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THE SENSATIONALISM OF THE SOPHISTS AND ARISTIPPOS'S
What stuff or matter is in the outer world of nature, sensation is in the inner life of man. If we believe that consciousness can exist without sensation, this is due to a subtle confusion. It is possible to have a very lively consciousness, which busies itself with the highest and most important things, and yet at the same time to have sensations of an evanescent sensuous strength. But sensations there always are; and from their relations, their harmony or want of harmony, are formed the contents and meaning of consciousness; just as the cathedral is built of the rough stone, or the significant drawing is composed of fine material lines, or the flower of organised matter. As, then, the Materialist, looking into external nature, follows out the forms of things from the materials of which they are composed, and with them lays the foundations of his philosophy, so the Sensationalist refers the whole of consciousness back to sensations. Sensationalism and Materialism, therefore, agree at bottom in laying stress on matter in opposition to form : the question then arises, how are their mutual relations to be explained ?
Obviously not by a mere convention, which at once sets a man down as a Sensationalist in regard to the internal, and a Materialist in regard to the external world. Although this standpoint is the commonest in our inconsequent practice, it is anything but a philosophical one.
Much rather will the consequent Materialist deny that sensation exists independently of matter, and will accordingly, even in the facts of consciousness, find only effects of ordinary material changes, and regard these in the same light as the other material facts of the external world : the Sensationalist will, on the other hand, be obliged to deny that we know anything whatever of matter, or of the things of the external world in general, since we have only our own perception of the things, and cannot know how this stands related to the things in themselves. Sensation is to him not only the material (Stoff) of all the facts of consciousness, but also the only immediately given material, since we have and know the things of the external world only in our sensations. As a result of the undeniable correctness of this proposition, which is at once an advance upon the ordinary consciousness, and already presupposes a conception of the world as a unity, Sensationalism must appear a natural development of Materialism.30 This development was brought about among the Greeks through that very school which in general struck deepest into ancient life, alike in its constructive and destructive influences,—by means of the Sophists.
It was said in later antiquity that the sage Demokritos once saw a porter in his native town packing together in a very ingenious manner the wood blocks he had to carry. Demokritos talked to him, and was so surprised by his quickness that he took him as a pupil. This porter was the man who furnished the occasion for a great revolution in the position of philosophy: he became a teacher of
30 Compare, in the modern history case of Hobbes and Demokritos. Fr. of philosophy, the relation of Locke ther, we see easily that Sensationalism to Hobbes, or of Condillac tc La- is at bottom only a transition to mettrie. This does not, of course, Idealism - as, for example, Locke mean that we must always expect a stands on untenable ground between chronological series of this kind, and Hobbes and Berkeley; for so soon as yet it is the most natural, and there the sense-perception is the strictly fore the most frequent. We must, given, not only will the quality of however, observe how the sensation- the object be uncertain, but its alistic elements are, as a rule, already very existence must appear doubtful. present in the deeper Materialists; And yet this step was not taken by and very expressly, in especial in the antiquity.
wisdom for gold. He was Protagoras, the first of the Sophists.31
Hippias, Prodikos, Gorgias, and a long series of less famous men, chiefly known through Plato's writings, were soon travelling through the cities of Greece, teaching and disputing, and in some cases they made great fortunes. Everywhere the cleverest youths flocked to them; to partake of their instructions soon became the mark of fashion; their doctrines and speeches became the daily topics of the upper classes, and their fame spread with incredible rapidity.
This was a new thing in Greece, and the old Marathosi The porter story must probably port for the subjective direction of be considered fabulous, although this Protagoras in the theory of knowis a case where the traces of some ledge. If it is proposed to regard as such tale reach very far back. Comp. Herakleitic the origin of sensation Brandis, Gesch. d. griech. röm. Philos., from a mutual motion of sense and i. 523 ff., and, on the other side, object (comp. Zeller, i. 585), the resoZeller, i. 866, Anm. I, where cer- lution of sense qualities into subjectainly too much stress is laid upon tive impressions is wholly wanting in the “scurrility” of Epikuros. The Herakleitos. On the other hand, the question whether Protagoras was a νόμω γλυκύ και νόμω πικρόν,’ and s0 pupil of Demokritos hangs together on (Fragm. Phys., 1), of Demokritos with the difficult question of age dis- forms the natural transition from the cussed in note 10. We prefer here purely objective view of the world of also to leave it undecided. But even the older physicists to the subjective in case the predominant view, which one of the Sophists. Protagoras makes Protagoras some twenty years must indeed reverse the standpoint older than Demokritos, should ever of Demokritos in order to reach his be sufficiently proved, the influence own ; but this is also his position toof Demokritos upon the Protagorean wards Herakleitos, who finds all truth theory of knowledge remains in the universal, while Protagoras tremely probable, and we must then seeks it in the particular. The cirassume that Protagoras, originally cumstance that the Platonic Sokrates a mere rhetorician and teacher of (comp. Frei, Quaest. Prot., p. 79) politics, developed his own system makes the principle of Protagoras, later, indeed during his second stay that all is motion, to be the original at Athens, in intellectual intercourse of all things, is historically not deciwith his opponent Sokrates, at a time sive. Generally it may be said that when the writings of Demokritos the influence of Herakleitos on the might already have had their influ- doctrine of Protagoras is unmistak, ence. Zeller's attempt, following Frei able, and it is at the same time pro(Quaestiones Protagoreae, Bonnae, bable that the elements due to this are 1845), to deduce the philosophy of the original elements to which Demo. Protagoras wholly from Herakleitos, kritos's reference of the sense quali. disregarding Demokritos, splits on ties to subjective impressions was the want of a sufficient point of sup- added later as a fermenting element.
nian warriors, the veterans of the liberation struggle, were not the only conservatives who shook their heads. The supporters of the Sophists themselves held towards them, with all their admiration, much the same position as, in our own day, the patrons of an opera-singer: the majority would, in the midst of their admiration, have disdained to follow in their steps. Sokrates used to embarrass the pupils of the Sophists by blunt questions as to the object of their teacher's profession. From Pheidias we learn sculpture, from Hippokrates medicine—what, then, from Protagoras ?
The pride and love of display of the Sophists were no substitute for the respectable and reserved attitude of the old philosophers. Aristocratic dilletanteism in philosophy was thought more respectable than their professional business.
We are not yet far removed from the time when only the darker side of the Sophistic system was known to us. The ridicule of Aristophanes and the moral earnestness of Plato have joined with the innumerable anecdotes of later times to concentrate upon the name of the Sophists all that was to be found of frivolous pedantry, of venal dialectic, and systematic immorality. Sophist became the designation of all pseudo-philosophy; and long after the vindication of Epikuros and the Epikureans was, to the general profit of men of culture, an accomplished fact, that reproach still clung to the name of the Sophists, and it remained an insoluble puzzle how Aristophanes could have represented Sokrates as the head of the Sophists.
Through Hegel and his school, in connection with the unprejudiced inquiries of modern philology, the way was cleared in Germany for a more accurate view. A still more decided position was taken by Grote in his “ History of Greece," and before him Lewes had entered the lists for the honour of the Sophists. He maintains Plato's Euthydemus to be just as much an exaggeration as the Clouds of Aristophanes. “ The caricature of Sokrates by Aristophanes is quite as near the truth as the caricature of the Sophists by Plato; with this difference, that in the one case it was inspired by political, in the other by speculative, antipathy." 32 Grote shows us that this fanatical hatred was thoroughly Platonic. Xenophon's Sokrates occupies a much less hostile position towards the Sophists.
Protagoras marks a great and decisive turning-point in the history of Greek philosophy. He is the first who started, not from the object--from external nature, but from the subject--from the spiritual nature of man.33 He is in this respect an undoubted predecessor of Sokrates; he stands, indeed, in a certain sense, at the head of the whole antimaterialistic development, which is usually made to begin with Sokrates. At the same time, however, Protagoras has, in addition, the most intimate relations to Materialism, through his starting from sensation as Demokritos started from matter; whilst he was very decidedly opposed to Plato and Aristotle in this, that to him and this trait also is related to Materialism—the particular and the individual is the essential, not the universal, as with them. With the Sensationalism of Protagoras is combined a relativity which may remind us of Büchner and Moleschott. The expression that something is, always needs a further determination in relation to what it is or is becoming; otherwise our predication has no meaning. 34
In precisely the same way Büchner says, in order to combat the 'thing in itself,' that all things exist only for each other, and have no significance apart from mutual relations;35 and still more decidedly Moleschott: “Except in
32 Hist. of Phil., i. 106, 107. basis of the philosophy of Protagoras
33 Comp. Frei, Quaest. Prot., p. 110. in its completion - and not the “Multo plus vero ad philosophiam Heraklitean rávra pei. promovendam eo contulit Protagoras 34 Frei, Quaest. Prot., p. 84 foll. quod hominem dixit omnium rerum 35 Comp. Büchner, Die Stellung des mensuram. Eo enim mentem sui Menschen in der Natur, Leipz., 1870, consciam reddidit, rebusque superi- p. cxvii. The expression of Moleorem praeposuit.” But for this rea- schott will be more fully discussed in son this must be regarded as the true the Second Book.