时间：<2020-06-03 02:33:02 作者：Yh乞丐皇帝传奇下载AN3 浏览量：9777
Even the very imperfect means of information supplied by the literature of the empire were not utilised to the fullest extent. It was naturally the writers of most brilliant genius who received most attention, and these, as it happened, were the most prejudiced against their contemporaries. Their observations, too, were put on record under the form of sweeping generalisations; while the facts from which a different conclusion might be gathered lay scattered through the pages of more obscure authorities, needing to be carefully sifted out and brought together by those who wished to arrive at a more impartial view of the age to which they relate.And neither is embittered by defeat;
Another noteworthy circumstance is that the last centuries of Paganism were on the whole marked by a steady literary decline. To a literary man, this meant that civilisation as a whole was retrograding, that it was an effete organism which could only be regenerated by the infusion of new life from without; while, conversely, the fresh literary productivity of mediaeval and modern Europe was credited to the complete renovation which Christianity and the Barbarians were supposed to have wrought. A closer study of Roman law has done much to correct this superficial impression. It has revealed the existence, in at least one most important domain, of a vast intellectual and moral advance continued down to the death of Marcus Aurelius. And the retrograde movement which set in with Commodus may be fairly attributed to the increased militarism necessitated by the encroachments of barbarism, and more directly to the infusion of barbarian elements into the territory of the empire, rather198 than to any spontaneous decay of Roman civilisation. The subsequent resuscitation of art and letters is another testimony to the permanent value and vitality of ancient culture. It was in those provinces which had remained least affected by the northern invasion, such as Venetia and Tuscany, that the free activity of the human intellect was first or most fruitfully resumed, and it was from the irradiation of still unconquered Byzantium that the light which re-awakened them was derived.Holy Dêmêter’s fruit it gave them; the sweet spring
Against these we have to set the confident expressions of belief in a future life employed by all the Platonists and Pythagoreans, and by some of the Stoic school. But their doctrines on the subject will be most advantageously explained when we come to deal with the religious philosophy of the age as a whole. What we have now to examine is the general condition of popular belief as evinced by the character of the funereal monuments erected in the time of the empire. Our authorities are agreed in stating that the majority of these bear witness to a wide-spread and ever-growing faith in immortality, sometimes conveyed under the form of inscriptions, sometimes under that of figured reliefs, sometimes more na?vely signified by articles placed in the tomb for use in another world. ‘I am waiting for my husband,’ is the inscription placed over his dead wife by one who was, like her, an enfranchised slave. Elsewhere a widow ‘commends her departed husband to the gods of the underworld, and prays that they will allow his spirit to revisit her in the hours of the night.’366 ‘In death thou art not dead,’ are the words deciphered on one mouldering stone. ‘No,’ says a father to a son whom he had lost in Numidia,236 ‘thou hast not gone down to the abode of the Manes but risen to the stars of heaven.’ At Doxato, near Philippi in Macedonia, ‘a mother has graven on the tomb of her child: “We are crushed by a cruel blow, but thou hast renewed thy being and art dwelling in the Elysian fields.”’367 This conception of the future world as a heavenly and happy abode where human souls are received into the society of the gods, recurs with especial frequency in the Greek epitaphs, but is also met with in Latin-speaking countries. And, considering how great a part the worship of departed spirits plays in all primitive religions, just such a tendency might be expected to show itself at such a time, if, as we have contended, the conditions of society under the empire were calculated to set free the original forces by which popular faith is created. It seems, therefore, rather arbitrary to assume, as Friedl?nder does,368 that the movement in question was entirely due to Platonic influence,—especially considering that there are distinct traces of it to be found in Pindar;—although at the same time we may grant that it was powerfully fostered by Plato’s teaching, and received a fresh impulse from the reconstitution of his philosophy in the third century of our era.The truth is that while our philosopher had one of the most powerful intellects ever possessed by any man, it was an intellect strictly limited to the surface of things. He was utterly incapable of divining the hidden forces by which inorganic nature and life and human society are moved. He had neither the genius which can reconstruct the past, nor the genius which partly moulds, partly foretells the future. But wherever he has to observe or to report, to enumerate or to analyse, to describe or to define, to classify or to compare; and whatever be the subject, a mollusc or a mammal, a mouse or an elephant; the structure and habits of wild animals; the different stages in the development of an embryo bird; the variations of a single organ or function through the entire zoological series; the hierarchy of intellectual faculties; the laws of mental association; the specific types of virtuous character; the relation of equity to law; the relation of reason to impulse; the ideals of friendship; the different members of a household; the different orders in a State; the possible variations of political constitutions, or within the same constitution; the elements of dramatic or epic poetry; the modes of predication; the principles of definition, classification, judgment, and reasoning; the different systems of philosophy; all varieties of passion, all motives to action, all sources of conviction;—there we find an enormous accumulation of knowledge, an unwearied patience of research, a sweep of comprehension, a subtlety of discrimination, an accuracy of statement, an impartiality of decision, and an all-absorbing enthusiasm for science, which, if they do not raise him to the supreme level of creative genius, entitle him to rank a very little way below it.
It seems strange that Galileo, having gone so far, did not go a step further, and perceive that the planetary orbits, being curvilinear, must result from the combination of a centripetal with a tangential force. But the truth is that he never seems to have grasped his own law of inertia in its full generality. He understood that the planets could not have been set in motion without a rectilinear impulse; but his idea was that this impulse continued only so long as was necessary in order to give them their present velocity, instead of acting on them for ever as a tangential force. The explanation of this strange inconsequence must be sought in a survival of Aristotelian conceptions, in the persistent belief that rectilinear motion was necessarily limited and temporary, while circular motion was natural, perfect, and eternal.548 Now such conceptions as386 Nature, perfection, and eternity always rebel against an analysis of the phenomena wherein they are supposed to reside. The same prejudice will explain why Galileo should have so persistently ignored Kepler’s Laws, for we can hardly imagine that they were not brought under his notice.
If there are any who value Aristotle as a champion of spiritualism, they must take him with his encumbrances. If his philosophy proves that one part of the soul is immaterial, it proves equally that the soul, taking it altogether, is perishable. Not only does he reject Plato’s metempsychosis as inconsistent with physiology, but he declares that affection, memory, and reasoning are functions not of the eternal Nous, but of the whole man, and come to an end with his dissolution. As to the active Nous, he tells us that it cannot think without the assistance of the passive Nous, which is mortal. And there are various passages in the ‘Nicomachean Ethics’ showing that he had faced this negation of a future life, and was perfectly resigned to its consequences.272 At one period of his life, probably when under the immediate influence of Plato, he had indulged375 in dreams of immortality; but a profounder acquaintance with natural science sufficed to dissipate them. Perhaps a lingering veneration for his teacher made him purposely use ambiguous language in reference to the eternity of that creative reason which he had so closely associated with self-consciousness. It may remind us of Spinoza’s celebrated proposition, Sentimus experimurque nos aeternos esse, words absolutely disconnected with the hope of a continued existence of the individual after death, but apparently intended to enlist some of the sentiment associated with that belief on the side of the writer’s own philosophy.The naturalism and utilitarianism of the eighteenth century are the last conceptions directly inherited from ancient philosophy by modern thought. Henceforward, whatever light the study of the former can throw on the vicissitudes of the latter is due either to their partial parallelism, or to an influence becoming every day fainter and more difficult to trace amid the multitude of factors involved. The progress of analytical criticism was continually deflected or arrested by the still powerful resistance of scholasticism, just as the sceptical tendencies of the New Academy had been before, though happily with less permanent success; and as, in antiquity, this had happened within no less than without the critical school, so also do we find Locke clinging to the theology of Descartes; Berkeley lapsing into Platonism; Hume playing fast and loose with his own principles; and Kant leaving it doubtful to which side he belongs, so evenly are the two opposing tendencies balanced in his mind, so427 dexterously does he adapt the new criticism to the framework of scholastic logic and metaphysics.
It was not, however, by its legendary beliefs that the living power of ancient religion was displayed, but by the study and practice of divination. This was to the Greeks and Romans what priestly direction is to a Catholic, or the interpretation of Scripture texts to a Protestant believer. And the Stoics, in their anxiety to uphold religion as a bulwark of morality, went entirely along with the popular superstition; while at the same time they endeavoured to reconcile it with the universality of natural law by the same clumsily rationalistic methods that have found favour with some modern scientific defenders of the miraculous. The signs by which we are enabled to predict an event entered, they said, equally with the event itself, into the order of Nature, being either connected with it by direct causation, as is the configuration of the heavenly bodies at a man’s birth with his after fortunes, or determined from the beginning of the world to precede it according to an invariable rule, as with the indications derived from inspecting the entrails of sacrificial victims. And when sceptics asked of what use was15 the premonitory sign when everything was predestined, they replied that our behaviour in view of the warning was predestined as well.36
Parmenides, of Elea, flourished towards the beginning of the fifth century B.C. We know very little about his personal history. According to Plato, he visited Athens late in life, and there made the acquaintance of Socrates, at that time a very young man. But an unsupported statement of Plato’s must always be received with extreme caution; and this particular story is probably not less fictitious than the dialogue which it serves to introduce. Parmenides embodied his theory of the world in a poem, the most important passages of which have been preserved. They show that, while continuing the physical studies of his predecessors, he proceeded on an entirely different method. Their object was to deduce every variety of natural phenomena from a fundamental unity of substance. He declared that all variety and change were a delusion, and that nothing existed but one indivisible, unalterable, absolute reality; just as Descartes’ antithesis of thought and extension disappeared in the infinite substance of Spinoza, or as the Kantian dualism of object and subject was eliminated in Hegel’s absolute idealism. Again, Parmenides does not dogmatise to the same extent as his predecessors; he attempts to demonstrate his theory by the inevitable necessities of being and thought. Existence, he tells us over and over again, is, and non-existence is not, cannot even be imagined or thought of as existing, for thought is the same as being. This is not an anticipation of Hegel’s identification of being with thought; it only amounts to the very innocent proposition that a thought is something and about something—enters, therefore, into the general undiscriminated mass of being. He next proceeds to prove that what is can neither come into being nor pass out of it again. It cannot come out of the non-existent, for that is inconceivable; nor out of the existent, for nothing exists but being itself; and the same argument proves that it cannot cease to exist. Here we find the indestructibility of matter, a truth which Anaximander18 had not yet grasped, virtually affirmed for the first time in history. We find also that our philosopher is carried away by the enthusiasm of a new discovery, and covers more ground than he can defend in maintaining the permanence of all existence whatever. The reason is that to him, as to every other thinker of the pre-Socratic period, all existence was material, or, rather, all reality was confounded under one vague conception, of which visible resisting extension supplied the most familiar type. To proceed: Being cannot be divided from being, nor is it capable of condensation or expansion (as the Ionians had taught); there is nothing by which it can be separated or held apart; nor is it ever more or less existent, but all is full of being. Parmenides goes on in his grand style:—
It will be remembered that in an earlier section of this chapter we accompanied Plato to a period when he had provisionally adopted a theory in which the Protagorean contention that virtue can be taught was confirmed and explained by the Socratic contention that virtue is knowledge; while this knowledge again was interpreted in the sense of a hedonistic calculus, a prevision and comparison of the pleasures and pains consequent on our actions. We have now to trace the lines of thought by which he was guided to a different conception of ethical science.Not that the vitality of Hellenic reason gave way simultaneously at every point. The same independent spirit, the same imaginative vigour which had carried physical speculation to such splendid conquests during the first two centuries of its existence were manifested with equal effect when the energies previously devoted to Nature as a whole concentratedxv themselves on the study of conduct and belief. It was thus that Socrates could claim the whole field of human life for scientific treatment, and create the method by which it has ever since been most successfully studied. It was thus that Plato could analyse and ideally reconstruct all practices, institutions, and beliefs. It was thus that Aristotle, while definitely arresting the progress of research, could still complete the method and create the language through which the results of new research have been established, recognised, and communicated ever since. It was thus that the Stoics advanced from paradox to paradox until they succeeded in co-ordinating morality for all time by reference to the three fundamental ideas of personal conscience, individual obligation, and universal humanity. And not only were dialectics and ethics at first animated by the same enterprising spirit as speculative physics, but their very existence as recognised studies must be ascribed to its decay, to the revolution through which philosophy, from being purely theoretical, became social and didactic. While in some directions thought was made stationary and even retrogressive by the very process of its diffusion, in other directions this diffusion was the cause of its more complete development. Finally, ethics and logic were reduced to a scholastic routine, and progress continued to be made only in the positive sciences, until, here also, it was brought to an end by the triumph of superstition and barbarism combined.