Marx’s Notebooks on Epicurean Philosophy
“We must not investigate time as we do the other accidents which we investigate in a subject, namely, by referring them to the preconceptions envisaged in our minds; but we must take into account the plain fact itself, in virtue of which we speak of time as long or short... We must not adopt any new terms as preferable, but should employ the already existing ones; nor must we predicate anything else of time, as if this something had the same essence as the proper meaning of the word; ... but we must chiefly reflect upon how we associate and measure what is peculiar to it.” “For this also requires no proof, but only reflection that we associate it with days and nights and their parts and likewise also with feelings and absence of feeling, with movement and rest, conceiving a peculiar attribute of these to be precisely that which we call time.” pp. 52-53 [... ] and all things are again dissolved [ ... ].” p. 53.
“It is clear, then, that he [Epicurus] also makes the words perishable, since their parts are subject to change. He says this also elsewhere.” p. 53.
“And further, we must not suppose that the worlds have necessarily one and the same shape, but that they differ from one another.” p. 53.
“For neither are living things necessarily separated from the infinite, nor have they fallen from heaven.... we must grasp that nature too in many and very different respects follows the instruction and pressure of things, and thinking gives greater precision to that which it receives from nature and adds new discoveries, in some cases more quickly and in others more slowly, requiring for this sometimes more and sometimes less time”. [p]p. [53-]54.
See end of page 54 and beginning of page 55, where the arqai twn onomatwn is discussed.
“As for the meteors, we must believe that their motion, position, eclipse, [rising and] setting and the like do not take place because someone governs and orders or has ordered them, who at the same time enjoys perfect bliss."
(we must compare with this what Simplicius attributes to Anaxagoras about the nous which orders the world)
“... along with immortality (for actions and anxieties, anger and favour do not accord with bliss, but result from weakness, fear and need with which they are most related). Nor must we believe that the being which has acquired bliss willingly submits to thaw movements, for this is an annoyance and contradictory [to bliss], but we must rather maintain ail its sublimity by using expressions which lead to such notions as do not give rise to any opinions contradictory to sublimity. If we do not agree with this, this contradiction will itself produce the greatest mental confusion. Hence we must assume that, with the appearance of the world, both the original interception of these conglomerations and the obligatory character and periodicity of the movements appeared.” pp. 55 and 56.
Here we must observe the principle of the thinkable in order, on the one hand, to maintain the freedom of self-consciousness, and, on the other hand, to attribute to God freedom from any determination.
“[...] that what makes one blissful in the knowledge of the meteors ... [lies] in particular in accurate study of what those natural phenomena are which are observed in our meteors and what is in some way kindred to them in principle: [Here we have that which can be 'in a plurality of ways'] that which can possibly be and that which is in some other way: but it is rather an absolute rule that nothing which threatens danger, which can disturb ataraxy, can ever happen to an indestructible and blissful nature. Consciousness must apprehend that this is an absolute law.” p. 56.
Further, on pages 56 and 57, Epicurus denounces the senseless mere wondering contemplation of the celestial bodies as stultifying and fear-inspiring; he asserts the absolute freedom of mind.
“... We must beware of the “prejudice that the study of those objects is not thorough or subtle enough because it is aimed only at our ataraxy and bliss. Hence we must investigate the meteors and all that is unknown, observing how often the same thing occurs within our experience.” p. 57.
“Besides all this we must understand that the greatest confusion in men's minds arises through the belief that there are beings which are blissful and indestructible and that at the same time have desires, actions and feelings which conflict with these attributes and that men somehow foresee eternal suffering and entertain suspicions of the kind fostered by the myths (and because in death there is no sensation they also fear to he at some time deprived of sensation) and that they are not guided by the correct notions ... so that, unless they set limits to their fears, they experience equal or still greater anxiety than they would were their imaginings true.” “But ataraxy means to have freed oneself from all that...... [p]p. [57-]58.
“Therefore we must pay attention to all things that are present to us and to the sensations, to general ones in relation to what is general, to particular ones in relation to what is particular, and to all the evidence available for every single criterion.” p. 58.
Epicurus repeats at the beginning of his discussion on the meteors that the aim of this is gnwsews ... atarxia and pistis bebaia, kaqaper kai twn loipwn [Knowledge ... ataraxy and firm conviction as is also the case with everything else.] But the study of these celestial bodies also differs substantially from the rest of science:
“...nor must we apply to everything the same theory as in Ethics or in clarifying the other problems of Physics, for example that the universe consists of bodies and the incorporeal' (quod to kenon [That is, void] — KM) “or that there are indivisible elements and the like, where only a single explanation corresponds to the phenomenal For this is not the case with the meteors. These have no simple cause of their coming into being and have more than one essential category corresponding to the sensations..” pp. 60 and 61.
It is important in the whole of Epicurus' view of things that the celestial bodies, as something beyond the senses, cannot command the same degree of evidence as the rest of the moral and sensuous world. To them Epicurus' theory of disjunctio applies in practice, viz.: that there is no aut aut [either, or], and hence that internal determinateness is denied and that the principle of the thinkable, the imaginable, of accident, of abstract identity and freedom manifests itself as what it is, as the indeterminate, which precisely for that reason is determined by a reflection external to it. It is seen here that the method of consciousness which imagines and represents, fights only its own shadow; what the shadow is depends on how it is seen, how that which reflects is reflected out of it back into itself. As in the case of the organic in itself, when it is substantialised, the contradiction of the atomistic outlook is revealed, so now, when the object itself assumes the form of sensuous certainty and of imagining reason, philosophising consciousness admits what it is doing. As there the imagined principle and its application are found objectified as one, and the contradictions are thereby called to arms as the antithesis of the concretised presentations themselves, so here, where the object hangs, as it were, over the heads of men, where through the self-sufficiency, through the sensuous independence and the mysterious remoteness of its existence, the object challenges consciousness, so here consciousness comes to acknowledge its own activity, it contemplates what it does, so as to make the presentations which pre-exist in it intelligible and to vindicate them as its own.. just as the whole activity of consciousness is only struggle with remoteness, which, like a curse, shackles the whole of antiquity, just as it has only possibility, chance, as its principle, and seeks in some way to establish identity between itself and its object, so does it admit this, as soon as this remoteness confronts it in objective independence as heavenly bodies. Consciousness is indifferent as to just what explanation is offered: it affirms that there is not one explanation, but many, that is, that any explanation will suffice; thus it acknowledges that its activity is active fiction. For this reason, in antiquity in general, in whose philosophy premises are not lacking, the meteors and the doctrine concerning them are the image in which, even in the person of Aristotle, it contemplates its own defects. Epicurus expressed this, and this is the service he rendered, the iron logic of his views and conclusions. The meteors challenge sensuous understanding, but it overcomes their resistance and will listen to nothing but its own ideas of them.
“For nature must be studied not according to empty axioms and laws, but as required by the phenomena.... (life [requires]) us to live without confusion.” p. 61.
Here, where the premise itself confronts actual consciousness, arousing fear in it, there is no longer any need for any principles or premises. The imagination is extinguished in fear.
Epicurus therefore again formulates the following proposition, as though finding himself in it:
“Everything therefore happens, once it is explained consistently in various ways, in conformity with the phenomena, if that which has been credibly established in respect of them is maintained. But if we maintain one thing as valid and reject another, although it equally conforms to the phenomena, then we are openly overstepping the bounds of the study of nature and launching into the realm of myth.” p. 61.
The question now is how the explanation is to be arranged:
“Certain signs of the processes of the meteors can he taken from the processes going on in our experience which can be observed or are present in the same way as the phenomena of the meteors. For these can occur in a plurality of ways. But one must observe the appearance of every single thing and also explain whatever is connected with it. This will not be inconsistent with the fact that it can take place in various ways, as happens in our experience.” p. 61.
For Epicurus the sound of his own voice drowns the thunder and blots out the lightning of the heavens of his conception. We can gather from the monotonous repetition how important Epicurus considers his new method of explanation, how intent he is to eliminate the miraculous, how he always insists on applying not one, but several explanations, giving us very frivolous examples . of this in respect of everything, how he says almost outright that while he leaves nature free, he is concerned only with freedom of consciousness. The only proof required of an explanation is that it should not be antimartureisqai [disproved] by the evidence of the senses and experience, by the phenomena, the appearance, for what matters is only how nature appears. These propositions are reiterated.
On the origin of the sun and the moon:
“For this also is suggested in this way by sensation.” p. 63.
On the size of the sun and the constellations:
“[...] the phenomena here [on the earth] we see ... as we perceive thein by the semes.” p. 63.
On the rising and setting of the constellations:
“For no phenomenon testifies against this.” p. 64.
On the turnings of the sun and the moon:
“For all that and what is connected with it does not contradict any of the evident phenomena if in separate explanations we always hold fast to what is possible and can bring each of them into conformity with the phenomena, without fear of the slavish artifices of the astrologers.” [p]p. [64-165.
On the waning and waxing of the moon:
[...] and in any of the ways by which also the phenomena within our experience suggest an explanation of this problem, unless, being in love with some one means of explanation, we lightly reject the others or are unable to see what it is Possible for a man to know and therefore seek to know what is impossible.” p. 65.
On the species vultus in the moon:
“[...] in general in any way considered as being in conformity with the phenomena.” “For, it must be added, this way must be used in respect of all the meteors. For if you fight against what is evident, you will never be able to enjoy. genuine ataraxy.” P. 66.
Note particularly the exclusion of all divine, teleological influence in the passage on the ordo periodicus [periodical order] where it is clearly seen that the explanation is only a matter of consciousness listening to itself and the objective is a delusion simulated:
“... must be seen as something ordinary which also occurs within our own experience; the divinity must not on any account be adduced for this, but must be kept free from all tasks and in perfect bliss. For unless this be done, the whole theory of origins of the meteors will be rendered senseless, as has already been the case with some theoreticians who did not apply a possible explanation, but indulged in idle attempts at explanations, believing that it happens only in one way and excluding all other possible explanations, and thus arrived at things which are impossible, and were unable to understand the phenomena as signs, which one must do, and were not disposed to rejoice with God.” p. 67.
The same arguments are often repeated almost word for word: On the varying lengths of nights and days: on the mhkh nuktwn kai hmerwn parallattonta, p. 67.
On the epishmasiai, [weather signs] p. 67.
On the origin of the nefh, [clouds] p. 68.
Of the brontai, [thunder] of the astrapai, [lightning] p. 69; thus he says of the keraunos. [thunderbolts]
“And there are several other ways in which thunderbolts may occur. Exclusion of myth is the sole condition necessary; and it will be excluded if one properly attends to the phenomena and hence draws inferences concerning what is invisible.” p. 70.
(After adducing many explanations of seismoi, terrae motus, [earthquake] he adds as usual: “But there are also several other ways”., etc., p. 71.)
On the comets:
“... there are many other ways by which this might be brought about if one is capable of finding out what accords with the phenomena.” p. 75.
De stellis fixis et errantibus: [on fixed and wandering stars]
“To assign a single cause for these effects when the phenomena suggest several causes is madness and an enormity of those who are obsessed by senseless astrology and assign at random causes for certain phenomena when they by no means free the divinity from burdensome tasks.” p. 76.
He even accuses those who simpliciter, aplws [simply, absolutely] discuss such things,
portentosum quidpiam coram multitudine ostentare affectare = “that applies to those who wish, to do something to impress the crowd”. p. 76.
He says in connection with epishmadiai, weather signs] the anticipation of tempestas [tempest] in animals, which some connected with God:
“For such folly as this would not possess the most ordinary being if ever so little enlightened, much less one who enjoys perfect felicity.” p. 77.
From this we can see among other things how Pierre Gassendi, who wants to rescue divine intervention, assert the immortality of the soul, etc., and still be an Epicurean (see, for example, esse animos immortal, contra Epicurum, Pet. Gassendi animadvers. in 1. dec. Diog. Laert., pp. 549-602, or, esse deum authorem mundi, cant Epicurum, pp. 706-725, gene deum hominum curam, contra Episurum: 738-751, etc. Compare: Feuerbach, geschichte der neuern Philosophie, “Pierre Gassendi”; pp. 127-150), does not understand Epicurus at all and still less can teach us anything about him. Gassendi tries rather to teach us from Epicurus than to teach us about him. Where he violates Epicurus' iron logic, it is in order not to quarrel with his own religious premises. This struggle is significant in Gassendi, as is in general the fact that modern philosophy arises where the old finds its downfall: on the one hand from Descartes' universal doubt, whereas the Sceptics sounded the knell of Greek philosophy; on the other hand from the rational consideration of nature, whereas ancient philosophy is overcome in Epicurus even more thoroughly than in the Sceptics. Antiquity was rooted in nature, in materiality. Its degradation and profanation means in the main the defeat of materiality, of solid life; the modem world is rooted in the spirit and it can be free, can release the other, nature, out of itself. But equally, by contrast, what with the ancients was profanation of nature is with the modems salvation from the shackles of servile faith, and the modem rational outlook on nature must first raise itself to the point from which the ancient Ionian philosophy, in principle at least, begins-the point of seeing the divine, the Idea, embodied in nature.
Who will not recall here the enthusiastic passage in Aristotle, the acme of ancient philosophy, in his treatise peri ths fusews zwikhs, [On the Nature of Animals] which sounds quite a different note from the dispassionate monotony of Epicurus.
Characteristic of the method of the Epicurean outlook is the way it deals with the creation of the world, a topic in the treatment of which the standpoint of a philosophy will always be ascertainable, since it reveals how, according to this philosophy, the spirit creates the world, the attitude of a philosophy to the world, the creative power, the spirit of a philosophy.
Epicurus says (pp. 61 and 62):
“The world is a celestial complex (perioci tis ouranon), which comprises stars and earth and all phenomena containing a cut-out segment (apotomhn) of the infinite, and terminating in a boundary which may be either ethereal or solid (a boundary whose dissolution will bring about the wreck of all within it), which may be at rest, and may be round, triangular or of any other shape. All these alternatives are possible since none of them is contradicted by the phenomena. Where the world ends cannot be discerned. That there is an infinite number of such worlds is evident..."
Anybody will at once be struck by the poverty of this world construction. That the world is a complex of the earth, stars, etc., means nothing, since the origin of the moon, etc., occurs and is explained only later.
In general every concrete body is a complex, or more precisely, according to Epicurus, a complex of atoms. The definition of a complex, its specific distinction, lies in its boundary, and for that reason, once the world is defined as having been cut out from the infinite, it is superfluous to add the boundary as a closer definition, for something which is cut out is separated from the remainder and is a concrete, distinct thing, and therefore bounded in regard to the remainder. But the boundary is what must be defined, since a bounded complex in general is not yet a world. Further on it is said that the boundary can be defined in any way one likes, pantacws, and finally it is admitted that it is impossible to define it's specific difference, but that it is conceivable that one exists.
Hence all that is said is that the notion of the return of a totality of differences to an indefinite unity, i.e., the notion of a “world”; exists in consciousness, is present in everyday thinking. The boundary, the specific difference, and hence the immanence and necessity of this notion is declared to be not conceivable; that the notion exists can be conceived, tautologically, because it is there; so that what is to be explained, the creation, the origin and internal production of a world by thought, is declared inconceivable, and the existence of this notion in consciousness is passed off as the explanation.
It is the same as if one were to say that it can be proved that there is a God, but his differentia specifica, quid sit, [specific distinction, what he is] the what of this determination, cannot be investigated.
When Epicurus further says that the boundary can be conceived as of any kind, i.e., every determination which in general we distinguish in a spatial boundary can be applied to it, then the notion of the world is nothing but the return to sensuously perceptible unity, which is indefinite and therefore may be defined in any way one likes, or more generally, since the world is an indefinite notion of half sensuous, half reflecting consciousness, the world is present in this consciousness together with all other sensuous notions and bounded by them; its definition and boundary is therefore as multiple as these sensuous notions surrounding it, each of them can be regarded as its boundary and hence as its closer definition and explanation. That is the essence of all Epicurean explanations, and it is all the more important because it is the essence of all the explanations of reflecting consciousness which is the prisoner of preconceptions.
So it is also with the moderns in regard to God, when goodness, wisdom, etc., are ascribed to Him. Any one of these notions, which are definite, can be considered as the boundary of the indefinite notion of God which lies between them.
The substance of this kind of explanation is therefore that a notion which is to be explained is found in consciousness. The explanation or closer definition is then that notions in the same sphere and accepted as known stand in relation to it; hence that in general it lies in consciousness, in a definite sphere. Here Epicurus admits the weakness of his own and of all ancient philosophy, namely, that it knows that notions are in consciousness, but that it does not know their boundary, their principle, their necessity.
However, Epicurus is not satisfied with having worked out his conception of the creation; he performs the drama himself, objectives for himself what he has just done, and only then does his creation proper begin. For he says further:
“Such a world may arise ... in one of the intermundia (by which term we mean the spaces between worlds), in a vast empty space ... in a great transparent void ... when certain suitable seeds rush in from a world or an intermundium or from several worlds, and gradually form compounds or divisions, or, as may happen, undergo changes of place, and receive into themselves wanderings from without as far as the foundations laid can hold the compound. For if a world arises in the void, it is not enough that there should be an aggregation or vortex or a multitude and that it should meet with another, as one of the physicists says. For this is in conflict with the phenomena.” [p. 62]
Here, first, worlds are presupposed for the creation of the world, and the place where this occurs is the void. Hence what was foreshadowed to begin with in the concept of creation, viz. that what was to be created is presupposed, is substantiated here. The notion without its closer definition and relation to the others, that is to say, as it is provisionally presupposed, is empty or disembodied, a an intermundium, an empty space. How this notion gets its determination is presented as follows: seeds appropriate for the creation of a world combine in the way necessary for the creation of a world, that is, no determination, no difference is given. In other words, we have nothing but the atom and the kenon, [void] despite Epicurus himself striving against this, etc. Aristotle has already in a profound manner criticised the superficiality of the method which proceeds from an abstract principle without allowing this principle to negate itself in higher forms. After praising the Pythagoreans because they were the first to free the categories from their substrate, and did not consider them as attributes of the things of which they are predicated, but as the very substance itself:
“They [the Pythagoreans] thought that the finitude and infinity were not attributes of certain other things, e.g. of fire or earth, etc., but were the substance of the things of which they are predicated”;
he reproaches them because
“they thought that the first subject of which a given definition was predicable was the substance of the thing [... ]”. [Aristotle,] Metaphycis, Book I, Chap. V.
We now go on to the attitude of the Epicurean philosophy to Scepticism, insofar as it can be gathered from Sextus Empiricus.
But first a basic definition given by Epicurus himself must be cited from Book Ten of Diogenes Laertius contained in the description of the wise man:
“[the wise man] will be a dogmatist but not a mere sceptic.” p. 81.
What Epicurus says about his principle of thinkability, and about language and the origin of concepts, makes up an important part of his exposition of his system as a whole, defining its essential attitude towards ancient philosophy and containing implicate [implicitly] his position in relation to the Sceptics. It is interesting to see what Sextus Empiricus says about why Epicurus took to philosophy.
“If anybody asks ... out of what chaos originated, he will have nothing to answer. And according to some, this was precisely the reason why Epicurus plunged into philosophising. For when he was a boy he asked his teacher, who was reading to him. [... ] out of what chaos arose if it arose first. When the teacher said it was not his business to teach that, but the business of those who were called philosophers, Epicurus said: 'I must go to them if they know the truth of things,"' Sext. Empiricus, Against the Professors, Geneva, 1621, p. 383.
“For Democritus says that 'Man is that which we all know', etc. For this thinker proceeds to say that only the atoms and the void truly exist, and these, he says, form the substrate not only of living beings, but of all compound bodies, so that, as far as their are concerned, we shall not form a concept of the particular essence of Man, seeing that they are common to all things. But besides these there is no existing substrate; so that we shall possess no means whereby we shall be able to distinguish Man from the other living beings and form a clear conception of him. Again, Epicurus says that Man is such and such a shape combined with a soul. According to him, then, since Man is shown by pointing oust he that is not pointed out is not a man and, if anyone points out a female, the male will not be Man, while if the female points out a male, she will not be Man.” Outlines of Pyrrhonism p. 56.
“For besides Pythagoras also Empedocles and the Ionians, besides Socrates also Plato, Aristotle and the Stoics, and perhaps also the Garden philosophers, 182 concede that God exists, as the speeches made by Epicurus testify.” Against the Professors, p. 320.
“For it cannot be assumed that the souls are carried down below.... They are not dissolved, when separated from the bodies, as Epicurus used to say, like smoke. For before also it was not the body which held them fast, but they themselves were for the body the reason why it held together, but still more for themselves.” Against the Professors, p. 321.
“And Epicurus, according to some, concedes the essence of God as far as the multitude is concerned, but by no means as concerns the nature of things.” Against the Professors, p. 319.
“The Epicureans [...] did not know that if that which is pointed out is Man that which is not pointed out is not Man. And further such pointing out takes place either in respect of a man ... flat-nosed or aquiline-nosed, long-haired or curly-haired, or in respect of other distinctive features.” Against the Professors, p. 187.
“... amongst them we must place Epicurus, although he seems to be hostile to the professors of science.” Against the Professors, p. 11.
“Since, according to the sage Epicurus, it is not possible either to inquire or to doubt without a preconception, it will be well first of all to consider what 'grammar' is Against the Professors, p. 12.
“... but we shall find even the accusers of grammar, Pyrrho and Epicurus, acknowledging its necessity. Epicurus has been detected as guilty of having filched the best of his dogmas from the poets. For he has been shown to have taken his proposition that the intensity of pleasure is 'the removal of everything painful'-from this one verse:
“'When they had now put aside all longing for drinking and eating.'
“And as to death, that It is nothing to us', Epicharmus had pointed this out to him when he said:
“'To die or to be dead concerns me not.'
“So too, he stole the notion that de ad bodies have no feeling from Homer, where he writes:
.... Tis dumb clay that he beats with abuse in his violent fury."' Against the Professors, p. 54.
“Side by side with him,"
(Archelaus of Athens, who divides philosophy into to fusikon kai hqikon [physics and ethics])
“they place Epicurus as one who also rejects logical consideration. But there were others who said that he did not reject logic in general, but only that of the Stoics.” Against the Professors, p. 140.
“But the Epicureans proceed from logic: for they investigate first the Canonics and create for themselves the doctrine of the visible and the concealed and the appearances which accompany them.” Against the Professors, p. 142.
“Opposition to the representatives of science seems to be common to the Epicureans and the followers of Pyrrho, though not from the same standpoint; the Epicureans hold that the sciences contribute nothing to the perfecting of wisdom"
(this means that the Epicureans consider the knowledge of things, as another form of existence of the spirit, to be powerless in raising the reality of the spirit; the Pyrrhonists consider the powerlessness of the spirit to comprehend things as its essential aspect, its real activity. There is a similar relation between the dogmatists and the Kantians in their attitude to philosophy, although both sides appear degenerate and deprived of the freshness of ancient philosophy. The former renounce knowledge out of godliness, that is, they believe with the Epicureans that the divine in man is ignorance, that this divine, which is laziness, is disturbed by understanding. The Kantians, on the contrary, are as it were the appointed priests of ignorance, their daily business is to tell their beads over their own powerlessness and the power of things. The Epicureans are more consistent: if ignorance is inherent in the spirit, then knowledge is no enhancement of the spiritual nature, but something indifferent to the spirit, and for an ignorant man the divine is not the motion of knowledge, but laziness);
“Or, as some conjecture, because they see in this a way of covering up their ignorance. For in many matters Epicurus stands convicted of ignorance, and even in ordinary converse his speech was not always correct.” Against the Professors, P. 1.
After quoting some more gossip which clearly proves his confusion, Sextus Empiricus defines the difference between the Sceptics' attitude to science and that of the Epicureans as follows:
“The followers of Pyrrho [opposed the sciences] neither because they did not contribute anything to wisdom, for that assertion would be dogmatic, nor because they were uneducated.... They had the same attitude to the sciences as to the whole of philosophy."
(From this it is evident that one must distinguish between maqhmata [science] and filosophia [philosophy] and that Epicurus' contempt for maqhmata extends to what we call knowledge, and how exactly this assertion suo systemati omni consentit. [corresponds to his whole system])
“For just as they approached philosophy with the desire of attaining truth, but, when faced with an anomaly of things resembling contradiction suspended judgment so also, when they set about mastering the sciences and tried also to attain the truth contained in them, they found equal difficulties, which they did not conceal.” p. 6 Against the Professors, Book I].
In the Outlines of Pyrrhonism, Book I, Chap. XVII, the aetiology which Epicurus in particular applied is aptly refuted, in such a way, however, that the Sceptics' own impotence is revealed.
“Possibly, too, the Five Modes of suspension of judgment may suffice as against the aetiologies. For either a person will suggest a cause which accords with all the trends of philosophy and of scepticism and with the phenomena, or he will not. And perhaps it is impossible to assign a cause which accords with all these."
(Of course, to assign such a cause which is nothing else at all but a phenomenon, is impossible because the cause is the ideality of the phenomenon, the transcended phenomenon. just as little can [the assignment of] a cause accord with Scepticism, because Scepticism is professional opposition to all thought, the negation of determination itself. It is naive to confine scepticism to fainomena [phenomena], for the phenomenon is the being-lost, the not-being of thought: scepticism is the same not-being of thought as reflected in itself, but the phenomenon has in itself disappeared, it is only a semblance; scepticism is the speaking phenomenon and disappears as the phenomenon disappears, it is also only a phenomenon.)
“For all things, whether apparent or non-evident, are matters of controversy. But if there is controversy, the cause of this cause win also be asked for"
(that is, the Sceptic wants a cause which itself is only a semblance and therefore no cause).
“And if he assumes an apparent cause for an apparent, and a non-evident for a non-evident, he will be lost in the regress ad infinitum” [Outlines of Pyrrhonism, Book I],
(that is, because the Sceptic refuses to get away from the semblance and wants to hold on to it as such, he cannot get away from the semblance and this manoeuvre can be carried on into infinity; it is true that Epicurus wishes to go on from the atom to further determinations, but as he will not allow the atom as such to be dissolved, he cannot go beyond atomistics, determinations external to themselves and arbitrary; the Sceptic, on the other hand, accepts all determinations, but in the determinateness of semblance; his activity is therefore just as arbitrary and displays everywhere the same inadequacy. He swims, to be sure, in the whole wealth of the world, but remains in the same poverty and is himself an embodiment of the powerlessness which he sees in things; Epicurus makes the world empty from the start and so he ends up with the completely indeterminate, the void resting in itself, the otiose god).
“And if at any point he makes a stand, either he will state that the cause is valid in respect of the previous admission, introducing the relating-to-something while he negates the relating-to-nature,"
(it is precisely in the semblance, in the appearance, that the pros ti [relating to something] is the pros thn fusin [relating to nature]);
“or if he accepts something out of a presupposition, he will be stopped.” p. 36 [Outlines of Pyrrhonism].
As the meteors, the visible heaven, are for the ancient philosophers the symbol and the visible confirmation of their prejudice for the substantial, so that even Aristotle takes the stars for gods, or at least brings them into direct connection with the highest energy, so the written heaven the sealed word of the god who has been revealed to himself in the course of world history, is the battle-cry of Christian philosophy. The premise of the ancients is the act of nature, that of the modems the act of the spirit. The struggle of the ancients could only end by the visible heaven, the substantial nexus of life, the force of gravity of political and religious life being shattered, for nature must be split in two for the spirit to be one in itself. The Greeks broke it up with the Hephaestan hammer of art, broke it up in their statues; the Roman plunged his sword into its heart and the peoples died, but modern philosophy unseals the word, lets it pass away in smoke in the holy fire of the spirit, and as fighter of the spirit fighting the spirit, not as a solitary apostate fallen from the gravity of Nature, it is universally active and melts the forms which prevent the universal from breaking forth.
It goes without saying that very little of this treatise by Plutarch is of any use. One need only read the introduction with its clumsy boastfulness and its crude interpretation of the Epicurean philosophy in order no longer to entertain any doubt about Plutarch's utter incompetence in philosophical criticism.
Although he may agree with the view of Metrodorus:
“They [the Epicureans] believe that the supreme good is found in the belly and all other passages of the flesh through which pleasure and non-pain make their entrance, and that all the notable and brilliant inventions of civilisation were devised for this belly-centred pleasure and for the good expectation of this pleasure [.... ]” p. 1087,
this is minime [least of all] Epicurus' teaching. Even Sextus Empiricus sees the difference between Epicurus and the Cyrenaic school in that he asserts that voluptas [pleasure] is voluptas animi. [pleasure of the soul]
“Epicurus asserts that in illness the sage often actually laughs at the paroxysms of the disease. Then how can men for whom the pains of the body are so slight and easy to bear find anything appreciable in its pleasures?” p. 1088.
It is clear that Plutarch does not understand Epicurus' consistency. For Epicurus the highest pleasure is freedom from pain, from diversity, the absence of any dependence; the body which depends on no other for its sensation, which does not feel this diversity, is healthy, positive. This position, which achieves its highest form in Epicurus' otiose god, is of itself like a chronic sickness in which the disease, because of its duration, ceases to be a condition, becomes, as it were, familiar and normal. We have seen in Epicurus' philosophy of nature that he strives after this absence of dependence, this removal of diversity in theory as well as in practice. The greatest good for Epicurus is ataraxia [ataraxy] since the spirit, which is the thing in question, is empirically unique. Plutarch revels in commonplaces, he argues like an apprentice.
Incidentally we can speak of the conception of the sofos, wise man] who is a preoccupation equally of the Epicurean, Stoic and Sceptic philosophies. If we study him we shall find that he belongs most logically to the atomistic philosophy of Epicurus and that, viewed from this standpoint too, the downfall of ancient philosophy is presented in complete objectiveness in Epicurus.
Ancient philosophy seeks to comprehend the wise man, o sofos, in two ways, but both of them have the same root.
What appears theoretically in the account given of matter, appears practically in the definition of the sofos. Greek philosophy begins with seven wise men, among whom is the Ionian philosopher of nature Thales, and it ends with the attempt to portray the wise man conceptually. The beginning and the end, but no less the centre, the middle, is one sofos, namely Socrates. It is no more an accident that philosophy gravitates round these substantial individuals, than that the political downfall of Greece takes place at the time when Alexander loses his wisdom in Babylon.
Since the soul of Greek life and the Greek mind is substance, which first appears in them as free substance, the knowledge of this substance occurs in independent beings, individuals, who, being notable, on the one hand, each has his being in external contrast to the others, and whose knowledge, on the other hand, is the inward life of substance and thus something internal to the conditions of the reality surrounding them. The Greek philosopher is a demiurge, his world is a different one from that which flowers in the natural sun of the substantial.
The first wise men are only the vessels, the Pythia, from which the substance resounds in general, simple precepts; their language is as yet only that of the substance become vocal, the simple forces of moral life which are revealed. Hence they are in part also active leaders in political life, lawgivers.
The Ionian philosophers of nature are just as much isolated phenomena as the forms of the natural element appear under which they seek to apprehend the universe. The Pythagoreans organise an inner life for themselves)within the state; the form in which they realise their knowledge of substance is halfway between a completely conscious isolation not observed among the Ionians, whose isolation is rather the undeliberate, naive isolation of elementary existences, and the trustful carrying on of life within a moral order. The form of their life is itself substantial, political, but maintained abstract, reduced to a minimum in extent and natural fundamentals, just as their principle, number, stands midway between colourful sensuousness and the ideal. The Eleatics, as the first discoverers of the ideal forms of substance, who themselves still apprehend the inwardness of substance in a purely internal and abstract, intensive manner, are the passionately enthusiastic prophetic heralds of the breaking dawn. Bathed in simple light, they turn away indignantly from the people and from the gods of antiquity. But in the case of Anaxagoras the people themselves turn to the gods of antiquity in opposition to the isolated wise man and declare him to be such, expelling him from their midst. In modern times (cf., for example, Ritter, Geschichte der alien Philosophie, Bd. I [1829, pp. 300 ff.]) Anaxagoras has been accused of dualism. Aristotle says in the first book of the Metaphysics that he uses the nous [reason] like a machine and only resorts to it when he runs out of natural explanations. But this apparent dualism is on the one hand that very same dualistic element which begins to split the heart of the state in the time of Anaxagoras, and on the other hand it must be understood more profoundly. The nous is active and is resorted to where there is no natural determination. It is itself the non ens [Not-being] of the natural, the ideality. And then the activity of this ideality intervenes only when physical sight fails the philosopher, that is, the nous is the philosopher's own nous, and is resorted to when he is no longer able to objectify his activity. Thus the subjective nous appeared as the essence of the wandering scholar [c.f. Goethe] and, in its power as ideality of real determination, it appears on the one hand in the Sophists and on the other in Socrates.
If the first Greek wise men are the real spirit, the embodied knowledge of substance, if their utterances preserve just as much genuine intensity as substance itself, if, as substance is increasingly idealised, the bearers of its progress assert an ideal life in their particular reality in opposition to the reality of manifested substance, of the real life of the people, then the ideality itself is only in the form of substance. There is no undermining of the living powers; the most ideal men of this period, the Pythagoreans and the Eleatics, extol state life as real reason; their principles are objective, a power which is superior to themselves, which they herald in a semi-mystical fashion, in poetic enthusiasm; that is, in a form which raises natural energy to ideality and does not consume it, but processes it and leaves it intact in the determination of the natural. This embodiment of the ideal substance occurs in the philosophers themselves who herald it., not only is its expression plastically poetic, its reality is this person, whose reality is its own appearance; they themselves are living images, living works of art which the people sees rising out of itself in plastic greatness; while their activity, as in the case of the first wise men, shapes the universal, their utterances are the really assertive substance, the laws.
Hence these wise men are just as little like ordinary people as the statues of the Olympic gods; the motion is rest in self, their relation to the people is the same objectivity as their relation to substance. The oracles of the Delphic Apollo were divine truth for the people, veiled in the chiaroscuro of an unknown power, only as long as the genuine evident power of the Greek spirit sounded from the Pythian tripod; the people had a theoretical attitude towards them only as long as they were the resounding theory of the people itself, they were of the people only as long as they were unlike them. The same with these wise men. But with the Sophists and Socrates, and by virtue of dunamis [potentialities] in Anaxagoras, the situation was reversed. Now it is ideality itself which, in its immediate form, the subjective spirit, becomes the principle of philosophy. In the earlier Greek wise men there was revealed the ideal form of the substance, its identity, in distinction to the many-coloured raiment woven from the individualities of various peoples that displayed its manifest reality. Consequently, these wise men on the one hand apprehend the absolute only in the most one-sided, most general ontological definitions, and on the other hand, themselves represent in reality the appearance of the substance enclosed in itself. While they hold themselves aloof from the pollai, [multitude] and express the mystery of the spirit, on the other hand, like the plastic gods in the market places, in their blissful self-contemplation, they are the genuine embellishment of the people, to which as individuals they return. It is now, on the contrary, ideality itself, pure abstraction which has come to be for itself, that faces the substance; subjectivity, which establishes itself as the principle of philosophy. Not of the people, this subjectivity, confronting the substantial powers of the people, is yet of the people, that is, it confronts reality externally, is in practice entangled in it, and its existence is motion. These mobile vessels of development are the Sophists. Their innermost form, cleansed from the immediate dross of appearance, is Socrates, whom the Delphic oracle called the sofwtaton. [wisest]
Being confronted by its own ideality, substance is split up into a mass of accidental limited existences and institutions whose right — unity, and identity with it — has escaped into the subjective spirit. The subjective spirit itself is as such the vessel of substance, but because this ideality is opposed to reality, it is present in minds objectively as a “must”; and subjectively as a striving. The expression-of this subjective spirit, which knows that it has the ideality in itself, is the judgment of the concept, for which the criterion of the individual is that which is determined in itself, the purpose, the good, but which is still here a “must” of reality. This “must” of reality is likewise a “must” of the subject which has become conscious of this ideality, for it itself stands rooted in reality and the reality outside it is its own. Thus the position of this subject is just as much determined as its fate.
First, the fact that this ideality of substance has entered the subjective spirit, has fallen away from itself, is a leap, a falling away from the substantial life determined in the substantial life itself. Hence this determination of the subject is for it an accomplished fact, an alien force, the bearer of which it finds itself to be, the daemon of Socrates. The daemon is the immediate appearance of the fact that for Greek life philosophy is just as much only internal as only external. The characteristics of the daemon determine the empirical singularity of the subject, because the subject naturally detaches itself from the substantial, and hence naturally determined, life in this [Greek] life, since the daemon appears as a natural determinant. The Sophists themselves are these daemons, not yet differentiated from their actions. Socrates is conscious that he carries the daemon in himself. Socrates is the substantial exemplar of substance losing itself in the subject. He is therefore just as much a substantial individual as the earlier philosophers, but after the manner of subjectivity, not enclosed in himself, not an image of the gods, but a human one, pot mysterious, but clear and luminous, not a seer, but :a sociable man.
The second determination is therefore that this subject pronounces a judgment on the “must”; the purpose. Substance has lost its ideality in the subjective spirit, which thus has become in itself the determination of substance, its predicate, while substance itself has become in relation to the subjective spirit only the immediate, unjustified, merely existing composite of independent existences. The determination of the predicate, since it refers to something existing, is hence itself immediate, and since this something is the living spirit of the people, it is in practice the determination of the individual spirits, education and teaching. The “must” of substantiality is the subjective spirit's own determination expressed by it; the purpose of the world is therefore its [the spirit's] own purpose, to teach about it is its calling. It therefore embodies in itself the purpose and hence the good both in its life and in its teaching. It is the wise man as he has entered into practical motion.
Finally, inasmuch as this individual pronounces the judgment of the concept on the world, he is in himself divided and judged; for while he has his roots for one part in the substantial, he owes his right to exist only to the laws of the state to which he belongs, to its religion, in brief, to all the substantial conditions which appear to him as his own nature. On the other hand, he possesses in himself the purpose which is the judge of that substantiality. His own substantiality is therefore judged in this individual himself and thus he perishes precisely because he is born of the substantial, and not of the free spirit which endures and overcomes all contradictions and which need not recognise any natural conditions as such.
The reason why Socrates is so important is that the relation of Greek philosophy to the Greek spirit, and therefore its inner limit, is expressed in him. It is self-evident how stupid was the comparison drawn in recent times between the relation of Hegelian philosophy to life and the case of Socrates, from which the justification for condemning the Hegelian philosophy was deduced. The specific failing of Greek philosophy is precisely that it stands related only to the substantial spirit; in our time both sides are spirit and both want to be acknowledged as such.
Subjectivity is manifested in its immediate bearer [Socrates] as his life and his practical activity, as a form by which he leads single individuals out of the determinations of substantiality to determination in themselves; apart from this practical activity, his philosophy has no other content than the abstract determination of the good. His philosophy is his transference from substantially existing notions, differences, etc., to determination-in-self, which, however, has no other content than to be the vessel of this dissolving reflection; his philosophy is therefore essentially his own wisdom, his own goodness; in relation to the world the only fulfilment of his teaching on the good is a quite different subjectivity from that of Kant when he establishes his categorical imperative. For Kant it is of no account what attitude he, as an empirical subject, adopts towards this imperative.
With Plato motion becomes ideal; as Socrates is the image and teacher of the world, so Plato's ideas,, his philosophical abstraction, are its prototypes.
In Plato this abstract determination of the good, of the purpose, develops into a comprehensive, world-embracing philosophy. The purpose, as the determination in itself, the real will of the philosopher, is thinking, the real determinations of this good are the immanent thoughts. The real will of the philosopher, the ideality active in him, is the real “must” of the real world. Plato sees this his attitude to reality in such a way that an independent realm of ideas hovers over reality (and this “beyond” is the philosopher's own subjectivity) and is obscurely reflected in it. If Socrates discovered only the name of the ideality which has passed out of substance into the subject, and was himself consciously this motion, the substantial world of reality now enters really idealised into Plato's consciousness, but thereby this ideal world itself is just as simply organised in itself as is the really substantial world facing it of which Aristotle most aptly remarked:
(Metaphysics, I, Chap. IX) “For the Forms are practically equal to-or not fewer than-the things, in trying to explain which these thinkers proceeded from them to the Form”.
The determination of this world and its organisation in itself is therefore to the philosopher himself a beyond, the motion has been removed from this world.
“Yet when the Forms exist, still the things that share in them do not come into being, unless there is something to originate movement [... ].” Aristotle, op. cit.
The philosopher as such, that is, as the wise man, not as the motion of the real spirit in general, is therefore the truth-beyond of the substantial world facing him. Plato expresses this most precisely when he says that either the philosophers must become kings or the kings philosophers for the state to achieve its purpose. In his attempts to educate a tyrant he also made a practical effort on these lines. His state has indeed as its special and highest estate that of the learned. [Plato, Res publica, V, 473.]
I wish to mention here two other remarks made by Aristotle, because they provide the most important conclusions concerning the form of Platonic consciousness and link up with the aspect from which we consider it in relation to the sofos.
Aristotle says of Plato:
“In the Phaedo the case is stated in this way — that the Forms are causes both of being and of becoming; yet when the Forms exist, still the things that share in them do not come into being, unless there is something to originate movement ].” Aristotle, op. cit.
It is not only that which is, it is the whole possibility of being that Plato wants to bring out into ideality: this ideality is a closed, specifically different realm in the philosophising consciousness itself: because it is this, it lacks motion.
This contradiction in the philosophising consciousness must objectify itself to the latter, the philosophising consciousness must eject this contradiction.
“Again the Forms are patterns not only of sensible things, but of Forms themselves also: e.g. the genus, as genus of Forms; so that the same thing could be both pattern and copy.” [op. cit.]
Lucretius on the ancient Ionian philosophers:
“... have certainly made many excellent and divine discoveries and uttered oracles from the inner sanctuary of their hearts with more sanctity and far surer reason than those the Delphic prophetess pronounces, drugged by the laurel fumes from Apollo's tripod.” Book I, 11. 736-740.
Important for the definition of the Epicurean philosophy of nature is the following:
1. The eternity of matter, which is connected with the fact that time is considered as an accident of accidents, as proper only to composites and their eventis, and hence is relegated to outside the material principle, outside the atom itself. It is further connected with the fact that the substance of the Epicurean philosophy is that which reflects only externally, which has no premises, which is arbitrariness and accident. Time is rather the fate of nature, of the finite. Negative unity with itself, its internal necessity.
2. The void, the negation, is not the negative of matter itself, but [space] where there is no matter. In this respect too, therefore, matter is in itself eternal.
The form which we see emerge at the conclusion from the workshop of Greek philosophical consciousness, out of the darkness of abstraction, and veiled in its dark garb, is the same form in which Greek philosophy walked, alive, the stage of the world, the same form which saw gods even in the burning hearth, the same which drank the poison cup, the same which, as the God of Aristotle, enjoys the greatest bliss, theory.