Sec 3: Origin of Philosophy

  • In the first ages of society before the establishment of law, order, and security, people are not so curious to find out those hidden chains of events which bind together the seemingly disjointed appearances of nature.
  • The subsistence of a savage is precarious.
    • His life is exposed to the rudest dangers everyday.
    • He is not interested in what renders nature a more connected spectacle to his imagination.
    • He does not notice many of these smaller incoherences which perplex philosophers.
    • He notices those more magnificent irregularities which call forth his amazement.
      • Comets, eclipses, thunder, lightning, and other meteors, by their greatness, naturally overawe him.
      • He views them with a reverence that approaches to fear.
    • He is exasperated into terror and consternation by:
      • his inexperience and uncertainty about them
      • how they came
      • how they are to go
      • what went before
      • what is to come after them.
  • Father Malbranche observes that our passions all justify themselves.
    • That is, they suggest to us opinions which justify them.
    • Those appearances terrify the savage.
      • He, therefore, believes everything about them which can render them still more the objects of his terror.
    • He is most apt to entertain the notion that enhances this terror.
      • The notion that can best enhance this terror is that they proceed from some intelligent, invisible causes, of whose vengeance and displeasure they are signs or effects.
      • He is further led to this notion from:
        • his cowardice and pusillanimity, so natural to man in his uncivilized state
        • him being unprotected by the laws of society
          • This makes him feel exposed and defenceless.
  • But not all the irregularities of nature are terrible.
    • Some of them are perfectly beautiful and agreeable.
    • From the same impotence of mind, these are beheld with:
      • love and complacency, and
      • even gratitude
        • This is because whatever causes pleasure naturally excites our gratitude.
  • A child caresses the fruit that is agreeable to it, as it beats the stone that hurts it.
    • The notions of a savage are not very different.
  • The ancient Athenians, solemnly punished the axe which had accidentally killed a man.
    • They erected altars and offered sacrifices to the rainbow.
  • Sentiments like these may sometimes be felt even in the breasts of the most civilized.
    • But these are presently checked by reflecting that the things are not their proper objects.
  • But a savage’s notions are guided by wild nature and passion.
    • They wait for no other proof that a thing is the proper object of any sentiment, than that it excites it.
    • The reverence and gratitude inspired in him by the appearances of nature, convince him:
      • that they are the proper objects of reverence and gratitude, and
      • that they proceed from some intelligent beings, who are pleased in the expressions of those sentiments.
    • With him, every object of nature which is considerable and irregular enough to attract his attention, is supposed to act by the direction of some invisible and designing power.
  • The sea is spread out into a calm, or heaved into a storm, according to the good pleasure of Neptune.
    • Does the earth pour forth an exuberant harvest?
      • It is owing to the indulgence of Ceres.
    • Does the vine yield a plentiful vintage?
      • It flows from the bounty of Bacchus.
    • Do either refuse their presents?
      • It is ascribed to the displeasure of those offended deities.
    • The tree, which now flourishes, and now decays, is inhabited by a Dryad, upon whose health or sickness its various appearances depend.
    • The fountain, which sometimes flows in a copious, and sometimes in a scanty stream, which appears sometimes clear and limpid, and at other times muddy and disturbed, is affected in all its changes by the Naiad who dwells within it.
  • Hence the origin of Polytheism and superstition which ascribes all the irregular events of nature to the favour or displeasure of intelligent, invisible beings, to gods, demons, witches, genies, and fairies.
    • In all Polytheistic religions, among savages and in the early ages of Heathen antiquity, only the irregular events of nature are ascribed to the agency and power of their gods.
      • By the necessity of their own nature:
        • fire burns
        • water refreshes
        • heavy bodies descend
        • lighter substances fly upwards
      • The invisible hand of Jupiter was never perceived in those matters.
    • But the more irregular events were ascribed to Jupiter’s favour or anger:
      • storms and sunshine
      • thunder and lightning.
    • Savages only knew the designing power of man.
      • Man stops or changes the course of natural events.
      • They imagined those other intelligent beings, were naturally supposed:
        • to act in the same way
        • to not support the ordinary course of things, which went on of its own accord
        • to stop, thwart, and disturb the ordinary course of things.
    • Thus, in the first ages of the world, the lowest and most cowardly superstition supplied the place of philosophy.
  • But when law has established order and security, and subsistence ceases to be precarious:
    • Mankind’s curiosity of mankind is increased, and
    • their fears are reduced.
  • They enjoy leisure which renders them:
    • more attentive to the appearances of nature
    • more observant of her smallest irregularities, and
    • more desirous to know the chain which links them all together.
  • They are led to conceive that some such chain subsists between all her seemingly disjointed phenomena.
  • People who are bred in civilized societies have:
    • so few occasions to feel their weakness, and
    • so many occasions to be conscious of their strength and security.
  • Generous people acquire that magnanimity and cheerfulness which render them less disposed to use those invisible beings for this connecting chain.
    • Their rude forefathers’ fear and ignorance had engendered those beings to them.
    • The attention of those of liberal fortunes is not much occupied with business or pleasure.
      • It can fill up the void of their imagination, which is thus disengaged from the ordinary affairs of life by attending to that train of events which passes around them.
    • The great objects of nature pass before them in an order which they have not been used to.
    • Their imagination easily and delightfully accompanies the regular progress of nature.
      • It is stopped and embarrassed by those seeming incoherences which:
        • excite their wonder, and
        • seem to require some chain of intermediate events
          • By connecting those events with past events, the whole course of the universe may be rendered consistent and of a piece.
  • Wonder, therefore, and not any expectation of advantage from its discoveries, is the first principle which prompts mankind to the study of Philosophy.
    • It is the science which pretends to open the concealed connections that unite nature’s various appearances.
    • Man pursues this study for its own sake, as an original pleasure or good in itself, without regarding its tendency to procure them the means of many other pleasures.

 

  • Greece, and the Greek colonies in Sicily, Italy, and Turkey, were the first countries in the western world to be civilized.
  • The first Western philosophers there.
  • Law and order were established in Asia and Egypt, long before Greece.
    • But it cannot be precisely determined whether, in the learning of the Chaldeans and Egyptians:
      • there ever was science, or
      • whether their despotism prevented the growth of Philosophy.
        • That despotism is more destructive of security and leisure than anarchy itself.
        • It prevailed over all the East.
  • The Greek colonies settled amid either barbarous or unwarlike nations and soon acquired a very great authority over them.
    • They arrived at a considerable degree of empire and opulence before their parent country had surmounted extreme poverty.
      • That poverty is necessarily attended with the confusion and misrule from a lack of regular subordination.
  • The Greek islands were secure from the invasion of armies or navies.
    • They gained all sorts of civility and improvement before the continent did.
  • The first philosophers and poets, therefore were all natives of Greek colonies or islands.
    • Homer, Archilochus, Stesichorus, Simonides, Sappho, Anacreon were born there.
    • Thales and Pythagoras were the founders of the two earliest sects of philosophy.
      • Thales came from an Asiatic colony.
      • Pythagoras came from an island.
      • Neither of them established his school in the mother country.
      • It is impossible to determine:
        • what was the particular system of those two philosophers, or
        • whether their doctrine was so methodized as to be called a system.
          • This is because of the uncertainty of all the traditions that have come down to us about them.
      • Pythagoras’ school, however, seems to have advanced further in the study of nature’s connecting principles, than Thales’ school.
      • The successors of Thales were Anaximander, Anaximenes, Anaxagoras, and Archelaus.
        • The accounts given of them represent the doctrines of those sages as full of the most inextricable confusion.
  • The most renowned philosophers of the Italian school were Empedocles, Archytas, Timaeus, and Ocellus the Lucanian.
    • Their doctrine has something near to a composed and orderly system.
    • The opinions of Timaeus and Ocellus pretty much coincide.
    • Archytas and Empedocles seem to have been very different.
      • The opinions of Archytas coincide with those of Plato.
        • Archyta invented the Categories.
        • Archyta may be regarded as the founder of ancient Dialectics.
      • The opinions of Empedocles coincide with those of Aristotle.
        • Empedocles authored the doctrine of the Four Elements.
        • Empedocles may be regarded as the founder of ancient Physics.
      • I will show how these were closely connected.
  • However, Philosophy first received the form which introduced her to the general acquaintance of the world from Socrates’ school, from Plato and Aristotle.
    • Therefore, we shall give her history in detail from them.

 

  • They consolidated whatever was valuable in the former systems, which was consistent with their general principles,  into their own.
    • They did not derive anything from the Ionian Philosophy.
    • Plato and Aristotle derived the fundamental principles of almost all their doctrines from the Pythagorean school.
  • Plato also borrowed something from the sects of Cratylus and Heraclitus, and Xenophanes, Parmenides, Melissus, and Zeno.
    • The extreme obscurity of Cratylus and Heraclitus prevented them from acquiring any extensive reputation.
    • It would be vain and useless to rescue the system of those antesocratic sages, from that oblivion which presently covers them all.
    • However, we shall mark whatever have been borrowed from them as we go along.
  • Plato discredited and exposed the Philosophy of Leucippus, Democritus, and Protagoras.
    • Their philosophy accordingly:
      • submitted to his eloquence,
      • lain dormant, and
      • have been almost forgotten for some generations until it was revived by Epicurus.

Words: 1718

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