To understand what is meant by “pre-philosophical background,” we may introduce an example. In pre-Christian Greece, in fact since before Homer and Hesiod, the gods were thought to enjoy immortality, while men were on the other hand mortals; yet, immortality here means that even the gods were essentially present in the world, subjects to its cycles and to fate. The gods, for the archaic Greeks, were of the same nature as human beings, their only distinction being that they did not die. This is manifest in Homer and Hesiod, for example. They could and did intervene in human affairs, and one of the goals of sacrificing and praying was to ask something from them for our own benefit.

This view is a far cry from the conception that the Persians had of their own deities, for example. Herodotus relates that “It is not of their customs to construct statues, temples, and altars; in fact, they count those who do so as fools because (I suppose), they do not anthropomorphize the gods as the Greeks do…They call the whole vault of heaven Zeus ” (I, 131). Herodotus’ testimony is important here: because the gods are not anthropomorphic beings, do not act among mankind as the Greek gods do, there is no need of altar as in the Graeco-Roman world, sacrifices are given an altogether different meaning and importance and, at last, the political system may even take different forms. It is these conceptions that are present in our thought without being necessarily consciously, or rationally comprehended that constitute the pre-philosophical background (the same hold with words: saying dominus is not exactly synonymous with kyrios; both words convey a different interpretation and role of the lord, and this implicit, tacit meaning is transfered not only upon our understanding, but also upon our laws ans social organization).

People have shared some such ideas since the very beginning of humankind; although they did not necessarily discourse on these, these concepts were there and informed people’s religion, attitude towards the gods, etc. Philosophy therefore made these concepts manifest. But more than this, it also went on to discover a better reality, a reality which is not so much a fabrication from the philosophers as it is a reality tacitely and unconsciously present: philosophy took on a moral quality. The allegory of the cave testifies to this aspect of the philosopher’s quest to discover the only true reality occluded by the material world. And so, they took a step beyond mere immortality and went on to focus on eternity. Eternity is unchanging, immutable because perfect, unlike immortality, which is still subject to the fluxes and passions of the world. Yet, the main elements of the ancient background picture of the cosmos remained, i.e. it was uncreated, the gods were still present within our world, etc. Whether we take Plato’s demiurge, or Aristotle’s Prime Mover, this supreme Being, this God is not the Creator God, and does not concern himself with humanity. He is also an absolute monad in essence, and cannot be changed.