类型:奇幻地区:莫桑比克剧发布:2020-11-25 12:25:48


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:鈥擨t appears, then, that the popular identification of an Epicurean with a sensualist has something to say in its favour. Nevertheless, we have no reason to think that Epicurus was anything but perfectly sincere when he repudiated the charge of being a mere sensualist.132 But the impulse which lifted him above sensualism was not derived from his own original philosophy. It was due to the inspiration of Plato; and nothing testifies more to Plato鈥檚 moral greatness than that the64 doctrine most opposed to his own idealism should have been raised from the dust by the example of its flight. We proceed to show how the peculiar form assumed by Epicureanism was determined by the pressure brought to bear on its original germ two generations before.

It has been already shown how Extension, having become identified with matter, took on its mechanical qualities, and was conceived as a connected series of causes or modes of motion. The parallel found by Spinoza for this series in Thought is the chain of reasons and consequents forming a410 demonstrative argument; and here he is obviously following Aristotle, who although ostensibly distinguishing between formal and efficient causes, hopelessly confounds them in the second book of his Posterior Analytics.565 We are said to understand a thing when we bring it under a general rule, and also when we discover the mechanical agency which produces it. For instance, we may know that a particular man will die, either from the fact that all men are mortal, or from the fact that he has received a fatal wound. The general rule, however, is not the cause of what will happen, but only the cause of our knowing that it will happen; and knowledge of the rule by no means carries with it a knowledge of the efficient cause; as we see in the case of gravitation and other natural forces whose modus operandi is still a complete mystery. What deceived Aristotle was partly his false analysis of the syllogism, which he interpreted as the connexion of two terms by the interposition of a middle answering to the causal nexus of two phenomena; and partly his conception of the universe as a series of concentric spheres, through which movement is transmitted from without, thus combining the two ideas of notional comprehension and mechanical causation.

We have also to consider in what relation the new193 Scepticism stood to the new Platonism by which, in common with every other school, it was eventually either displaced or absorbed. The answer usually given to this question is that the one was a reaction from the other. It is said that philosophy, in despair of being able to discover truth by reason, took refuge in the doctrine that it could be attained by supernatural revelation; and that this doctrine is the characteristic mark distinguishing the system of Plotinus from its predecessors. That a belief in the possibility of receiving divine communications was widely diffused during the last centuries of polytheism is, no doubt, established, but that it ever formed more than an adjunct to Neo-Platonism seems questionable; and there is no evidence that we are aware of to show that it was occasioned by a reaction from Scepticism. As a defence against the arguments of Pyrrho and his successors, it would, in truth, have been quite unavailing; for whatever objections applied to men鈥檚 natural perceptions, would have applied with still greater force to the alleged supernatural revelation. Moreover, the mystical element of Neo-Platonism appears only in its consummation鈥攊n the ultimate union of the individual soul with the absolute One; the rest of the system being reasoned out in accordance with the ordinary laws of logic, and in apparent disregard of the Sceptical attacks on their validity.

We have said that the founder of Neo-Platonism contrived to blend the systems of his two great authorities in such a manner as to eliminate much of the relative truth which is contained in each of them taken by itself. It has been reserved for modern thought to accomplish the profounder synthesis which has eliminated their errors in combining their truths. Yet, perhaps, no other system would have satisfied the want of the time so well as that constructed by Plotinus out of the materials at his disposal. Such as it was, that system held its ground as the reigning philosophy until all independent thinking was suppressed by Justinian, somewhat more than two and a half centuries after its author鈥檚 death. Even then it did not become extinct, but reappeared in Christian literature, in the writings attributed to Dionysius the Areopagite, and again in the daring speculations of Erigena, the father of mediaeval philosophy, to pass under more diluted forms into the teaching of the later Schoolmen, until the time arrived for its renewed study in the original sources as an element of the Platonic revival in the fifteenth century. All this popularity proves, as we say, that Plotinus suited his own age and other ages which reproduced the same general intellectual tendencies. But the important thing was that he made Plato and Aristotle more interesting, and thus led men to study their writings more eagerly than before. The true reign of those philosophers does not begin until we reach the Middle Ages, and the commanding position which they then enjoyed was due, in great measure, to the revolution effected by Plotinus.VI.

And while both light and darkness serve mankindBefore entering on our task of reconstruction, we must turn aside to consider with what success the same enterprise has been attempted by modern German criticism, especially by its chief contemporary representative, the last and most distinguished historian of Greek philosophy. The result at which Zeller, following Schleiermacher, arrives is that the great achievement of Socrates was to put forward an adequate idea of knowledge; in other words, to show what true science ought to be, and what, as yet, it had never been, with the addition of a demand that all action should be based on such a scientific knowledge as its only sure foundation.87 To know a thing was to know its essence, its concept, the assemblage of qualities which together constitute its definition, and make it to be what it is. Former thinkers had also sought for knowledge, but not as knowledge, not with a clear notion of what it was that they really wanted. Socrates, on the other hand, required that men should always be prepared to give a strict account of the end which they had in view, and of the means by which they hoped to gain it. Further, it had been customary to single out for exclusive attention that quality of an object by which the observer happened to be most strongly impressed, passing over all the others; the consequence of which was that the philosophers had taken a one-sided view of facts, with the result of falling into hopeless disagreement among themselves; the Sophists had turned these contradictory points of view against one another, and thus effected their mutual destruction; while the dissolution of objective certainty had led to a corresponding dissolution of moral truth. Socrates accepts the Sophistic scepticism so far as it applies to the existing state of science, but does not push it to the same fatal con118clusion; he grants that current beliefs should be thoroughly sifted and, if necessary, discarded, but only that more solid convictions may be substituted for them. Here a place is found for his method of self-examination, and for the self-conscious ignorance attributed to him by Plato. Comparing his notions on particular subjects with his idea of what knowledge in general ought to be, he finds that they do not satisfy it; he knows that he knows nothing. He then has recourse to other men who declare that they possess the knowledge of which he is in search, but their pretended certainty vanishes under the application of his dialectic test. This is the famous Socratic irony. Finally, he attempts to come at real knowledge, that is to say, the construction of definitions, by employing that inductive method with the invention of which he is credited by Aristotle. This method consists in bringing together a number of simple and familiar examples from common experience, generalising from them, and correcting the generalisations by comparison with negative instances. The reasons that led Socrates to restrict his enquiries to human interests are rather lightly passed over by Zeller; he seems at a loss how to reconcile the alleged reform of scientific method with the complete abandonment of those physical investigations which, we are told, had suffered so severely from being cultivated on a different system.And while both light and darkness serve mankind

Thus Roman civilisation, even when considered on its liberal, progressive, democratic side, seems to have necessarily favoured the growth and spread of superstition, because the new social strata which it turned up were less on their guard against unwarranted beliefs than the old governing aristocracies with their mingled conservatism and culture. But this was not all; and on viewing the empire from another side we shall find that under it all classes alike were exposed to conditions eminently inconsistent with that individual independence and capacity for forming a private judgment which212 had so honourably distinguished at least one class under the republican r茅gime. If imperialism was in one sense a levelling and democratic system, in another sense it was intensely aristocratic, or rather timocratic. Superiorities of birth, race, age, and sex were everywhere tending to disappear, only that they might be replaced by the more ignoble superiorities of brute-force, of court-favour, and of wealth. The Palace set an example of caprice on the one side and of servility on the other which was faithfully followed through all grades of Roman society, less from a spirit of imitation than because circumstances were at work which made every rich man or woman the centre of a petty court consisting of voluntary dependents whose obsequiousness was rewarded by daily doles of food and money, by the occasional gift of a toga or even of a small farm, or by the hope of a handsome legacy. Before daybreak the doors of a wealthy house were surrounded by a motley crowd, including not only famished clients but praetors, tribunes, opulent freedmen, and even ladies in their litters; all come nominally for the purpose of paying their respects to the master, but in reality to receive a small present of money. At a later hour, when the great man went abroad, he was attended by a troop of poor hangers-on, who, after trudging about for hours in his train and accompanying him home in the afternoon, often missed the place at his table which their assiduities were intended to secure. Even when it came, the invitation brought small comfort, as only the poorest food and the worst wine were set before the client, while he had the additional vexation of seeing his patron feasting on the choicest dishes and the most delicious vintages; and this was also the lot of the domestic philosopher whom some rich men regarded as an indispensable member of their retinue.326 Of course those who wished for a larger share of the patron鈥檚 favours could only hope to win it by unstinted tokens of admiration, deference, or assent; and213 probably many besides the master of thirty legions in the well-known story were invariably allowed to be right by the scholars with whom they condescended to dispute.The nature of dialectic is still further elucidated in the Phaedrus, where it is also contrasted with the method, or rather the no-method, of popular rhetoric. Here, again, discussions about love are chosen as an illustration. A discourse on the subject by no less a writer than Lysias is quoted and shown to be deficient in the most elementary requisites of logical exposition. The different arguments are strung together without any principle of arrangement, and ambiguous terms are used without being defined. In insisting on the necessity of definition, Plato followed Socrates; but he defines according to a totally different method. Socrates had arrived at his general notions partly by a comparison of particular instances with a view to eliciting the points where they agreed, partly by amending the conceptions already in circulation. We have seen that the earliest Dialogues attributed to Plato are one long exposure of the difficulties attending such a procedure; and his subsequent investigations all went to prove that nothing solid could be built on such shifting foundations as sense and opinion. Meanwhile increasing familiarity with the great ontological systems had taught him to begin with the most general notions, and to work down from them to the most particular. The consequence was that dialectic came to mean nothing but classification or logical division. Definition was absorbed into this process, and reasoning by syllogism was not yet differentiated from it. To tell what a thing was, meant to fix its place in the universal order of existence, and its individual existence was sufficiently accounted for by the same determination. If we imagine first a series of concentric circles, then a series of contrasts symmetrically disposed on either side of a central dividing line, and finally a series of transitions descending from the most absolute unity to the most irregular diversity鈥攚e shall, by combining the three schemes, arrive at some understanding of the Platonic dialectic. To assign anything its place in these various sequences was at once to define it and to demonstrate the necessity of222 its existence. The arrangement is also equivalent to a theory of final causes; for everything has a function to perform, marked out by its position, and bringing it into relation with the universal order. Such a system would inevitably lead to the denial of evil, were not evil itself interpreted as the necessary correlative of good, or as a necessary link in the descending manifestations of reality. Moreover, by virtue of his identifying principle, Plato saw in the lowest forms a shadow or reflection of the highest. Hence the many surprises, concessions, and returns to abandoned positions which we find in his later writings. The three moments of Greek thought, circumscription, antithesis, and mediation, work in such close union, or with such bewildering rapidity of alternation, through all his dialectic, that we are never sure whither he is leading us, and not always sure that he knows it himself.

If happiness consists in the appropriate exercise of our vital functions, then the highest happiness must result from the highest activity, whether we choose to call that reason or anything else which is the ruling and guiding principle within us, and through which we form our conceptions of what is noble and divine; and whether this be intrinsically divine, or only the divinest thing in us, its appropriate activity must be perfect happiness. Now this, which we call the theoretic activity, must be the mightiest; for reason is supreme in our souls and supreme over the objects which it cognises; and it is also the most continuous, for of all activities theorising is that which can be most uninterruptedly carried on. Again, we think that some pleasure ought to be mingled with happiness; if so, of all our proper activities philosophy is confessedly the most pleasurable, the enjoyments afforded by it being wonderfully pure and steady; for the existence of those who are in possession of knowledge is naturally more delightful than the existence of those who merely seek it. Of all virtues this is the most self-sufficing; for while in common with every other virtue it presupposes the indispensable conditions of life, wisdom does not, like justice and temperance and courage, need human objects for its exercise; theorising may go on in perfect solitude; for the co-operation of other men, though helpful, is not absolutely necessary to its activity. All other pursuits are exercised for some end lying outside themselves; war entirely for the sake of310 peace, and statesmanship in great part for the sake of honour and power; but theorising yields no extraneous profit great or small, and is loved for itself alone. If, then, the energising of pure reason rises above such noble careers as war and statesmanship by its independence, by its inherent delightfulness, and, so far as human frailty will permit, by its untiring vigour, this must constitute perfect human happiness; or rather such a life is more than human, and man can only partake of it through the divine principle within him; wherefore let us not listen to those who tell us that we should have no interests except what are human and mortal like ourselves; but so far as may be put on immortality, and bend all our efforts towards living up to that element of our nature which, though small in compass, is in power and preciousness supreme.192

Antisthenes pushed to its extreme consequences a movement begun by the naturalistic Sophists. His doctrine was what would now be called anarchic collectivism. The State, marriage, private property, and the then accepted forms of religion, were to be abolished, and all mankind were to herd promiscuously together.5 Either he or his followers, alone among the ancients, declared that slavery was wrong; and, like Socrates, he held that the virtue of men and women was the same.6 But what he meant by this broad human virtue, which according to him was identical with happiness, is not clear. We only know that he dissociated it in the strongest manner from pleasure. 鈥業 had rather be mad than delighted,鈥 is one of his characteristic sayings.7 It would appear, however, that what he really objected to was self-indulgence鈥攖he pursuit of sensual gratification for its own sake鈥攁nd that he was ready to welcome the enjoyments naturally accompanying the healthy discharge of vital function.8The first result of this separation between man and the world was a complete breach with the old physical philosophy, shown, on the one hand, by an abandonment of speculative studies, on the other, by a substitution of convention for Nature as the recognised standard of right. Both consequences were drawn by Protagoras, the most eminent of the Sophists. We have now to consider more particularly what was his part in the great drama of which we are attempting to give an intelligible account.

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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.The final antithesis of conscious life is that between the398 individual and the state. In this sense, Aristotle鈥檚 Politics is the completion of his Ethics. It is only in a well-ordered community that moral habits can be acquired; and it is only in such a community that the best or intellectual life can be attained, although, properly speaking, it is not a social life. Nevertheless, the Politics, like every other portion of Aristotle鈥檚 system, reproduces within itself the elements of an independent whole. To understand its internal organisation, we must begin by disregarding Aristotle鈥檚 abortive classification (chiefly adapted from Plato) of constitutions into three legitimate鈥擬onarchy, Aristocracy, and Republic; and three illegitimate鈥擠emocracy, Oligarchy, and Tyranny. Aristotle distinguishes them by saying that the legitimate forms are governed with a view to the general good; the illegitimate with a view to the interests of particular classes or persons. But, in point of fact, as Zeller shows,291 he cannot keep up this distinction; and we shall better understand his true idea by substituting for it another鈥攖hat between the intellectual and the material state. The object of the one is to secure the highest culture for a ruling caste, who are to abstain from industrial occupations, and to be supported by the labour of a dependent population. Such a government may be either monarchical or aristocratic; but it must necessarily be in the hands of a few. The object of the other is to maintain a stable equilibrium between the opposing interests of rich and poor鈥攖wo classes practically distinguished as the few and the many. This end is best attained where supreme power belongs to the middle class. The deviations are represented by oligarchy and tyranny on the one side, and by extreme democracy on the other. Where such constitutions exist, the best mode of preserving them is to moderate their characteristic excess by borrowing certain institutions from the opposite form of government, or by modifying their own institutions in a conciliatory sense.

Meanwhile a series of Stoic thinkers had also been feeling their way towards a compromise with Plato and Aristotle, which, so far as it went, was a step in the direction of spiritualism. We have seen, in a former chapter, how one of the great distinguishing marks of Stoicism, as compared with the systems immediately preceding it, was the substitution of a pervading monism for their antithesis between God and the world, between heaven and earth, between reason and sense. It will be remembered also that this monistic creed was associated with a return to the Heracleitean theory that the world is periodically destroyed by fire. Now, with reference to three out of these four points, Bo锚thus, a Stoic contemporary of Carneades, returned to the Aristotelian doctrine. While still holding to the materialism of his own school, including a belief in the corporeal nature of the divinity, he separated God from the world, and represented him as governing its movements from without; the world itself he maintained to be eternal; and in the mind of man he recognised reason or nous as an independent source of conviction. In163 his cosmology, Bo锚thus was followed by a more celebrated master, Panaetius, who also adopted the Aristotelian rationalism so far as to deny the continued existence of the soul after death, and to repudiate the belief in divination which Stoicism had borrowed from popular superstition; while in psychology he partially restored the distinction between life and mind which had been obliterated by his predecessors.259 The dualistic theory of mind was carried still further by Posidonius, the most eminent Stoic of the first century B.C. This very learned and accomplished master, while returning in other points to a stricter orthodoxy, was led to admit the Platonic distinction between reason and passion, and to make it the basis of his ethical system.260 But the Platonising tendencies of Posidonius had no more power than those of Antiochus to effect a true spiritualistic revival, since neither they nor any of their contemporaries had any genius for metaphysical speculation; while the increased attention paid to Aristotle did not extend to the fundamental principles of his system, which, even within the Peripatetic school, were so misconceived as to be interpreted in a thoroughly materialistic sense.261Nunc ratio nulla 鈥榮t restandi, nulla facultas,




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