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Tom 7 Nr 3 (2012)

Początek filozofii. Od logosu do mitu

  • Janina Gajda-Krynicka
19 lutego 2013


The beginning of Greek rational thought is usually rendered as „transition from myth to logos”. This immediate conclusion was popularized by W. Nestle’s work W. Nestle’ Vom Mythos zum Logos. Die Selbstenfaltung des griechischen Denkens, Stuttgart 1940 although its sources can be tracked down to Aristotle’s Metaphysics I, and may be understood in two ways: 1. As a breakdown by rational thought a thinking through „images”, natural in the first stories of „carriers of primitive mentality”, which in Plato’s metaphor of a cave equals leaving by a philosopher the world of images-shadows. 2. As development of a sensu stricto rational thought already present in the myth, which can be rendered as its objectification in a “technical” language, natural for philosophy. Myth can be treated then as thinking via images and logos as discourse, or argument. Both can be rendered as oppositions or, remembering of a presence, function and role of myth in philosophical texts – following W. Jaeger – it can be argued that “myth contains in principle the whole Greek philosophy”. In the vast literature we can a variety of arguments advocating one or the other position. The major problem of relation-ship: myth-logos cannot be unanimously and finally resolved also because of the state of the extant texts of the fi rst philosophers. However, this problem may be also analyzed from a different perspective, posing an important question about the genesis of myth. Myth “tells images”, transferring perceptions of which the subject is the reality surrounding human beings in its order and cause-effect consequences plus conclusions from these observations into a language of a story, which — in turn — will be translated into logos language by philosophy. It is then possible to formulate a thesis that thinking rationally sensu stricto is prior to thinking through images: in the order of being, general concepts, rules, axioms precede images. This thesis is substantiated explicitly for the first time by Plato the concept of anamnesis Meno, Phaedrus, Pheado. If we reject the metaphorical aspect of Plato’s argument, we will be left with the notion that human being is born with a priori qualities which Descartes will later call innate ideas and Kant will develop into a priori qualities of human sensuality, reason and intellect. If we accept, following certain philosophical currents, the existence of such pre-cognitive models, enabling orderly and synoptic perception of first that, what appears to human being in the aspect of reality, which is accessible through sensual observation, and then transfer to the unknown sphere and unravel it, verified by logical-dialectical procedures, we would have to conclude that logos is prior in order of being to myth. Thanks to these models, human being — we will never know where and when he/she lived — in the first acts of perception of reality sees both its order, its rules and its structures, regardless of the fact whether he/she perceived them in qualitative or quantitative aspect. These models shape character and forms of sensual perception, and also determine, articulated in various ways, questions about the beginning, questions: why?, i.e. questions about the cause, but also enable him/her to see necessary cause-effect relationships. One can risk a statement that these models take forms of axioms, which — as most general statements, not required proofs — constitute unquestionable basis of every philosophical discourse. It can also be stated that, beginning with the questions of the first philosophers, the beginning and cause-effect relationships determines every philosophical system. These pre-cognitive models are then prior to “storytelling” in a diachronic aspect. However, even if logos precedes myth, first objectifications of logos take form of a myth — a story. Regardless declared the above equality of judgments about diachronic relationship myth-logos, I accept that certain philosophical concepts may confirm that myth comes from logos. Such a confirmation may be found in a few extant fragments and doxographic testimonies inherited after Xenocrates from Chalcedon, who both ontological spheres and rules archai consciously names after gods of myth. Also the Stoic allegoric and allegorical method may serve as a confirmation of the above interpretation of the treatise About Gods by Xenocrates from Chalcedon and the general thesis that myth-“story” comes from logos: from pre-cognitive models characteristic to reason, objectified in myth, which in turn rationalizes philosophical discourse. Later tracts of Iamblichus advocating numbers of hypostases of the Absolute, and theology of one of the latest Neo-platonic philosophers — Proclus confirm this truth.