Snell B. The Discovery of the Mind.pdf


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advance by its words. Whenever we wish to explain thoughts which were recorded in
another tongue, we come to the conclusion that the foreign word means this--and again
that it does not mean it. The stranger the other tongue, and the further we are removed
from its thought, the greater is our dilemma. And when in the end we try to reproduce the
alien thoughts in our own tongue--and that is the task of scholarship--we have a choice of
either resigning ourselves to vague improvisations, or first finding certain approximations
and then subtracting from them where they fail to correspond to the ideas which they are
designed to represent. This is a negative approach, but in it lies our only hope of staking out
the limits of the foreign material. At bottom, of course, we must be convinced that despite
these complications the strange thoughts are intelligible to us, and that there is a vital
meaning in what we have delimited, although we may not be able to define its precise
significance in our own words. We need not be unduly sceptical, particularly when the
foreign material is Greek. For here we come face to face with our own intellectual past; in
fact, the sequel may show that those very ideas which we shall first emphasize precisely
because they are so unusual are in reality perfectly natural, and certainly more obvious
than the immensely intricate notions of our own day and age. Perhaps we shall be able
-viiito establish contact with Greek thought, not only through the medium of historical
recollection, but also because the ancient legacy is stored in us, and we may recognize in it
the threads of our own involved patterns of thinking.
If, therefore, in the chapters to follow we shall venture to say that Homer's men had as yet
no knowledge of the intellect, or of the soul, or therefore of many other things, we do not
thereby mean that his characters were not capable of joy, or reflection, and so forth. We
merely want to stress that they did not conceive of these matters as actions of the intellect
or the soul; and it is in this sense that they did not know the two. As a further consequence
it appears that in the early period the 'character' of an individual is not yet recognized.
Here again there is no denying that the great heroes of the Homeric poems are drawn in
firm outline; and yet the reactions of an Achilles, however grand and significant, are not
explicitly presented in their volitional or intellectual form as character, i.e. as individual
intellect and individual soul. Of course there was 'something' which occupied the place later
conceded to the intellect, or the soul; but to ascribe the latter to the Greeks without
qualification would make us guilty of confusion and lack of precision. For the existence of
the intellect and the soul are dependent upon man's awareness of himself. In questions of
this sort terminological exactitude is a necessary requirement, even more so than in other
scholarly discussions. Experience has shown how easily the issue may become obscured
beyond repair.
To isolate the specifically European element in the development of Greek thought, we need
not set it off against Oriental elements. Doubtless the Greeks inherited many concepts and
motifs from the ancient civilizations of the East, but in the field which we have been
discussing they are clearly independent of the Orient. Through Homer we have come to
know early European thought in poems of such length that we need not hesitate to draw
our conclusions, if necessary, ex silentio. If some things do not occur in Homer though our
modern mentality would lead us to expect them, we are entitled to assume that he had no
knowledge of them, particularly if there are several such 'gaps' of the same order.
Sometimes the gaps are counterbalanced by certain positive phenomena which at first
strike us as strange, but which,