时间：<2020-06-03 02:16:12 作者：Ws深圳seosRX 浏览量：9777
The title of this chapter may have seemed to promise more than a casual mention of the thinker in whom Greek Humanism attained its loftiest and purest expression. But in history, no less than in life, Socrates must ever stand apart from the Sophists. Beyond and above all specialities of teaching, the transcendent dignity of a character which personified philosophy itself demands a separate treatment. Readers who have followed us thus far may feel interested in an attempt to throw some new light on one who was a riddle to his contemporaries, and has remained a riddle to after-ages.
After disposing of the Stoic materialism, according to which the soul, though distinct from the body, is, equally with it, an extended and resisting substance, our philosopher proceeds to discuss the theories which make it a property or function of the body. The Pythagorean notion of the soul as a harmony of the body is met by a reproduction of the well-known arguments used against it in Plato’s Phaedo. Then comes the Aristotelian doctrine that the soul is the entelechy—that is to say, the realised purpose and perfection—of the physical organism to which it belongs. This is an idea which Aristotle himself had failed to make very clear, and the inadequacy of which he had virtually acknowledged by ascribing a different origin to reason, although this is counted as one of the psychic faculties. Plotinus, at any rate, could not appreciate an explanation which, whatever else it implied, certainly involved a considerable departure from his own dualistic interpretation of the difference between spirit and matter. He could not enter into Aristotle’s view of the one as a lower and less concentrated form of the other. The same arguments which had already been employed against Stoicism are now turned against the Peripatetic psychology. The soul as a principle, not only of memory and desire, but even of nutrition, is declared to be independent of and separable from the body. And, finally, as a result of the whole controversy, its immortality is affirmed. But how far this immortality involves the belief in a prolongation of personal existence after death, is a point297 which still remains uncertain. We shall return to the question in dealing with the religious opinions of Plotinus.
If the synthesis of affirmation and negation cannot profitably be used to explain the origin of things in themselves, it has a real and very important function when limited to the subjective sphere, to the philosophy of practice and of belief. It was so employed by Socrates, and, on a much greater scale, by Plato himself. To consider every proposition from opposite points of view, and to challenge the claim of every existing custom on our respect, was a proceeding first instituted by the master, and carried out by the disciple in a manner which has made his investigations a model for every future enquirer. Something of their spirit was inherited by Aristotle; but, except in his logical treatises, it was overborne by the demands of a pre-eminently dogmatic and systematising genius. In criticising the theories of his predecessors, he has abundantly illustrated the power of dialectic, and he has enumerated its resources with conscientious completeness; but he has not verified his own conclusions by subjecting them to this formidable testing apparatus.It is, after all, very questionable whether human happiness would be increased by suppressing the thought of death as something to be feared. George Eliot, in her Legend of Jubal, certainly expresses the contrary opinion.180 The finest edge of enjoyment would be taken off if we forgot its essentially transitory character. The free man may, in Spinoza’s words, think of nothing less than of death; but he cannot prevent the sunken shadow from throwing all his thoughts of life into higher and more luminous relief. The ideal enjoyment afforded by literature would lose much of its zest were we to discard all sympathy with the fears and sorrows on which our mortal condition has enabled it so largely to draw—the lacrimae rerum, which Lucretius himself has turned to such admirable account. And the whole treasure of happiness due to mutual affection must gain by our remembrance that the time granted for its exercise is always limited, and may at any moment be brought to an end—or rather, such an94 effect might be looked for were this remembrance more constantly present to our minds.
VI.Arcesilaus left no writings, and his criticisms on the Stoic theory, as reported by Cicero and Sextus Empiricus, have a somewhat unsatisfactory appearance. By what we can make out, he seems to have insisted on the infallibility of the wise man to a much greater extent than the Stoics themselves, not allowing that there was any class of judgments in which he was liable to be mistaken. But just as the Stoics were obliged to accept suicide as an indispensable safeguard for the inviolability of their personal dignity and happiness, so also Arcesilaus had recourse to a kind of intellectual suicide for the purpose of securing immunity from error. The only way, according to him, in which the sage can make sure of never being mistaken is never to be certain about anything. For, granting that every mental representation is produced by a corresponding object in the external world, still different objects are connected by such a number of insensible gradations that the impressions produced by them are virtually indistinguishable from one another; while a fertile source of illusions also exists in the diversity of impressions produced by the same object acting on different senses and at different times. Moreover, the Stoics themselves admitted that the148 sage might form a mistaken opinion; it was only for his convictions that they claimed unerring accuracy, each of the two—opinion and conviction—being the product of a distinct intellectual energy. Here again, Arcesilaus employed his method of infinitesimal transitions, refusing to admit that the various cognitive faculties could be separated by any hard and fast line; especially as, according to the theory then held by all parties, and by none more strongly than the Stoics, intellectual conceptions are derived exclusively from the data of sense and imagination. We can see that the logic of Scepticism is, equally with that of the other Greek systems, determined by the three fundamental moments of Greek thought. There is first the careful circumscription of certainty; then there is the mediating process by which it is insensibly connected with error; and, lastly, as a result of this process, there is the antithetical opposition of a negative to an affirmative proposition on every possible subject of mental representation.231Her despair is but the inverted image of Plato’s hope, the return to a purer state of being where knowledge will no longer be obscured by passing through the perturbing medium of sight and touch. Again, modern apologists for the injustice and misery of the present system144 argue that its inequalities will be redressed in a future state. Plato conversely regarded the sufferings of good men as a retribution for former sin, or as the result of a forgotten choice. The authority of Pindar and of ancient tradition generally may have influenced his belief, but it had a deeper ground in the logic of a spiritualistic philosophy. The dualism of soul and body is only one form of his fundamental antithesis between the changeless essence and the transitory manifestations of existence. A pantheism like Spinoza’s was the natural outcome of such a system; but his practical genius or his ardent imagination kept Plato from carrying it so far. Nor in the interests of progress was the result to be regretted; for theology had to pass through one more phase before the term of its beneficent activity could be reached. Ethical conceptions gained a new241 significance in the blended light of mythology and metaphysics; those who made it their trade to pervert justice at its fountain-head might still tremble before the terrors of a supernatural tribunal; or if Plato could not regenerate the life of his own people he could foretell what was to be the common faith of Europe in another thousand years; and memory, if not hope, is the richer for those magnificent visions where he has projected the eternal conflict between good and evil into the silence and darkness by which our lives are shut in on every side.
Possibly the world may move, and possibly it may be at rest. Possibly it may be round, or else it may be triangular, or have any other shape. Possibly the sun and the stars may be extinguished at setting, and be lighted afresh at their rising: it is, however, equally possible that they may only disappear under the earth and reappear again, or that their rising and setting is due to yet other causes. Possibly the waxing and waning of the moon may be caused by the moon’s revolving; or it may be due to the atmospheric change, or to an actual increase or decrease in the moon’s size, or to some other cause. Possibly the moon may shine with borrowed light, or it may shine with its own, experience supplying us with instances of bodies which give their own light, and of others which have their light borrowed. From these and such like statements it appears that questions of natural science in themselves have no value for Epicurus. Whilst granting that only one natural explanation of phenomena is generally possible, yet in any particular case it is perfectly indifferent which explanation is adopted.169Antisthenes 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. ‘I had rather be mad than delighted,’ is one of his characteristic sayings.7 It would appear, however, that what he really objected to was self-indulgence—the pursuit of sensual gratification for its own sake—and that he was ready to welcome the enjoyments naturally accompanying the healthy discharge of vital function.8
We find the same theory reproduced and enforced with weighty illustrations by the great historian of that age. It is not known whether Thucydides owed any part of his culture to Protagoras, but the introduction to his history breathes the same spirit as the observations which we have just transcribed. He, too, characterises antiquity as a scene of barbarism, isolation, and lawless violence, particularly remarking that piracy was not then counted a dishonourable profession. He points to the tribes outside Greece, together with the most backward among the Greeks themselves, as representing the low condition from which Athens and her sister states had only emerged within a comparatively recent period. And in the funeral oration which he puts into the mouth of Pericles, the legendary glories of Athens are passed over without the slightest allusion,69 while exclusive prominence is given to her proud position as the intellectual centre of Greece. Evidently a radical change had taken place in men’s conceptions since Herodotus wrote. They were learning to despise the mythical glories of their ancestors, to exalt the present at the expense of the past, to fix their attention exclusively on immediate human interests, and, possibly, to anticipate the coming of a loftier civilisation than had as yet been seen.
The method by which Plato eventually found his way out of the sceptical difficulty, was to transform it from a subjective law of thought into an objective law of things. Adopting the Heracleitean physics as a sufficient explanation of the material world, he conceived, at a comparatively early period of his mental evolution, that the fallaciousness of sense-impressions is due, not to the senses themselves, but to the instability of the phenomena with which they deal; and afterwards, on discovering that the interpretation of ideal relations was subject to similar perplexities, he assumed that, in their case also, the contradiction arises from a combination of Being with not-Being determining whatever differences prevail among the ultimate elements of things. And, finally, like Empedocles, he solved the problem of cognition by establishing a parallel between the human soul and the universe as a whole; the circles of the Same and the Other135 being united in the celestial orbits and also in the mechanism of the brain.223301VI.