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Chapter VIII. Conclusion

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  • Greek Philosophy
  • Logos
  • Via Negativa
  • Linguistics
  • Philosophy


[Extract] The ideas outlined thus far establish the setting in which the via negutiva of late Greek thought was able to flourish. Logos begins as a type of rational account, a canon of material about the world which exists, myth-like, independently of the individual thinker and philosopher. It was a touchstone, an instrument of checking and measuring the validity of the sense-data and notions generated in the human mind. It denoted the language of science, as against the language of common-sense, in much the same way as we might distinguish between the scientist's account of things, and that given in popular lore. Logos exercised a strong fascination over the Greek, in this early period of blooming confidence in the power of rational investigation, and within a short time it came to be seen as having an existence in itself. The Greek tendency is to objectify, to give reality to concepts, thereby creating the material of ontology and metaphysics. The word logos, once isolated as a concept, could not fail to fall prey to this reifying tendency, with the result that even as early as Aristotle, there are signs of logos becoming an originating principle, an arche like that sought by the Presocratic seekers after a single essential substance. The tendency issues most clearly in the creation of a new verb in late Greek, to "enreason" (logoo). This linguistic fact is a most important datum in the history of ideas, since it shows that a new aspect of the word logos was endeavouring to assert itself. Logos becomes a Force, or principle of rationality at work in reality. It becomes an existent.

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