Snell B. The Discovery of the Mind.pdf
Because we are accustomed to regard the Greek way of thinking as obligatory, we
instinctively --or should we say naively?--project it also into thought processes of another
order. Since the turn of the eighteenth century our growing awareness of evolutionary
patterns may have contributed to the elimination of such rationalist concepts as the
ageless, unchanging 'spirit'. Yet a proper understanding of the origins of Greek thought
remains difficult because all too frequently we measure the products of early Greece by the
fixed standards of our own age. The Iliad and the Odyssey, which stand at the source of the
Greek tradition, speak to us with a strong emotional appeal; and as a result we are quick to
forget how radically the experience of Homer differs from our own.
To trace the course along which, in the unfolding of early Greek culture, European thought
comes into its own, we must first of all understand that the rise of thinking among the
Greeks was nothing less than a revolution. They did not, by means of a mental equipment
already at their disposal, merely map out new subjects for discussion, such as the sciences
and philosophy. They discovered the human mind. This drama, man's gradual
understanding of himself, is revealed to us in the career of Greek poetry and philosophy.
The stages of the journey which saw a rational view of the nature of man establish itself are
to be traced in the creations of epic and lyric poetry, and in the plays.
The discovery of the intellect cannot be compared with the discovery of, let us say, a new
continent. America had existed long before Columbus discovered the New World,
-vbut the European way of thinking did not come into being until it was discovered; it exists
by grace of man's cognizance of himself. All the same, our use of the word 'discovery' can, I
think, be defended. The intellect was not 'invented', as a man would invent a tool to
improve the operation of his physical functions, or a method to master a certain type of
problem. As a rule, inventions are arbitrarily determined; they are adapted to the purpose
from which they take their cue. No objective, no aims were involved in the discover of the
intellect. In a certain sense it actually did exist before it was discovered, only not in the
same form, not qua intellect.
At this point we encounter two terminological difficulties. The first arises from a
philosophical problem: in spite of our statement that the Greeks discovered the intellect we
also assert that the discovery was necessary for the intellect to come into existence. Or, to
put it grammatically: the intellect is not only an affective, but also an effective object. It
must be obvious to anyone that we are here using a metaphor; but the metaphor is
unavoidable, and is in fact the proper expression of what we have in mind. We cannot speak
about the mind or the intellect at all without falling back on metaphor.
All other expressions, therefore, which we might employ to outline the situation, present
the same difficulty. If we say that man understands himself or recognizes himself, we do not
mean the same thing as is meant by understanding an object, or recognizing another man.
For, in our use of the terms, the self does not come into being except through our
comprehension of it. 1 If, on the other hand, we say that the intellect reveals itself, we
regard this event not as a result of man's own doing but as a metaphysical happening. This
again differs in meaning from the statement: 'A man reveals himself', i.e. he drops his
disguise; for the man is the same after the change as before it, while the intellect exists only
from the moment of its revelation onward, after it makes its appearance through an