Thinking of the ancient Greek philosophers —the key to creation of modern philosophy as an objective science

Presocratic philosophy

Thinking of the ancient Greek philosophers — is the key to creation

of modern philosophy as an objective science

Yuriy Rotenfeld

A new method of adult and children mental development is investigated – the trilogy of mind, which basic operation is the logic operation of comparison. This method was created considering Aristotle's understanding of philosophy as “the science about the first reasons and origins” of cognition, the beginning of presocratic cognition of the surrounding world. This new method is an effective mean of mental thinking development that is oriented at the understanding of natural and social processes with the help of general scientific comparative notions – kinds of opposition, worked out in ancient times.


Key words: Aristotle, Heraclitus, Pre-Socratic, reason, mind, trilogy of mind, paradigm, identical, different, corresponding, opposite.


1. The difference between philosophies of Plato and Aristotle


The philosophy as love to wisdom gains diametrically opposite meaning, which depends on the way we approach to such notion as wisdom. Aristotle radically diverges with his opponent in the determination of this notion. Plato's wisdom inhabited the kingdom of eternal and unchangeable ideas, which create subordination, or hierarchy, and which top is the knowledge about the “idea” of welfare. Therefore, Plato understands the specifics of philosophic thinking as a stage transition from one common notion to another, more common, and even extremely common. With the help of Plato philosophy as love to wisdom became “a system of the most common notions about the world and human”. This approach turned it into mental, abstract-general definitive philosophy.

Socrates', Plato's and Aristotle's antecedents grasped philosophy as the science about the first reasons and origins. These are four kinds of opposition, distinguished by Aristotle in “Metaphysics”: contrary, opposite, corresponding, privation and possession, including the first “origin” and the last “direction”, determined by different kinds of appearance and destruction [1, p. 121 -168].

When people think with these comparative notions, mutual understanding appears among them, as far as these objective laws that lie in the basis of these abstractions have compulsory character. As a result the dictatorship of mind appears and unites us.

Another thing is Socrates' and Plato's “innovative” approach. The reasonable thinking that lies in its basis allows one human being understand under extremely common classification notion, for example, such notion as “courage”, one thing, and another human being - the other. This hinders mutual understanding among people, unlike mind that understands natural and social laws uniquely, reason accepts pluralism of opinions. That is why it often separates people.

While comprehending the studies of antecedents, Aristotle concludes that in order to explain the whole circle of natural and social phenomena we need to proceed from revealed pre-socratic philosophy of objective origins. It is not by accident that the majority of his works, such as “Metaphysics”, “Categories”, “Physics” and also his works in logic and ethics, are built considering the same origins – kinds of opposition.

As for me, I do not have the same aim as Aristotle did – resistance of Plato's ideas spreading. I believe that Aristotle's understanding of philosophy and the way he grasps reality has the same right to exist as Plato's does. Therefore, to revive Aristotle's thinking is the sacred duty of not only his countrymen – Macedonians and Greeks, but also all philosophers who believe that Aristotle was great and who strive to create philosophy as an objective science.


2. Everything is relative


It is not by accident that ancient people believed that cognition was tightly connected to the operation “comparison”, which allows to reveal the initial origins of being that Aristotle named as the kinds of “opposition”. Aristotle named four of them: contrary, opposite, corresponding, privation and possession.

It is amazing that Aristotle managed to determine these initial scientific notions uniquely, to combine them with the experience, to set unique correspondence with each of them and variety of reality objects that are within the definition of these notions.

Each of these four notions – logos resembles objective reality regardless of its natural and social determination, which is crucial in the creation of interdisciplinary scientific method.

As it occurred, “privation and possession” are a special case of “corresponding” when one of its corresponding sides degenerates into “privation”. An example can be a relation between “bigger” and “smaller”. In case when “smaller” decreases to zero, “the corresponding” turns into “privation and possession”.

Therefore, we must speak not about four but about three kinds of opposition, which are presented at the Scheme #1, where such notions as “Identical” and “Different” at the opposite sides of the Scheme determine “contradictory” - one of initial kinds of Aristotle's opposition.

Scheme 1. Aristotle's origins of being in our interpretation.


In order to complete this scheme with categories, well-known in ancient times, which reveal cause-and-effect relations, common for natural and social worlds, we gain the universal paradigm of cognition (meta cognition), which brightly reveals the essence of reasonable and mental thinking, their similarity and difference, their natural interrelation. Moreover, each of the following categories represents more common comparative notion (idea).

Likewise we walk up the stairs, we raise from cognition of identical notions to the comprehension of their further relation and as a result to the creation of more complete theoretic models that resemble the harmony and reasonableness of the universe. Comparative notions are similarly useful in the comprehension of natural and social processes,which determines the unity of natural-scientific and humanitarian knowledge.

Scheme 2. The universal paradigm of cognition

The upper line of the universal paradigm of cognition through such notions as “Corresponding” and “Orthogonal 1 by Pythagoras” allow us to comprehend quantitative diversity of the world, as far as in order to comprehend “bigger” we learned how to take “smaller” as the unit of measurement (statics – metaphysics). Whether the lower line through such notions as “Opposite” and “Orthogonal 2 by Heraclitus” allow us to comprehend natural and social processes (dynamics – dialectics).

Each of comparative notions is a thinking form that reflects order of reality, harmony of one or another structure. Therefore, all comparative notions can be presented in such notions as symmetry and antisymmetry, which complication characterizes gradual ascent of mind, that Plato was unable to achieve in his study with the help of classification notions. Moreover, the dots on the schemes 1,2,3 represent the possibility of further ascent of mind.



Scheme 3. The universal paradigm of cognition, presented in symmetrical categories

The application of notions in upper and lower lines characterizes mental thinking, which implies its two equal kinds: concrete-general (metaphysical) mental thinking and concrete-general (dialectical) mental thinking. As a result the whole process of thinking can be divided into three interrelated logic parts and each part is determined by the primary application of one of these three types of notional means.

Reasonable (philological) thinking as love to the word – is thinking with the help of classification notions on the basis of formal logic laws, which initial thinking paradigm is such notion as “contrary”. Its sides represent abstract endless difference between A and non-A. Therefore, they stand one from another at a maximum distance in the universal paradigm of cognition.

Mental concrete-general (metaphysical) thinking as love to the right word – is thinking with classification (reason), quantitative and comparative notions. Its initial thinking paradigm is such notion as “corresponding” that is followed by other comparative notions of upper line and great variety of mathematical abstractions of different complexity.

Mental concrete-general (dialectical) thinking as love to the wise word – is thinking with the help of classification (reason) and comparative notions, which initial thinking paradigm is such notion as “opposite” . Other notions that follow it are built on its basis.

The first type of thinking reflects qualitative diversity of the world and characterizes descriptive sciences.

The second type is connected with natural knowledge and gives accurate quantitative description of reality.

The third, insufficiently applied type of thinking, is tightly connected with the second and the first. This allows us to comprehend qualitative and structural diversity of the world not only from concrete-scientific but also from dialectical-logic positions and determine the creation of contemporary philosophy as concrete-general theoretical science.

Schemes 1,2,3, presented above, reveal graphically the trilogy of mind as the unity of reasonable and two forms of mental thinking, their similarity and difference, their natural interrelated combination within the framework of formal logic, which is understood as concrete-general method of cognition.

Each logic is determined by its own origin and as a result by language that sets objective points of view in order to comprehend the reality. Moreover, the reason separates abstract differences of A and non-A without accepting them in the same relation: either A, or non-A. Mind, in contrary, grasps concrete differences in unity, as long as one side of “corresponding” and “opposite” as well as other concrete differences cannot exist without the other side.

Proceeding from the above we can see that the struggle between Aristotle and Plato occurred not because of logic or mathematics; here they find mutual understanding. It was a controversial question of the way philosophy should be, which, unlike Plato's understanding as system of more common notions about the world and human being, Aristotle understood as the science about reasons and origins.

As a result we can assume that operation “comparison” is the main operation of thinking. It sets the rise to the whole cognition, while determining the existence of some universal paradigm – the trilogy of mind as a combination of three logic trends, combined with one common idea of comparison.


3. The philosophy of presocratics


The problem of philosophy and other trends of social-humanitarian knowledge is because the notion of “opposition” is now used in wide (Plato's) meaning – as abstract-general notion that includes endless variety of concrete-general meanings. This is the main disadvantage that claims for reasonableness of not only classical dialectics but also social-humanitarian knowledge.

In this relation Aristotle who consolidated with notion of “opposition” only one meaning, as long as he grasped oppositions as “excess” and “deficiency” of one substratum relatively to “intermediate”, occupied the most grounded position. An example can be “bigger” and “smaller” that in relation one to another will be “corresponding” notions, whereas in relation to “intermediate” position they will be “opposites” [2, p.79-86]. A lot of presocratics understood oppositions in such a way and comprehended this relation with the help of a well-known in ancient times “image of scales”. Moreover, most of these philosophers we know thanks to Aristotle.

Another ancient image – is the image of drawing the bow, gave a visual representation of another opposition – orthogonal disposition [3, p. 86-88]; it reveals interrelation of not just one but two interrelated pairs of opposition (dike and adike).

One of them, a convergent pair (dike) is combined to the ends of the drawing bow. The propagandist of this thinking form in ancient Greece was Heraclitus who suggested in order to comprehend cyclic, i.e. exchange processes, to use such notion as “convergent-divergent”, determined by the harmony of “bow and lira”. But all the attempts directed at the implication of orthogonal disposition in the social-humanitarian knowledge that reflects the energy of natural and social exchanges (rhythms, cycles, fluctuations, waves) turned to be absolutely unclaimed. The reasonable thinking of contemporary humanitarians also rejects this abstraction, while showing thereby its disability to become mental. And the result of this is our contemporaries' disability to think over the way the thinking process was proceeding with Ionics philosophers and later with Aristotle.

At the same time, in order to comprehend society, grasped as the process of resources exchange, it is not enough to use Aristotle's notion “opposite”, as long as not just one but two pairs of opposition (dike and adike), according to Heraclitus, take part in the process of exchange. In common they create more complex notion - “convergent-divergent” that combines two processes into one more complex process (orthogonal), like the “cell” that allows to comprehend all exchange processes and their combination.

If antecedents of Heraclitus and Aristotle applied alternately one origin (dike) or another (adike) in order to comprehend the processes of appearance and destruction, Heraclitus, in contrary, found more complex thinking form, thanks to which he comprehended the world order as the combination of exchanges. “Everything is changed into fire and fire is changed into everything, the same way as gold is changed into goods and goods are changed into gold”. Therefore, wisdom, according to Heraclitus, is “to know everything as the one”, i.e. like complex exchange, like harmony of bow and lira. However, the study of Heraclitus was not understood by his contemporaries and by the time of Plato and Aristotle it was completely forgotten.

After 25 centuries we can find Heraclitus wisdom in humanitarian sciences only in the studies of K. Marks and F. Engels who took the exchange of goods as the “cell” of bourgeois society, introduced methods of natural study into the sphere of social sciences. Thereby they managed to make their reasonable thinking rise into a higher mental level that resembles not only logic but also cause-and-effect natural and social relations. In this relation the thinking of K. Marks and F. Engels remains unrivaled scientific-philosophic achievement. Unfortunately, it is impossible to use their dialectical method nowadays, as long as the following generations of philosophers could not lead it to its logic end, to perfection.


1. Aristotle. Works in four volumes. V. 1. Edited by V. Asmus. Moscow, “Mysl”, 1975. - 550 p.

2. Aristotle. Works in four volumes. V. 2. Edited by Z. Mikeladze. Moscow, “Mysl”, 1978. - 688 p.

3. Yuriy Rotenfeld. Non-classic dialectics. - Moscow, “Luch”, 1991. - 184 p.