his expression by means of the logos. Nevertheless, as we have already noted, at what was perhaps the most decisive moment of pre-Socratic philosophy, that mind applies itself to nature, to what was called "the divine," leaving aside the everyday world, its things, men, and its most important changes; indeed, leaving it aside not just in any way, or by a simple preterition, but in a much more serious way, viz. disqualifying it as doxa, casting it out of the world of being, as something which pretends to be, but in reality is not. And therefore Socrates called these philosophers "demented." There was a vigorous reaction on the part of the generations immediately following the Persian wars, as we saw; but what triumphs in the order of the understanding is what will later lead to the rational science of natural things. Its first elaborators, Empedocles and Anaxagoras, seem too much like Parmenides and Heraclitus. On the other hand, those in whom science will fully take root had scarcely been born in the time of Socrates. He could not, therefore, preoccupy himself excessively with Empedocles, Anaxagoras, and the others, as scientists, because they were little more than germinal. In respect to their affinity with classical wisdom, they were incapable, as it was, of satisfactorily {206} arriving at the things of everyday life. Only Protagoras had tried to start from things, not as natural things, as onta, but as everyday things, khremata. But we have already seen where he wound up.

Now on this point, Socrates is a typical representative of his generation, which explains why he will be taken for a sophist. He tried to think and speak about things such as they are immediately present in daily life, but not as they are present in public life, in full doxa, but on the contrary, taking them in themselves, i.e. in what they truly are, independently of circumstances. Socrates has situated himself, temporarily, in private life. Public life will come later. Only a good citizen can be a good politician. Socrates' mind will apply itself, then, to the everyday things of life, without rhetoric, but with mind. Up until Socrates, the mind only applied itself to "the divine," to Nature, to the Cosmos or to the rational [182] investigation of the nature of things. Now it is going to concentrate, by a singular paradox, on the modest things of everyday life. And here we come upon Socrates' radical innovation. The serious defect of traditional philosophy, for Socrates, was its disdain of daily life, the disqualification of it as an object of wisdom, only to later pretend to control it with considerations drawn from the clouds and the stars. Socrates meditates on these everyday things and on what man does with them in his life. He also meditates on the tekhnai. But these tekhnai on which he meditates are not just those constituting scientific knowledge, but every "savior faire" of life: occupations, such as that of the carpenter, physician, etc.; in short, the conjunction of abilities which man acquires in his dealings with things. This is the Greek concept of arete, virtue, whose primary meaning has not the least moral overtone. The "is" once again enters philosophy; not the "is" of nature, but the "is" of these things which are within the grasp of man and on which his life depends. I believe that Xenophon's text is sufficiently explicit on this point.

Where one most clearly perceives Socrates' intent is in his employment of the famous "know thyself." This {207} phrase of the Delphic oracle meant that man should not attribute divine prerogatives to himself, but rather must learn to live modestly in his purely human condition. Socrates brings to this apothegm a new meaning. It no longer refers to not being God, but to each individual with his nous scrutinizing the voice which tells what virtue "is."

Let us immediately dispose of a false interpretation. That Socrates meditates on the things of everyday life does not mean that he meditates only on man and his actions. Aristotle's testimony has commonly been taken in this sense. But the Greek word ethos has an infinitely broader meaning than that which today we give to the word "ethics." Ethics encompasses above all the dispositions of man in life, his character, customs, and naturally, his morals. In fact, it could be translated as "mode" or "form" of life, in the deepest sense of the word in contrast to a simple "manner." So Socrates adopts a new mode of life, meditation on what the things of life are. And with this, the "ethical" is not primarily centered in that about which one meditates, but in the very fact of living and meditating. The things of life are not man, but they are the things which are given in life [183] and upon which it depends. To cause the life of man to depend upon a meditation on them is not to meditate on the moral as opposed to the natural; it is, simply, to make meditation the supreme ethos. In other words, Socratic wisdom does not recoil upon the ethical, but rather is, in itself, ethics. That he preferentially applied his meditation to civic virtues is of secondary importance. The essential point is that the intellectual ceased to be a vagabond living among the stars, so as to become a wise man. Wisdom as ethics is the work of Socrates. At bottom, it is a new intellectual life.

This ethics of meditation on things of everyday life inexorably led to a specific intellection of them. In traditional philosophy, as we have already seen, nature is that from which everything emerges; and when Wisdom adopted the form of rational science, things presented themselves to the mind with their own proper physis. "Nature" gave way to "the nature" {208} of each thing. For the time being Socrates is far removed from this. By centering his mind and meditation on things such as they are present in life, with the objective of making life depend on what they are in themselves, the "are," the einai, acquires a new meaning. It is therefore nothing which alludes to their nature. This does not mean that Socrates had discovered the concept. That must wait until Plato and Aristotle. But the Aristotelian "concept" is no more than the theory of the quid, of the nature of each thing, of its ti. That which Socrates' mind achieves, when concentrating on everyday things, is the vision of the "what" of things in everyday life. Wisdom as ethics has thus led to something decisive in the order of the understanding of things; so decisive, that it will be the root of all new philosophy and what will permit it to again find the themes of traditional Wisdom, momentarily in abeyance, albeit by other routes.

But let us not get ahead of ourselves.

First, a few words about how the Socratic meditation concerning the "what" of things developed. In the first place, it was through thinking and speaking with friends. But now the conversation is no longer disputation. Socrates does not seek to defend opinions already formed, because there are none to defend. Therefore he cannot even expound them. Socrates seeks to speak of things and from things. Conversation ceases to be disputation so as to become dialogue, serenely and peacefully revolving around things in order to know them completely. This is rather a speech in [184] which man makes things talk; it is almost that things themselves will speak in us. Socrates surely recalled that for Parmenides and Heraclitus, this unfailing knowledge about things sprouts from something which man carries in himself and which seemed part divine to them, viz, nous and logos. Socrates wishes to erase any inordinate allusion to a superhuman knowledge. His Wisdom will not be divine at all, theion; he will content himself with referring to it modestly as daimonion.

And in order to reach this goal, Socrates will place in abeyance the security with which man bases himself on the everyday things of life. He makes it clear that in daily life man does not know what he has in his hands; what makes life be everyday life is just that ignorance. {209} To recognize it is already to situate oneself in the life of Wisdom. Hence things, and with them life itself, end up converted into problems. This is the knowledge of not knowing, of "not knowing about what one treats." Only at this price does man conquer a new type of security. When we speak with a sick man, we consider his suffering, and indeed sympathize with his misfortune. But if we prescind from this human relation with him, i.e. if we ignore this man-to-man relation, which acquires its fullness in the integrity of the circumstances and the situations in which it occurs, then the sick man disappears from our sight and we are left face to face with his sickness. And the sickness is no longer an object of compassion or suffering; it is simply a conjunction of properties that the sick man has, a "what." And this transfer of our gaze from the sick man to his sickness, which momentarily leaves the former aside, paradoxically becomes a new, firmer, and surer way of "dealing with the sick man." From here the universality of Aristotelian definition will arise, along with that singular turning from the "what" to the "why." Socrates himself did not even dimly perceive it; but this result could only be achieved based on Socratic reflection.

By this route, by this "irony," holding traditional Wisdom in abeyance and basing it on something firmer and more accessible, on the things of everyday life, Socrates saved, in principle, the truth of that Wisdom. And we say "in principle," because the full development of Sophia, as a mode of knowing, will be the work of Plato and Aristotle.

Was Socrates a philosopher? If by "philosopher" we understand someone who has a philosophy, no. But he was something more. He was, in fact, a philosophic existence, an [185] existence installed in a philosophic ethos which, in a world asphyxiated by public life, opens up an intellectual and philosophical life before a group of friends, basing it on new foundations and setting it in motion in a new direction, perhaps without knowing too much about where it was going. Socratic reflection was the constitution of a philosophy. There were a limited number of possibilities which Athenian life offered to Socrates, viz. throwing oneself into public life as {210} a virtuoso of work and thought à la Protagoras and his disciples; occupying oneself with new branches of knowledge, from which later the sciences will spring; submerging oneself in the amorphous mass of citizenry absorbed by the routine and urgent matters of day-to-day life; or returning to ordinary life, not so as to let oneself be dragged along by it, but so as to direct it by a meditation founded upon what the things of life "are." Socrates resolutely chose the last. That decision made the existence of philosophy possible.

A less important matter is what Socrates occupied himself with, and still less important is the personal manner in which he lived. The majority of his disciples took his attitude, his ethos, as a tropos, as a simple style. They sought, with more or less intellectual baggage-and nothing more than baggage-to imitate Socrates. For him, that was surely the keenest irony of his life. The minor Socratic schools were born from this imitation.

A few wanted something more; they sought to adopt his own ethos, to Socratically bring themselves closer to things and Socratically live the problems thereby posed to the understanding. The things repaid them, delivering a new Sophia. It was the philo-sophia of the Academy and the Lyceum.

[186] {211}




In what sense do Plato and Aristotle continue Socrates' work? We here return to the beginning of these notes.

At bottom, it is wholly secondary to investigate the chain of problems and concepts which Plato received from Socrates and Aristotle from Plato. Moreover, it is even nonsense to focus on their intellectual discipleship this way. When at the death of Plato Speusippus was placed at the head of the Academy on account of links of blood and scholarly orthodoxy, Aristotle retired to Asia Minor because he understood that intellectual discipleship is not the property of a sect or a family.

Plato was Socratic in a much deeper sense, in the same sense that Aristotle was. Both started from the same root, from a reflection on everyday things, with the object of knowing what man has in his hands and what he should be in his life. This makes Plato and Aristotle the great Socratics. But, moreover, the development of that original reflection led them to reconquer rational knowledge and politics, basing them for the first time firmly on reflection about the logos of life. Finally, both ended by molding their ethos into a new interpretation of the ultimate problems of the universe, following the thread of this experience of man and encountering once again the great problems of classical wisdom; here we arrive at philo-sophia. These three stages-the initial experience of things, rational knowledge of them, and philosophy-are the three states into which a simple Socratic reflection matures. It is true that in this process Plato and Aristotle follow diverging paths, {212} as we shall see. But it is much more important to see that they are two vectors which start from the same Socratic center, and to inscribe these divergences in the common process of maturation of a single Socratic reflection.

1. Point of departure: the initial experience of things. Plato and Aristotle both start from a reflection about things and subjects pertaining to life.

It furnishes them with the initial idea of what a thing is, and [187] hence with a vision of nature. The Socratic reflection has carried them along a quite different-and firmer-route to the discovery of nature, to the problem of the Ionians.

If man lived abandoned to the present instant of time, life would be radically inconsistent; each action would start from scratch; everything would be temporary; life would have a bland structure. But in the higher animals there is something more: memory furnishes them with a first schema or framework, thanks to which they not only produce actions, but also have a behavior, an elemental bios. However in man there is still more. His behavior is determined in turn by a knowing what he does (tekhne). This gives human life its peculiar consistency and makes it a bios in the strict sense.

For Plato, the proper part of savior faire is knowing in "what" that which one does consists. The first experience which Plato encounters, in dealing with ordinary things, is their "what," their ti. Possessing it, man knows what he has in his hands, and can then make things good (kalos). Thus the "what" is intimately linked with and oriented toward doing good, to agathon. What is this "what"? It is no longer what traditional science used to inquire about, for example the diverse proportions in which the four elements entered into each things. It is sometimes more modest and within the reach of all, acquired through Socratic reflection. From afar I see a shape, and I believe it is a man. I approach, and see that it is a small tree. What was believed in the first case and seen in the second is the conjunction of characteristics or traits typical of each thing and what distinguish it from all the rest. Thus, the Athenian is distinguished from the Persian by his "type"; the man who governs from the man of business by the "type" of activities to which each is dedicated. {213} To this outline of characteristics the word eidos, figure, was given, in its broadest sense. Plato realized that the eyes are not sufficient to see it. Therefore animals do not know what things are, just as the layman in a factory does not see the machine, only wheels and iron. Only one who understands it sees the machine, i.e. he who knows how to operate it. Figure is, in this sense, something [188] which is seen in an intelligent mental vision; therefore Plato called it "Idea." The "what" of things is Idea. The power of being is the power of consisting; being is consisting, and that in which things consist is the Idea.

Therefore Plato's thought shifts from things toward that in which they consist, toward the Idea. Things have consistency in it, but the Idea is consistent. Whence it is taken as a second thing together with the first, with the result that the things about which we think are not, strictly speaking, the same as those with which we live.

Aristotle was, perhaps, more radically Socratic. In savior faire Plato comprehended "what" things are, and the "what" was for him an experience of their consistency. On the other hand, doing itself carried Aristotle to an experience of things themselves. And this is so because even though having to make them is a simple human condition, how to make them no longer depends only on making itself, but on the true nature of the things made. Therefore it is an experience of what things are by themselves. If knowing were independent of making, we would never have left Plato: being would be consistency. But, for Aristotle, knowing and making are two dimensions of a unique phenomenon: tekhne. Therefore in it being as reality is manifest. And this bears Aristotle along a different course.

What, in fact, is reality? If we are making something, for example a chair, it will be real when completed, when {214} it is at the point of leaving the workshop. Having reality is, then, in the first place, having substantivity, sistere extra causas, existing. And what is this substantive reality? The wood with which I make the chair is not a chair except when it completely serves the function, e.g. for sitting. Reality is, in this sense, to be acting as such, actuality.

But actuality of what? Of all the characteristics of a chair, of its figure, its eidos. And when this figure is actual in the wood, the wood acquires the substantivity of the chair. The actuality of the figure or form is the foundation of substantivity. This implication between the two meanings of reality, between actuality and substantivity, obvious to Aristotle and so serious in its repercussions, encloses the first moment of his experience of things. And this is what has imperturbably fixed the meaning of being for the entire history of European thought.

Figure is not then primarily consistency. Plato forgot that that [189] in which things consist is, above all, that which they are. In what sense? In a certain way, the reality of the chair is the wood. But, strictly speaking, wood is only material for its fabrication, something "destined to be," something "of which" the chair is going to be made. It has neither substantivity nor actuality; i.e. has no reality other than that "to" and "of" to which it is destined. In itself it is nothing but a pure disposability, possibility. Its reality proceeds from the other term. Material and form are not two things, either united or separated; they are not two elements, but two principles, arkhai, of one single thing. Reality will then be substantization and actualization of possibilities; form is configuration; and real things, emergences from its internal principles, ousiai, substances. The things about which we think are the same as those with which we live. The stability of life is based on the substance of things. The rest is pure plausibility. For the first time the everyday things of life have completely entered into philosophy. In a word, for Aristotle being is not consisting, but subsisting.

Both experiences of things have been acquired through a reflection on the usual treatment of them; the eidos of hammer, what the hammer is, is perceived in nailing; that of the chair, in sitting. {215} The internal nature of reality becomes transparent by meditating on its use. It is then that the pragmata, things, in the sense of things of everyday life, acquire the rank of natural things, onta. Because if what we make is artificial, the making itself is natural; it is Nature discovered in us.

According to how savoir faire is understood, just so will things and Nature be understood, too.

In savoir faire, Plato sees only "what," and therefore the craftsman who shapes his material with his eyes fixed on the idea which he wishes to realize. This leads him to an interpretation of Nature which is more obvious, yet more complete than that of the Ionians, thanks to a discovery which can only be compared to that of Parmenides and Heraclitus. In the birth of a thing, not only does a being come to life, but moreover this being is of the same type as its progenitors: man, lion, bird, etc. The generative impulse gathers its power in the life of the progenitors, but with "eyes on" a determinate species. In the power for being there is a sort of presence of the species. Therefore coming to life is not just birth, phyein, but generation, gignesthai, in the strict sense of the word, something in virtue of which the thing born has genealogy. The [190] idea not only is consistent, but is genus, genos, of things. Nature bears in its power an Idea, and always has its sight fixed there. The power of the genus is of a kind completely different from that of the simple birth impulse, but no less real. Both are dimensions of a single force which, for this reason, Plato called eros, love, something which goes outside itself to produce a determinate species. In place of the Ionian physiology, we will have a genealogy. Once produced, each thing consists in a series of operations realized "with a view" to the idea type, which is over all.

For Aristotle, on the other hand, tekhne is a making in which the craftsman takes the ideas from himself. Nature carries an idea, but not like something external on which it has placed its "sights," but rather as an internal principle. Generation is autoconformation, something which leads, not outside of oneself, but to a realization of oneself, morphogenesis. Instead of physiology, we have not genealogy but morphology. Once produced, the nature of each thing consists in that principle internal to it from which its own actions emerge; {216} form is not only the principle of being, but also principle of operation, nature.

Albeit in different directions, the eidos, the figure of everyday life in Plato and Aristotle, is what primarily makes things to be khremata, everyday things, and later natural things, onta. With this we come full circle, to the ancient Ionian philosophy, but now it is set upon the firm and controllable bases of Socratic reflection.

2. The expression of this experience: rational knowledge and politcs. Man, besides making things, talks about them. And just as he must know what he makes, he must likewise know what he says. The firmness of the logos does not stem from the power of what he says, but from the things about which he speaks. Therefore instead of firm or vacillating opinions, like Protagoras, we should have reasons, logoi, be they true or false. The experience.of Socrates speaking had inexorably led Plato and Aristotle to pin down the structure of things, not just as objects which are used, khremata, or which are here in the universe, onta; but also as objects which are expressed, as legomena. How must things be so that they may be expressible? What is there in them which requires that they be explained? The reply to these questions will not be Rhetoric, but Logic; and the knowledge will not be culture, but science.

Logos does nothing but express what things are. And it is quite [191] obvious that about one simple thing we can say many things, and at the same time can apply the same expressions to various things. As object of the logos, things will have to be one and multiple. This permits expressing them; indeed, calls forth an explaining of them. The entire problem will rest on the interpretation of this complex.

Plato was the first to insist that these many predicates are not arbitrarily heaped on things. Man, for example, is a living thing, but not vegetable; he is animal, and not irrational animal, but rational. The unity of the "what" is obtained by cutting out, so to speak, a more limited figure within a supreme "what," and within that, another, until arriving at one which corresponds only to what we are treating of, to its eidos, or proper figure. As long as this does not occur, the diverse elements of the "what" are extended identically over the many things. {217} The "what" proper to each thing will be, then, the final result of the trimming down of a vaster reality, within which the diverse characteristics are maintained united and separated in a perfectly defined system. As the being of things is their "what," their consistency, it follows that the union and separation of judgement will be, eo ipso, when true, the being and non-being of things themselves. In this identity, stemming from a conception of being as consistency, resides the entire Platonic interpretation of things as objects of the logos. And this implies that in reality there exists not just a power of being, but also a no less real power of non-being. This is the first time in philosophy that the problem of non-being appears as more than something simply discarded, as in Parmenides, but as something positively grouped under the form of negation. Plato was aware of the great importance of his innovation. He did not hesitate to characterize it as parricide, referring to Parmenides. The "what" of things thus constitutes an intelligible world, a kosmos noetos, with dialectic structure. Therefore the mind cannot rest in any of its characteristics without seeing itself home along to the rest through the power of being and non-being; it must reflect to discuss. On account of this rational knowledge of things is possible and necessary, and on account of it dialogue is possible.

For Aristotle, on the other hand, being is not consisting, but subsisting. The "what" is not all of reality, but only the "what" of it. Logos, therefore, does not simply contain all of reality, but is referred to it, unfolding reality in the thing which is and what the thing is. Aristotle will have to base himself on this unfolding and [192] on the subsequent articulation of its members in order to interpret things as objects of the logos.

The many characteristics of the eidos, of the figure, are not just something which a thing has, period. Rather, it has them because it already is what it is. Man is not man because he is a rational animal; rather he is a rational animal because he is man. The eidos, the form of things, is an internal unity, a type of central focus of each thing, which shapes its own material in a series of properties whose external outline is the figure of the thing. It is an original unity, which is unfolded in the thing's many properties. Therefore the eidos is not just the form of things, {218} but also their essence. The logos takes apart each of these characteristics so as to unite them with the copula in a derived unity which we call "definition." This is the structure of things inasmuch as they are the object of the logos; and with the distinction between the "is" of judgment and the "is" of things, Aristotle-as opposed to Plato-opens up the autonomous realm of logic. This triple dimension of the form as conformity with things, constitutive of their properties, and principles of their operations permits the thing with which we live, the thing about which we think, and the thing which is and functions in the world to be one and the same. For Aristotle, being is not just subsisting, but subsisting essentially.

For Plato, the sophist is the man who is not moved by any other power than that of non-being; and therefore he lacks content, his mind is dispersed in the amorphous flux of words and opinions. For Aristotle, the sophist is the man for whom there is nothing essential, for whom nothing has a proper content, and therefore whatever he says about things is pure accident, a fleeting coincidence. Societal living and dialogue among men are only possible when the mind is based on essential structures. The rest is radical insubstantiality. And only based on the substance of affairs (pragmata) is a firm and stable polis possible, or a just public life.

Aristotle and Plato once again encounter the necessity of the rational science and the politics of their time, momentarily placed in abeyance by the Socratic reflection. And we now clearly understand the meaning of this abeyance: it was necessary to return to base reasoning and dialogue on the substance of things, which was about to disappear in Athens. Socratic irony thus saved science and politics. [193]

3. The root of this experience: philo-sophia. But this very thing which brought about the salvation of science and politics led the Greek to go beyond them as well. Up until then, Greece had had Wise men who, passing through the universe with their thinking mind, obtained that splendid vision called Sophia. This vision was molded into rational science and into Rhetoric. And both, as we saw, were at the point of perishing precisely because they were breaking free of the bounds of the thinking mind. By returning to that mind and putting it into action, the possibility {219} of science and objective dialogue was reborn, But at the same time the idea of the mind changed in some ways, and consequently so did the idea of wisdom. Wisdom will no longer be a simple "vision" of the universe, but rational understanding, episteme. And not just any intellection. Whereas natural science and politics start from some supposition by which they understand things, Wisdom rivits its sight on the very root of these suppositions and principles, and on the basis of them is present at their constitution and expansion into things. And this is true because it is not concerned just with principles of knowledge, but above all with the very principles of reality. Wisdom is not only episteme, or simply nous, but the one and the other, or as Aristotle says, understanding, with science, episteme kai nous. The mind is no longer a simple vision, but the understanding of principles, and Wisdom, radical intellection. Without this, the Wise man would have been a type of mystic or lyric poet of the understanding; he would never have reached knowledge in the strict sense. For his part, the scientist would never have been more than an explainer, and the politician an orator. With both things, that divine part of man will no longer be de facto Wisdom, but an effort to conquer it, philo-sophia, preoccupation with Wisdom. Therefore the philosopher is not a god, but a man (Sym., 203 e), and philosophy a human effort or virtue," the intellectual virtue as such.

The mind, then, from now on will go dashing off, not in quest of the elements, but the principles of things. Which principles? The supreme principles of things, ultimate for us, first for them; ta prota, said Aristotle. And precisely on account of this that intellection of supreme principles encompasses everything there is, not by a pedantic encyclopedic collection in the manner of the sophist, but rather in its radical unity. In the supreme principles all things are principally; for just this reason they are supreme. Aristotle therefore says the, Wisdom is, in this sense, the [194] knowledge of the most universal. This habit, hexis, of principles is what makes a true science and a good life possible. Science and Politics are "virtue."

When they go to pin down this ultimate, Plato and Aristotle begin to diverge. The road leading to the {220} supreme principles is crossed by that in which everything comes together. What is this in which everything comes together? In what does this which we call "everything" consist? It seems that we then recoil upon ancient Wisdom: the Everything or All was Nature. But Plato had already demonstrated that in birth there is a genealogy. Being, as consistency, is genitive, but not a generator. For Plato, this confusion causes all ancient knowledge to deserve to be called mythology. The common principles of things would then be their ultimate genera, among them being and non-being. But, is this the ultimate of things? For Plato, no. Precisely because being is generative, because it makes things consist in this or that, its "making"-let us call it that-has to have its sights fixed not just on what it makes, but on making it "well." If that which makes is beneath being, the "good," agathon, of its making is beyond being. The ultimate of things is not being; being is not sufficient: there is something beyond being, the supreme root of the universe, on account of which the universe is an All.

For Aristotle, being is not consisting, but subsisting. Hence that which Plato termed "being" is not genus, but, in each case, has no more content than that which each thing grants it. Being is sufficient unto itself. Nevertheless, when we contemplate everything there is, this everything is such precisely because each thing "is." The "is," which is the most intimate part of each thing, turns out to be what I find in common among all of them when I understand them with my mind. The ultimate is, then, for Aristotle, being. And principles will be supreme when they are principles of "being." What is this "being"? What are these principles? The totality of the world leaves this "is" as a problem floating before the eyes of the philosopher, the same "is" discovered by Parmenides and Heraclitus, but enormously substantiated by them, just as by Plato himself.

For both, Wisdom is something which is sought after, the same thing Socrates was seeking, perhaps without knowing too well what he was looking for. It is not something which things deposit in man without his doing anything but using them in daily life; nor is it something understood in science; it is something conquered [195] by an impluse which carries man from day-to-day and scientific life to the ultimate principles. To this impulse Plato and Aristotle gave the name "desire" (orexis), {221} desire to know the ultimate of everything (eidenai, Met. 983a25). Whence, after Plato and Aristotle, this theoretic life in which Sophia is realized becomes an intellectual form of religious life. At first, to be sure, it was limited to the intellectuals. But later it invaded public life and constituted the base of the sycretism between theological speculation and the mystery religions, and still later participated in some forms of the gnosis. Born from religious knowledge, and maintained in constant contact therewith-or at least in close association-Greek Sophia finally ended up by absorbing religion itself.

But Plato and Aristotle did not understand the creative impetus of Sophia in the same way.

For Plato, that desire is an eros, a rapture which draws us out of ourselves and transports us beyond being. Philosophy has its principle of truth in this rapture, and it carries us to the unfathomable abyss of a truth which is beyond being. In a certain sense, Wisdom is not loved for itself.

In reality, a tremendous shudder crossed the Socratic world: is the ultimate part of things their being? The root of what we call "thing," is it a "yearning," or better, "fullness," is it eros, or better, energeia? If one wishes to continue speaking of love or desire, is the love a "rapture" (mania), or better, "effusion" (agape)? Here we can glimpse the entire later drama of European philosophy. In these questions, indeed, t he radical question of philosophy is bound up. And as such, it is something which is only seen at its end. The different paths along which Wisdom has journeyed are so many forms it has adopted when it wished to penetrate, always deeper, into the ultimate of things. Therefore, perhaps, it makes no sense to ask what philosophy is, in the abstract, or to ask what its definition is, because philosophy is the problem of the intellectual form of Wisdom. Philosophy is, therefore, always and only that which has come to be. No other definition fits. Philosophy is not primarily characterized {222} by the knowledge it gains, but by the principles which animate it, in which it exists, and in whose intellectual movement it unfolds and consists. Philosophy, as knowledge, is simply the content of the intellectual life, of a bios theoretikos, of an effort to understand the ultimate of things. The Socratic ethos had led to the bios of the understanding. And therein the acquisition of truth and the [196] realization of good are based. That was Socrates' work. By putting it into action and seating the understanding on the firm base of things which are within its grasp, he was able to newly discover the great themes of traditional Wisdom. Only then did that speculation have true meaning for man; it did not succeed in having meaning when it pretended to follow the reverse road. In their turn, Plato and Aristotle have given us the first master lesson of the History of Philosophy, a lesson which is really Socratic. The History of Philosophy is not culture or philosophic erudition. It is finding oneself with other philosophers in the things about which one philosophizes.

Escorial, Madrid, 1940.