时间：<2020-07-07 15:01:14 作者：ad维生素etBz 浏览量：9777
Plato seems to have felt very strongly that all virtuous action tends towards a good exceeding in value any temporary sacrifice which it may involve; and the accepted connotation of ethical terms went entirely along with this belief. But he could not see that a particular action might be good for the community at large and bad for the individual who performed it, not in a different sense but in the very same sense, as involving a diminution of his happiness. For from Plato’s abstract and generalising point of view all good was homogeneous, and the welfare of the individual was absolutely identified with the welfare of the whole to which he belonged. As against those who made right dependent on might and erected self-indulgence into the law of life Plato occupied an impregnable position. He showed that such principles made society impossible, and that without honour even a gang of thieves cannot hold together.140 He also saw that it is reason which brings each individual into relation with the whole and enables him to understand his obligations towards it; but at the same time he gave this232 reason a personal character which does not properly belong to it; or, what comes to the same thing, he treated human beings as pure entia rationis, thus unwittingly removing the necessity for having any morality at all. On his assumption it would be absurd to break the law; but neither would there be any temptation to break it, nor would any unpleasant consequences follow on its violation. Plato speaks of injustice as an injury to the soul’s health, and therefore as the greatest evil that can befall a human being, without observing that the inference involves a confusion of terms. For his argument requires that soul should mean both the whole of conscious life and the system of abstract notions through which we communicate and co-operate with our fellow-creatures. All crime is a serious disturbance to the latter, for it cannot without absurdity be made the foundation of a general rule; but, apart from penal consequences, it does not impair, and may benefit the former.We have endeavoured to show that Aristotle’s account of the syllogism is redundant on the one side and defective on the other, both errors being due to a false analysis of the reasoning process itself, combined with a false metaphysical philosophy. The same evil influences tell with much greater effect on his theory of applied reasoning. Here the fundamental division, corresponding to that between heaven and earth in the cosmos, is between demonstration and dialectic or experimental reasoning. The one starts with first principles of unquestionable validity, the other with principles the validity of which is to be tested by their consequences. Stated in its most abstract form, the distinction is sound, and very nearly prefigures the modern division between deduction and induction, the process by which general laws are applied, and the process by which they are established. Aristotle, however, committed two great mistakes; he thought that each method corresponded to an entirely different order of phenomena: and he thought that both were concerned for the most part with definitions. The Posterior Analytics, which contains his theory of demonstration, answers to the astronomical portion of his physics; it is the doctrine of eternal and necessary truth. And just as his ontology distinguishes between the Prime Mover himself unmoved and the eternal movement produced by his influence, so also his logic distinguishes between infallible first principles and the truths derived from them, the latter being, in his opinion, of inferior384 value. Now, according to Aristotle, these first principles are definitions, and it is to this fact that their self-evident certainty is due. At the same time they are not verbal but real definitions—that is to say, the universal forms of things in themselves as made manifest to the eye of reason, or rather, stamped upon it like the impression of a signet-ring on wax. And, by a further refinement, he seems to distinguish between the concept as a whole and the separate marks which make it up, these last being the ultimate elements of all existence, and as much beyond its complex forms as Nous is beyond reasoned truth.
I agree, however, with Teichmüller that the doctrines of reminiscence and metempsychosis have a purely mythical significance, and I should have expressed my views on the subject with more definiteness and decision had I known that his authority might be quoted in their support. I think that Plato was in a transition state from the Oriental to what afterwards became the Christian theory of retribution. In the one he found an allegorical illustration of his metaphysics, in the other a very serious sanction for his ethics. He felt their incompatibility, but was not prepared to undertake such a complete reconstruction of his system as would have been necessitated by altogether denying the pre-existence of the soul. Of such vacillation Plato’s later Dialogues offer, I think, sufficient evidence. For example, the Matter of the Timacus seems to be a revised version of the Other or principle of division and change, which has already figured as a pure idea, in which capacity it must necessarily be opposed to matter. At the same time, I must observe that, from my point of view, it is enough if Plato inculcated the doctrine of a future life asxxi an important element of his religious system. And that he did so inculcate it Teichmüller fully admits.4But even taken in its mildest form, there were difficulties about Greek idealism which still remained unsolved. They may be summed up in one word, the necessity of subordinating all personal and passionate feelings to a higher law, whatever the dictates of that law may be. Of such self-suppression few men were less capable than Cicero. Whether virtue meant the extirpation or merely the moderation of desire and emotion, it was equally impossible to one of whom Macaulay has said, with not more severity than truth, that his whole soul was under the dominion of a girlish vanity and a craven fear.278 Such weak and well-intentioned natures174 almost always take refuge from their sorrows and self-reproaches in religion; and probably the religious sentiment was more highly developed in Cicero than in any other thinker of the age. Here also a parallel with Socrates naturally suggests itself. The relation between the two amounts to more than a mere analogy; for not only was the intellectual condition of old Athens repeating itself in Rome, but the religious opinions of all cultivated Romans who still retained their belief in a providential God, were, to an even greater extent than their ethics, derived through Stoicism from the great founder of rational theology. Cicero, like Socrates, views God under the threefold aspect of a creator, a providence, and an informing spirit:—identical in his nature with the soul of man, and having man for his peculiar care. With regard to the evidence of his existence, the teleological argument derived from the structure of organised beings is common to both; the argument from universal belief, doubtless a powerful motive with Socrates, is more distinctly put forward by Cicero; and while both regard the heavenly luminaries as manifest embodiments of the divine essence, Cicero is led by the traditions of Plato, Aristotle, and the Stoics, to present the regularity of their movements as the most convincing revelation of a superhuman intelligence, and to identify the outermost starry sphere with the highest God of all.279 Intimately associated with this view is his belief in the immortality of the soul, which he supposes will return after death to the eternal and unchangeable sphere whence it originally proceeded.280 But his familiarity with the sceptical arguments of Carneades prevented Cicero from putting forward his theological beliefs with the same confidence as Socrates; while, at the same time, it enabled him to take up a much more decided attitude of hostility towards the popular superstitions from which he was anxious, so far as possible, to purify true175 religion.281 To sum up: Cicero, like Kant, seems to have been chiefly impressed by two phenomena, the starry heavens without and the moral law within; each in its own way giving him the idea of unchanging and everlasting continuance, and both testifying to the existence of a power by which all things are regulated for the best. But the materialism of his age naturally prevented him from regarding the external order as a mere reflex or lower manifestation of the inward law by which all spirits feel themselves to be members of the same intelligible community.It is, at any rate, certain that the successors of Aenesidêmus adhered to the standpoint of Pyrrho. One of them, Agrippa, both simplified and strengthened the arguments of the school by reducing the ten Tropes to five. The earlier objections to human certainty were summed up under two heads: the irreconcilable conflict of opinions on all subjects; and the essential relativity of consciousness, in which the percipient and the perceived are so intimately united that what things in themselves are cannot possibly be discovered. The other three Tropes relate to the baselessness of reasoning. They were evidently suggested by Aristotle’s remarks on the subject. The process of proof cannot be carried backwards ad infinitum, nor can it legitimately revolve in a circle. Thus much had already been admitted, or rather insisted on by the great founder of logic. But the Sceptics could not agree to Aristotle’s contention, that demonstration may be based on first principles of self-evident certainty. They here fell back on their main argument; that the absence of general agreement on every point is fatal to the existence of such pretended axioms. A still further simplification was effected by the reduction of the five Tropes to two—that all reasoning rests on intuition, and that men’s intuitions are irreconcilably at variance with one another.300 As against true science, the sceptical Tropes are powerless, for the validity of its principles has nothing to do189 with their general acceptance. They are laid before the learner for his instruction, and if he chooses to regard them as either false or doubtful, the misfortune will be his and not theirs. But as against all attempts to constrain belief by an appeal to authority, the Tropes still remain invincible. Whether the testimony invoked be that of ancient traditions or of a supposed inward witness, there is always the same fatal objection that other traditions and other inward witnesses tell quite a different story. The task of deciding between them must, after all, be handed over to an impersonal reason. In other words, each individual must judge for himself and at his own risk, just as he does in questions of physical science.
Personally, we know more about Aristotle than about any other Greek philosopher of the classic period; but what we know does not amount to much. It is little more than the skeleton of a life, a bald enumeration of names and dates and places, with a few more or less doubtful anecdotes interspersed. These we shall now relate, together with whatever inferences the facts seem to warrant. Aristotle was born 384 B.C., at Stageira, a Greek colony in Thrace. It is remarkable that every single Greek thinker of note, Socrates and Plato alone281 excepted, came from the confines of Hellenedom and barbarism. It has been conjectured by Auguste Comte, we know not with how much reason, that religious traditions were weaker in the colonies than in the parent states, and thus allowed freer play to independent speculation. Perhaps, also, the accumulation of wealth was more rapid, thus affording greater leisure for thought; while the pettiness of political life liberated a fund of intellectual energy, which in more powerful communities might have been devoted to the service of the State. Left an orphan in early youth, Aristotle was brought up by one Proxenus, to whose son, Nicanor, he afterwards repaid the debt of gratitude. In his eighteenth year he settled at Athens, and attended the school of Plato until the death of that philosopher twenty years afterwards. It is not clear whether the younger thinker was quite conscious of his vast intellectual debt to the elder, and he continually emphasises the points on which they differ; but personally his feeling towards the master was one of deep reverence and affection. In some beautiful lines, still extant, he speaks of ‘an altar of solemn friendship dedicated to one of whom the bad should not speak even in praise; who alone, or who first among mortals, proved by his own life and by his system, that goodness and happiness go hand in hand;’ and it is generally agreed that the reference can only be to Plato. Again, in his Ethics, Aristotle expresses reluctance to criticise the ideal theory, because it was held by dear friends of his own; adding the memorable declaration, that to a philosopher truth should be dearer still. What opinion Plato formed of his most illustrious pupil is less certain. According to one tradition, he surnamed Aristotle the Nous of his school. It could, indeed, hardly escape so penetrating an observer that the omnivorous appetite for knowledge, which he regarded as most especially characteristic of the philosophic temperament, possessed this young learner to a degree never before paralleled among the sons of men. He may,282 however, have considered that the Stagirite’s method of acquiring knowledge was unfavourable to its fresh and vivid apprehension. An expression has been preserved which can hardly be other than genuine, so distinguished is it by that delicate mixture of compliment and satire in which Plato particularly excelled. He is said to have called Aristotle’s house the ‘house of the reader.’ The author of the Phaedrus, himself a tolerably voluminous writer, was, like Carlyle, not an admirer of literature. Probably it occurred to him that a philosophical student, who had the privilege of listening to his own lectures, might do better than shut himself up with a heap of manuscripts, away from the human inspiration of social intercourse, and the divine inspiration of solitary thought. We moderns have no reason to regret a habit which has made Aristotle’s writings a storehouse of ancient speculations; but from a scientific, no less than from an artistic point of view, those works are overloaded with criticisms of earlier opinions, some of them quite undeserving of serious discussion.In some respects, Aristotle began not only as a disciple but as a champion of Platonism. On the popular side, that doctrine was distinguished by its essentially religious character, and by its opposition to the rhetorical training then in vogue. Now, Aristotle’s dialogues, of which only a few fragments have been preserved, contained elegant arguments in favour of a creative First Cause, and of human immortality; although in the writings which embody his maturer views, the first of these theories is considerably modified, and the second is absolutely rejected. Further, we are informed that Aristotle expressed himself in terms of rather violent contempt for Isocrates, the greatest living professor of declamation; and284 opened an opposition school of his own. This step has, curiously enough, been adduced as a further proof of disagreement with Plato, who, it is said, objected to all rhetorical teaching whatever. It seems to us that what he condemned was rather the method and aim of the then fashionable rhetoric; and a considerable portion of his Phaedrus is devoted to proving how much more effectually persuasion might be produced by the combined application of dialectics and psychology to oratory. Now, this is precisely what Aristotle afterwards attempted to work out in the treatise on Rhetoric still preserved among his writings; and we may safely assume that his earlier lectures at Athens were composed on the same principle.
We are now in a position to understand the full force of Descartes’ Cogito ergo sum. It expresses the substantiality of self-conscious Form, the equal claim of thought with extension to be recognised as an element of the universe. This recognition of self-consciousness as the surest reality was, indeed, far from being new. The Greek Sceptics had never gone to the length of doubting their own personal existence. On the contrary, they professed a sort of subjective idealism. Refusing to go beyond their own consciousness, they found in its undisturbed self-possession the only absolute satisfaction that life could afford. But knowledge and reality had become so intimately associated with something independent of mind, and mind itself with a mere reflection of reality, that the denial of an external world393 seemed to the vulgar a denial of existence itself. And although Aristotle had found the highest, if not the sole absolute actuality in self-thinking thought, he projected it to such a distance from human personality that its bearing on the sceptical controversy had passed unperceived. Descartes began his demonstration at the point where all the ancient systems had converged, but failed to discover in what direction the conditions of the problem required that they should be prolonged. No mistake can be greater than to regard him as the precursor of German philosophy. The latter originated quite independently of his teaching, though not perhaps of his example, in the combination of a much profounder scepticism with a much wider knowledge of dogmatic metaphysics. His method is the very reverse of true idealism. The Cogito ergo sum is not a taking up of existence into thought, but rather a conversion of thought into one particular type of existence. Now, as we have seen, all other existence was conceived as extension, and however carefully thought might be distinguished from this as absolutely indivisible, it was speedily reduced to the same general pattern of inclusion, limitation, and expansion. Whereas Kant, Fichte, and Hegel afterwards dwelt on the form of thought, Descartes attended only to its content, or to that in which it was contained. In other words, he began by considering not how he thought but what he thought and whence it came—his ideas and their supposed derivation from a higher sphere. Take, for example, his two great methods for proving the existence of God. We have in our minds the idea of a perfect being—at least Descartes professed to have such an idea in his mind,—and we, as imperfect beings, could not have originated it for ourselves. It must, therefore, have been placed there by a perfect being acting on us from without. It is here taken for granted that the mechanical equivalence between material effects and their causes must obtain in a world where spatial relations, and therefore measurement, are presumably394 unknown. And, secondly, existence, as a perfection, is involved in the idea of a perfect being; therefore such a being can only be conceived as existing. Here there seems to be a confused notion that because the properties of a geometrical figure can be deduced from its definition, therefore the existence of something more than a simple idea can be deduced from the definition of that idea itself. But besides the mathematical influence, there was evidently a Platonic influence at work; and one is reminded of Plato’s argument that the soul cannot die because it participates in the idea of life. Such fallacies were impossible so long as Aristotle’s logic continued to be carefully studied, and they gradually disappeared with its revival. Meanwhile the cat was away, and the mice used their opportunity.While the analysis of Hobbes goes much deeper than Aristotle’s, the grasp of his reconstructive synthesis is wider and stronger in at least an equal proportion. Recognising the good of the whole as the supreme rule of conduct,555 he gives a new interpretation to the particular virtues, and disposes of the theory which made them a mean between two extremes no less effectually than his contemporaries had disposed of the same theory in its application to the elementary constitution of matter. And just as they were aided in their revolt against Aristotle by the revival of other Greek systems, so also was he. The identification of justice with public interest, though commonly attributed to Epicurus alone, was, like materialism, an idea shared by him with Stoicism, and was probably impressed on modern thought by the weight of their united authority. And when we find the philosopher of Malmesbury making public happiness consist in order and tranquillity, we cannot but think that this was a generalisation from the Stoic and Epicurean conceptions of individual happiness; for it reproduces, under a social form, the same ideal of passionless repose.
Turning from dialectic to ethics, Plato in like manner feels the need of interposing a mediator between reason and appetite. The quality chosen for this purpose he calls θυμ??, a term which does not, as has been erroneously supposed, correspond to our word Will, but rather to pride, or the feeling of personal honour. It is both the seat of military courage and the natural auxiliary of reason, with which it co-operates in restraining the animal desires. It is a characteristic difference between Socrates and Plato that the former should have habitually reinforced his arguments for virtue by appeals to self-interest; while the latter, with his aristocratic way of looking at things, prefers to enlist the aid of a haughtier feeling on their behalf. Aristotle followed in the same track when he taught that to be overcome by anger is less discreditable than to be overcome by desire. In reality none of the instincts tending to self-preservation is more praiseworthy than another, or more amenable to the control of reason. Plato’s tripartite division of mind cannot be made225 to fit into the classifications of modern psychology, which are adapted not only to a more advanced state of knowledge but also to more complex conditions of life. But the characters of women, by their greater simplicity and uniformity, show to some extent what those of men may once have been; and it will, perhaps, confirm the analysis of the Phaedrus to recall the fact that personal pride is still associated with moral principle in the guardianship of female virtue.It would seem from this singular and touching expression of gratitude that the deathless idealism of Hellas found in Nero’s gift of a nominal liberty ample compensation for the very real and precious works of art of which she was despoiled on the occasion of his visit to her shores. At first sight, that visit looks like nothing better than a display of triumphant buffoonery on the one side and of servile adulation on the other. But, in reality, it was a turning-point in the history of civilisation, the awakening to new glories of a race in whom life had become, to all outward appearance, extinct. For more than a whole century the seat of intellectual supremacy had been established in Rome; and during the same period Rome herself had turned to the West rather than to the East for renovation and support. Caesar’s conquests were like the revelation of a new world; and three times over, when the two halves of the divided empire came into collision, the champion who commanded the resources of that world had won. Henceforth it was to her western provinces and to her western frontiers that Rome looked for danger, for aggrandisement, or for renown. In Horace’s time, men asked each other what the warlike Cantabrians were planning; and the personal presence of Augustus himself was needed before those unruly Iberians could be subdued. His adopted sons earned their first laurels at the expense of Alpine mountaineers. His later years are filled with German campaigns; and the great disaster of Varus must have riveted attention more closely than any victory to what was passing between the Rhine and the Elbe. Under Claudius, the conquest of Britain opened a new source of interest in the West, and, like Germany before, supplied a new title of triumph to the imperial family. Half the literary talent in Rome, the two Senecas, Lucan, and at a269 later period Martial and Quintilian, came from Spain, as also did Trajan, whose youth fall in this period.We can understand, then, why the philosophy which, when first promulgated, had tended to withdraw its adherents from participation in public life, should, when transplanted to Roman soil, have become associated with an energetic interest in politics; why it was so eagerly embraced by those noble statesmen who fought to the death in defence of their ancient liberties; how it could become the cement of a senatorial opposition under the worst Caesars; how it could be the inspiration and support of Rome’s Prime Minister during that quinquennium Neronis which was the one bright episode in more than half a century of shame and terror; how, finally, it could mount the throne with Marcus Aurelius, and prove, through his example, that the world’s work might be most faithfully performed by one in whose meditations mere worldly interests occupied the smallest space. Nor can we agree with Zeller in thinking that it was the nationality, and not the philosophy, of these disciples which made them such efficient statesmen.81 On the contrary, it seems to us that the ‘Romanism’ of these men was inseparable from their philosophy, and that they were all the more Roman because they were Stoics as well.
We also miss in him their single-minded devotion to philosophy and their rigorous unity of doctrine. The Acragantine sage was a party leader (in which capacity, to his great credit, he victoriously upheld the popular cause), a rhetorician, an engineer, a physician, and a thaumaturgist. The well-known legend relating to his death may be taken as a not undeserved satire on the colossal self-conceit of the man who claimed divine honours during his lifetime. Half-mystic and half-rationalist, he made no attempt to reconcile the two inconsistent sides of his intellectual character. It may be compared to one of those grotesque combinations in which, according to his morphology, the heads and bodies of widely different animals were united during the beginnings of life before they had learned to fall into their proper places. He believed in metempsychosis, and professed to remember the somewhat miscellaneous series of forms through which his own personality had already run. He had been a boy, a girl, a bush, a bird, and a fish. Nevertheless, as we shall presently see, his theory of Nature altogether excluded such a notion as the soul’s separate existence. We have now to consider what that theory actually was. It will be remembered that Parmenides had affirmed the perpetuity and eternal self-identity of being, but that he had deprived this profound divination of all practical value by interpreting it in a sense which excluded diversity and change. Empedocles also declares creation and destruction to be impossible, but explains that the appearances so denominated arise from the union and separation of four everlasting substances—earth, air, fire, and water. This is the famous doctrine of the four29 elements, which, adopted by Plato and Aristotle, was long regarded as the last word of chemistry, and still survives in popular phraseology. Its author may have been guided by an unconscious reflection on the character of his own philosophical method, for was not he, too, constructing a new system out of the elements supplied by his predecessors? They had successively fixed on water, air, and fire as the primordial form of existence; he added a fourth, earth, and effected a sort of reconciliation by placing them all on an equal footing. Curiously enough, the earlier monistic system had a relative justification which his crude eclecticism lacked. All matter may exist either in a solid, a liquid, or a gaseous form; and all solid matter has reached its present condition after passing through the two other degrees of consistency. That the three modifications should be found coexisting in our own experience is a mere accident of the present régime, and to enumerate them is to substitute a description for an explanation, the usual fault of eclectic systems. Empedocles, however, besides his happy improvement on Parmenides, made a real contribution to thought when, as Aristotle puts it, he sought for a moving as well as for a material cause; in other words, when he asked not only of what elements the world is composed, but also by what forces were they brought together. He tells us of two such causes, Love and Strife, the one a combining, the other a dissociating power. If for these half-mythological names we read attractive and repulsive forces, the result will not be very different from our own current cosmologies. Such terms, when so used as to assume the existence of occult qualities in matter, driving its parts asunder or drawing them close together, are, in truth, as completely mythological as any figments of Hellenic fancy. Unlike their modern antitypes, the Empedoclean goddesses did not reign together, but succeeded one another in alternate dominion during protracted periods of time. The victory of Love was complete when all things had been drawn into a30 perfect sphere, evidently the absolute Eleatic Being subjected to a Heracleitean law of vicissitude and contradiction. For Strife lays hold on the consolidated orb, and by her disintegrating action gradually reduces it to a formless chaos, till, at the close of another world-period, the work of creation begins again. Yet growth and decay are so inextricably intertwined that Empedocles failed to keep up this ideal separation, and was compelled to admit the simultaneous activity of both powers in our everyday experience, so that Nature turns out to be composed of six elements instead of four, the mind which perceives it being constituted in a precisely similar manner. But Love, although on the whole victorious, can only gradually get the better of her retreating enemy, and Nature, as we know it, is the result of their continued conflict. Empedocles described the process of evolution, as he conceived it, in somewhat minute detail. Two points only are of much interest to us, his alleged anticipation of the Darwinian theory and his psychology. The former, such as it was, has occasionally been attributed to Lucretius, but the Roman poet most probably copied Epicurus, although the very brief summary of that philosopher’s physical system preserved by Diogenes Laertius contains no allusion to such a topic. We know, however, that in Aristotle’s time a theory identical with that of Lucretius was held by those who rejected teleological explanations of the world in general and of living organisms in particular. All sorts of animals were produced by spontaneous generation; only those survived which were accidentally furnished with appliances for procuring nourishment and for propagating their kind. The notion itself originated with Empedocles, whose fanciful suppositions have already been mentioned in a different connexion. Most assuredly he did not offer it as a solution of problems which in his time had not yet been mooted, but as an illustration of the confusion which prevailed when Love had only advanced a little way in her ordering, harmonising,31 unifying task. Prantl, writing a few years before the appearance of Mr. Darwin’s book on the Origin of Species, and therefore without any prejudice on the subject, observes with truth that this theory of Empedocles was deeply rooted in the mythological conceptions of the time.23 Perhaps he was seeking for a rationalistic explanation of the centaurs, minotaurs, hundred-handed giants, and so forth, in whose existence he had not, like Lucretius, learned completely to disbelieve. His strange supposition was afterwards freed from its worst extravagances; but even as stated in the De Rerum Natura, it has no claim whatever to rank as a serious hypothesis. Anything more unlike the Darwinian doctrine, according to which all existing species have been evolved from less highly-organized ancestors by the gradual accumulation of minute differences, it would be difficult to conceive. Every thinker of antiquity, with one exception, believed in the immutability of natural species. They had existed unchanged from all eternity, or had sprung up by spontaneous generation from the earth’s bosom in their present form. The solitary dissentient was Anaximander, who conjectured that man was descended from an aquatic animal.24 Strange to say, this lucky guess has not yet been quoted as an argument against the Ascidian pedigree. It is chiefly the enemies of Darwinism who are eager to find it anticipated in Empedocles or Lucretius. By a curious inversion of traditionalism, it is fancied that a modern discovery can be upset by showing that somebody said something of the kind more than two thousand years ago. Unfortunately authority has not the negative value of disproving the principles which it supports. We must be content to accept the truths brought to light by observation and reasoning, even at the risk of finding ourselves in humiliating agreement with a philosopher of antiquity.25While not absolutely condemning suicide, Plotinus restricts the right of leaving this world within much narrower limits than were assigned to it by the Stoics. In violently separating herself from the body, the soul, he tells us, is acting under the influence of some evil passion, and he intimates that the mischievous effects of this passion will prolong themselves into the new life on which she is destined to enter.497 Translated into more abstract language, his meaning probably is that the feelings which ordinarily prompt to suicide, are such as would not exist in a well-regulated mind. It is333 remarkable that Schopenhauer, whose views of life were, on other points, the very reverse of those held by Plotinus, should have used very much the same argument against self-destruction. According to his theory, the will to life, which it should be our principal business to conquer, asserts itself strongly in the wish to escape from suffering, and only delays the final moment of peaceful extinction by rushing from one phase of existence to another. And in order to prove the possibility of such a revival, Schopenhauer was obliged to graft on his philosophy a theory of metempsychosis, which, but for this necessity, would certainly never have found a place in it at all. In this, as in many other instances, an ethical doctrine is apparently deduced from a metaphysical doctrine which has, in reality, been manufactured for its support. All systems do but present under different formulas a common fund of social sentiment. A constantly growing body of public opinion teaches us that we do not belong to ourselves, but to those about us, and that, in ordinary circumstances, it is no less weak and selfish to run away from life than to run away from death.
The first difficulty that strikes one in connexion with this extraordinary story arises out of the oracle on which it all hinges. Had such a declaration been really made by the Pythia, would not Xenophon have eagerly quoted it as a proof of the high favour in which his hero stood with the113 gods?82 And how could Socrates have acquired so great a reputation before entering on the cross-examining career which alone made him conscious of any superiority over other men, and had alone won the admiration of his fellow-citizens? Our doubts are still further strengthened when we find that the historical Socrates did not by any means profess the sweeping scepticism attributed to him by Plato. So far from believing that ignorance was the common and necessary lot of all mankind, himself included, he held that action should, so far as possible, be entirely guided by knowledge;83 that the man who did not always know what he was about resembled a slave; that the various virtues were only different forms of knowledge; that he himself possessed this knowledge, and was perfectly competent to share it with his friends. We do, indeed, find him very ready to convince ignorant and presumptuous persons of their deficiencies, but only that he may lead them, if well disposed, into the path of right understanding. He also thought that there were certain secrets which would remain for ever inaccessible to the human intellect, facts connected with the structure of the universe which the gods had reserved for their own exclusive cognisance. This, however, was, according to him, a kind of knowledge which, even if it could be obtained, would not be particularly worth having, and the search after which would leave us no leisure for more useful acquisitions. Nor does the Platonic Socrates seem to have been at the trouble of arguing against natural science. The subjects of his elenchus are the professors of such arts as politics, rhetoric, and poetry. Further, we have something stronger than a simple inference from the facts recorded by Xenophon; we have his express testimony to the fact that Socrates did not114 limit himself to confuting people who fancied they knew everything; here we must either have a direct reference to the Apologia, or to a theory identical with that which it embodies.I Some stress has been laid on a phrase quoted by Xenophon himself as having been used by Hippias, which at first sight seems to support Plato’s view. The Elian Sophist charges Socrates with practising a continual irony, refuting others and not submitting to be questioned himself;84 an accusation which, we may observe in passing, is not borne out by the discussion that subsequently takes place between them. Here, however, we must remember that Socrates used to convey instruction under the form of a series of leading questions, the answers to which showed that his interlocutor understood and assented to the doctrine propounded. Such a method might easily give rise to the misconception that he refused to disclose his own particular opinions, and contented himself with eliciting those held by others. Finally, it is to be noted that the idea of fulfilling a religious mission, or exposing human ignorance ad majorem Dei gloriam, on which Grote lays such stress, has no place in Xenophon’s conception of his master, although, had such an idea been really present, one can hardly imagine how it could have been passed over by a writer with whom piety amounted to superstition. It is, on the other hand, an idea which would naturally occur to a great religious reformer who proposed to base his reconstruction of society on faith in a supernatural order, and the desire to realise it here below.If the nature of their errand was not precisely calculated to win respect for the profession of the Athenian envoys, the subsequent proceedings of one among their number proved still less likely to raise it in the estimation of those whose favour they sought to win. Hellenic culture was, at that time, rapidly gaining ground among the Roman aristocracy; Carneades, who already enjoyed an immense reputation for eloquence and ingenuity among his own countrymen, used the opportunity offered by his temporary residence in the imperial city to deliver public lectures on morality; and such was the eagerness to listen that for a time the young nobles could think and talk of nothing else. The subject chosen was justice. The first lecture recapitulated whatever had been said in praise of that virtue by Plato and Aristotle. But it was a principle of the sect to which Carneades belonged that every affirmative proposition, however strongly supported, might be denied with equal plausibility. Accordingly, his second discourse was entirely devoted to upsetting the conclusions advocated in the first. Transporting the whole question, as would seem, from a private to a public point of view, he attempted to show, from the different standards prevailing in different countries, that there was no such thing as an immutable rule of right; and also that the greatest and most successful States had profited most by unscrupulous aggressions on their weaker neighbours—his most telling illustrations being drawn from the history of the Romans themselves. Then, descending once more to private life, the sceptical lecturer expatiated on the frequency of those cases in which justice is opposed to self-interest, and the folly of122 sacrificing one’s own advantage to that of another. ‘Suppose a good man has a runaway slave or an unhealthy house to sell, will he inform the buyer of their deficiencies, or will he conceal them? In the one case he will be a fool, in the other case he will be unjust. Again, justice forbids us to take away the life or property of another. But in a shipwreck, will not the just man try to save his life at another’s expense by seizing the plank of which some weaker person than himself has got hold—especially if they are alone on the sea together? If he is wise he will do so, for to act otherwise would be to sacrifice his life. So also, in flying before the enemy, will he not dispossess a wounded comrade of his horse, in order to mount and escape on it himself? Here, again, justice is incompatible with self-preservation—that is to say, with wisdom123!‘213
It is remarkable that Aristotle, after repeatedly speaking of induction as an ascent from particulars to generals, when he comes to trace the process by which we arrive at the most general notions of any, does not admit the possibility of such a movement in one direction only. The universal and the individual are, according to him, combined in our most elementary sense-impressions, and the business of scientific393 experience is to separate them. Starting from a middle point, we work up to indivisible predicates on the one hand and down to indivisible subjects on the other, the final apprehension of both extremes being the office, not of science, but of Nous. This theory is equally true and acute. The perception of individual facts is just as difficult and just as slowly acquired as the conception of ultimate abstractions. Moreover, the two processes are carried on pari passu, each being only made possible by and through the other. No true notion can be framed without a firm grasp of the particulars from which it is abstracted; no individual object can be studied without analysing it into a group of common predicates, the idiosyncrasy of which—that is, their special combination—differentiates it from every other object. What, however, we wish to remark is the illustration incidentally afforded by this striking aper?u of Aristotle’s analytical method, which is also the essentially Greek method of thought. We saw that, for our philosopher, syllogism was not the subsumption of a particular case under a general law, but the interpolation of a mean between two extremes; we now see that his induction is not the finding of a law for the particular phenomenon, but its analysis into two elements—one universal and the other individual—a solution of the mean into the extremes. And the distinctive originality of his whole system was to fix two such extremes for the universe—a self-thinking thought in absolute self-identity at one end of the scale, and an absolutely indeterminate matter at the other; by combining which in various proportions he then re-constructed the whole intermediate phenomenal reality. In studying each particular class of facts, he follows the same method. The genus is marked by some characteristic attribute which one species—the prerogative species, so to speak—exhibits in its greatest purity, while the others form a graduated scale by variously combining this attribute with its opposite or privation. Hence his theory, since revived by Goethe, that394 the colours are so many different mixtures of light and darkness.It is interesting to observe how, here also, the positive science of the age had a large share in determining its philosophic character. Founded on the discovery of the earth’s true shape, Aristotle’s metaphysics had been overthrown by the discovery of the earth’s motion. And now the claims of Cartesianism to have furnished an exact knowledge of matter and a definition of it whence all the facts of observation could be deduced à priori, were summarily refuted by the discovery421 of universal gravitation. The Cartesians complained that Newton was bringing back the occult qualities of the Schoolmen; but the tendency of bodies to move towards one another proved as certain as it was inexplicably mysterious. For a time, the study of causes was superseded by the study of laws; and the new method of physical science moved in perfect harmony with the phenomenism of Locke. One most important consequence of this revolution was to place the new Critical philosophy on a footing quite different from that occupied by the ancient sceptics. Both restricted certain knowledge to our own states of consciousness; but it now appeared that this might be done without impeaching the value of accepted scientific conclusions, which was more than the Academic philosophy would have admitted. In other words, granting that we were limited to phenomena, it was shown that science consisted in ascertaining the relations of these phenomena to one another, instead of to a problematic reality lying behind them; while, that such relations existed and were, in fact, part of the phenomena themselves, was what no sceptic could easily deny.