时间：<2020-06-06 22:41:48 作者：d3广州到武汉gSu 浏览量：9777
The religious revival initiated by Augustus for his own purposes was soon absorbed and lost in a much wider movement, following independent lines and determined by forces whose existence neither he nor any of his contemporaries could suspect. Even for his own purposes, something more was needed than a mere return to the past. The old Roman faith and worship were too dry and meagre to satisfy the cravings of the Romans themselves in the altered conditions created for them by the possession of a world-wide empire; still less could they furnish a meeting-ground for all the populations which that empire was rapidly fusing into a single mass. But what was wanted might be trusted to evolve itself without any assistance from without, once free scope was given to the religious instincts of mankind. These had long been kept in abeyance by the creeds which they had originally called into existence, and by the rigid political organisation of the ancient city-state. Local patriotism was adverse to the introduction of new beliefs either from within or from without. Once the general interests of a community had been placed under the guardianship of certain deities with definite names and jurisdictions, it was understood that they would feel offended at the prospect of seeing their privileges invaded by a rival power; and were that rival the patron of another community, his introduction might seem like a surrender of national independence at the feet of an alien conqueror. So,203 also, no very active proselytism was likely to be carried on when the adherents of each particular religion believed that its adoption by an alien community would enable strangers and possible enemies to secure a share of the favour which had hitherto been reserved for themselves exclusively. And to allure away the gods of a hostile town by the promise of a new establishment was, in fact, one of the stratagems commonly employed by the general of the besieging army.312
To Socrates himself the strongest reason for believing in the identity of conviction and practice was, perhaps, that he had made it a living reality. With him to know the right137 and to do it were the same. In this sense we have already said that his life was the first verification of his philosophy. And just as the results of his ethical teaching can only be ideally separated from their application to his conduct, so also these results themselves cannot be kept apart from the method by which they were reached; nor is the process by which he reached them for himself distinguishable from the process by which he communicated them to his friends. In touching on this point, we touch on that which is greatest and most distinctively original in the Socratic system, or rather in the Socratic impulse to systematisation of every kind. What it was will be made clearer by reverting to the central conception of mind. With Protagoras mind meant an ever-changing stream of feeling; with Gorgias it was a principle of hopeless isolation, the interchange of thoughts between one consciousness and another, by means of signs, being an illusion. Socrates, on the contrary, attributed to it a steadfast control over passion, and a unifying function in society through its essentially synthetic activity, its need of co-operation and responsive assurance. He saw that the reason which overcomes animal desire tends to draw men together just as sensuality tends to drive them into hostile collision. If he recommended temperance on account of the increased egoistic pleasure which it secures, he recommended it also as making the individual a more efficient instrument for serving the community. If he inculcated obedience to the established laws, it was no doubt partly on grounds of enlightened self-interest, but also because union and harmony among citizens were thereby secured. And if he insisted on the necessity of forming definite conceptions, it was with the same twofold reference to personal and public advantage. Along with the diffusive, social character of mind he recognised its essential spontaneity. In a commonwealth where all citizens were free and equal, there must also be freedom and equality of reason. Having worked out a theory of life for himself, he138 desired that all other men should, so far as possible, pass through the same bracing discipline. Here we have the secret of his famous erotetic method. He did not, like the Sophists, give continuous lectures, nor profess, like some of them, to answer every question that might be put to him. On the contrary, he put a series of questions to all who came in his way, generally in the form of an alternative, one side of which seemed self-evidently true and the other self-evidently false, arranged so as to lead the respondent, step by step, to the conclusion which it was desired that he should accept. Socrates did not invent this method. It had long been practised in the Athenian law-courts as a means for extracting from the opposite party admissions which could not be otherwise obtained, whence it had passed into the tragic drama, and into the discussion of philosophical problems. Nowhere else was the analytical power of Greek thought so brilliantly displayed; for before a contested proposition could be subjected to this mode of treatment, it had to be carefully discriminated from confusing adjuncts, considered under all the various meanings which it might possibly be made to bear, subdivided, if it was complex, into two or more distinct assertions, and linked by a minute chain of demonstration to the admission by which its validity was established or overthrown.Nor was this all. Before philosophising, the Greeks did not think only in the order of time; they learned at a very early period to think also in the order of space, their favourite idea of a limit being made especially prominent here. Homer’s geographical notions, however erroneous, are, for his age, singularly well defined. Aeschylus has a wide knowledge of the earth’s surface, and exhibits it with perhaps unnecessary readiness. Pindar delights to follow his mythological heroes about on their travels. The same tendency found still freer scope when prose literature began. Hecataeus, one of the earliest prose-writers, was great both as a genealogist and as a geographer; and in this respect also Herodotus carried out on a great scale the enquiries most habitually pursued by his countrymen. Now, it will be remembered that we have had occasion to characterise early Ionian speculation as being, to a great extent, cosmography. The element from which it deduced all things was, in fact, that which was supposed to lie outside and embrace the rest. The geographical limit was conceived as a genealogical ancestor. Thus, the studies which men like Hecataeus carried on separately, were combined, or rather confused, in a single bold generalisation by Anaximenes and Heracleitus.II.
When the power and value of these primitive speculations can no longer be denied, their originality is sometimes questioned by the systematic detractors of everything Hellenic. Thales and the rest, we are told, simply borrowed their theories without acknowledgment from a storehouse of Oriental wisdom on which the Greeks are supposed to have drawn as freely as Coleridge drew on German philosophy. Sometimes each system is affiliated to one of the great Asiatic religions; sometimes they are all traced back to the schools of Hindostan. It is natural that no two critics should agree, when the rival explanations are based on nothing stronger than superficial analogies and accidental coincidences. Dr. Zeller in his wonderfully learned, clear, and sagacious work on Greek philosophy, has carefully sifted some of the hypotheses referred to, and shown how destitute they are of internal or external evidence, and how utterly they fail to account for the facts. The oldest and best authorities, Plato and Aristotle, knew nothing about such a derivation of Greek thought from Eastern sources. Isocrates does, indeed, mention that Pythagoras borrowed his philosophy7 from Egypt, but Isocrates did not even pretend to be a truthful narrator. No Greek of the early period except those regularly domiciled in Susa seems to have been acquainted with any language but his own. Few travelled very far into Asia, and of those few, only one or two were philosophers. Democritus, who visited more foreign countries than any man of his time, speaks only of having discussed mathematical problems with the wise men whom he encountered; and even in mathematics he was at least their equal.9 It was precisely at the greatest distance from Asia, in Italy and Sicily, that the systems arose which seem to have most analogy with Asiatic modes of thought. Can we suppose that the traders of those times were in any way qualified to transport the speculations of Confucius and the Vedas to such a distance from their native homes? With far better reason might one expect a German merchant to carry a knowledge of Kant’s philosophy from K?nigsberg to Canton. But a more convincing argument than any is to show that Greek philosophy in its historical evolution exhibits a perfectly natural and spontaneous progress from simpler to more complex forms, and that system grew out of system by a strictly logical process of extension, analysis, and combination. This is what, chiefly under the guidance of Zeller, we shall now attempt to do.Let all my life be guiltless save in this:
We have seen how Prodicus and Hippias professed to97 teach all science, all literature, and all virtuous accomplishments. We have seen how Protagoras rejected every kind of knowledge unconnected with social culture. We now find Gorgias going a step further. In his later years, at least, he professes to teach nothing but rhetoric or the art of persuasion. We say in his later years, for at one time he seems to have taught ethics and psychology as well.73 But the Gorgias of Plato’s famous dialogue limits himself to the power of producing persuasion by words on all possible subjects, even those of whose details he is ignorant. Wherever the rhetorician comes into competition with the professional he will beat him on his own ground, and will be preferred to him for every public office. The type is by no means extinct, and flourishes like a green bay-tree among ourselves. Like Pendennis, a writer of this kind will review any book from the height of superior knowledge acquired by two hours’ reading in the British Museum; or, if he is adroit enough, will dispense with even that slender amount of preparation. He need not even trouble himself to read the book which he criticises. A superficial acquaintance with magazine articles will qualify him to pass judgment on all life, all religion, and all philosophy. But it is in politics that the finest career lies before him. He rises to power by attacking the measures of real statesmen, and remains there by adopting them. He becomes Chancellor of the Exchequer by gross economical blundering, and Prime Minister by a happy mixture of epigram and adulation.
Both friends and cities and confederates,The substantial forms of Aristotle, combining as they do the notion of a definition with that of a moving cause and a fulfilled purpose, are evidently derived from the Platonic Ideas; a reflection which at once leads us to consider the relation in which he stands to the spiritualism of Plato and to the mathematical idealism of the Neo-Pythagoreans. He agrees with them in thinking that general conceptions are the sole object of knowledge—the sole enduring reality in a world of change. He differs from them in maintaining that such conceptions have no existence apart from the particulars in which they reside. It has been questioned whether Aristotle ever really understood his master’s teaching on the subject. Among recent critics, M. Barthélemy Saint-Hilaire asserts,336 with considerable vehemence, that he did not. It is certain that in some respects Aristotle is not just to the Platonic theory, that he exaggerates its absurdities, ignores its developments, and occasionally brings charges against it which might be retorted with at least equal effect against his own philosophy. But on the most important point of all, whether Plato did or did not ascribe a separate existence to his Ideas, we could hardly believe a disciple of twenty years’ standing229 to be mistaken, even if the master had not left on record a decisive testimony to the affirmative side in his Parmenides, and one scarcely less decisive in his Timaeus.230 And so far as the controversy reduces itself to this particular issue, Aristotle is entirely right. His most powerful arguments are not, indeed, original, having been anticipated by Plato himself; but as they were left unanswered he had a perfect right to repeat them, and his dialectical skill was great enough to make him independent of their support. The extreme minuteness of his criticism is wearisome to us, who can hardly conceive how another opinion could ever have been held. Yet such was the fascination exercised by Plato’s idealism, that not only was it upheld with considerable acrimony by his immediate followers,231 but under one form or another it has been revived over and over again, in the long period which has elapsed since its first promulgation, and on every one of these occasions the arguments of Aristotle have been raised up again to meet it, each time with triumphant success. Ockham’s razor, Entia non sunt sine necessitate multiplicanda, is borrowed from the Metaphysics; Locke’s principal objection to innate ideas closely resembles the sarcastic observation in337 the last chapter of the Posterior Analytics, that, according to Plato’s theory, we must have some very wonderful knowledge of which we are not conscious.232 And the weapons with which Trendelenburg and others have waged war on Hegel are avowedly drawn from the Aristotelian arsenal.233
With regard to the universal soul of Nature, there is, indeed, no difficulty at all. In giving a sensible realisation to the noetic ideas, she suffers no degradation or pollution by contact with the lower elements of matter. Enthroned on the outer verge of the cosmos, she governs the whole course of Nature by a simple exercise of volition, and in the enjoyment of a felicity which remains undisturbed by passion or desire. But just as we have seen the supreme Nous resolving itself into a multitude of individual intelligences, so also does the cosmic soul produce many lesser or partial souls of which our own is one. Now these derivative souls cannot all be equal, for that would be to defeat the purpose of creation, which is to realise all the possibilities of creation from the highest to the lowest. Thus each has an office corresponding to her place in the scale of perfection.452 We may say of the human soul that she stoops to conquer. Her mission is to cope with the more recalcitrant forms of matter. It is to the struggle with their impurities that the troubles and passions of our life are due. By yielding to earthly temptations, we suffer a second fall, and one much more real than the first; by overcoming them, as is perfectly in our power to do, we give scope and exercise to faculties which would otherwise307 have remained dormant and unknown. Moreover, our soul retains the privilege of returning to her former abode, enriched by the experience acquired in this world, and with that clearer perception of good which the knowledge of its opposite alone can supply. Nay, paradoxical as the assertion may seem, she has not entirely descended to earth, but remains in partial communication with the noetic world by virtue of her reasoning faculty; that is to say, when its intuitions are not darkened and disturbed by the triumph of sensuous impressions over the lower soul. On this and on many other occasions, Plotinus betrays a glimmering consciousness that his philosophy is purely subjective, and that its attempted transcendentalism is, in truth, a projection of psychological distinctions into the external world. Starting with the familiar division of human nature into body, soul, and spirit (or reason), he endeavours to find an objective counterpart for each. Body is represented by the material universe, soul by the animating principle of Nature, reason by the extramundane Nous. Under these three heads is comprised the totality of real existence; but existence itself has to be accounted for by a principle lying above and beyond it, which has still to be obtained by an effort of abstraction from the data that self-consciousness supplies.453After considering by what agencies the seeds of religious belief were carried from place to place, we have to examine, what was even more important, the quality of the soil on which they fell. And here, to continue the metaphor, we shall find that the Roman plough had not only broken through the crust of particularist prejudice, but had turned up new social strata eminently fitted to receive and nourish the germs scattered over their surface by every breeze and every bird of passage, or planted and watered by a spiritual sower’s hand. Along with the positive check of an established worship, the negative check of dissolving criticism had, to a great extent, disappeared with the destruction of the régime which had been most favourable to its exercise during the early stages of progress. The old city aristocracies were not merely opposed on patriotic grounds to free-trade in religion, but, as the most educated and independent class in the community, they were the first to shake off supernatural beliefs of every kind. We have grown so accustomed to seeing those beliefs upheld by the partisans of political privilege and attacked in the name of democratic principles, that we are apt to forget how very modern is the association of free-thought with the supremacy of numbers. It only dates from the French Revolution, and even now it is far from obtaining everywhere. Athens was the most perfectly organised democracy of antiquity, and in the course of this work we have repeatedly had occasion to observe how strong was the spirit of religious bigotry among the Athenian people. If we want rationalistic opinions we must go to the great nobles and their friends, to a Pericles, a Critias, or a Protagoras. There must also have been perfect intellectual liberty among205 the Roman nobles who took up Hellenic culture with such eagerness towards the middle of the second century B.C., and among those who, at a later period, listened with equanimity or approval to Caesar’s profession of Epicureanism in a crowded senatorial debate. It was as much in order that the De Rerum Natura should have been written by a member of this class as that the Aeneid should proceed from the pen of a modest provincial farmer. In positive knowledge, Virgil greatly excelled Lucretius, but his beliefs were inevitably determined by the traditions of his ignorant neighbours. When civil war, proscription, delation, and, perhaps more than any other cause, their own delirious extravagance, had wrought the ruin of the Roman aristocracy, their places were taken by respectable provincials who brought with them the convictions without the genius of the Mantuan poet; and thenceforward the tide of religious reaction never ceased rising until the Crusades, which were its supreme expression, unexpectedly brought about a first revival of Hellenic culture. On that occasion, also, the first symptoms of revolt manifested themselves among the nobles; taking the form of Gnosticism in the brilliant courts of Languedoc, and, at a later period, of Epicureanism in the Ghibelline circles of Florentine society; while, conversely, when the Ciompi or poorer artisans of Florence rose in revolt against the rich traders, one of the first demands made by the successful insurgents was, that a preaching friar should be sent to give them religious instruction. At a still later period, the same opposition of intellectual interests continues to be defined by the same social divisions. Two distinct currents of thought co-operated to bring about the Protestant Reformation. One, which was religious and reactionary, proceeded from the people. The other, which was secularising, scholarly, and scientific, represented the tendencies of the upper classes and of those who looked to them for encouragement and support. Throughout the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, many noble names are to be found206 among the champions of reason; and while speculative liberty is associated with the ascendency of the aristocratic party, superstition and intolerance are associated with the triumph of the people, whether under the form of a democracy or of a levelling despotism. So, also, the great emancipating movement of the eighteenth century was fostered by the descendants of the Crusaders, and, until after the Revolution, met with no response among the bourgeoisie or the people; indeed the reaction in favour of supernaturalism was begun by a child of the people, Rousseau. All this, as we have already observed, has been reversed in more recent times; but the facts quoted are enough to prove how natural it was that in the ancient world decay of class privileges should be equivalent to a strengthening of the influences which made for supernaturalism and against enlightened criticism.But what had happened once before when philosophy was taken up by men of the world, repeated itself on this occasion. Attention was diverted from speculative to ethical problems, or at least to issues lying on the borderland between speculation and practice, such as those relating to the criterion of truth and the nature of the highest good. On neither of these topics had Epicureanism a consistent answer to give, especially when subjected to the cross-examination of rival schools eager to secure Roman favour for their own doctrines. Stated under any form, the Epicurean morality could not long satisfy the conquerors of the world. To some of them it would seem a shameful dereliction of duty, to others an irksome restraint on self-indulgence, while all would be alienated by its declared contempt for the general interests of culture and ambition. Add to this that the slightest acquaintance with astronomy, as it was then taught in Hellenic countries, would be fatal to a belief in the Epicurean physics, and we shall understand that the cause for which Lucretius contended was already lost before his great poem saw the light.