6.1 To the «Greek Miracle» through Judgements and Tradition of Logos-Agone

6.1  To the «Greek Miracle» through Judgements and Tradition of Logos-Agone


I do not know what I may appear to the world; but to myself I seem to have been only like a boy playing on the sea-shore, and diverting myself in now and then finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than ordinary, whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me.

Isaac Newton

The science, including philosophy, is polemical by its very nature, and polemic is inseparable from agonic.

Johan Huizinga

Philosophers left the sea and settled in cities, left Agora and became the keepers of Museum, passed away, leaving their houses in Athens, and remained alive only as the written words rolled in scrolls and put on corresponding shelves in the huge library of Alexandria.

Robert Brumbaugh

The scientific research of the structure of human society and the intellectual processes taking place in it is a giant task. A society is the most complex of all the alive systems on earth, and our knowledge about it is still very superficial. But I am sure, that man has reached a turning point in his history and now possesses the potential ability to conquer new and unexplored tops.

Konrad Lorenz

Any civilization, deserving to be named so, is engaged in searching truths. Intellectual people could not help trying to understand the variety of natural phenomena, to solve the mystery of man's appearance on earth, to comprehend the meaning of life and to find out the destiny of man. In all ancient civilizations, except for one, answers to these questions were given by religious leaders and were accepted by everybody. The unique exception was the civilization created by the ancient Greeks. The Greeks made the greatest discovery that had ever been made by people, they discovered the power of reason. The Greeks of the classical period, which reached its highest bloom during the period of the VI–III centuries BC, understood, that the person is given the ability to think, given the reason which, leaning on observations and experience, is capable of discovering truths.

It is not easy to answer the question what led the Greeks to their discovery. The first attempts to comprehend the world surrounding man were made in Ionia, the Greek settlements in Asia Minor, and many historians tried to explain it by the socially political situation existing then in Ionia. For example, political structure in Ionia was more liberal than in the European Greece, and that fact caused certain neglect to traditional religious beliefs. However, our knowledge of the Greek history till VI century BC has so fragmentary a character that it is impossible to give any exhaustive explanation to the above mentioned phenomenon.

As time went by, the Greeks started to reflect on political systems, ethics, jurisprudence, rational ways of educating their youth and many other kinds of human activities. Their main contribution, which had a crucial effect on all the following culture, was that they began to study the laws of the nature. [17,Ch.I]

Under this «report of observations» of Iona's phenomenon taken from the book of Morris Klein [17], will reluctantly put their signatures the experts of many other natural-science disciplines tracing the ancient Greek roots. Such is a generally accepted modern vision cliche of the ancient Greek period of the origin and development of the western branch of culture and knowledge. During a surprisingly short period of their rapid development (VI–III centuries BC), comparable in duration with the time of the last impact of science of the new time (XVII–XX centuries), the ancient Greeks made «incomprehensible» discoveries and demonstrated to their descendants the fruitfulness of forms discovered by them and the means of development (stimulation) of rational activity of the person. «Incomprehensibly», as we do not find they had any of sought by us mechanisms and moving forces capable of, according to our theories of economic stimulus, to such an extent stimulating the processes of extremely productive cognitive activity.

The necessary reference to the fragmentary character of the knowledge of this period's history bears eloquent testimony of the absence at our disposal of the theory of human knowledge adequate to the subject and the historical situation. Only the ignorance of true (deep) mechanisms of human behaviour and knowledge makes us unable to see the picture of naturally developing processes behind the well-known facts. Not having the natural glasses-theory, we see only isolated fragments and evidences, persistently refusing to develop into the integral, harmoniously arranged picture. And in despair we pronounce the pagan (prescientific) in its form spell: – Intellectual people could not help trying to understand the variety of natural phenomena… It is difficult to formulate the more ridiculously constructed formula stated by the representative of scientific natural science. Such statement would perhaps be natural to meet in the proceedings of an expert in philosophical gnoseology or methodology of the science, sharing the view at history of culture and knowledge, conformable to ideas of philosophy of history of Hegel.

Historians of culture, science and philosophy saved up enough masterfully executed canvases from the ancient Greek nature. After close and interested consideration of all these canvases from «the ancient Greek miracle», one their general (specific) characteristic property is evident. All of them, though to the different extent, are no more than the «reports of observations» (of historians), insufficiently loaded with the explaining (clearing up) of the natural-scientific models (schemes), capable of reconstructing the naturally working mechanisms responsible for the origin of the represented historical nature.

As in any other act of knowledge and its results (products), the degree and depth of discovering (approaching) the essence of the object of display is defined by a deeply nonlinear formula stated by Alphonse Bertillon: – One can only see what one observes, and one observes only things which are already in the mind. This formula is worth being acquired during the analysis of sufficient quantity of examples and introducing, thus, in working toolkit (consciousness and subconsciousness) of each researcher of a natural-science direction, is worth being called one of the basic laws of «the evolutionary theory of knowledge»Bertillon's law.

«Objective Knowledge. An Evolutionary Approach» (Karl R. Popper)

All this [illustrating the Bertillon's law] is fair as well for the organs of sense. First of all they contain theoretically similar expectations. The organs of sense, such as an eye, are prepared to react to certain selected events of the environment, to such events which they «expect», and only to these events. Similarly to theories (and to prejudices), they on the whole will be blind to other events: to such, which they do not understand, which they cannot interpret (because these events do not correspond to some specific problem that an organism is solving) (see: Lakatos I. and Musgrave A. (eds.) Problems in the Philosophy of Science. Amsterdam, North-Holland, 1968. p. 163).

Classical epistemology, considering our sensual perception as «data» as «facts» from which our theories should be constructed by means of some process of induction, can be defined as the pre-Darwin's one. It is unable to take into account the fact that the so-called data is actually the adaptive reactions and thus the interpretations, including the theories and prejudices and, similarly to the theories, impregnated with hypothetical expectations, that there can not be a pure perception, the pure data, in the same way as there can not be a pure language of observation as all languages are impregnated with theories and myths Z. In the same way as our eyes are blind to the unforeseen or unexpected Z our languages are unable to describe it…

This reasoning that the theory or expectations are built into our organs of sense Z shows that the epistemology of induction meets with failure even before it does the first step. It cannot begin with the sensual data or perceptions and build our theories on them, as there are no such things as the sensual data or perceptions which are not constructed on theories (or expectations, that is the biological predecessors of linguistically formulated theories). Thus, «facts» are nor a basis of theories neither their guarantee: they are no more reliable, than any of our theories or «prejudices», and even less, if it is possible to speak about it at all (for the sake of the argumentation we admit, that the sensual data exists and is not an invention of philosophers). The organs of sense include an equivalent of the primitive and uncritically accepted theories which are less widely checked up, than scientific theories. Moreover, there is no language for the description of the data, that is free from theories Z, because myths (i. e. primitive theories) arise together with a language Z. There are no alive objects (neither animals nor plants) without problems and their trial solutions that are equivalent to theories, though life can exist without some sensual data or so it seems (at least at plants). [40]

While examining through the natural glasses (filters) «the evolutionary theory of knowledge» or «evolutionary epistemology», founded by Konrad Lorenz (in the works: «Kant's Doctrine of the Apriori in the Light of Contemporary Biology» [35] and «Behind the Mirror» [36]), even the «most complete» canvases from «the ancient Greek miracle», to intellectual people should be evident a gaping lacuna in their central part. Either by virtue of the habit formed in the course of time, or obeying the dictatorship of intuition gained as a unit with other acquired natural-science schemes, or by any other reason at present unknown, but we definitely expect to see there the image of the most important «ancient Greek miracle». The concepts about the principles of construction of the natural-science composition, inculcated in us by one or another method, gradually do their business. For some time we also persistently search for the keys that would give us an access to the secrets of the origin of all those miracles that, as if from a horn of plenty, are scattered by a generous hand in front of our confused eyes. We cannot make ourselves believe that in front of us there are consequences of the most «natural» miracle which replaced the whole complex of the naturally generated mechanisms and laws, responsible for the natural formation (φυσις (phisis)) of the whole placer of ancient Greek «miracles».

Even worse is the position of those historians who start writing all these canvases, having before themselves neither natures, nor reliable copies from the canvases written by direct participants of those historical events. One should add to this the absence at their disposal of theoretical explaining interdisciplinary toolkit so necessary in these circumstances, as well as of other independent «means of observation», that have filtering and adjusting systems. Does not the appearance of the epochal work of the Netherlands historian of culture Johan Huizinga «HOMO LUDENS» («Homo playing») [26] in such almost hopeless a situation seem to be a real miracle? In this work in completely incomprehensible a way those very essential and fundamental components were highlighted and masterfully described which are necessary for both the comprehension of the nature (φυσις) of the ancient Greek phenomenon, and for the qualified description of many other mysterious phenomena in culture.

We already find it difficult to model in ourselves and to fully experience the true scales of that abyss that stretched (in the first third of the XX century) between the object of research cho­sen by him (the roles of a game in the forming of culture) and the objective development condition of all those sciences, each of which had been directly occupied with the development of its own piece of the common pie – human culture. Accordingly, it is difficult to estimate to all the extent the genius of the author of «HOMO LUDENS» who could not even rely in his work (1933–1938) on the results received by psychology, which itself at that time was looking for some reliable support, dashing aside from one rather random a speculation concerning the human nature to another one, of the same doubtful quality.

By then had not arrived in time the works of Konrad Lorenz and others etologists, who both discovered and successfully tested a reliable enough and easy-to-operate toolkit, that was so necessary for making clear the mechanisms of the formation and evolution of such a complex organism what the human culture is. At the same time, the routes of Johan Huizinga laid by him above the gaps of knowledge modern to him on the bridges, built by his brilliant intuition, still remain almost impassable nowadays and have a category of the maximum complexity. Should we find it surprising therefore, that the results obtained by him, today are simply ignored by many because, of their ostensibly illegal for that moment procedure of reception.

And all that is so, while behind the placer of the Greek miracles seen by all the Great Secret of the mechanism of the origin and development of a powerful western branch of human culture and knowledge is hidden. Will intellectual people ever be able to reconcile themselves to the fact that this allocation from east (traditional) forms of culture prevailing everywhere took place as a result of the action of a passionar push (by Lion Gumilyov) or mythical realization of the idea of civilizational jump? Will people of pragmatic cast of mind not at last begin to see clearly and direct their for so long postponed efforts to developing the natural-scientific evolutionary toolkit, capable of helping them in reconstruction of that secret mechanism of the ancient Greeks, which in such «incomprehensible» degree stimulated the rational activity of citizens of the ancient Greek city states, which will help, in its turn, them and their children (pupils) in the controlled development and augmentation of their town cognitive opportunities?

The required and still missing link that set the ancient Greek civilization on the path of searching truths and discovering the power of reason, was the made by it intermediate (collateral) discovery (or application into life) of the wonderful technologies, that allowed to control the creating power of game and conscious instincts, that encourage and direct, in their turn, the processes of individual training, development of already saved up and searching of new treasures of culture by its citizens during all their life. The object of a long, tacitly unwrapping cultural-historical experiment became the rates and quality of formation and the subsequent training of their cognitive instrument, the «incomprehensible» resonant stimulation of their cognitive activity, development and augmentation of their mental abilities at mature age. As the extremely effective instrument of stimulation of rational activity of adult citizens acted the unique agora's complex of verbal interactions of the fellow citizens created absolutely for other purposes, historically developed at the agora (the market area) of the ancient Greek city state. Agora, initially serving to ancient people for the decision of absolutely other vital problems, somehow tacitly and unexpectedly started to carry out collateral wonder-working functions, having seriously pressed in this role the former leaders: seaport and its «basis» – «cybernetes» (helmsman) of that Ancient Greece, which admired and will admire both their and our descendants, – the uniform and many-sided ship of the ancient Greeks.

Both the special ancient Greek version of ubiquitous competitiveness – being agonic, and all set of standard functions of this very ancient Greek agora, seaport and the ship, and an extensive spectrum of verbal interactions of citizens – this never surpassed by anybody in its being many-sided and total capacity – unique world of their logos, – all that is well-known to historians.

Judge yourself, – as the ancient Greeks were able and liked to do. They judged themselves and were judged by others, accused and were protecting themselves before the court. Frequently and for a long time arguing with others, gained their intellect. They even came to being brave enough to judge stars, a rain, a wind and, even, – the Sun they judged, – argued about the phenomena of nature… To some extent this draft sketch executed in a «judging» manner, is in harmony with the fragments from the works of historians mentioned further, – judge yourself.

(In the Russian version the characteristic features of the formation of «Greek Miracle» are described more fully and in more detail!)

 The file is in the process of translation…
The translation from Russian was made by Masha and Natasha Zazerska
Last modifications: December 06 2003
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The Literature Quoted:
17. Kline M. MATHEMATICS: The Loss of Certainty, Oxford University Press, New York, 1980
26. Huizinga J. Homo ludens: Proeve eener bepaling van het spel-element der cultuur. Haarlem, 1938
35. Lorenz K. «Kant's Doctrine of the Apriori in the Light of Contemporary Biology» in L. von Bertalanffi & Rapoport (Eds.) General Systems. Yearbook of the Society for General Systems Research, Vol. VII. – N.Y., 1962. P. 23–35
36. Lorenz K. Behind the Mirror. A search for a natural history of human knowledge. London. Methuen and Co. Ltd. 1977
40. Popper K. R. Objective Knowledge. An Evolutionary Approach
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