Philosophy is the highest department of human speculation, the most abstract knowledge of which the human mind is capable.
Importance of the Subject. — The character of the investigations with which philosophy is concerned, and still more the superabundance during the last century of what has professed itself to be philosophy, render it excessively difficult either to define this branch of inquiry, or to determine what may be legitimately included under the wide designation. Sir William Hamilton devoted seven lectures of his course of metaphysics to the discussion of this single topic. The vagueness of the term, the instability and indistinctness of the boundaries of this department of knowledge, and the dissensions in regard to all its details, have led many quick and ingenious minds to repudiate the study altogether, and to deny to it any valid existence. Nevertheless it is necessary to recognise its reality, in spite of the uncertainty of its nature, of the confusion thus produced, and of the pretensions sheltered under its honorable name. It was a profound and keen reply, which was said to have been made by Aristotle to the assailants and abnegators of philosophy, that "whether we ought to philosophize or ought not to philosophize, we are compelled to philosophize" (εἴτε φιλοσοφητέον φιλοσοφητέον, εἴτε μὴ φιλοσοφητέον φιλοσοφητέον, πάντως δὲ φιλοσοφητέον, David. Prolegom. Phil., ap. Schol. Aristot. page 13, ed. Acad. Berol.), for philosophy is required to demonstrate the inanity and nugatoriness of philosophy: "But the mother of demonstrations is philosophy." The same deep sense of the irrecusable obligation is manifested by Plotinus, when, in a rare access of humor, he utters the paradoxical declaration that all things, rational and irrational — animals, plants, and even minerals, air and water too — alike yearn for theoretical perfection (or the philosophical completion of their nature, Ennead. 3:8:1); and that nature, albeit devoid of imagination and reason, has its philosophy within itself, and achieves whatever it effects by theory, or the philosophy which it does not itself possess. "There is reason in roasting eggs," and philosophy in all things, if we can only get at it:
"the meanest flower that blows can give Thoughts that do often lie too deep for tears." Philosophy is, like death, one of the few things that we can by no means avoid, whether we welcome or reject it; whether we regard the irresistible tendencies of our intellectual constitution to speculative inquiry, or the latent regularity, order, and law controlling all things that fall under our notice, when they develop themselves in accordance with their intrinsic nature (see Sir W. Hamilton, Metaphysics, lecture 4, page 46; Ueberweg, Hist. of Philosophy, volume 1, § 1, page 5).
There is no longer reason to dread the rarity of philosophy; there has been no occasion for such alarm for more than two thousand years; the terror has been produced by the redundance of what claims this name. There are philosophers of all sorts, who deal with all varieties of subjects. There is mental, moral, political, economical, and natural philosophy; there is the philosophy of religion, the philosophy of enthusiasm, and the philosophy of insanity; the philosophy of logic, the philosophy of rhetoric, the philosophy of language, and the philosophy of grammar; there is the philosophy of history, the philosophy of law, the philosophy of the inductive sciences; there is the philosophy of colors, the philosophy of music, the philosophy of dress, the philosophy of manners, the philosophy of cookery, the philosophy of building, etc. All imaginable topics reveal an aptitude for philosophic treatment, and pretend to furnish a basis for some special philosophy. It would occasion no surprise to encounter a philosophy of jack-straws, and other infantile amusements. There must be some legitimacy, however slight, in these numerous pretensions, some semblance of truth in such easy assumption, or such professions would not continue to be repeated and tolerated. There must be some common element, some cord of similitude, uniting together under one category these multitudinous forms of inquiry, and the unnumbered inquiries which are left unnamed.
Scope of the Term. — The word philosophy first appears in the Father of History. It is applied by Croesus to Solon, in his travels in search of knowledge and information, and is used as almost equivalent to theory, which in the context means scarcely anything more than sight-seeing or observation (Herodot. 1:30). It next appears in Thucydides. Pericles speaks of the Athenians as "philosophizing without effeminacy," where the term seems to denote the acquisition of information and culture (Thuc. 2:40). The origination of the word is ascribed to Pythagoras in a familiar anecdote, which reports that, being asked by Leon, the chief of Phlius, "What were philosophers?" he replied, with a happy allusion to the concourse at the Olympic Games, that " they were those who diligently observed the nature of things," calling themselves " students, or lovers of wisdom," and occupied with "the contemplation and knowledge of things" (Cicero, Tusc. Qu. 5:3, 9). He is supposed to have thus repudiated the designation of "wise man," or "sophister," previously in vogue, and to have modestly proposed in its stead the appellation of "philosopher," a lover of wisdom. The authenticity of the anecdote has been gravely questioned; and the designation, alleged to have been rejected in this manner, continued in habitual use, with no invidious sense, and was applied to Socrates and the chiefs of the Socratic schools (Grote, Hist. of Greece, part 2, volume 8, chapter 67, page 350). To the numerous passages cited by Grote may be added Androtion, Fr. 39; Phan. Eretrius, Fr. 21; and Synesii Dio, apud Dion Chrysostom, 2:329, ed. Teubner). The censures of the Sophists by Plato and Aristotle, the character of the Socratic teaching, and the almost exclusively inquisitive and indeterminate complexion of the Platonic speculation, appear to have given currency to the designation of philosophy, as a more modest and inconclusive appellative than "sophia," or wisdom.
Originally, then, philosophy imported only the loving pursuit of knowledge, without any implication of actual attainment; but it soon acquired a more positive and distinct acceptation. In the Republic Plato defines philosophy as "the circuit, or beating about of the soul in its ascending progress towards real existence;" and declares those to be philosophers "who embrace the really existent," and "who are able to apprehend the eternal and unchanging." In the Euthydemus he goes farther, and describes philosophy as "the acquisition of true knowledge." In the definitions ascribed to Plato, which, though not his, may preserve the tradition of his teaching, it is only "the desire of the knowledge of eternal existences." Xenophon rarely employs the term, but applies "sophia" to the Socratic knowledge. In one passage where he uses it it signifies the knowledge and practice of the duties of life (Mem. 4:2, page 23).
A great step towards the definite restriction of the meaning of philosophy was made by the Platonic writings, though the name continued, and has always continued, to be employed with great latitude. Aristotle, who gave a sharp, scientific character to nearly everything which he touched, first confined the term to special significations, and gave to it a limited and, in some cases, a purely technical meaning. He calls philosophy "the knowledge of truth;" and he endeavored to discover a "first philosophy," or body of principles common to all departments of speculative inquiry, and dealing solely with the primary elements and affections of being (Met. 1:1, page 993; Phys. 1:9, page 5; Simplicii Schol. page 345). This first philosophy, or "knowledge of the philosopher," corresponds to metaphysics in its stricter sense — a division of speculative science receiving its name from the remains of Aristotle, and, in great measure, constituted by his labors. It is the science of being as being (τὸ ὀν ἠ ὄν , Met. 6:1, page 1026; 11:3, page 1060; 4, page 1061). Thus, with the Peripatetics, philosophy included all science, but especially theoretical science, and was peculiarly attached to metaphysical science. With this accords the definition of Cicero, which is evidently derived from Peripatetic sources (De Off. 2:2, 5).
This historical deduction is not unnecessary. Many words grow in meaning with the growth of civilization. Many gradually lose with the advancement of knowledge their original vague amplitude, and acquire a definite and precise significance. The real import of either class of words can be ascertained only by tracing their development through their successive changes. The history of the term philosophy enables us to understand the still subsisting vacillation in its employment, and to detect the common principle which runs through all its various and apparently incongruous applications. It brings us, at the same time, to the recognition of the mode and measure of its most rigorous employment.
Philosophy is the earnest investigation of the principles of knowledge, and most appropriately of the first principles, or principles of abstract being. It is not science, but search (Kant, Program. 1765-66; Sir William Hamilton, Metaph. lectures 1, 3; Discussions, page 787). It is distinctively zetetic, or inquisitive, rather than dogmatic. Its chief value consists in the zeal, perspicacity, simplicity, and unselfishness of the persevering desire for the highest truth, not in its attainment; for the highest truth is, in its nature, unattainable by the finite intelligence of man. It has not, or ought not to have, the pretension or confident assurance of knowledge, though this claim has frequently been made (ἡ φιλοσοφία γνῶσίς ἐστι πάντων τῶν ὄντων, David. Interpr. x. Categ. Schol. Aristot. page 29, ed. Acad. Berol.). It is only a systematic craving and continuous effort to reach the highest knowledge.
"For man loves knowledge, and the beams of truth More welcome touch his understanding's eye Than all the blandishments of sound his ear, Than all of taste his tongue" (Akenside).
Philosophy was called by the schoolmen "the science of sciences;" and wherever the recondite principles of knowledge are sought, there is philosophy, in a faint and rudimentary, or in a clear and instructive form. Hence it admits of being predicated of investigations far remote from those higher exercises of abstract contemplation to which it is most properly applied.
What is man? What are his faculties and powers? Whence is he? Whither is he going? How shall he guide himself? What is this vast and varied universe around him? How did it arise? How is it ordered and sustained? What is man's relation to it, and to the great Power behind the veil, manifested by its wondrous movements and changes? What is the nature of this power? What are man's duties to it, to himself, and to his fellow-men? What knowledge of these things can he acquire? What are his destinies, and his aids for their achievement? These questions, and questions like these, constitute the province of philosophy proper. They present themselves dimly or distinctly to every reflecting mind; and they will not be gainsaid. Our intellectual constitution compels us to think of them; and to think of them, however weakly and spasmodically, is the beginning of philosophy. They all admit of partial solution of an answer at least, which stimulates further investigation. None of them can receive a full and complete reply from the human reasonthey stretch beyond its compass. All of them, in every age, have met with some response, either in the poetic and bewildering fancies of the prevalent mythology, or in the wild guesses of popular credulity; either in the aphorisms of the prudent, or in the conclusions of those who have sedulously devoted themselves to the unravelling of these enigmas. This latter class have been the philosophers of each generation, from the commencement of rational inquiry to the current day, as they will continue to be till the closing of the great roll of time; for of philosophy there is no end.
This constant disappointment and continual renewal of effort are strange phenomena, and have often proved utterly disheartening. Hence has proceeded tie objection so frequently urged that philosophy is ever in restless and fretful activity, but does not advance. The allegation of an entire failure of progress is unjust; but the same questions constantly reappear with changed aspects, and the same solutions are offered under altered forms. But the change in the aspects and the alteration in the forms are themselves an advancement. The true source of encouragement is, however, to be derived less from the progress which can never pass the boundaries imposed by the same old questions than from the knowledge that the pursuit is more than the impracticable attainment — the race more important than the arrival at the goal could be — at least in this finite life, with our finite powers. From this habitual disappointment, and the apparent failures which bring the disappointment, have arisen, too, this variety of solutions which have been proposed for the numerous riddles that philosophy propounds to man. Varro enumerated two hundred and eighty- eight possible sects, apparently on the basis of ethics alone (August. De Civ. Dei, 19:1); and the number of distinguishable schemes of philosophy, to say nothing of diversities of opinion in regard to details, is countless. Yet each of these has contributed something to our knowledge: in the more precise statement of the problems to be solved, in the clearer determination of their conditions, in the refutation of former errors, in the exposure of previous misapprehensions, in presenting the inquiries under new and brighter lights, or in adding to our positive information in regard to these dark and difficult subjects. The gratitude which Aristotle expresses, in a remarkable passage (Met. 1), towards his predecessors, who had gone astray, or who had failed to see the truth, is due to all philosophical inquirers. They have contributed something towards the result, however incomplete that result may remain (καὶ γὰρ ουτοι συνεβάλοντο τι τὴν γὰρ ἕξιν προήσκησαν ἡμῶν; and see Alexander Aphrodis. Schol. Aristot. ad loc. ἡ γὰρ τὼν καταβεβλημένων δοξῶν εὐπορία εὑρετικωτερους ἡμᾶς τῆς ἀληθείας παρασκευάσει).
History of the Subject. — The hopelessness of satisfactory attainment, with the inevitable persistency of the search, and the gradual approximation, or appearance of approximation, to a goal which is never reached, but is ever receding, eventuate in changes, expansions, fluctuations, and revolutions in opinion, which are recorded and appreciated in the history of philosophy. This history chronicles the origins and original phases of philosophical inquiry, its mutations, progresses, and recessions, and the causes of them; it notes the introduction of new doctrines, new methods of procedure, new modes of exposition; the dissensions and controversies which spring up and minister to new developments; the reduction of kindred views to a coherent body, and the constitution of sects and schools; the fortunes of such schools, the development or perversion of the sev. eral successive or contemporaneous schemes of speculation in the bosom of the schools themselves, either in consequence of their own internal activity, or of the necessities suggested or enforced by external attack. In this manner, and from these motives of change, philosophy exhibits unceasing activity and frequent novelty of form, notwithstanding the substantial identity of the questions debated, and the sameness of the ground surveyed. In these vicissitudes of opinion there is, however, an element which ought never to be overlooked, and which gives an immediate and urgent interest to all the variations. The philosophy of an age or sect is largely influenced by recent experiences, and by the present demands of the society or circle to which it is addressed; and, in turn, it exercises a most potent influence in determining the views of the rising and succeeding generations, not only within the range of theoretical inquiry, but also in government, social organization, manners, habits of thought, arts, and in everything which concerns the daily life of the people. The condition of Athenian politics and morals directly engendered the Socratic inquiries and the Socratic schools. The personal degradation and servility of the Romans under the empire provoked the revival and ardent advocacy of stoicism. The repugnance to Islamism, and the dialectical needs of Christendom, gave birth to medieval scholasticism. The antagonism which issued in the English commonwealth furnished the hotbed in which germinated the philosophy of Hobbes. Locke and the encyclopaedists were the prophets and guides of the French revolutionary spirit; and the materialism of the current years has received form as well as vitality from the predominance and achievements of the physical sciences, and the enormous fascinations of material interests and gratifications. Thus the alternations of philosophy explain and are explained by the concurrent modifications of society.
The history of philosophy admits of two distinct principles of division, both of which are simultaneously employed. It may be divided either with reference to its special subject-matter, as a part of the general domain of philosophy, or with reference to its chronological successions. Each of these distributions of course permits further subdivision.
Plato practically, though not expressly, divided philosophy into dialectics, physics, and ethics, including theology and much of metaphysics, along with natural philosophy, under the head of physics. SEE PLATONIC PHILOSOPHY. The division of Aristotle is indistinct and apparently variable. But he did not complete his system. His metaphysics, which corresponds nearly with his first philosophy, or with philosophy in its strictest sense, was an incomplete collection of unfinished papers, gathered and arranged after his death. Science, or knowledge, he distributes between practice, production, and theory (Metaph. 6:1, Frag. 137, page 94, ed. Didot). Ueberweg mistakes this for a formal division of philosophy, but the third head is the only one to which Aristotle would have assigned the name of philosophy. He elsewhere distinguishes theory into physical, mathematical, and theological-the last corresponding with philosophy proper (Metaph. 11:7). In one of his fragments, philosophical problems are declared to be of five kinds: political, dialectical, physical, ethical, and rhetorical (Aristot. Frag. 137, page 108). This division excludes the greater part of philosophy. The uncertainty and confusion which these several divisions are calculated to produce may be accounted for and excused by the loose acceptation of the term physics in the Socratic schools; and by the fact that metaphysics, or philosophy, in Aristotle's estimation, lay beyond the domain of physics. Dividing philosophy into metaphysics,physics, and ethics, we now habitually exclude physics, or natural philosophy, and set it apart as the realm of exact science. The other two are assigned to philosophy. But metaphysics and ethics may be united as together constituting philosophy, or they may be kept distinct and variously subdivided. Sir William Hamilton, who, in deference to the narrowness of the Scotch school, at times almost identifies psychology with philosophy, enumerates, by a strained construction, five branches of the former: logic, ethics, politics, aesthetics, and theology (Metaph. lecture 3, page 44). Remusat incidentally distributes philosophy under the five heads of psychology, logic, metaphysics, theodicy (or the philosophy of religion — theology), and morals (Vie d'Ablard, liv. 2, chapter 3, volume 1, page 351 sq.). Ampere, in his ingenious and fantastic classification of human knowledge, by a septuple series of violent dichotomies, manufactures eightyfour distinct departments of philosophical inquiry. For the present purpose, the sufficiency or the insufficiency, the validity or the invalidity, of these various divisions and subdivisions is unimportant. The history of philosophy includes them all, either as definite members or as subordinate parts. Each may be treated separately, or all may be embraced in one treatment, or a distinct discussion may be bestowed upon several of them combined in one view. Thus there may be a history of mental philosophy, and a history of ethics, like the supplements of Dugald Stewart and Sir James Mackintosh to the Encyclopedia Britannica; or a history of logic, like Mr. Blakey's very feeble treatise on that subject; or a history of heretical opinions, like those so common in the earlier ages of the Christian Charch; or a general history of philosophy, like Brucken's or Tennemann's or Ueberweg's. This is. the mode in which the history of philosophy may be divided.
The other process of division regards primarily the Succession of philosophical systems, or of philosophical schools, where the systems are identified with particular schools. A very loose and general distribution of this kind is.into ancient, mediseval, and modern, each of which has often been handled separately. The distinction between these divisions is mainly the difference of time. They frequently run into each other. In many characteristics, both of doctrine and method, they repeat each other. The scholastic procedure is discernible in Plotinus and Joannes Damascenus, while John Scotus Erigena approached more nearly to the NeoPlatonists than to the schoolmen. Occam and Gerson exhibit many modern features; and among the moderns there are many wide differences, not only in doctrine, but in character. Hence other divisions, more precise than are attainable by these indistinct chronological periods, have latterly won more favor. The following may be offered as an example of such distribution :
I. The commencements of philosophy, chiefly among the Orientals, with whom philosophy, mythology, and the ology were inseparably intertwined.
II. The philosophy of the Greeks, which comprehends of course the philosophy of the Romans, as it was essen tially Greek from Cicero to Boethius.
III. The philosophy of the Schoolmen, which in part overlaps modern systems. To this the philosophy of the Jews and Saracens may be joined as an appendix, since it affords the transition to it from the Greeks.
IV. The philosophy of the Renaissance, or Transition Age, commencing with Gemistus Pletho and the Medicean Academy, and ending with Pascal and Gassendi.
V. The philosophy of Modern Times — from Francis Bacon and Descartes. Each of these periods has many subdivisions, which have been variously constituted by different historians, and necessarily vary with the variation of the aspects urder which philosophy is contemplated by the several chroniclers of its fluctuations.
Literature. — The fullest repertory of works on the several schemes of philosophy, on its general and special history, and on the history of the philosophers themselves, and of particular doctrines, may be found in Ueberweg, History of Philosophy, translated by George S. Morris (N.Y. 1875, 2 volumes, 8vo). Up to the date of that work the fullest treatise on the subject was H. Ritter's Geschichte der Philosophie (Gotha, 1854, 12 volumes, 8vo). A convenient summary is Maurice's Moral and Metaphysical Philosophy (Lond. 1850-56, and later 4 volumes, 8vo), which gives a historical review of the whole subject. (G.F.H.)