T. I. Oizerman is a Corresponding Member of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR and author of a number of detailed studies of the history of pre-Marxist, Marxist and contemporary bourgeois philosophy. Several of his books have been translated. The For- mation of Marxist Philosophy has been published in German, Japanese, Polish and Hungarian, Alienation as a Histor- ical Category, Basic Stages in the Development of Pre-Marxist Philosophy and The Philosophy of Hegel have also appeared in German, and various other works in Engtish, French, Spanish, Bulgarian, Chinese, Czech and Greek,

Problems of the History of Philosophy is a theoretical inquiry into the process of development of philosophical knowl- edge which has led naturally to the emergence of the Marxist scientifico- philosophical world view. On the basis of comparative analysis of the philo- sophical doctrines of past and present the author delineates the specifically philosophical form of knowledge. the nature of philosophical problems, the essence of philosophical controversy, the basic feature of philosophical argu- mentation and the relationship of phi- losophy to other forms of social con- sciousness, and to everyday and his- torical experience. The divergence of philosophical doctrines and their po- larisation into the opposite trends of materialism and idealism is followed step by step. In arguing the objective necessity for the scientifico-philosophi- cal world view, the author traces the changing status of philosophy in the system of scientific knowledge of na- ture and society. the relationship be- tween philosophy and the specialised sciences, the development of the sub- ject-matter of philosophy, and its ide- ological content and function,





Translated from the Russian by Robert Daglish


Mpo61emm ucTOpHKO-usocodpcKon HaykH

Ha ax2aulickom a3zeixe

First printing 1978

© _ Translation into English. Progress Publishers 1973

Printed in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics




1. Secularisation of “Divine” Wisdom

2. Deification of Human Wisdom . .

3. A New Age and a New Ideal of Philosophical Knowledge . . a

4. Problem of Wisdom as a "Real "Problem

Chapter Two


1. Philosophy as a Problem for Itself

2. How Philosophy Delimits, Cognises and Deter- mines Itself

8. First Historical Form of Theoretical Knowl- edge . .

. Philosophy. as an Alienated Form of Social Consciousnenss ;

. Social Consciousness or Science?

. Criticism of the Existentialist Interpretation of the Question ‘“‘What is Philosophy?”

Chapter Three


1. Qualitative Diversity of Knowledge

2. Speculation, Logic, Facts

3. Intuition, Truth, Creative Imagination .

4. Interpretation as a Mode of Philosophical Inquiry

5. Theoretical Synthesis ‘of Diverse Content



115 120 136

148 166

Chapter Four

DEFINITION OF PHILOSOPHY AS A PHILOSOPHICAL PROBLEM 1. Difficulties of Defining Philosophy Due to the Peculiar Nature of Its Historical Develop- ment

2. Diversity | of Definitions of Philosophy 8. Philosophy as a Specific World View


1. Questions That Cannot Be Left Unanswered 2. Problems, Old and New, Eternal and Transient Fe Be we Baie Yor G

Chapter Six THE SUBJECT-MATTER OF PHILOSOPHY 1, The Subject-Matter of Philosophy as a Pro- blem :

2. Fundamental Philosophical Themes os Ste 8. The Subject-Matter of Dialectical and

Historical Materialism

Chapter Seven


1. Role of the Personality in the Development of Philosophy . ae ee ee ee 2. Epochs in Philosophy and Socio-Economic Epochs . . . ote 8. Ideological Functions of "Philosophy


1. Inevitability of Scientific Debate : 2. Ideological Sources of Philosophical Debate 3. Theoretical Roots of Philosophical Debate



This book is part of much more comprehensive study which the author hopes to complete within the next few years. Even so, though not embracing all the problems implied in the title, it does deal with the specific nature of philosophical know- ledge, its substance, form and structure, from historical angle and may, therefore, be described as a historico-philosophical study.

Historico-philosophical studies come in various shapes and sizes. Some of them investigate the development of the philosophical thought of a particular people. Some examine the development of philosophy on a world-historic scale with the philosophical thought of various nations emerging as historical stages in the development of world philosophy as a whole. Some deal with the various branches of philosophy, with the history of epistemology, ontology, dialectics, natural philosophy and ethics, or with certain philosophi- cal trends, schools, the work of individual phi- losophers, stages of philosophical development, and so on. Each type of inquiry has its specific


task, but all presuppose the solution of the theo- retical problems of the history of philosophy. For instance, the problem of contradiction in the history of philosophy cannot, in my view, be sa- tisfactorily solved without a scientific conception of the particular qualities of philosophical problems and how, in particular, philosophy solves them. Moreover, to be able to trace the development of the concept of contradiction in the history of philosophy, one must be clearly aware of the basic features of the philosophical approach to cognition of reality, the ideological function of philosophy, the epistemological and class roots of the various philosophical approaches to the solu- tion of this problem.

The subject of historico-philosophical research is philosophy; the problems of historico-philosoph- ical science are philosophical problems. These propositions, it seems to me, are quite obvious but, notwithstanding Cicero’s remark that proof only belittles the obvious, I believe that they still demand to be proved, theoretically grounded, and this is what a great part of this book is about.

Although no philosophical doctrine can claim to embrace all philosophical questions, there is not a single philosophical problem that does not fall within the scope of historico-philosophical science. Besides which, historico-philosophical science is concerned with problems that are not part of philosophy as such. These are the histo- rical problems of the emergence and develop- ment of philosophy, its objective dependence on social conditions, its epistemological roots and so on. Nevertheless, historico-philosophical science is not a “marginal” discipline, its source lies not in the “crossing” of history and philosophy, of


two relatively independent fields of knowledge, but in the objectively conditioned historical pro- cess of the development of philosophical know- ledge, its critical appreciation and, probably, its self-awareness.

The problems of the history of philosophy arise not because they are outside the competence of both philosophy and history. Like all philo- sophical problems, they have been generated by _the historical and everyday experience of all man- kind, and particularly in the process of cogni- tion—scientific and philosophical. The historian of philosophy must certainly be a historian in the full sense of the term. But no matter how im- portant it is for him to be scrupulously efficient in investigating the social conditions that give rise to a certain philosophical doctrine, his main task is to understand that doctrine, to appreciate it critically, to show its connection with other philosophical doctrines, a connection that must in some way or other be conditioned by the so- cio-historical process. Regarded from this stand- point, historico-philosophical science is a specific means of philosophical inquiry, it is the philoso- phy of philosophy or, to be more concise, meta- philosophy.

It is quite impossible to treat the history of philosophy purely “historically”, empirically, without being guided by a broad and flexible “scale of values” derived from the very history of philosophy itself, from the history of man’s historical development and his quest for know- ledge. Even the application of the term “devel- opment” to the history of philosophy makes cer- tain obvious philosophical assumptions, e.g. the assumption that certain irreversible processes of change and progress actually occur in philosophy.


Any attempt to discover an absolute recording system is just as futile in the history of philo- sophy as in physics. It immediately gives itself away, as a claim to complete impartiality, and no real philosopher can be completely impartial, any more than he can be without his own point of view. The adepts of impartiality ignore the obvious fact that historians of philosophy place different value on one and the same doctrine, and this happens not because they have been remiss in studying their sources and facts or be- cause they have departed from the scientific standards demanded by historiography. The crux of the matter lies much deeper.

No exposition can be a word-for-word repe- tition of what a particular philosopher wrote. At the very least it will be a retelling in one’s own words. But what serious investigator of the his- torical process of the development of philosophy would confine himself to a mere retelling, which does not usually imply understanding? Under- standing and interpretation are inseparable from each other and the student of the history of phi- losophy must strive for a scientifically objective understanding of his subject, which is quite in- compatible with refusal to take up any definite theoretical and, hence, conceptual position. For this reason the demand that one should remain utterly dispassionate in writing the history of philosophy is merely an invitation to remain in disagreement with oneself, with one’s theoretical conscience. Science is impossible without criteria of scientificality, but in philosophy and the history of philosophy there is no unanimity on this ques- tion. Historico-philosophical science has_there- fore to work out criteria for the evaluation of philosophical doctrines, proceeding from critical


generalisation of the historico-philosophical proc- ess that is at work throughout the world.

It stands to reason that these criteria (and the methods of inquiry they entail) may prove com- pletely unsatisfactory if the historian of philos- ophy adopts a sectarian philosophical position and assumes, for example, that only Thomas Aquinas created a system of absolute philosophi- cal truths, whereas his great forerunners (with the possible exception of Aristotle) languished in darkness and the philosophers of any later pe- riod have merely departed from the true path laid down for them by “Doctor Angelicus’.

The philosophy of Marxism, however, does provide a real theoretical basis for a scientific history of philosophy, since it scientifically sum- marises the whole development of philosophical thought up to the time of the emergence of Marx- ism and continues to do so as subsequent stages are reached. This also means that dialectical and historical materialism is not only historically but also logically based on the history of philosophy, which critically analyses the manifold concep- tions of philosophy and formulates as a deduction from its whole development (and that of scientific cognition in general) the basic premises of dia- lectical and historical materialism. In this sense, it may be said that the scientific history of philos- ophy as a theoretical conception of the develop- ment of philosophical knowledge is an organic component of the philosophy of Marxism. The concept “philosophy of Marxism” is wider in scope than the concept “dialectical and historical materialism”, because it also embraces the scien- tific history of philosophy as well as certain ao philosophical disciplines (ethics, aesthetics, etc.).

Dialectical and historical materialism is funda- mentally opposed to any group limitations or narrowness. One has only to recall how the foun- ders of Marxism-Leninism criticised not only vulgar but also metaphysical, mechanistic mate- rialism, and also the anthropological materialism of Feuerbach, or how highly they valued the bril- liant ideas contained in the idealist teachings of Plato, Aristotle, Leibnitz, Rousseau and Hegel. From this we realise that Marxism is the philo- sophy in which objectivity and partisanship are organically united.

The philosophy of Marxism, while rejecting on principle the idea of a perfect and complete phi- losophical system (absolute science, as Marx called it), is constantly in motion, in development, on the road to new discoveries. It is constantly aware of and grappling with its unsolved problems and, while criticising its ideological opponents, also criticises itself, recognising that it is limited by the boundaries of knowledge achieved not only in the philosophical but also in the general scientific fields. Marxist philosophy is also the history of philosophy, and particularly the history of Marxist philosophy, of its progressive develop- ment, a history that provides the theoretical pre- requisites and method for the investigation of any philosophical doctrine. Like any system of scientific knowledge, the philosophy of Marxism regards its scientific propositions only as an ap- proximate reflection of reality, as the unity of relative and absolute truth, the latter being un- derstood dialectically, i.e., relative within its own frame of reference. The significance of dialecti- cal and historical materialism for the scientific history of philosophy is not to be found in any claim to offer the history of philosophy cut-and-


dried solutions and formulas, but in its ability to guide inquiry into the development of philosophy along a truly scientific path.

Since it applies what Engels called the “logical method”, historico-philosophical science is itself a philosophical theory. It investigates such spe- cific features of philosophy as the forms of cogni- tion, its basic types, structure, problems, and de- velopment, its relation to other forms of social consciousness (particularly science, art, religion), the nature of philosophical controversy, change in the subject of philosophy and the affirmation of scientific philosophical knowledge, thus an- swering the question of the nature of philosophi- cal knowledge.

If the basic question of any philosophy is ulti- mately the question of the relation of the spiri- tual to the material, is not the question “What is philosophy?” the basic question of historico- philosophical science?

The significance of this apparently elementary question becomes obvious to anyone who can perceive even in the most general form the dis- tinction between philosophy and the specialised sciences, and who asks himself why different philosophical systems existed and continue to exist, while there are no fundamentally different, incompatible systems of mathematics or phys- ics. This is, of course, not merely a matter of de- finition, which would be of purely formal signifi- cance, but of making a critical generalisation of the development of philosophy, which to no small degree determines its social status and ‘scientific prestige and enables it to solve correctly pro- blems that were posed by philosophy in the past but still confront it today. Hence we reach the


direct conclusion that the major problem of his- torico-philosophical science is the problem of phi- losophy. To understand this amazing phenome- non of the spiritual life of society, the history of mankind’s intellectual development, to under- stand this specific form of knowledge and self- knowledge, its necessity, its irremovability, its not immediately obvious but ever growing signi- ficance in the intellectual development of the in- dividual, to discover its role in the ideological struggle which today, more than ever in the past, is a struggle between world views, to disclose the potential possibilities of philosophy and how to realise them—all this is an urgent necessity not only for the historians of philosophy but also for anyone to whom the question of the meaning of his own life does not appear utterly pointless.

Philosophy has suffered a strange fate. A synonym of science in the ancient world, it now seeks to achieve recognition as a science on a level with newly emerged sciences of modern times. How has this come about? Is it because philosophy, on account of its great age, has fal- len behind its younger comrades and is no longer fit to compete in the Marathon of knowledge? Or perhaps there is no riddle at all and the answer is simply that what was a science in ancient times cannot by its very nature be a science today? As Francis Bacon remarked, the ancients were but children while we are people of a new age, enter- ing upon our maturity. But it is doubtful whether the concept of maturity can be applied uncondi- tionally to the human race at any stage of its development. Man always has everything ahead of him, in the future. There is, admittedly, anoth- er explanation of this delicate situation, tenta-


tively proposed by Windelband. Is not philosophy, he asks, in the position of Shakespeare’s King Lear, who gave away all his possessions to his daughters and was himself cast out into the street as a useless and troublesome old man?

At all events, philosophy now has to win its right of citizenship in the republic of science, although it has formally never been deprived of this right. This is an inner necessity for philo- sophy, a necessity that it must feel in the face of any other science, no matter how restricted its field of reference.

Philosophy’s right to full citizenship is called in question first of all by everyday consciousness, secondly by certain exponents of the specialised sciences and, thirdly, by some philosophers. The everyday arguments usually boil down to the as- sertion that philosophy does not inspire confidence because it does not always take into account the demands of common sense. In the past many rep- resentatives of the positive sciences supported this commonplace argument, but nowadays, since the creation of the theory of relativity and quantum mechanics, they are more inclined to agree with Engels, who wrote: “Only sound common sense, respectable fellow that he is, in the homely realm of his own four walls, has very wonderful adven- tures directly he ventures out into the wide world of research.””!

Some scientists reproach philosophy for not being able to answer the questions that are put to it or, worse still, for answering questions with questions to which the specialised sciences, thor- ough though they may be, are unable to find an answer. All these questions (whether they are

1 F. Engels, Anti-Diihring, Moscow, 1969, p. 31.

asked by science or philosophy), are difficult ones but it at least can be said in defence of philosophy that the people who ask the questions which it fails to answer cannot answer these questions either. On the other hand, if philosophy, instead of answering a question, asks one itself, we should consider whether the question is well formulated. If it is, philosophy has already made some contri- bution to the problem.

Philosophy’s most dangerous enemies, however, are to be found within its own ranks. The biggest hue and cry was raised by the neo-positivists, who declared all the historically evolved problems of philosophy illusory and non-existent in reality, while the historico-philosophical process was pre- sented as a history of continuous misapprehen- sion. In making their claim, the neo-positivists failed to notice the fact that the mistakes of the great philosophers were great mistakes, and the neo-positivist campaign against philosophy has ended in inglorious defeat. They themselves have been compelled to admit the unavoidability of “metaphysical” (philosophical) problems. The problems they called pseudoproblems have turned out to be real problems to which neo-positivism has found no positive approach.

The neo-positivists acquired partially deserved influence with their special studies in logic, which have no direct bearing on their obviously sub- jectivist and agnostic philosophical teaching. The crisis of neo-positivism is largely due to an awareness of this now quite obvious fact. Neo- positivism was opposed by the natural scientists, including some who for a time had been under its influence. This is a highly important fact because neo-positivism, unlike other idealist doctrines, as I. G. Petrovsky notes, “parasitises to a great extent


on the actual achievements of modern science”’.! The statements by Albert Einstein, Max Plank, Louis de Broglie, Max Born and other outstand- ing men of science, criticising neo-positivist scep- ticism and substantiating materialist (and essen- tially dialectical) views, have convincingly demon- strated that philosophy is vital to theoretical natural science. The relevance of philosophical problems has thus been testified by non-philosoph- ers who have devoted themselves to philosophical problems and made a considerable contribution to the development of philosophical thought. This naturally opens up promising vistas before the historians of philosophy.

In the past 10-15 years Marxist-Leninist his- torico-philosophical science has been enriched by numerous researches. The six-volume History of Philosophy (Moscow, 1957-1965) was the first at- tempt to make a global study of the development of all philosophy from the time of its inception to the present day. Naturally this collective work,

_ in which many Marxist historians of philosophy from other countries besides the Soviet Union participated, sums up a considerable number of specialised historico-philosophical studies. ‘The nu- merous works of Soviet historians of philosophy, concerning separate philosophical trends, schools and systems, undoubtedly contribute not only to historico-philosophical science but also to the de- velopment of dialectical and historical material- ism. “At the present time,” P. N. Fedoseyev writes, “the transition from a predominantly des- criptive stage of historico-philosophical science to

I. G. Petrovsky, “In Lieu of Introduction” in Philo- Sophy of Marxism and Neo-positivism, Moscow, 1963, p. 4 (in Russian).


analytical inquiry into the logic of the develop- ment of philosophical thought is becoming increas- ingly evident.’! All this paves the way for the systematic theoretical investigation of the funda- mental problems of the historico-philosophical process.

Our task has been not only to solve the pro- blems confronting us to the best of our ability but also to pose problems regardless of whether we ourselves can solve them at present. A com- mon dogmatic distortion of the essence of philo- sophy is to be found in the view that the questions proposed by philosophy are far less important than the answers it supplies. On the other hand, when scientific Marxist-Leninist philosophy is under discussion, the dogmatist imagines that this philosophy has already answered all the questions ever posed in the past, and that one has only to wait for science and practice to pose new ques- tions, which will immediately receive the right answers. In reality, however, by no means all the questions raised by philosophy’s previous deve- lopment can be solved at the present time. What is more, philosophy does not merely wait for questions to be fired at it from outside. Philosophy itself asks questions. It puts them not only to itself but to the sciences and to any sphere of conscious human activity. If in this book I have succeeded, even to some extent, in posing questions that for various reasons have escaped the general notice— questions that deserve to be discussed regardless of whether we can answer them or not—my labours will not have been in vain.

1 P. N. Fedoseyev, “Philosophy and the Modern Epoch” in October Revolution and Scientific Progress, Moscow, 1967, Vol. IT, p. 380 (in Russian).


Dialectical and historical materialism is a de- veloping philosophical science in which, as in any science, there are unsolved problems. They should not be left in the background. Rather, we should draw the researcher’s attention to them. And the historian of philosophy, since he is a representa- tive of dialectical and historical materialism, naturally seeks in his specialised researches not merely to illuminate philosophy’s historical past but to contribute to the solution of its present-day problems or, at least, their correct and constructive positing.

I am fully prepared to admit that although I have done my best to substantiate them, some of my conclusions are controversial. But I have also assumed that some of the propositions that are so well established in textbooks on philosophy and which, presumably owing to constant repetition, have come to appear infallible, are in fact by no means infallible and also require discussion.

Any inquiry, unlike a work of popular science, is published so that it may be discussed. This is my attitude in publishing the present work, in which I feel I have considered only questions that deserve scientific discussion.



In the days when the ancient Greeks first coined the term “philosophy” there was presu- mably no disagreement as to what should be con- sidered wisdom. Anything incomprehensible, which had not existed before (such as philosophy), fell into the category of things which, in the tra- dition of mythology, were regarded as perfectly obvious and beyond all argument or doubt.

Wisdom was attributed to the gods (or at least to some of them). Athene was worshipped as the goddess of wisdom. She was portrayed in sculp- ture with an owl perched at her feet, the owl being regarded as a sacred bird, presumably because it could see in the dark.

What men then regarded as wisdom was know- ledge of things of which they were ignorant or could not understand, particularly prophecy. Ac- cording to mythology, the gods endowed the orac- les and other chosen individuals with wisdom. Like all outstanding human virtues, wisdom was the gift of the gods. In Book One of The Iliad Homer says of Calchas, the supreme augur:


woe ee ew ww ww. nd next Rose Calchas, son of Thestor, and the chief Of augurs, one to whom were known things past And present and to come. He through the art Of divination, which Apollo gave,

Had guided the ships of Greece....

The mythological view of the world, which im- mediately preceded the first philosophical doc- trines of Ancient Greece, was the ideology of the primitive communal system. The development of mythology, its transformation into a kind of “art- istic religion”, the emergence of theogonic, cos- mogonic and cosmological notions, which were subsequently naturalistically interpreted by the first Greek philosophers, reflected the basic stages of development of the pre-class society. In this society the individual possessed no world view of his own. Philosophy could not yet exist because, as A. F. Losev has written, “here it was the tribe that thought, that set its goals, and there was no obligation upon the individual to think, because the tribe was the element of life and the element of life worked in the individual spontaneously, i.e., instinctively, not as consciously articulated thought”.4

The emergence of ancient philosophy coincides with the period of the formation of class society, when mythology was still the dominant form of social consciousness. In fact, the first philosophers were philosophers just because they came into conflict with the traditional mythological view of the world.

While mythology still held sway over men’s minds they never thought of asking themselves

' A. F. Losev, History of Ancient Esthetics, Moscow, 1963, p. 107 (in Russian).

a 19

the question, “What is wisdom?”. Mythology answered this question, and many others besides, in the most unequivocal manner. The rise of phi- losophy replaced myths and oracular prophecy with man’s own thinking about the world and human life, independent of any extraneous author- ity. People appeared who could astonish others by reasoning about things that no one had ever thought about or dared to call in question before. These people were at first, no doubt, regarded as madmen. They called themselves philosophers, i.e., lovers of wisdom. First came the philosophers, then the name “philosopher” appeared, and after that the term “philosophy”.

Thales maintained that everything which exist- ed had originated from water. According to Ana- ximenes, not only all things but even the gods themselves had come from air. The cosmos, He- raclitus taught, had given birth to both mortals and immortals. These assertions were revolution- ary acts that established a critical mode of think- ing independent of mythological and_ religious tradition.

We do not know whether the contemporaries of the early Greek philosophers actually believed that the Milky Way was the sprinkled milk of Hera. But when Democritus declared it to be no more than a conglomeration of stars, we may be sure that most people thought this was blas- phemy. Anaxagoras, who claimed that the Sun was a huge mass of rock, brought persecution on his head.

The fact that the teachings of the early Greek thinkers were still not free from elements of mythology should not be allowed to overshadow their fundamental anti-mythological tendency. Myth, said Hegel, is an expression “of the impo-


tence of thought that cannot establish itself inde- pendently”.! The development of philosophy signi- fied a progressive departure from mythology, parti- cularly the mythological notion of the supernatu- ral origin of wisdom. It was for this reason, as Hegel wrote, that “the place of the oracle was now taken by the self-consciousness of every thinking person” .2

It is hard to say who first called himself a phi- losopher. Probably it was Pythagoras. According to Diogenes Laertius, Leén, tyrant of Phliontes, asked Pythagoras who he was and Pythagoras replied, “I am a philosopher”. The word being unfamiliar to his questioner, Pythagoras offered an explanation of the neologism. “He compared life to the Olympic Games,” Diogenes Laertius writes. “There were three types among the crowd attending the Games. Some came for the contest, some to trade and some, who were wise, to satisfy themselves by observation. So it was in life. Some were born to be slaves of glory or the temptation of riches, others who were wise sought only truth.”8

This account suggests that Pythagoras inter- preted wisdom as something reserved for the chosen few. According to some other sources, how- ever, he maintained that only the gods possessed wisdom. At all events, the teaching of Pythagoras reveals only a general tendency towards seculari- sation of “divine” wisdom.

Thus, the emergence of ancient Greek philo- sophy simultaneously implied the growing con-

! Hegel, Works in 14 volumes, Vol. 2, p. 139 (in Russian)

2 Thid., p. 77.

s Diogén Laérce, Uie, doctrines et sentences des bhilosophes illustres, Paris, 1965, p. 127.


viction that wisdom as the supreme ideal of know- ledge (and conduct), without which human life could be neither worthy nor honest and would be virtually wasted, could be achieved through one’s own efforts. This meant that the source of wisdom lay not in faith but in knowledge and the quest for intellectual and moral perfection. Thus we see that a contradiction between faith and knowledge arises at the very fountainhead of philosophy.!

Ancient Greek philosophy tells the story of the Seven Sages who founded the first city states. Some of them must have been legendary figures, but Solon, for example, is an actual historical figure whose reforms are associated with the rise of the State of Athens. Pythagoras, for whom the history of Greece was by no means the distant past, evi- dently had a more or less clear conception of the actually existing historical figures (Thales was said to be one of them) who afterwards came to be known as Sages.

1 In mythology the word “wisdom” signifies merely a certain notion that is expounded rather than discussed. In philosophy it is not merely a word but a concept, which must be understood and defined. This is the beginning of the theory of knowledge, the epistemological roots of the debate in which philosophy becomes a problem for itself. The deepest source of this argument is social progress, which counterposes knowledge and science to faith and religion. As Y. P. Frantsev writes, “the facts indicate that in human history philosophical thought emerges when certain knowledge has accumulated that comes into conflict with traditional beliefs. Religious notions are based on faith. Philosophical thought, noe matter how feeble its development, is based on knowledge as opposed to blind faith. The birth of philosophical thought is the beginning of the struggle against faith.” (Y. P. Frantsev, The Sources of Religion and Free Thinking, Moscow, 1959, p. 501, in Russian).


The teaching of the materialists of the city of Miletus was directly continued by Heraclitus, who declared that “wisdom lies in speaking the truth, heeding the voice of Nature and acting in accor- dance with it’.t This was, of course, addressed not to the gods, for whom there was nothing to heed, but to man and man alone. But while acknowledging the existence of human wisdom, Heraclitus nevertheless maintained that such wis- dom was nothing compared with the wisdom of the immortals, since “the wisest man compared with a god appears but an ape in wisdom, beauty and all else”.2 This distinction between human and divine wisdom would seem to imply something more than the traditional conviction drawn from mythology. It is an acknowledgement (still vague and inadequately expressed, of course) of the fun- damental impossibility of absolute knowledge.?

He who seeks wisdom must act in accordance

with the order of things. Concretising this thought, Heraclitus maintained that one should

{ A. O. Makovelsky, Pre-Socratics, Kazan, 1914, Part I, p. 161 (in Russian).

2 Ibid.

3 This elementary dialectical understanding of the nature of knowledge was lost in subsequent centuries by the creators of the metaphysical systems of absolute know- ledge under the influence of the triumphs of mathematics and the natural science of the new age, which looked as if they were going to be able to obtain exhaustive know- ledge of all that existed. The idea of the omnipotence of human reason belongs entirely to modern times. The ancient Greeks were far from holding any such notions. The ultimate expression of ancient Greek wisdom is Socrates’ conviction “I know that I know nothing”. Viewed from this standpoint Plato, who believed his soul had spent so long in the transcendental realm of ideas that he could describe this realm, is no heir to the Socratic conception of wisdom.


follow the universal. But what is the universal? It is fire, whose nature is a state of eternal flux. It is also Logos—absolute necessity, fate, which is sometimes identified with eternal fire and some- times separated from it. The universal is in- finitely varied. It pervades everything, gives birth to everything and destroys everything. Nothing can deviate from the universal. People do not understand the universal and fail to appreciate its limitless power even when they hear of it from the lips of the philosopher, because their own ignorance seems to them to be “their own com- prehension”. Heraclitus remarks bitterly, “Most men have no understanding of the things they encounter, and cannot be made to understand by instruction, and yet it seems to them that they know.”!

Thus we find that wisdom presupposes above all understanding of what the majority of men encoun- ter, of what is known to them in general, i.e., what they see, hear and know but cannot comprehend. This notion of wisdom is organically connected with the age of the formation of philosophy, when there were still no special scientific disciplines, discovering through special investigation directly unobservable phenomena and the relations be- tween them. As yet the philosopher was able to argue only about things that all could observe: the Earth, the Sun, the stars, plants, animals, day, night, cold, heat, water, air, fire, and so on. The philosopher applied his powers of reasoning to everything that occurred in human life and that was known to everyone: birth, childhood, youth, age, death, unhappiness, happiness, love, hate,

4A. O. Makovelsky, Pre-Socratics, Part I, p. 150 (in Russian).


etc. No wonder, then, that the first works of the ancient Greeks and also the Chinese and Indian philosophers, took as “first principles” the sen- sually observable things that were familiar to all, but to which a very special significance was at- tached. Even the basic, “substantial” properties of these things were also drawn from everyday experience, the properties of heat and cold, love and hate, the male and female genital principles, etc.

Wisdom, or rather the quest for it, was seen by these early philosophers as the ability to reach a judgement about all manner of familiar things, proceeding from recognition of their intransient essence. Understanding of the universal reveals to the human mind that which is eternal, infinite and united in the countless numbers of transient, finite, multiform things. Thus not all knowledge (know- ledge of one thing, for example) could be consider- ed wisdom. Even knowledge of many things, Her- aclitus adds, does not augment our wisdom. The path of wisdom, which no man shall ever travel in its entirety, is understanding of that which is most powerful in the world and therefore the most important for our human life.

According to Heraclitus, the most important, the most powerful and unavoidable thing is uni- versal change, the disappearance of all that ap- pears, the conversion of all things into their op- posites, their unity in eternal fire, from which the Earth, air, soul and everything else is derived. It is this omnipresent unity of the infinite multi- formity, the coincidence of opposites, that the phi- losopher seeks to understand as supreme truth pointing the right path in life. This path lies in contempt for passing things, awareness of the relative nature of all blessings, all distinctions and


opposites, understanding of the all-embracing and the all-determining. Although love of wisdom is separated from wisdom, which in itself is unattainable, it is quite clear that this selfless love and the knowledge it imparts are interpreted as attributes of absolute wisdom and in this sense (mainly because of their incompleteness) as rela- tive wisdom.

Heraclitus’s conception of the ideal of human wisdom and conduct has an aristocratic and pes- simistic bias. At the moment, however, we are not concerned with these features of the “weep- ing philosopher”, nor even with his dialectics, which is not a specific attribute of philosophical thought. The point is that his conception of wis- dom reveals features which not only in ancient times but in subsequent epochs have been regarded as inherent only in philosophical knowledge and the philosophical attitude to the world.

Ancient Greece, where the concept of philosophy as love of wisdom (relative, human wisdom) first took shape, became the motherland of another and essentially different understanding of the meaning and purpose of philosophy, which was to exercise a substantial influence on all its sub- sequent development. I have in mind _ the Sophists. The word “sophist” is derived from the same root as the words “sophia” (wisdom) and “sophos” (wise man), and also means “craftsman” or “artist”. The Sophists were the first in the history of philosophy to emerge as teachers of wisdom, thus rejecting the understanding of phi- losophy that goes back to Pythagoras. The Soph- ists were the first encyclopaedists of the ancient world. They studied mathematics, astronomy, physics, grammar, not so much as scholars, but rather as teachers, and paid teachers at that. They


became the founders of rhetoric, and they consi- dered it to be an essential part of their instruction to teach the free citizen of the city state to reason, to argue, to refute and prove, in short, to defend his own interests by the power of words, argu- ment and eloquence.

The Sophists identified wisdom with knowledge, with the ability to prove what one considered to be necessary, correct, virtuous, profitable and so on.! Such knowledge and abilities were un- doubtedly needed by the citizen of Athens for taking part in public meetings, court sessions, de- bates, affairs of trade and so on. By their activi- ties as teachers of rhetoric, by their theories which overthrew apparently immutable truths and sub- stantiated often quite unusual views, the Sophists furthered the development of logical thought and flexibility of concepts, which made it possible to bring together and unite things that seemed at

first glance to be quite incompatible. Logical proof was regarded as the basic quality of truth.

1 Plato, expounding the views of Protagoras, describes in Theaetetus his understanding of wisdom as follows: “... I do not call wise men tadpoles: far from it; I call them ‘physicians’ and ‘husbandmen’ where the human body and plants are concerned.” In the field of politics, accord- ing to Plato, Protagoras held that “the wise and good thetoricians make the good instead of the evil to seem Just to states; for whatever appears to each state to be Just and fair, so long as it is regarded as such, is just and fair to it; and what the wise man does is to cause good to appear, and be real, for each of them instead of evil”, (The Dialogues of Plato, Oxford, 1953, Vol. III, Pp. 265.) This understanding of wisdom as worldly know- ledge comes into direct conflict with the previous concep- tions of wisdom. However, the