类型:奇幻地区:莫桑比克剧发布:2020-11-25 12:46:47


After his preliminary analysis of Nous, we find Plotinus working out in two directions from the conception so obtained.450 He begins by explaining in what relation the human soul stands to the universal reason. To him, personally, it seemed as if the world of thought into which he penetrated by reflecting on his own inmost essence, was so much the real home of his soul that her presence in a bodily habitation presented itself as a difficulty requiring to be cleared up. In this connexion, he refers to the opinions of the Pythagoreans, who looked on our earthly life as an unmixed evil, a punishment for some sin committed in a former stage of existence. Their views seem to have been partly shared by Plato. Sometimes he calls the body a prison and a tomb into which the soul has fallen from her original abode. Yet, in his Timaeus, he glorifies the visible world, and tells us that the universal soul was divinely appointed to give it life and reason; while our individual souls have also their part to play in perfecting the same providential scheme.

Let us now pass over fourteen centuries and see to what results the doctrine taught by Plato himself led when it had entered into an alliance with the superstitions which he denounced. Our illustration shall be taken from a sainted hero of the Catholic Church. In a sermon preached before Pope Nicholas II. at Arezzo, the famous Hildebrand, afterwards Gregory VII., relates the following story:鈥

For Law was feeble, Violence enthroned,鈥榃ithout Chrysippus I should not have been.鈥233

If, in the domain of pure speculation, contemporary agnosticism exaggerates the existing divergences, in ethics157 its whole effort is, contrariwise, to reduce and reconcile them. Such was also the tendency of Carneades. He declared that, in their controversy about the highest good, the difference between the Stoics and the Peripatetics was purely verbal. Both held that we are naturally framed for the pursuit of certain objects, and that virtuous living is the only means by which they can be attained. But while the disciples of Aristotle held that the satisfaction of our natural impulses remains from first to last the only end, the disciples of Zeno insisted that at some point鈥攏ot, as would seem very particularly specified鈥攙irtuous conduct, which was originally the means towards this satisfaction, becomes substituted for it as the supreme and ultimate good.253 That the point at issue was more important than it seemed is evident from its reproduction under another form in modern ethical philosophy. For, among ourselves, the controversy between utilitarianism and what, for want of a better name, we must call intuitionism, is gradually narrowing itself to the question whether the pursuit of another鈥檚 good has or has not a higher value than the quantity of pleasure which accrues to him from it, plus the effects of a good example and the benefits that society at large is likely to gain from the strength which exercise gives to the altruistic dispositions of one of its members. Those who attribute an absolute value to altruism, as such, connect this value in some way or other with the spiritual welfare of the agent; and they hold that without such a gain to himself he would gradually fall back on a life of calculating selfishness or of unregulated impulse. Here we have the return from a social to an individual morality. The Stoics, conversely, were feeling their way from the good of the individual to that of the community; and they could only bridge the chasm by converting what had originally been a means towards self-preservation into an end in itself. This Carneades could not see. Convinced that happiness was both necessary and attainable,158 but convinced also that the systems which had hitherto offered it as their reward were logically untenable, he wished to place morality on the broad basis of what was held in common by all schools, and this seemed to be the rule of obedience to Nature鈥檚 dictates,鈥攁 rule which had also the great merit of bidding men do in the name of philosophy what they already felt inclined to do without any philosophy at all. We are told, indeed, that he would not commit himself to any particular system of ethics; the inference, however, is not that he ignored the necessity of a moral law, but that he wished to extricate it from a compromising alliance with untenable speculative dogmas. Nevertheless his acceptance of Nature as a real entity was a survival of metaphysics; and his morality was, so far as it went, an incipient return to the traditions of the Old Academy.

Plato had begun by condemning poetry only in so far as it was inconsistent with true religion and morality. At last, with his usual propensity to generalise, he condemned it and, by implication, every imitative art qua art, as a delusion and a sham, twice removed from the truth of things, because a copy of the phenomena which are themselves unreal representations of an archetypal idea. His iconoclasm may remind us of other ethical theologians both before and after, whether Hebrew, Moslem, or Puritan. If he does not share their fanatical hatred for plastic and pictorial representations, it is only because works of that class, besides being of a chaster character, exercised far less power over the Greek imagination than epic and dramatic poetry. Moreover, the tales of the poets were, according to Plato, the worst lies of any, since they were believed to be true; whereas statues and pictures differed too obviously from their originals for any such illusion to be produced in their case. Like the Puritans, again, Plato sanctioned the use of religious hymns, with the accompaniment of music in its simplest and most elevated forms. Like them, also, he would have approved of literary fiction when it was employed for edifying purposes. Works like the Faery Queen, Paradise Lost, and the Pilgrim鈥檚 Progress, would have been his favourites in English literature; and he might have242 extended the same indulgence to fictions of the Edgeworthian type, where the virtuous characters always come off best in the end.How much of the complete system known in later times under this name was due to Zeno himself, we do not know; for nothing but a few fragments of his and of his immediate successors鈥 writings is left. The idea of combining Antisthenes with Heracleitus, and both with Socrates, probably belongs9 to the founder of the school. His successor, Cleanthes, a man of character rather than of intellect, was content to hand on what the master had taught. Then came another Cypriote, Chrysippus, of whom we are told that without him the Stoa would not have existed;16 so thoroughly did he work out the system in all its details, and so strongly did he fortify its positions against hostile criticism by a framework of elaborate dialectic. 鈥楪ive me the propositions, and I will find the proofs!鈥 he used to say to Cleanthes.17 After him, nothing of importance was added to the doctrines of the school; although the spirit by which they were animated seems to have undergone profound modifications in the lapse of ages.


Plotinus is careful to make us understand that his morality has neither an ascetic nor a suicidal tendency. Pleasures are to be tolerated under the form of a necessary relief and relaxation; pains are to be removed, but if incurable, they are to be patiently borne; anger is, if possible, to be suppressed, and, at any rate, not allowed to exceed the limits of an involuntary movement; fear will not be felt except as a salutary warning. The bodily appetites will be restricted to natural wants, and will not be felt by the soul, except, perhaps, as a transient excitement of the imagination.496 Whatever abstinences our philosopher may have practised on his own account, we find no trace of a tendency towards self-mortification in his writings, nothing that is not consistent with the healthiest traditions of Greek spiritualism as originally constituted by the great Athenian school.

The value of experimentation as such had, however, scarcely dawned on Bacon. His famous Prerogative In379stances are, in the main, a guide to simple observation, supplemented rather than replaced by direct interference with the phenomena under examination, comparable to that moderate use of the rack which he would have countenanced in criminal procedure. There was, perhaps, a deeper meaning in Harvey鈥檚 remark that Bacon wrote about Nature like a Lord Chancellor than the great physiologist himself suspected. To Bacon the statesman, science was something to be largely endowed out of the public treasury in the sure hope that it would far more than repay the expenditure incurred, by inventions of priceless advantage to human life. To Bacon the lawyer, Nature was a person in possession of important secrets to be wrested from her by employing every artifice of the spy, the detective, the cross-examiner, and the inquisitorial judge; to Bacon the courtier, she was a sovereign whose policy might be discovered, and, if need be, controlled, by paying judicious attention to her humours and caprices. And, for this very reason, he would feel drawn by a secret affinity to the Aristotelian dialectic, derived as it was through Socrates and Plato from the practice of the Athenian law-courts and the debates of the Athenian assembly. No doubt the Topics was intended primarily for a manual of debate rather than of scientific enquiry; and the English Chancellor showed true philosophic genius in his attempt to utilise it for the latter purpose. Nevertheless the adaptation proved a mistake. It was not without good grounds that the Socratic dialectic had been reserved exclusively by its great founder, and almost exclusively by his successors, for those human interests from the discussion of which it was first derived. And the discoverers, who in Bacon鈥檚 own lifetime were laying the foundations of physical science, employed a method totally different from his, because they started with a totally different conception of the universe. To them it was not a living whole, a Form of Forms, but a sum of forces to be analysed, isolated, and recombined, in fact or in idea, with a sublime disregard380 for the conditions under which they were presented to ordinary experience. That very extension of human power anticipated by Bacon came in a manner of which he had never dreamed. It was gained by studying, not the Forms to which he attached so much importance, but the modes of motion which he had relegated to a subordinate place in his classification of natural causes.543鈥楾he reason firm, the temperate will,But before the dissolving action of Nominalism had become fully manifest, its ascendency was once more challenged; and this time, also, the philosophical impulse came from Constantinople. Greek scholars, seeking help in the West, brought with them to Florence the complete works of Plato; and these were shortly made accessible to a wider public through the Latin translation of Ficino. Their influence seems at first to have told in favour of mysticism, for this was the contemporary tendency to which they could be most readily affiliated; and, besides, in swinging back from Aristotle鈥檚 philosophy to the rival form of spiritualism, men鈥檚 minds naturally reverted, in the first instance, to what had once linked them together鈥攖he system of Plotinus. Thus Platonism was studied through an Alexandrian medium, and as the Alexandrians had looked at it, that is to say, chiefly under its theological and metaphysical aspects. As such, it became the accepted philosophy of the Renaissance;369 and much of what we most admire in the literature鈥攁t least the English literature鈥攐f that period, is directly traceable to Platonic influence. That the Utopia of Sir Thomas More was inspired by the Republic and the Critias is, of course, obvious; and the great part played by the ideal theory in Spenser鈥檚 Faery Queen, though less evident, is still sufficiently clear. As Mr. Green observes in his History of the English People (II., p. 413), 鈥楽penser borrows, in fact, the delicate and refined forms of the Platonic philosophy to express his own moral enthusiasm.... Justice, Temperance, Truth are no mere names to him, but real existences to which his whole nature clings with a rapturous affection.鈥 Now it deserves observation, as illustrating a great revolution in European thought, that the relation of Plato to the epic of the English Renaissance is precisely paralleled by the relation of Aristotle to the epic of mediaeval Italy. Dante borrows more than his cosmography from the Stagirite. The successive circles of Hell, the spirals of Purgatory, and the spheres of Paradise, are a framework in which the characters of the poem are exhibited, not as individual actors whom we trace through a life鈥檚 history, but as types of a class and representatives of a single mental quality, whether vicious or virtuous. In other words, the historical arrangement of all previous poems is abandoned in favour of a logical arrangement. For the order of contiguity in time is substituted the order of resemblance and difference in idea. How thoroughly Aristotelian, indeed, were the lines within which mediaeval imagination moved is proved by the possibility of tracing them in a work utterly different from Dante鈥檚鈥攖he Decameron of Boccaccio. The tales constituting this collection are so arranged that each day illustrates some one special class of adventures; only, to make good Aristotle鈥檚 principle that earthly affairs are not subject to invariable rules, a single departure from the prescribed subject is allowed in each decade; while370 during one entire day the story-tellers are left free to choose a subject at their own discretion.

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Besides transforming art and literature, the dialectic method helped to revolutionise social life, and the impulse communicated in this direction is still very far from being exhausted. We allude to its influence on female education. The intellectual blossoming of Athens was aided, in its first development, by a complete separation of the sexes. There were very few of his friends to whom an Athenian gentleman talked so little as to his wife.104 Colonel Mure aptly compares her position to that of an English housekeeper, with considerably less liberty than is enjoyed by the latter. Yet the union of tender admiration with the need for intelligent sympathy and the desire to awaken interest in noble pursuits existed at Athens in full force, and created a field for its exercise. Wilhelm von Humboldt has observed that at this time chivalrous love was kept alive by customs which, to us, are intensely repellent. That so valuable a sentiment should be preserved and diverted into a more legitimate channel was an object of the highest importance. The naturalistic method of ethics did much, but it could not do all, for more was required than a return to primitive simplicity. Here the method of mind stepped in and supplied the deficiency. Reciprocity was the soul of dialectic as practised by Socrates, and the dialectic of love demands a reciprocity of passion which can only exist between the sexes. But in a society where the free intercourse of modern Europe was not permitted, the modern sentiment could not be reached at a single bound; and those who sought for the conversation of intelligent women had to seek for it among a class of which Aspasia was the highest representative. Such women played a great part in later Athenian society; they attended philosophical lectures, furnished heroines to the New Comedy, and on the whole gave a healthier tone to literature. Their successors, the Delias and Cynthias of159 Roman elegiac poetry, called forth strains of exalted affection which need nothing but a worthier object to place them on a level with the noblest expressions of tenderness that have since been heard. Here at least, to understand is to forgive; and we shall be less scandalised than certain critics,105 we shall even refuse to admit that Socrates fell below the dignity of a moralist, when we hear that he once visited a celebrated beauty of this class, Theodot锚 by name;106 that he engaged her in a playful conversation; and that he taught her to put more mind into her profession; to attract by something deeper than personal charms; to show at least an appearance of interest in the welfare of her lovers; and to stimulate their ardour by a studied reserve, granting no favour that had not been repeatedly and passionately sought after.Spinoza gathered up all the threads of speculation thus made ready for his grasp, when he defined God as a substance consisting of infinite attributes, each of which expresses his infinite and eternal essence; subsequently adding that the essence here spoken of is Power, and that two of the infinite attributes are Extension and Thought, whereof the particular things known to us are modes. Platonism had decomposed the world into two ideal principles, and had re-created it by combining them over again in various proportions, but they were not entirely reabsorbed and worked up into the concrete reality which resulted from their union; they were, so to speak, knotted together, but the ends continued to hang loose. Above and below the finite sphere of existence there remained as an unemployed surplus the infinite causal energy of the One and the infinite passive potentiality of Matter. Spinoza combined and identified the two opposing elements in the notion of a single substance as infinite in actuality as they had been in power. He thus gave its highest metaphysical expression406 to that common tendency which we traced through the prospects opened out by the Copernican astronomy, the revival of Atomism, the dynamical psychology of Hobbes, and the illimitable passion of the Renaissance, while, at the same time, preserving the unity of Plato鈥檚 idealism, and even making it more concentrated than before.It is well for the reputation of Aristotle that he could apply himself with such devotion to the arduous and, in his time, inglorious researches of natural history and comparative anatomy, since it was only in those departments that he made any real contributions to physical science. In the studies which were to him the noblest and most entrancing of any, his speculations are one long record of wearisome, hopeless, unqualified delusion. If, in the philosophy of practice and the philosophy of art, he afforded no real guidance at all, in the philosophy of Nature his guidance has312 always led men fatally astray. So far as his means of observation extended, there was nothing that he did not attempt to explain, and in every single instance he was wrong. He has written about the general laws of matter and motion, astronomy, chemistry, meteorology, and physiology, with the result that he has probably made more blunders on those subjects than any human being ever made before or after him. And, if there is one thing more astounding than his unbroken infelicity of speculation, it is the imperturbable self-confidence with which he puts forward his fallacies as demonstrated scientific certainties. Had he been right, it was no 鈥榮light or partial glimpses of the beloved鈥 that would have been vouchsafed him, but the 鈥榝ullest and nearest revelation鈥 of her beauties. But the more he looked the less he saw. Instead of drawing aside he only thickened and darkened the veils of sense which obscured her, by mistaking them for the glorious forms that lay concealed beneath.

After the formal and material elements of life have been separately discussed, there comes an account of the process by which they are first brought into connexion, for this is how Aristotle views generation. With him it is the information of matter by psychic force; and his notions about the part which each parent plays in the production of a new being are vitiated throughout by this mistaken assumption. Nevertheless his treatise on the subject is, for its time, one of the most wonderful works ever written, and, as we are told on good authority,257 is now less antiquated than the corresponding researches of Harvey. The philosopher鈥檚 peculiar genius for observation, analysis, and comparison will partly account for his success; but, if we mistake not, there is another and less obvious reason. Here the fatal separation of form and matter was, except at first starting, precluded by the very idea of generation; and the teleological principle of spontaneous efforts to realise a predetermined end was, as it happened, perfectly in accordance with the facts themselves.But on looking at the matter a little more closely, we shall find that Plotinus only set in a clearer light what had all along been the leading motive of his predecessors. We have already observed that Plato鈥檚 whole mythological machinery is only a fanciful way of expressing that independent experience which the mind derives from the study of its own spontaneous activity. And the process of generalisation described in the Symposium is really limited to moral phenomena. Plato鈥檚 standpoint is less individualistic than that of Plotinus in so far as it involves a continual reference to the beliefs, experiences, and wants of other men; but it is equally subjective, in the sense of interpreting all Nature by the analogies of human life. There are even occasions when his spiritualism goes the length of inculcating complete withdrawal from the world of common life into an ideal sphere, when he seems to identify evil with matter, when he reduces all virtue to contempt for the interests of the body, in language which his Alexandrian successor could adopt without any modification of its obvious meaning.434II.




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