PHILOSOPHY (Part 1) – Our New Definition of Philosophy Compared with Other Definitions of It

WITH God’s help having composed and printed the four philosophical sciences of our new philosophical system-namely, Psychology, Logic, Ethics, and Theology – we have now succeeded likewise in composing and printing this treatise on Philosophy herself, the· queen of sciences. Philosophy’s two essential constituents – her definition and her method – have already been formulated and explained in our “Introduction to Philosophy.” Seeing that the ancient and modern philosophers, however, have conceived and defined philosophy differently than we have, we are first obliged to recite these definitions which have been given to philosophy, and to compare them with our new definition of philosophy, so as to show by such comparison which definition of it is the best, in order that the one and only true philosophy may be distinguished from false philosophy and the several systems of pseudo-philosophy.

The first among Greeks to take up philosophy, Thales of Miletus (600 B.C.), posited water as the principle of all beings, and as the object of philosophy. The natural philosophers after him posited fire, earth, or air, or all these elements together, or the individual particles of matter called atoms. After Thales, Pythagoras of Samos, having founded the school of idealists, or of spiritualists as opposed to naturalists, defined philosophy as the “science of beings as they really are” –

thus discriminating between real entity and mere appearance, and assigning to philosophy a knowledge of the being, or real essence, in each particular being, or really existent thing; and not simply a knowledge of phenomena, or things as they appear to us. But a philosophy having for its object a knowledge of all beings, or even of the entity in all beings as distinguished from their appearance, obviously ignores the one and only object of philosophy by which all beings as well as all phenomena can be understood and explained. And ignorance of the object of philosophy is what constitutes false philosophy. Moreover, this Pythagorean definition of philosophy negates the several sciences, each of which is the science of some being, as the latter really is, of course. For, if philosophy had for its object a knowledge of all beings, the several sciences would have no object, and there would be one science of all beings, philosophy, and no other. Therefore, the definition which ascribes to philosophy a knowledge of all beings as its object nullifies the several sciences and is lacking in truth and correctness, because it ignores the one object of Philosophy and instead takes all things together and speculates un­methodically and mistakenly.

To the same philosopher or to the Stoics is ascribed still another definition, according to which philosophy is defined as the “science of divine and human affairs.” But this definition identifies philosophy with theology and the anthropological sciences, and is shown to be mistaken upon the same grounds as the first. To the same philosopher is ascribed also a third definition, according to which philosophy is defined merely as “love of wisdom.” But what is the object from a knowledge of which the philosopher elicits his beloved wisdom? The definition fails to mention this. Philosophy cannot substantialize through mere nominal definition. Besides, all beings together or only divine and human affairs are not the true object of philosophy. Therefore all three of these definitions of philosophy ascribed to Pythagoras define philosophy mistakenly, and not correctly; for they allot to it objects foreign to its nature and not those which appertain to it alone.

According to Plato, the pre-eminent philosopher, philosophy is defined as “the science of ever-existent beings,” and the philosopher is defined as “one who can grasp that which is ever the same with respect to the same things.” By “ever-existent beings” Plato means the eternal ideas which his philosophy seeks to discover through sensible and apparent things, without having an object of its own to seek knowledge of. Further, according to Plato, philosophy is defined as “meditation respecting death, and assimilation to God as far as is possible to man.” These definitions define works of moral benefit that befit a philosopher, but they do not define philosophy as a science and as distinguished from other sciences by having an object of its own. According to Aristotle, Plato’s opponent, philosophy is defined as the “science of first principles and of first causes” by which all beings are to be studied and explained. But the cause and principle of all beings is one only, the uncaused God, and not many; a definition that assumes many principles and causes of beings is false and fails to indicate the true object of philosophy. On the basis of these definitions of the ancient philosophers, the modern philosophers also have pursued their speculations; some, like the Naturalists, admitting only matter as the object of knowledge; others, like the Platonists, only ideas; and still others, like the Eclectics, conjoining matter with spirit and ideas. All, however, have ignored the one and only true object of philosophy, absurdly assuming philosophy to be the science of all things and of nothing, and calling the sciences of God and man, such as theology, psychology, logic, and ethics, philosophy proper, and identifying these many sciences with the one science of philosophy. All, therefore, who have speculated in philosophy, from Thales of Miletus up to the present, ancients as well as moderns, have ignored the object of philosophy, on which account indeed the misapprehension has prevailed that philosophy has no object of knowledge of its own, or that it has as its object all the objects of all the other sciences, or the common attributes and properties of beings.

But what have we found to be the peculiar object of philosophy? The God-equal Logos, who was in the beginning with God, and who is the principle of awareness and of understanding, through whom I all things were made and all things are explained, and who became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth, named Jesus Christ, the Lord of all. On this account philosophy is defined to be love and knowledge of the God-equal Logos leading to deification. This definition was shown in our “Introduction to Philosophy” to be true and exact in every respect. By virtue of this true definition philosophy is distinguished from the other sciences, and has been shown to be the supreme one of all, their queen and mistress. Together with the definition, the method of this highest science was also described, and our philosophy, having a definition of her own that is exact and true, and a method of her own, has the two essential constituents of every science; and in the circle of sciences she stands out as a distinguished science, the supreme one of all, and justly exercises authority over all others. Owing to this, we are justified in saying that true Philosophy is now for the first time dawning from Orthodox Christian Greece through an exact definition and through an unerring method. By means of her, indeed, both ancient and modern philosophy is exposed as an empty deception that has misled all who have speculated by it away from the universal truth and true knowledge of beings, such as are God, the world, man, and the relations between them. Moreover, true philosophy is dawning attended by four new philosophical sciences – namely, psychology, logic, ethics, and theology – each of which, by means bf its own object and what truths it knows, proves the entity, or real existence, and the truth of the object of philosophy; and through the mouth and testimony of four such philosophical sciences all those who utter falsehood are muzzled and abashed, especially those who insult and traduce the Christ of God in the name of science falsely so called.

We must now make this presentation of the object of philosophy through each philosophical science in conformity with our new philosophical method, according to which he who speculates must first pass through the four philosophical sciences, namely, Psychology, Logic, Ethics, and Theology, in order to discover and show forth by means of them the desirable and amiable object of philosophy. We begin with psychology because in order of knowledge it precedes the other philosophical sciences.

(continued in the next series of articles this week)

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