4 minutes • 829 words
History’s form is the presentation of a succession of events and deeds.
The history of philosophy deals with the activities of free thought.
- It is how the intellectual world has come into being, been produced, developed.
- It is the history of thought.
I accept the age-old assumption that thinking distinguishes man from the beast.
- What makes man nobler than the beast is what he possesses through thought.
Whatever is human is so only to the extent that it has thought that is active.
Still, insofar as thought is in this way the essential, the substantial, the active in man, it has to do with an infinite manifold and variety of objects.
Thought will be at its best, however, when it is occupied only with what is best in man, with thought itself, where it wants only itself, has to do with itself alone.
- To be occupied with itself is to discover itself by creating itself
- Thought can only do this by manifesting itself.
Thought is active only in producing itself.
- It produces itself by its very own activity.
It is not simply there.
- It exists only by being its own producer.
What it thus produces is philosophy, and what we have to investigate is the series of such productions, the millennial work of thought in bringing itself forth, the voyage of discovery upon which thought embarks in order to discover itself.
This says in general what our subject-matter is. Still, the statement is so general that there is need to determine more precisely our purpose and the manner of attaining it.
The general remarks we have just made already provide the occasion for further reflection, and it is proper to philosophical consideration to reflect immediately on what has been thought, not to let it be put to use in the way it has been unreflectively thought.
This book is about the series of free thought’s productions, the history of the intellectual world.
The statement is simple, yet it seems contradictory.
The thought which is essentially thought is in and for itself; it is eternal.
What truly is is contained only in thought, and it is true not only today and tomorrow but eternally, outside all time, and, to the extent that it is in time, it is forever, at all times, true.
Now, right here the contradiction immediately appears, i.e., that thought should have a history.
What is presented in history is mutable, has taken place, was once, and is now past, has sunk into the night of the past, is no longer.
Thought, however, is not subject to change, it is not something that has been or is past, it is. The question, then, is: how can what is outside history, since it is not subject to change, still have a history?
The second reflection concerns the relation of philosophy to the other forms and products of the spirit. We have already said that man thinks and that precisely this is essential to him.
Thought has purposes other than those of philosophy, that it has to do with a large number of other objects which are also products or activities of thought.
Religion, art, statecraft, and the like, are also works of the thinking spirit, and yet they must be kept separate from our theme.
How are these distinguished from the activities of spirit which constitute our subject-matter?
Similarly: what historical relation is there between the philosophy of a given time and its religion, art, politics, etc.?
In this Introduction we shall bring out these two points of view in order to orient ourselves regarding the manner in which the history of philosophy is to be handled in these lectures.
These two points of view provide a path to a third, to a division which permits a general overview of the total historical process.
I shall not, however, concern myself with external reflections on the history of philosophy, such as its usefulness and other things which can be said regarding it. Its usefulness will be revealed in the revelation of philosophy itself.
At the end, however, since this is customary, I shall touch briefly on the sources for the history of philosophy. An Introduction should have only one purpose – to give a more precise picture of what our purpose is. The notion which is to be developed here is the concept itself.
This concept does not admit of being proved here (since it is in and for itself); proof of it belongs to the science of philosophy, in the order of logic.
The concept does, however, admit of being made acceptable and plausible by being related to other familiar notions (Vorstellungen) in ordinary cultivated consciousness. Still, this is not philosophical; it merely contributes to clarity.
First, then, we shall consider the concept, the purpose of the history of philosophy. Secondly, we shall consider the relationship of philosophy to other products of the human spirit, such as art, religion, statecraft, etc., and especially its relation to history itself.