类型:奇幻地区:莫桑比克剧发布:2020-09-19 13:05:42


鈥楢t his beddes hedIn addition to its system of intermediate duties, the Stoic ethics included a code of casuistry which, to judge by some recorded specimens, allowed a very startling latitude both to the ideal sage and to the ordinary citizen. Thus, if Sextus Empiricus is to be believed, the Stoics saw nothing objectionable about the trade of a courtesan.65 Chrysippus, like Socrates and Plato, denied that there was any harm in falsehoods if they were told with a good intention. Diogenes of Seleucia thought it permissible to pass bad money,66 and to30 sell defective articles without mentioning their faults;67 he was, however, contradicted on both points by another Stoic, Antipater. Still more discreditable were the opinions of Hecato, a disciple of Panaetius. He discussed the question whether a good man need or need not feed his slaves in a time of great scarcity, with an evident leaning towards the latter alternative; and also made it a matter of deliberation whether in case part of a ship鈥檚 cargo had to be thrown overboard, a valuable horse or a worthless slave should be the more readily sacrificed. His answer is not given; but that the point should ever have been mooted does not say much for the rigour of his principles or for the benevolence of his disposition.68 Most outrageous of all, from the Stoic point of view, is the declaration of Chrysippus that Heracleitus and Pherecydes would have done well to give up their wisdom, had they been able by so doing to get rid of their bodily infirmities at the same time.69 That overstrained theoretical severity should be accompanied by a corresponding laxity in practice is a phenomenon of frequent occurrence; but that this laxity should be exhibited so undisguisedly in the details of the theory itself, goes beyond anything quoted against the Jesuits by Pascal, and bears witness, after a fashion, to the extraordinary sincerity of Greek thought.70



A survey of the Socratic philosophy would be incomplete without some comment on an element in the life of Socrates, which at first sight seems to lie altogether outside philosophy. There is no fact in his history more certain than that he believed himself to be constantly accompanied by a Daemonium, a divine voice often restraining him, even in trifling matters, but never prompting to positive action. That it was neither conscience in our sense of the word, nor a supposed familiar spirit, is now generally admitted. Even those who believe in the supernatural origin and authority of our moral feelings do not credit them with a power of divining the accidentally good or evil consequences which may attend on our most trivial and indifferent actions; while, on the other hand, those feelings have a positive no less than a negative161 function, which is exhibited whenever the performance of good deeds becomes a duty. That the Daemonium was not a personal attendant is proved by the invariable use of an indefinite neuter adjective to designate it. How the phenomenon itself should be explained is a question for professional pathologists. We have here to account for the interpretation put upon it by Socrates, and this, in our judgment, follows quite naturally from his characteristic mode of thought. That the gods should signify their pleasure by visible signs and public oracles was an experience familiar to every Greek. Socrates, conceiving God as a mind diffused through the whole universe, would look for traces of the Divine presence in his own mind, and would readily interpret any inward suggestion, not otherwise to be accounted for, as a manifestation of this all-pervading power. Why it should invariably appear under the form of a restraint is less obvious. The only explanation seems to be that, as a matter of fact, such mysterious feelings, whether the product of unconscious experience or not, do habitually operate as deterrents rather than as incentives.Not that Xenophon is to be taken as a perfectly accurate exponent of the Socratic philosophy. His work, it must be remembered, was primarily intended to vindicate Socrates from a charge of impiety and immoral teaching, not to expound a system which he was perhaps incompetent to appreciate or understand. We are bound to accept everything that he relates; we are bound to include nothing that he does not relate; but we may fairly readjust the proportions of his sketch. It is here that a judicious use of Plato will furnish us with the most valuable assistance. He grasped Socratism in all its parts and developed it in all directions, so that by following back the lines of his system to their origin we shall be put on the proper track and shall know where to look for the suggestions which were destined to be so magnificently worked out.86

Turning back once more from art and literature to philosophy, is it not abundantly clear that if the Greeks speculated at all, they must at first have speculated according to some such method as that which history proves them to have actually followed? They must have begun by fixing their thoughts, as Thales and his successors did, on the world鈥檚 remotest past; they must have sought for a first cause of things, and conceived it, not as any spiritual power, but as a kind of natural ancestor homogeneous with the forms which issued from it, although greater and more comprehensive than they were; in short, as an elemental body鈥攚ater, air, fire, or, more vaguely, as an infinite substance. Did not the steady concatenation of cause and effect resemble the unrolling of a heroic genealogy? And did not the reabsorption of every individual existence in a larger whole translate into more general terms that subordination of personal to family and civic glory which is the diapason of Pindar鈥檚 music?Two precepts stand out before all others, which, trivial as they may seem, are uttered from the very soul of Greek62 experience, 鈥楤e moderate,鈥 and, 鈥楰now thyself.鈥 Their joint observance constitutes the characteristic virtue of S?phrosyn锚, which means all that we understand by temperance, and a great deal more besides; so much, in fact, that very clever Greeks were hard set to define it, and very wise Greeks could pray for it as the fairest gift of the gods.48 Let us suppose that each individual has a sphere of activity marked out for him by his own nature and his special environment; then to discern clearly the limits of that sphere and to keep within them would be S?phrosyn锚, while the discernment, taken alone, would be wisdom. The same self-restraint operating as a check on interference with other spheres would be justice; while the expansive force by which a man fills up his entire sphere and guards it against aggressions may be called courage. Thus we are enabled to comprehend the many-sided significance of S?phrosyn锚, to see how it could stand both for a particular virtue and for all virtuousness whatever. We need only glance at Homer鈥檚 poems, and in particular at the Iliad鈥攁 much deeper as well as a more brilliant work than the Odyssey鈥攖o perceive how very early this demand for moderation combined with self-knowledge had embodied itself in Greek thought. Agamemnon violates the rights of Achilles under the influence of immoderate passion, and through ignorance of how little we can accomplish without the hero鈥檚 assistance. Achilles, again, carries his vindictiveness too far, and suffers in consequence. But his self-knowledge is absolutely perfect; conscious that he is first in the field while others are better in council, he never undertakes a task to which his powers are not fully adequate; nor does he enter on his final work of vengeance without a clear consciousness of the speedy death which its completion will entail on himself. Hector, too, notwithstanding ominous forebodings, knows his duty and does it, but with much less just an estimate of his own powers, leading him to pursue his success too far, and then, when the63 tide has turned, not permitting him to make a timely retreat within the walls of Troy. So with the secondary characters. Patroclus also oversteps the limits of moderation, and pays the penalty with his life. Diomed silently bears the unmerited rebuke of Agamemnon, but afterwards recalls it at a most effective moment, when rising to oppose the craven counsels of the great king. This the Greeks called observing opportunity, and opportunism was with them, as with French politicians, a form of moderation.49 Down at the very bottom of the scale Thersites and Dolon are signal examples of men who do not know their sphere and suffer for their folly. In the Odyssey, Odysseus is a nearly perfect type of wisdom joined with self-control, erring, if we remember rightly, only once, when he insults Polyphemus before the ship is out of danger; while his comrades perish from want of these same gifts.


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194The characters in Homer are marked by this incredulous disposition in direct proportion to their general wisdom. When Agamemnon relates his dream to the assembled chiefs, Nestor dryly observes that if anyone of less authority had told them such a story they would have immediately rejected it as untrue. Hector鈥檚 outspoken contempt for augury is well known; and his indifference to the dying words of Patroclus is equally characteristic. In the Odyssey, Alcinous pointedly distinguishes his guest from the common run of travellers, whose words deserve no credit. That Telemachus should tell who is his father, with the uncomplimentary reservation that he has only his mother鈥檚 word for it, is128 evidently meant as a proof of the young man鈥檚 precocious shrewdness; and it is with the utmost difficulty that Penelope herself is persuaded of her husband鈥檚 identity. So in the Agamemnon of Aeschylus, nothing less than the report of an eye-witness will convince the Chorus of old men that Troy has really fallen.218 Finally, to complete the list of examples afforded independently of philosophical reflection, Herodotus repeatedly expresses disbelief in the stories told him, or, what is more remarkable, holds his judgment in suspense with regard to their veracity.The contrast is not only direct, but designed, for Euripides had the work of his predecessor before him, and no doubt imagined that he was improving on it.




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