Snell B. The Discovery of the Mind.pdf

Aperçu du fichier PDF snell-b---the-discovery-of-the-mind.pdf

Page 1 2 3 456228

Aperçu texte

individual. If we take the word 'revelation' in its religious significance the same is true once
more: the epiphany of a god presupposes that he exists, and that his existence is by no
means dependent upon the revelation. The intellect, however, comes into the world,
-viit is 'effected', in the process of revealing itself, i.e. in the course of history. Outside of
history, and outside of human life, nothing could be known of the nature of the intellect. A
god reveals himself in all his glory in one single moment, while the intellect grants us only a
limited manifestation, always dependent on the individual and his personal characteristics.
In Christian thought God is intellect; our understanding of God is beset with grave
difficulties, and the reason for this is a view of the intellect which was first worked out by
the Greeks.
By using the terms 'discovery' and 'self-revelation' of the intellect we do not mean to
commit ourselves to a particular metaphysical position, or to make predictions about a pure
intellect existing by itself beyond, and prior to, history. The two terms here convey more or
less the same idea. The latter might perhaps be used to advantage in speaking of the early
period, when a new understanding was gained in the form of mythic or poetic intuition,
whereas the word 'discovery' is more appropriate for the philosophers and scientific
thinkers. But there is no firm line of demarcation between the two. 2 There are two reasons
why we should prefer the former expression in a historical survey such as this. In the first
place, the important thing was, not that a datum be clearly apprehended, but that the new
insight be communicable. History acknowledges only what bids fair to become common
property. As we shall see, many a commonplace had to be discovered before it could
become an ingredient of colloquial speech. Conversely, discoveries may be forgotten, and
especially in the world of the intellect discoveries are remembered only at the cost of
constant hard labour. During the Middle Ages many ideas fell into disuse, and had to be rediscovered; happily the task was facilitated by the presence of the classical tradition.
Secondly, we speak of 'discovery' rather than 'revelation' because, as we shall learn again
and again in the course of our survey, man has to pass through much suffering and toil
before he reaches an understanding of the intellect. φάθει μάθος, 'wisdom through
suffering', holds for the whole of mankind, though perhaps not in quite the same sense as
for the single man who has learnt the lesson of his troubles and protects himself against
further suffering. Mankind too may learn its
-viilesson, but not by protecting itself against suffering, for that would actually bar them from
the acquisition of further wisdom.
The second terminological difficulty which obstructs our way raises a problem of
intellectual history. Although we say that the intellect was not discovered, and did not
come into being, until after the time of Homer, we realize that Homer conceived of the
thing which we call intellect in a different manner, and that in a sense the intellect existed
also for him, though not qua intellect. This means that we use the term 'intellect' to
interpret something--and the interpretation is correct, otherwise we could not speak of
discovery--which had previously been construed in another fashion, and therefore existed
in a different dress; how, we shall see in our discussion of Homer. This 'something' simply
cannot be grasped in our speech, since each language has its own interpretation, fixed in