Page:Early Greek philosophy by John Burnet, 3rd edition, 1920.djvu/10

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EARLY GREEK PHILOSOPHY

misleading when applied to Greek philosophy) on the ground that "the very essence of materialism is that this material world, this world of sense, is the real world,"[1] and that Parmenides certainly denied all reality to the world of sense. Undoubtedly he did, and, if I had used the term Materialism in the sense alleged, I should have been talking nonsense. As I understand it, however, the "matter" of the Materialist is not a possible object of sense at all; it is as much, or more, an ens rationis as Spirit, and the "being" of Parmenides is the first clear attempt to apprehend this non-sensuous reality. That is, in fact, the main thesis of my book, and the vital point of the argument is my insistence on the derivation of Atomism (which is admittedly materialistic) from Eleaticism, in accordance with the express statements of Aristotle and Theophrastos (pp. 333 sqq.). If that is wrong, my whole treatment of the subject is wrong.

The other paradox which has still to win acceptance is my contention that the opposite view which finds reality not in matter, but in form, the Platonist view in short, goes back to the Pythagoreans, and was already familiar to Sokrates, though it was not formulated in a perfectly clear way till the days of the Platonic Academy. I am convinced that this can only be made good by a fresh interpretation in detail of the Platonic dialogues, and I am now engaged on that task. It is necessary to make it quite clear that the interpretation current in the nineteenth century was based on certain assumptions, for which no evidence has ever been offered, and which are most improbable in themselves. I cannot discuss this further here, but I hope to have an early opportunity of doing so.

J. B.

St. Andrews, July 1920.

  1. W. T. Stace, A Critical History of Greek Philosophy (London, 1920), pp. 46 sqq.