What exactly is Hellenistic philosophy



Philosophy of Hellenism, Late Antiquity and Patristics



Part One:

From the Hellenistic schools of philosophy to late antiquity


Cape. 1: Epicurus and the Epicureans


A. General characteristics of Hellenistic philosophy


            In Hellenism, the unbound individual sought his own personal happiness, because with the polis, not only a fixed political framework but also a generally binding order of values ​​had broken. The relativism of values ​​was further promoted by the fact that one got to know foreign cultures through the discoveries of Alexander. Platonic and Aristotelian metaphysics fell apart in their schools. Plato's dialectic degenerated into hair-splitting disputes, and the methodological independence of the individual scientific disciplines advocated by Aristotle led to mere individual science without an overarching first philosophy. That is why schools of philosophy that go back directly to Socrates ’efforts to address ethical questions prevailed. Aristippus equation of the highest good with pleasure is the root of Epicureanism. From Antisthenes' thesis that virtue, which depends solely on individual strength of character, is enough to achieve happiness, a direct path leads to the Stoa. In their lack of need, the Cynics provoked social norms as something merely conventionally valid and therefore unnatural (sophistic distinction).



B. Epicurus epistemology (canon)


As in almost all Hellenistic schools of philosophy, Epicurus focuses on ethics, which was understood not as a doctrine of dutiful behavior, but of a successful life. The other two philosophical disciplines serve it. Physics is supposed to free us from the superstitious fear of gods and death, and the sensualistic epistemology supports the thesis that the good must ultimately be something that can be sensually experienced, namely a sensation of pleasure. All three truth criteria refer to the sensual: the immediate perceptions, the preconceptions, if I anticipate the individual perception in a general concept of a certain type of perceptible, and the affects or sensations on which practical value judgments are based. Epicureanism is no longer a philosophy of the highest order, but in some cases has the features of a philosophical-scientific doctrine of salvation. Therefore, the followers paid idolatrous admiration for Epicurus and did not deviate from the wording of their master in a sectarian way. There are also numerous verifiable errors among the Epicureans, for example in the thesis that sensory experience is irrefutable because we receive an unadulterated sensory impression (e.g. a fine atomic image) from the object itself. This thesis fails to recognize that directly received sensory impressions in the cognitive process do not appear as independent quantities at all, but that our object experience is always interpreted in the light of our perceptual habits.



C. Epicurean physics


Epicurus Physics extends the materialistic atomic theory of Democritus and Leukippus in at least two points. 1.) Against Aristotle, for whom the spatially extended, if one understands it as such or as a mathematical abstraction, is arbitrarily divisible, Epicurus also assumes something mathematically indivisible. Since these smallest spatial units are all identical, they cannot be the basic building blocks of reality, which must have different shapes. Therefore the physical atoms comprise mathematical ones as their parts, but are really indivisible insofar as they represent that compact matter without a vacuum. Lucretius' argument for mathematical indivisibility, otherwise everything would have to comprise an infinite number of extended parts and would be so infinitely large, is a blatant misunderstanding of the infinitesimal. 2.) Furthermore, Epicurus assumed differently than Democritus: A coincidental small deviation from the straight and equally rapid downward movement of the atoms is the cause of the atoms colliding and thus getting into those movements and interactions that give rise to atomic associations and gradually the entire world that can be experienced originated. Even if we admit acausal chance as possible - an assumption by which Epicurus tried to maintain freedom against stoic determinism - it is still implausible that a mere arbitrary event is the indispensable condition for the emergence of the body world with its essentially regularity Should be done. - The postulate of sensually imperceptible atoms does not conflict with Epicurus' sensualistic epistemology. Because it also allows statements about the imperceptible, as long as they are not refuted by the observation facts. He reckons with several equally justified explanations, which are equally consistent with the observational fact to be explained. But he regards the fact that an infinite number of atoms move in infinite empty space as the only explanation for the phenomena of motion.



D. Epicurus hedonistic ethics


Every human being, indeed every living being, equates the pleasurable with the good and what is to be aspired directly and by nature, but the painful with the bad. In the sense of a pleasure calculation, the person can of course forego present pleasures or even take pain in order to be able to enjoy a maximum of pleasure and to minimize the pain. It is characteristic of Epicurus' hedonism that he knows no neutral intermediate state that is neither pleasurable nor painful; rather, the maximum level of pleasure is already reached when everything painful has been eliminated. One can agree with Epicurus that one does not need to tie the sensation of pleasure to a process (restoration of the natural state) like Plato, since someone can also perceive being free from pain and worries as pleasurable. Indeed, health can be understood as the absence of any pathological disturbance. But with pleasure and pain as subjective experiences it behaves differently than with the objectively ascertainable body states. A completely pain-free and carefree state, but without any positive sensory stimulus and joyful experiences, can be felt pleasantly after a long illness and pressing worries, but it can also become angry if you stay longer and even. This is exactly the indication of a neutral, in itself indifferent intermediate state that it can be like this or opposite depending on the circumstances. Epicurus deduces from this as an ideal of life that an outwardly modest, withdrawn, spiritually undisturbed life is to be striven for. Whoever fulfills the natural and necessary desires for food, etc., the unsatisfaction of which meant pain and displeasure, in the simplest way, has already reached the maximum limit of pleasure. The desire, which is neither natural nor necessary, for selected delicacies, elegant clothing or for political influence in order to secure life can no longer increase pleasure and only endanger mental equilibrium. Mental joy and suffering can be traced back to physical sensations (than their expectation or memory), but they can be more important because they encompass all dimensions of time. Spiritual goods are also required: Philosophical insight should protect against fear of death through the thought that good and bad exist only in sensation, but death as the dissolution of body and soul into their atomic components means the end of all sensation. Virtues in general (including justice based on contract) are therefore not values ​​in themselves, but merely a means of guaranteeing undisturbed peace of mind. Epicurus, however, concedes that friendship is valued for its own sake, beyond the benefit of security. - By transferring the human ideal of undisturbed enjoyment to the gods, Epicurus considers it unworthy of them to worry and to toil or even to punish people about the control of the world.




Cape. 2: The stoa


A. The stoic logic


Recognition was largely understood by the Stoics in a receptive way as suffering. The approval (nI ¥ FO # CªnÇÑ) is not a truly spontaneous moment either, since a cataleptic idea in which we grasp an object has a characteristic of its truth that compels us to agree. - In semantics, they still assumed the sign meanings (n¼HÇIíHªIÎI) between the sign (n¼HÉIÎI) and the designated object (OŒ ¥ r # IÎI). The concrete (audible) linguistic utterance (G ± ÌÇÑ) does not directly designate the material object, but only indirectly via what it means or said (GªFOíI). Among the complete lectas (i.e. the meanings of a whole sentence), the statements are particularly logically significant. In contrast to the Aristotelian syllogistics, which (as predicate logic) depends on the general terms (predicates) and their proportions, the Stoics developed the more fundamental propositional logic (according to today's perspective). It leaves the elementary statements (simple lecta) unanalysed and examines the linkages of statements (compound lecta), namely conjunctions ('and', f), disjunctions ('or', v) and implications ('if-then', É), their truth value alone is a function of the linked sub-statements. The valid conclusions (LªMIOÇFÎd) were understood by the Stoics as complex statements (Lekta), which are always true and can be reduced to five original or self-evident syllogisms. Among these, the Stoics discovered two important rules of inference, the modus ponens: ((p Éq) Ùp) É q and the modus tollens ((p É q) Ù¬ q) ɬ p, which allows a hypothesis to be rejected, when their (empirical) consequences do not materialize.





B. Physics, Determinism and Pantheistic Theology


Compared to the Epicureans, who explained all world events from the mechanically describable movement processes of the atoms (matter) in empty space, the Stoics believed again with Aristotle that they had to oppose the inherently passive, indeterminate matter with an active, formative principle. With Nature ’(qÔnÇÑ) they emphasized that it is a principle of movement inherent in living beings that controls their developments in a targeted manner. ‘Logos’ denotes that a pantheistically understood world reason brings about all changes in the cosmos (understood as a huge organism) and determines their content. "Technical fire" emphasizes the aspect of artistic design. In 'Fire' as in '(Life) breath' (LIªôH) it is shown that the Stoics did not differentiate the spiritual, formal, formative principle from its material carrier as sharply as Aristotle, but even to its effectiveness in the material world to ensure, to equate with a fine matter that can penetrate and rule through everything. Of course, they did not understand this matter in mechanistic but rather vitalistic categories, as did Epicurus. - They looked at the immanent cosmic reason from the point of view: reasonable providence, fate, Zeus. Since they saw the existence of God proven by the consensus gentium, the natural intuition of all peoples about God, they took the allegorical popular religion (Zeus) very seriously. - Since they understood nature teleologically (and anthropocentrically in the sense of an external expediency for humans), they assumed an orderly world reason, which determines everything irrevocably causally: necessity of fate (ªDHÑH ± I¼). However, this is not blind skill, rather the complete causal connection only enables a reasonable explanation of the world (‘fatum’ from fari ’= to speak’). - The more practical point of view of planning care (LMíIÎÇ, providentia), that God cares best for people, raises the theodicy question to what extent the (pantheistically understood) universe is reasonable and well-ordered.



C. The virtue autonomy of Stoic ethics


The Stoics considered deterministic physics compatible with ethics that presupposed freedom and responsibility. The external causes (external world stimuli) standing in an unbreakable causal connection only provide the immediate impetus. It is up to the person and his character how he acts on it. In terms of character disposition, a person cannot act differently at the moment than he actually does. But he has the possibility to influence this disposition in the long run. Because for the Stoics the irrational impulses do not arise from any part of the soul independent of reason, but are a failure of reason to be overcome through progress in knowledge. How this long-term formation of the soul is to be excluded from the causal connection, the Stoics are unable to give a plausible explanation. - In its demand to live according to nature, the Stoic ethics seem to want to derive the moral ought first from a given natural order (being) in a naturalistic way. So it is based on the natural striving for self-preservation of all living people, i.e. for what is proper, beneficial and beneficial to them. The values ​​that arise from this are morally indifferent. A natural act thus only fulfills a mere unattainable ideal. The ethics of the old Stoa in its radical either - or would be practically irrelevant, since in fact all people remain fools and miserable and the utopian ideal of the happy sage is of no use to them. For those who progress in the younger Stoa, on the other hand, an unattainable ideal can be a goal and orientation.



Cape. 3: The ancientskepticism


A. Equilibrium of opposing phenomena, abstention from judgment and



The common goal of the whole of Greek philosophy since the ethical turning point by Socrates is the successful life (mostly referred to as happiness). The peculiarity of all Hellenistic schools is the following: A necessary condition, but also a sufficient guarantee of this eudaimonia, is undisturbed peace of mind (! OMÌd), that one remains emotionally unshakable despite all the external confusions of a time of upheaval. With the Stoics, this retreat to inwardness takes on the extreme form that awareness of one's own virtue or conformity with world reason is a sufficient guarantee of happiness. The Pyrrhonic skeptics turned against such theories of the Stoic dogmatists. 'Dogmatist' here means someone who represents a firm doctrine, even down to the last consequences, which can be in blatant contradiction to tangible reality. One such unrealistic prerequisite is the stoic view: simply by virtue of a voluntary decision, a person can declare external goods, which are always endangered, to be neutral in value and thus not decisive for happiness. In a much more realistic psychology, on the other hand, the Pyrrhonic skeptics believed: Since man cannot suppress the evaluations that are imposed on him by natural sensual impulses, but can only transform them into moderate affects, he makes his attempts to arrive at ataraxia reasonable the goods and evils that have become them through conscious value setting. Anyone who evaluates them as inherently good or bad, by virtue of the normative claim contained in such a value judgment, determines whether to strive intensely for them or to avoid them. This, however, affects the peace of mind through feelings such as annoyance at not possessing, excessive joy at acquisition, fear of loss. We arrive at this when we explicitly recognize the supposed goods and evils as value-neutral. Since we are unlikely to succeed in this, the skeptics took the other way, that we should prevent judgments and the resulting confusion by realizing our inability to recognize the true value of an object or its true relationship to happiness and unhappiness. Accordingly, the skeptics tried to climb bliss in four stages. The first stage alone represents a conscious activity of playing off the opposing phenomena of consciousness, both what appears sensually and what is thought, against one another. In the spirit of later phenomenalism, the skeptics assumed that I could be absolutely certain of these immediate phenomena of consciousness; they are unique; they do not seem to behave in exactly the same way in opposite ways (the warm being cold, etc.).But as soon as I try to gain objective judgments or judgments that are equally binding for everyone about objects in the outside world from these subjective experiences, the second stage is the experience of equilibrium (çnÎnC ± IªÇ), that opposing impressions (appearances) and contradicting arguments set us appear equally reliable, have exactly the same powers of persuasion. But this means abstention from judgment («LÎr¿) (3rd level). 'LÎr¿' does not mean, as with stoics and academics, the active pause, the conscious renunciation of a judgment that is possible for me, but rather the passive state of lack of judgment: out of the mental limbo (! MMªsd), that the balance of the spirit If the equilibrium of sensual impressions and rational reasons does not turn out, no judgment is even possible. As this lack of judgment protects against false engagement, it leads to undisturbed peace of mind (4th level). - It is questionable whether epistemological skepticism was used from the outset as a means and whether the failure of the question of truth was developed as a program to reach bliss via ataraxia. Even if the goal of ataraxia is established, it is by no means said that consistent isosthenia is the appropriate means. It seems much more natural (as Sextus himself represents) that man tries to overcome the confusion caused by the conflict of appearances by bringing order to this "anomaly" and separating truth from falsehood. In the face of factually undecidable isosthenies, this undertaking proves to be impracticable. Therefore, the skeptic (consciously) pauses, not in judging, which is not possible from this situation, but more elementary in the search for decision and truth. Ataraxia occurs as a coincidental, completely unexpected result of this pause, admittedly in a completely different form than expected, not by clearing up the confusion of the phenomena, but by avoiding the confusing emotions that inevitably accompany a tense striving through indecision. An epistemological skepticism that is supposed to serve the ethical goal of preventing valuations must nevertheless be a universal skepticism and must not be limited to values. For only with the naturalistic and cognitivistic view that objective knowledge of (metaphysical) nature is articulated in evaluative and prescriptive judgments as well as in descriptive judgments, is the strategy effective to show that such knowledge of nature is closed to man. If only subjective sensations (emotivism) are articulated in value judgments, then there are rather involuntary evaluations from non-rational affects which, according to the Pyrrhones, cannot be prevented by rational considerations. If an ethical goal is to be achieved through epistemological skepticism: happiness by abstaining from evaluations and thereby finding peace of mind, then the attacked position must be an ethical naturalism and cognitivism: only if there is an objective, true or false knowledge in value judgments articulated, which relates to the (metaphysical) nature of things, a skeptical criticism is appropriate, which generally denies any form of objective knowledge. If, on the other hand, value judgments articulate only subjective feelings (emotivism), then they represent irrational evaluations that can only be influenced to a limited extent.



B. If skepticism as a momentary individual experience fails because of the

general principles?


A fundamental skepticism that advocates a dogmatism with the opposite sign fails because of the formal contradiction that it considers the thesis that there is no well-founded, true judgment to be such a true statement. Therefore, the Pyrrhonic skeptics do not take the view that every attempt at objective knowledge must in principle fail because an equally well-founded counter-thesis can be formulated for every thesis. Rather, they understand it only as an experience concerning the individual thinker and the present state of affairs, that to them the contrary opinion seems to be just as well founded for every opinion that they are trying to establish. If such a position fails, it is evidently not because of an explicit, formal, but a pragmatic self-contradiction that the skeptics presuppose something in their argumentative or other practice that contradicts their principles. By not dogmatically asserting a principle unknowability, they obviously want to avoid an internal contradiction, but thereby at least recognize the non-contradiction principle as true. The Pyrhoneians can try to evade this by not treating the contradiction principle as a generally valid logical principle, but only as a 'phenomenon', i.e. something which only seems to the individual that he must base his operations on, but which prove to be absolutely dispensable could. Although this position is formally incontestable, it turns out to be extremely implausible in view of the real circumstances, since it is in no way foreseeable how we will ever be able to communicate something without the principle that we may not repeal what has been asserted at the same time and in the same sense . - Furthermore, it is implausible why he does not strive for a knowledge of the truth if he considers it possible. For a skeptic cannot justify this by recognizing that knowledge of the truth is irrelevant or even detrimental to the goal of happiness. And for the Pyrrhonian, the experience that his search for truth has always failed so far gives no greater probability that it will also fail in the future than that it will succeed in the future. This, too, consequently does not legitimize refraining from the search for truth, a behavior that cannot be explained as suggested by social conventions and customs. The Pyrrhonic skeptics can only report on their (purely passive) experience in individual cases, but have to reject any generalization, since this presupposes an insight into factual relationships or the nature of things, which is such that it makes a decision impossible. Even if such a position is consistent, it apparently renders it incapable of living, since the skeptics are forced to treat each case from scratch and they are deprived of an essential element of human thought economy that they can learn from past experiences for future cases. Strictly speaking, they should not even generalize in terms of plausible principles of use. But they do this in their mottos (qtId) and especially in the tropics.

The ten tropes of the ainesidemic try to explain to what extent the same can lead to completely conflicting phenomena of consciousness by referring to the diversity of the cognitive subjects, the organs, states, media, standpoints of perception and habits. In doing so, however, they do not yet show that such a conflict is undecidable. Ainesidemos rightly emphasizes that it is impossible for us to have a neutral state outside of the conflicting phenomena, from which we can distinguish with absolute certainty between reliable and deceptive phenomena. However, by means of an immanent comparison (for example of internal coherence) we can make a relative judgment that the phenomena in the waking state are more reliable than those in sleep. - The five tropics of Agrippa try to show the undecidability of the conflict in a systematic argumentation. Here they correspond to the Münchhausen trilemma of critical rationalism (Hans Albert), if one regards the conflict as the starting point of the five tropes, but the relativity as the result: If all attempts to grasp the matter absolutely, end in an undecidable conflict, so can one always speaks of it only in relation to the special conditions of a particular subject. The fact that the Pyrrhones try to conceal this factually existing system as incompatible with their approach through the sequence of the tropics makes their undertaking suspect. The starting point of the trilemma is, for example, that sensory perception and rational thinking provide evidence that contradicts us and therefore require verification and confirmation. If one justifies sensory perceptions by others, according to the rational insights, then it comes to one infinite regress; if one justifies both of them, it means one Circle. The only way to avoid this is to use a third form of argumentation error, namely that one is arbitrarily one unproven assumption makes. Even if these arguments show that there are no truths ultimately founded on an unequivocal foundation, they in no way exclude that something can be decided in the sense of greater plausibility. A disjunction of two tropes shows that the conflict is inevitably undecidable. Since there is a conflict, none can be evident and graspable from within; But if one tries to grasp something from something else without being able to trace it back to something self-evident, one gets into this trilemma. Another list of eight tropes opposes causal explanations. If the skeptic excludes any knowledge of general relationships, even in the case of logical laws, then all the more so in the case of real causal relationships that allow accurate prognoses to be made. - If you use a counter-argument against a stoic thesis (there is a truth criterion, Providence rules the world), you do not want to overturn this thesis definitely and justify the opposite in a negative dogmatism. Rather, they presuppose the assertion as sufficiently established by evidence and general recognition, merely want to give consideration to a less-noticed opposite possibility of thinking as just as well justifiable and thus create an isosthenia. For the sake of consistency, the skeptic cannot claim to put forward a (counter) argument. (For to do this he would have to acknowledge the underlying logical principles.) Rather, he reports only on an inner experience that he finds an equally convincing counter-opinion to every opinion. According to this, isosthenia is not something that was brought about with forethought, but something that was experienced against one's will. (A consciously brought about equilibrium would have to be recognized by them as beneficial to happiness. But can such indecision not exactly worry?) Even if distrust of definite truths in the face of errors is natural and obvious, so must (as skeptical practice shows ) a complete argumentative and phenomenal balance can be achieved through sophisticated arguments. Even if Agrippa's tropics make a final, well-founded truth doubtful, it is by no means excluded that one is more plausible than the other.



C. Is it possible to live skeptically without personal value decisions?


The opponents always accused the skeptics of taking their doctrine ad absurdum through their lives. Either skepticism thwarts every higher life, which essentially consists of striving and avoidance, and leads to vegetation like plants. Or the skeptic contradicts himself through his actions by making decisions in extreme situations like anyone else who has convictions. - Sextus replies that the skeptics without dogmatic convictions, in that they pay attention to the phenomena, live according to the observations of the lifeworld. He counters the accusation that life consists essentially of doing, that it requires a decision to strive for or avoid, or, more elementary, to be active at all: It is impossible to be completely inactive. But even if the external result may be the same, two cases must be differentiated here. Actual action is only given when I consciously refuse to do something. If simply nothing at all comes about out of indecision, this is to be regarded as inaction, which of course is also responsible. So inactivity is theoretically possible, even though one is not able to survive that way. - In the concept of lifeworld observation (¢ ÇtOÇF¿ O¿M¼nÇÑ) articulates: At the time of the skeptical experience that all evaluations are questionable, the person is in the middle of life, which is as biologically conditioned as by a historically, geographically, culturally developed way of life is. Here a life without individual values ​​and decisions is possible according to a kind of analogy to the law of inertia: I do not need to decide whether I want to remain inactive or if I want to continue doing habitually. The behavior of the skeptic is determined as follows: 1.) by a natural endowment with capacities and dispositions, 2.) by the compulsion of body-related drives and emotions, 3.) that he behaves as one based on social conventions and traditions of expects him and 4.) that he exercises practiced artistry. - In the framework set by these four determinants of the life world, the concrete decision grows through the phenomena of how the current situation affects me sensually. If an unambiguous decision to act is always to be made, opposing claims must never lead to an undecidable conflict. Now, however, there is often a conflict of values ​​between the social norms of behavior, which require a mastery of affect, and the affects, which appear to be original, given by nature and therefore as unreservedly satisfactory as possible. This conflict can hardly be resolved on the basis of the matter without its own values. In pluralistic societies, the individual is confronted with competing values ​​in his or her immediate environment. Furthermore, these behavioral standards only determine a certain type of action. Concrete action under the specific conditions of the individual case may very well make decisions necessary. In order to be undogmatic, the skeptic is obliged to adopt the value systems necessary for viability from others. Skepticism is thus a parasitic position that cannot be generalized and that presupposes that there are non-skeptics who establish hierarchies of values. Since the skeptic has given himself up to any critical judgment of his own, he must ultimately live completely passively and externally according to his biological nature and the worldview into which he happened to be born. - By letting everything become indifferent, you will certainly save yourself unnecessary worries. Fortunately, this attitude only leads when lower goods become indifferent in favor of higher ones. It must be enough if such a higher happiness, if not impossible to lose, is at least more self-sufficient than external goods. Whoever declares all valuations indifferent with the skeptics is more likely to cause an inner emptiness than being filled with happiness.



D. The moderate academic skepticism


The academic skeptics ruled out an objective knowledge of the truth because one cannot determine the correspondence of one's own ideas with the objects of imagination. But subjectively we are very well able to differentiate more or less reliable ideas from one another by comparing the conditions under which an idea came about. We can judge the probability.




Cape. 4: Plotinus and Neoplatonism


A. Spiritual historical reasons of effectiveness:

the objectively analyzing and the subjective-mystical tendency

Neoplatonism owes its astonishing intellectual historical effectiveness (from Christian philosophy especially of the Church Fathers to Renaissance humanism to Romanticism and the temporally and spiritually close German idealism) even more than its rank to the fact that it corresponds to a deep emotional need of many people who In addition to astute analytical rationality, feel the mystical tendency to divine oneself, ie to penetrate through all the alienations of everyday life to the true self or to the divine in one's own soul and to unite this with its origin in God. In particular, Neoplatonism corresponded to two characteristic tendencies of its time, the striving for personal fulfillment (1) and the syncretic tendency (2). To (1): Although Plotinus felt himself to be a faithful interpreter of Plato, who explicitly expressed the quintessence of the previous philosophy, especially Plato's, he shortened Plato by the public dimension, i.e. the effort to shape politics according to philosophical drafts.Plotinus intensified the retreat to the private (one's own happiness), which began in Hellenism, to the mystical disregard of all external things. To (2): The syncretism in the broad sense, that different beliefs and philosophical worldviews are mixed, is related to this withdrawal to the private. If there are no binding public norms, the individual chooses from the ideological offers, especially those who promise him individual salvation, that from which he expects the most personal fulfillment. Even in Plotinus, an interest in Far Eastern philosophy can be ascertained, to which he was at least spiritually close, even if there should have been no actual influences. Plotinus took up suggestions from many directions of Greek philosophy, in addition to Platonic and Aristotelian also stoic (doctrine of the logos as a providence that guides the world), but penetrated them in a very original way and transformed them in the sense of his teacher Ammonios Sakkas. Since he not only wrote nothing, but also imposed the duty on his students in the sense of mystical secret doctrines to remain silent about his actual views, it cannot be determined how far he has already had the basic Neoplatonic ideas. In the subjective, religious-mystical, as in the objective, philosophical, more precisely metaphysical-cosmological approach, Plotinus strives for the one as the all-encompassing principle that surpasses all delimiting opposites. Objectively-ontologically, Plotinus analyzes the layers of being (hypostasis) in the terminology of Greek philosophy and asks in the tradition of cosmologies for the highest cause of everything that can be experienced, tries to rise from the observable many to the one, without which there could be no being, no multiplicity. According to a mystical principle of knowledge, the like is known of the like. In order to be able to grasp the divine One, the soul must therefore be similar to it. Therefore it is ultimately just another aspect of the same that man finds the divine within himself. This gives Neoplatonism a peculiar double character. It is undeniably a philosophy of great intellectual sharpness and analytical power. If, however, philosophy has to present comprehensible and verifiable arguments for everyone, the statements that presuppose a primordial and therefore not actually indirect mystical experience are not philosophy. The core concept of Plotin's metaphysics is therefore not, as in Aristotle’s metaphysics, which soberly and rationally analyzes the tangible reality according to the most general characteristics, the being, but the good and the beautiful, concepts that also promise an existential fulfillment.




B. Breakdown of the Spiritual Realm


One of the main features of Neoplatonic metaphysics is to develop hierarchies of spiritual entities, preferring threefold structures that, like the ternary: Being, Life, Thinking, have stimulated the Christian speculations about the Trinity and continued through to Hegel's dialectical three-step. While Plato contrasts the sensible world as a whole with ideas as the intelligible realm, Plotinus knows purely spiritual hypostases: one, spirit (ideas), soul. In a emergence from the One, in which the unity dwindles more and more in favor of a plurality, the spirit (IÎôÑ) first emerges from the One, which thinks itself and thinks as its contents of consciousness all thinkable intelligible contents, so that it communicates with the Realm of ideas or the intelligible (FínHÎÑ IμOíÑ) can be equated. The individual souls are more diverse and the material individual things even more diverse than that which ultimately emerged from the One. Although spirit and soul have already emerged from the One, Plotinus evaluates them as hypostases, i.e. as fundamental or independently existing in contrast to the material as derived being. By Plato the highest as idea considered as good, he does not, like Plotinus, know a principle above ideas. In the allegory of the sun, of course, the beginnings of the negative theology so characteristic of Neoplatonism can already be found: the highest cause does not have the determinations of what is caused; the idea of ​​the good as the cause of being stands itself above being («L ± FªÇI OÃÑ ÎnÇÑ). In this sense, the Neoplatonists looked for a cause that no longer has a definite, distinguishing content like the ideas they caused, but rather, as the one, deals with all opposites in the undivided one. Plotin's successors, especially Iamblichos and Proclus, strengthened the tendency to subdivide the realm of the spiritual into ever finer hierarchies. In addition to the conceivable objects, they also postulated diverse thinking and purely spiritual beings, so that Christian Neoplatonists (from Pseudo-Dionysius Areopagita) assumed entire hierarchies of angels.



C. The emanations from the One


The individual layers of being of Plotinus can be presented in ascending or descending order. The ascent is the order of knowing, which leads the experienced diversity back to the one as a principle. For such an ascent, Plotinus can rely on Plato Symposium support. In the physically beautiful we experience a positive determination and to that extent an abundance, but at the same time a lack. This evokes in us an eros or a philosophical striving to arrive at the idea of ​​beauty, that which is truly beautiful. While this path of thought ends with the one-good, the descent or the emergence of the less perfect from the principle as the ontological path does not stop with matter as the lowest level, but is counteracted by a return to the origin. These opposing tendencies do not only rule as a whole, but are constitutive for each individual being, which must constantly emerge from the One and only find its real being in its turn to it. From the character of the one as overflowing abundance, as an active force which urges it to develop, it follows that something can emerge from itself. But what is produced must be less perfect than its origin. It can neither be of the same kind and perfection, because it is not so different, nor more perfect, because an effect draws every positive determination from its principle. While the Christian Creator God created the material world directly, the physical world emerges from the one good only in a successive process in which the unity decreases more and more and the multiplicity increases. The spirit that emerged first is no longer completely one, because it is identical with the cosmos of the ideas it has thought, which represent intelligible contents that are different from one another. Yet it has a higher unity than the soul (next hypostasis). Your discursive thinking goes through different thinking contents one after the other and puts them together. The spirit, on the other hand, grasps the whole at once in an intuitive overall view, just as, according to Plato's doctrine of the unity of virtues in the individual virtue, the totality of virtues becomes tangible. The soul mediates between spirit and body world: In itself a spiritual faculty, the individual soul functions as the unity principle (nature) of the many body parts. Below the body, which has a form (idea) and thus a uniform structure (albeit as an image), comes the matter, which is completely dispersed as the completely amorphous substrate of the body. Plotinus vacillates whether he should regard matter as the last of the ever more diverse forms emerging from the One, or as counter-reality and the root of evil. - In the case of metaphors such as emanation, inappropriate connotations must be kept away from the sensitive area. Since that which flows out of the One is of a spiritual nature, this flow does not diminish it like a physical mass. Plotinus uses another metaphor to illustrate the not-flowing out: the one as a source of light or sun, which is unchangeable for ancient cosmology. He also uses this to clarify the gradual progression. Something does not necessarily need from the light source, but can be illuminated by an illuminated one. Furthermore, the natural images (shadows, reflections), which are inevitably given with light, show: With the one - good, spirit, soul, world are also necessary, albeit in a derived necessity.



D. The one


Whoever tries to give an ultimate justification cannot be satisfied with an immanent cause belonging to the same level of being as what has been caused, but has to look for a transcendent cause. The highest of what has been accepted by philosophy up to now: the ideas (Plato) and the self-thinking divine spirit (Aristotle) ​​are equated by Plotinus. Since the divine spirit does not completely transcend the diversity of the sensory world to be founded because of the diverse contents of thought (ideas), it must be traced back to the completely one or simply simple as the ultimate cause. The one must therefore transcend the determinations of the spirit to be the truly knower and the determinations of the ideas to be what is truly beings and what is truly knowable. Something can only be recognized in predicative determinations, which must have a well-defined content, i.e., a content that is differentiated from others. This contradicts the One as the All-encompassing. We can only make positive statements about the role of the one as an all-encompassing principle, because these statements actually speak about the relationship of the dependent to the one. On the other hand, we are only allowed to speak of the one himself in negations. These must of course not be misunderstood in the sense of "Omnis negatio est determinatio" in the sense of the complementary determination: If the divine One as the transcendent cause of thinking is to negate the determined determination, then it is irrational. In the superior sense that is compatible with its unconditional simplicity, the Neoplatonists can attribute positive determinations to the One such as superior thinking. - Just as the center of the circle is not a geometrical figure as unexpanded, but is present everywhere in the circle thus constituted as a universal point of reference to which every part of the circle line must be related, the one that cannot be grasped as such becomes tangible in the fact that the entire cosmos it is related to its origin; just as the good as an unconscious goal underlies all human endeavors.



E. Mind and soul


Like Aristotle, Plotinus understands complete cognition as a way of thinking about oneself, probably because the subject can only be absolutely certain about an object of thought given within. The spirit is an active-creative principle, also insofar as it carries within the ideas the archetypes for shaping all things. This gives it a greater unity vis-à-vis the soul than the passive-receptive faculty. This takes up the different forms (ideas) separately, while in the spirit as origin they are in an undivided unity, just as every proposition of a science includes the totality of science, from which alone it can be understood. The unified metaphysics of Platonism thus includes a holism: In actual intuitive cognition, every idea is a special way, a mode of the whole. - The soul as an individual as well as a world soul has a mediating role between the sensitive and the spiritual world. Even if it cannot be broken down into many parts like the bodily things, it still shows a multiplicity (e.g. of faculties) in its relation to the world of the senses. It passes on the unity which it has received from the spirit as its origin to the physical things, for example by shaping them according to the uniform ideas seen in the spirit. The ethical task arises from the intermediate position, to free oneself from entanglement in the physical and sensual already during their earthly life and to reunite with the good as their origin.



F. Matter and body world

and man's return from it to his origin


Plotinus sees the world of the body as ambivalent. On the one hand, as an image of the spiritual world from which it emerged and to which it leads, it shows unity, reasonable design, harmony and order, although deficient, but in such a way that it could not be more perfect as an image. Dispersion, blind material necessity, conflict of opposing forces and chaos, on the other hand, refer to matter, which as a mere substrate or bare foundation of the physical world lacks all the determinations that make something a sensitive body. (Only something specific is perceptible.) In addition to the Aristotelian substrate view, there is also the Gnostic view of matter as the root of all evil. Although Plotinus sees himself as an interpreter of the genuinely Platonic compared to Gnosis, he is still dubiously close to a dualistic two-principle doctrine: Both the one as the principle of the spiritual world and matter as the basis of the corporeal are completely indeterminate and have none of the determinations that arise from them or on which they are based. Only if one regards the formative, the determining factor as actually real, one can contrast it with the matter to be formed without applying a dualistic counter-principle. - Plotinus consequently avoids a dualism where he does not work with the concept of an absolutely simple but with the Platonic-Aristotelian conception of form. By defining the beautiful in I 6 as fully developed form, when the material is completely shaped by the form, he does not need to define the ugly as a kind of counter-form, but rather as a lag when something does not achieve the form that is possible and due to it . Form here means not only aesthetically the visible shape, but also ontologically the determining principle. Therefore, Plotinus can treat beings and beautiful things as convertible transcendentalities: the ontological rank of a being corresponds to the aesthetic quality as beautiful. Because the rank of being thus represents a value, something is also worth striving for to the extent that it is or is beautiful. Therefore the aesthetic experience can also stimulate an ontological ascent so that the person turns to his own inner being. For when he sees the form of beauty improperly scattered over the multitude of bodily parts, he relates it to the form thought in the soul as a yardstick, which he remembers on the basis of perception. Furthermore, because the soul is form in the sense of an ontological principle that establishes the human being in his humanity, the soul becomes conscious of its own dignity as form on the occasion of the fully developed form of the beautiful. This internalization is the first step of an ontological ascent, which takes place in three stages. The first stage of ethical purification leads from the physical world to one's own inner being. Because since the like is recognized by the like, man does not find the one (the origin) in the outside, but in himself, in that he assimilates himself to it. The flight into one's own inner being does not mean that one leaves the world outwardly, but that inwardly one removes oneself from its evil spirit through virtues which include a positive shaping of the world (against the Gnostics). The second stage, the dianoetic purification, leads from the soul and its discursive talking back and forth to the intuitive grasp of the spirit. But not through contemplation (theory) as with Aristotle, but only in ecstasy, when the person emerges from himself, he reaches his goal of touching the one on the third level.




Part II:

Christian philosophy in the late antiquity


Cape. 1: Aurelius Augustine


A. Unity of philosophical love of truth and Christian search for God


For Augustine, Christian faith and philosophical reason are not independent entities that subsequently enter into a marriage and whose interrelationships remain problematic. Philosophical search for truth (love of wisdom) and believing search for God are ultimately two aspects of the same, namely the way to a fulfilled, happy life, which can only lie in the knowledge of truth and thus of God, who has revealed himself as way, truth and life. When Augustine lived his life in the Confessiones Understood exemplarily as a restless striving for God, God is also present on the wrong track as the goal towards which man was created. In the philosophical truths, too, he has already sought God inexplicably. Truth is not an abstract logical concept for Augustine, but behind it stands a personal God who in his eternity guarantees the time-independent, unchangeable validity. Augustine did very well in the Soliloquia seen: Even from the ephemeral, changeable as content (that the world passes) there can be truth as an unchangeable validity.But since something cannot be true without truth and thus without God, just as God is relieved of all time as the source of truth, it can also only exist from absolutely timeless knowledge and truth in the strict sense. Therefore Augustine not only demands that the truth must apply once and for all (which is also possible with time-indexed facts of experience), but also that it must refer to timeless intelligible contents: the ideas which, as God's thoughts, are the unchangeable archetypes of temporal events . - How does the Platonic limitation of what is actually capable of truth to the unchangeable fit in with the great importance that history, his own life history (Confessiones) and human history (God's state) have for him? Augustine did not only contribute theoretically significant things to historical thinking. His own life and work embodies the restless search, which only finds rest in God beyond life. Hence no coherent system of theology or philosophy can be constructed from Augustine's writings. Rather, they are to be understood in terms of the respective life situation. The early writings want to show, for example, that a well-understood belief certainly meets the standards of reasonableness of ancient thinkers. Late writings that have grown out of a church political struggle against heretics place more value on effectively pointed formulations of the position than on balanced differentiations. Historical thinking is compatible with Platonism insofar as Augustine viewed history teleologically and sub specie aeterni as the development of eternal archetypes and the pursuit of eternal truths. So Augustine can see faith as a prerequisite for real knowledge. A thirst for knowledge that indiscriminately longs for any information (especially about empirical facts) is for Augustine only vain curiosity (supervacanea curiositas) that distracts from central truths. Essential, existentially significant knowledge, such as being aware of one's situation as a human being, requires a return to oneself in order to find the divine or the truth within oneself. The early Augustine still optimistically believes in the possibility of self-transcendence, that man is able to transcend the lower, the changeably sensual decay, through his better self, the rational soul. The goal is of course not the ego, but God, who in the sense of the illumination theory is the enlightening factor or the source of all knowledge - Augustine created the solid foundations of a Christian philosophy of the Middle Ages in a time of political and spiritual upheaval.



B. Stages of Augustine's Spiritual Development


The young Augustine was deterred from studying the Bible in the Latin classics, especially since he was trained by Cicero (as a teacher of rhetoric) because he missed the intellectual level he was looking for, especially the linguistic-rhetorical rank of Cicero. Also webb Ciceros Hortensius, a protreptic writing, awakened a love of wisdom in him, it was only able to satisfy him aesthetically; he missed substantial answers to his urgent search or (as he said from a later perspective) Christ. The Manichaeans seemed to be able to satisfy him formally and in terms of content by presenting their syncretic-gnostic doctrine (self-redemption through higher knowledge) as the better Christianity. Here he found his inner conflict presented in a dualistic way as a cosmic struggle of a light, good and a dark, material principle. But because the Manichaeans were unable to dispel his concerns about the fact that they let God and soul consist of a subtle, light matter, he fell back into an attitude of skepticism or aesthetic nihilism, as he knew from Cicero, the lack tried to compensate for substantial content-related decisions with a brilliant rhetorical form. The transitory stages of Manichaeism and Skepticism left their mark on Augustine. Even after overcoming dualism, the physical has no intrinsic value for him, but should be overcome and lead to the spiritual. He tried to assure himself of the possibility of recognizing objective truths throughout his life by refuting skeptical objections argumentatively and thereby anticipating Descartes' famous argument: Even if I am mistaken, I cannot be mistaken about the mental act of visual deception takes place and that I thus exist as the subject of visual perception. Therefore, at least in this one point, I have certain knowledge and also know it reflexively. In view of the unity of fides and ratio, it is logical that Augustine turned to Christianity and Neoplatonic philosophy as one. Ambrose, whose formally brilliant sermons impressed Augustine, interpreted Christianity in Neoplatonic terms, in some cases he read the Bible allegorically. Until the High Middle Ages it was generally believed that Platonism was the philosophy that most closely corresponded to Christianity. In contrast to the Manichaeans, Augustine could only understand the three hypostases (for him: God, ideas, soul) in a purely spiritual way, and he no longer needed to understand the bad as a dualistic counter-principle, but could interpret it as a lack of being (aprivatio entis) that something the perfection (fullness of being) that is possible and due to its kind is not achieved. Augustine was convinced that this intellectual breakthrough had to manifest itself in an ascetic way of life. Augustine experienced a conflict of wills: on the one hand, wanting new life, but not wanting it as decidedly intensely as he actually wished because of a weakness of will. (Augustine prepared voluntarism by observing such phenomena of will.) As a bishop he had to deal primarily with Donatists and Pelagians. As is typical for many sects, the Donatists championed the ideal of a particularly holy and pure church and combined this with enthusiastic social revolutionary ideas. Augustine opposes the Pelagian view that every person can choose what is good in his own free will, which is not corrupted by hereditary guilt, with a theology of grace based on Paul: man who is incapable of doing good because of original sin becomes incapable of good only through God free choice of grace justified.



C. Time as experienced time


Augustine's detailed account of his intellectual development in the Confessiones does not want to satisfy biographical curiosity with empirical facts about his life, but exemplifies the human condition. It is at the same time a confession of guilt, since every person is guilty in the face of God's absolute standards, and praise for God's grace in life. In the sense of Christian individualism, the life of the individual as an individual is valuable before God, is to be viewed according to specific terms and is not merely an exemplification of a general pattern, as was the case in ancient Greece. - The objective physical time, which is tied to observable sequences of motion, and which allows this to be divided into earlier and later phases and measured (Aristotle), is problematic for Augustine. The past as that which no longer exists and the future as that which does not yet exist are not real. The present, however, in the strict sense of the now point, as unexpanded, is also not a constituent part of a temporal extension, but rather delimits the past and the future. Even in the subjective, experienced time, the now seems to be a point of transition, where what is expected (as future, still pending) becomes (as past) remembered. Here, however, there are three equally justified mental attitudes to the event: I remember something as happened (memoria), I experience something as happening (contuitus) and I expect a future event (expectatio). Here all three time levels are present and thus real: the past is torn from oblivion by the mental ability to represent and made present again or kept present continuously (retention). By directing myself forward to the future (protention), I anticipate it into the present. Also, I do not experience the current event selectively (in this way I could never experience a course of events or control my speaking of sentences), but rather against the background of the past and with regard to the expected future. In the tradition of Plato and Plotinus, Augustine's concept of time must be seen in the tension between eternity and time. Like Plato, Augustine understands time as something created. Plato understands time as a numerically progressing (that is, measuring cosmic movements) image of a persistent eternity. Thus, eternity (aeternitas) as the archetype for the Platonic tradition cannot simply be an unlimited duration (sempiternitas). Since eternity must not presuppose temporality, it must rather be relieved of all change and succession, encompass the entire fullness of being (the totality of contents) at once in an unchanging, always identical present (Boethius: totum simul praesens). What in the physical course of events is a temporal succession of different moments that are causally related to one another, God sees together as a simultaneous totality, the moments of which are dependent on one another in terms of content. The temporal now, which immediately passes away again, is opposed to the persistent now (nunc stans) and the eternal present (in the highest happiness, time seems to stand still). Even the present is only really present in consciousness, provided that only what is permanently present (that is present) is really present, but the physical disappears immediately. Therefore the repraesentatio, the re-presenting of the past or, more generally, of making oneself present (every stage of time), by mentally imagining them. The subjectively experienced time stands in a tension between temporality and eternity. As something extending, expanding, as it demands it in its concept, time is only present in consciousness and is to that extent distentio animi. If the consciousness is able to unite three time stages, which are separated in the real course of events, in a single moment through three differently directed attitudes, it already has a moment of eternity.



D. Analysis of the Spirit illuminates God's existence and Trinity.


While Descartes' goal is to establish human knowledge in unequivocal certainty, for Augustine God is the goal of both theoretical knowledge efforts and practical striving for happiness; the philosophical analysis of consciousness is only a means. Since for Augustine God's existence was actually always certain, he is not just concerned with the naked that, but rather with clarifying what kind of God this is in whom we believe. The proof of God in de libero arbitrio II defines God as unchangeable truth. Since our mind is able to grasp a time-independent validity with numbers, for example, but this cannot be based on the fluctuating and inconsistent subjective acts of thought, our reason refers beyond itself to an immutable truth which, comparable to light, makes any recognition of intelligible objects possible makes. Augustine does not simply re-object the truth too quickly. Against psychologism, Frege and Husserl emphasize that the logical and mathematical validity cannot be reduced to the subjective laws of thought, but must be objectively based on something independently given. - Especially with the speculations of the Trinity it becomes clear that Augustine does not want to pursue a purely philosophical doctrine of God without assumptions, but tries to rationally examine what is believed for its insight according to human standards of thought. Only if one takes the divine trinity as the archetype, one can discover triple structures everywhere in creation, especially in the spirit, which refer to the divine trinity as images or traces. The various Ternars of Augustine all follow the structure of 1.) basic faculties, 2.) cognitive faculties of knowing, 3.) faculties of will or love. In view of the back-referencing of the spirit, these various faculties (despite their content-related independence as subsisting relations) are what they are only in the relational structure, and in this respect they form a unit.



E. Experiencing and wanting


Despite his turn to subjectively experienced, Augustine is concerned with timeless, objective knowledge, the subjective conditions of which he researches. The fleeting momentary impressions would not give rise to empirical knowledge if the memory were not able to hold back traces of past impressions as imagines or to anticipate the future. This is the only way I can classify what I have directly experienced in a course of events and, by comparing things of the same kind, gain knowledge of experience. - Plato already understood in his! I # HI¼nÇÑ doctrine the recognition of intelligible objects in an interplay of forgetting (no current knowledge) and remembering (on the occasion of sensory things that are to be measured against ideas). As a Christian, Augustine had to look for a different explanation, since he did not assume the pre-existence of the soul. in the De magistro he believes that language cannot originally convey insights as a source of knowledge, but presupposes an immediate familiarity with the objects to be designated, through sensory perception or through Christ as the inner teacher. Augustine understands the intelligible here too objectively, as if it had always been there and only needed enlightenment (illuminatio) through the truth proceeding from God in order to become actually recognizable for the spiritual sight. - Since being always emerges from the (still) not being and sinks back into not being (no longer), a creation out of nothing is required. In this way Augustine sets himself apart from Plato, according to whom God only designed chaotic matter, and from Plato's doctrine of emanation. If world events have necessarily emerged from a necessary principle, it must itself necessarily be determined. Only when God has freely made up his mind to create is contingency and freedom possible in it. - The freedom of choice (liberum arbitrium) of the will is central to Augustine. He starts from the reflexivity of the will that we can influence the will ourselves through our will. Throughout his life he has not denied the formal ability of the will to determine whether an act of will takes place or not. Since a will is now essentially directed towards content-related goals, the further question arises as to whether it can also determine the basic direction of the will itself. This is not to be understood in the sense of pure voluntarism, as if the will can set its own basic values ​​without objective requirements and choose a life plan that is not to be criticized from outside. Rather, Augustine assumes an objective order of values ​​in the sense of Platonism. The decision of the will thus relates to the alternative of whether, in love of God (amor Dei), it wants to adopt the objective attitude towards values, namely to love goods according to their objective value, or whether it perverts the order of values ​​in self-love (amor sui) . Those who only seek their personal advantage in deceptive, perishable goods (also in pride in their own intellectual abilities) are enslaved to their own desires (concupiscentia), which can never be satisfied here permanently, so that new desires are always created. Man finds ultimate fulfillment only in the love of God: Enjoyment (frui) or for one's own sake can ultimately only be appreciated by God, while transitory earthly goods are only to be used as a means for the sake of higher goals (uti). With this, Augustine is able to place the root of evil (without Manichaeistically assuming an evil principle) in free will, which is reversed in its direction. The implication of repentance, that man is capable of doing what is right on his own, Augustine later fights in his discussion of Platonism. He developed the doctrine of original sin to explain the fact that people have a certain tendency to love themselves, a tendency to fall into evil. The people who became guilty in Adam are not only bad in fact, but are incapable of having a good will (bona voluntas) to follow God's call. In a free, incomprehensible choice of grace, God redeems some from the great number of the damned.



F. Civitas Dei and civitas terrena: Augustine's teleological consideration of history


By love of God and self-love, Augustine also defines the state of God (civitas Dei) and the world state (civitas terrena).Both are more archetypal forms of a community of reasonable, free beings than they should be equated with concrete, historical communities (church, state). In so far as the concrete, secular states are formally considered to be an association for the sake of a common goal, which pacifies and legally regulates people, they help to overcome self-love, even though the goal in terms of its content: material benefit is worldly selfish. - By seeing in Christian salvation the uniqueness, unrepeatability of the decisive historical events as well as the finality of the resultant, he replaced the cyclical conception of history of pagan antiquity with a teleological, eschatological view: History strives towards a goal with which it ends, that is already outside of history. It thus has a final, extra-worldly meaning. The ancient philosophers, however, also admitted that people, at least individually, strive towards the goal of happiness. The final fulfillment that true happiness demands from its conception, however, is made impossible if the human being in the cycle of rebirths is inevitably condemned to sink back into old misery. Augustine's concept of time is also connected with it: the subjectively experienced time is linear, since consciousness is intentional, directed. The objective, physical time, on the other hand, is measured by the orbits of the stars and the natural cycles caused by them (change of day and season).