We have this great advantage in dealing with Plato—that his philosophical writings have come down to us entire, while the thinkers who preceded him are known only through fragments and second-hand reports. Nor is the difference merely accidental. Plato was the creator of speculative literature, properly so called: he was the first and also the greatest artist that ever clothed abstract thought in language of appropriate majesty and splendour; and it is probably to their beauty of form that we owe the preservation of his writings. Rather unfortunately, however, along with the genuine works of the master, a certain number of pieces have been handed down to us under his name, of which some are almost universally admitted to be spurious, while the authenticity of others is a question on which the best scholars are still divided. In the absence of any very cogent external evidence, an immense amount of industry and learning has been expended on this subject, and the arguments employed on both sides sometimes make us doubt whether the reasoning powers of philologists are better developed than, according to Plato, were those of mathematicians in his time. The176 two extreme positions are occupied by Grote, who accepts the whole Alexandrian canon, and Krohn, who admits nothing but the Republic;115 while much more serious critics, such as Schaarschmidt, reject along with a mass of worthless compositions several Dialogues almost equal in interest and importance to those whose authenticity has never been doubted. The great historian of Greece seems to have been rather undiscriminating both in his scepticism and in his belief; and the exclusive importance which he attributed to contemporary testimony, or to what passed for such with him, may have unduly biassed his judgment in both directions. As it happens, the authority of the canon is much weaker than Grote imagined; but even granting his extreme contention, our view of Plato’s philosophy would not be seriously affected by it, for the pieces which are rejected by all other critics have no speculative importance whatever. The case would be far different were we to agree with those who impugn the genuineness of the Parmenides, the Sophist, the Statesman, the Philêbus, and the Laws; for these compositions mark a new departure in Platonism amounting to a complete transformation of its fundamental principles, which indeed is one of the reasons why their authenticity has been denied. Apart, however, from the numerous evidences of Platonic authorship furnished by the Dialogues themselves, as well as by the indirect references to them in Aristotle’s writings, it seems utterly incredible that a thinker scarcely, if at all, inferior to the master himself—as the supposed imitator must assuredly have been—should have consented to let his reasonings pass current under a false name, and that, too, the name of one whose teaching he in some respects controverted; while there is a further difficulty in assuming that his existence could pass unnoticed at a period marked by intense literary and philosophical activity. Readers who177 wish for fuller information on the subject will find in Zeller’s pages a careful and lucid digest of the whole controversy leading to a moderately conservative conclusion. Others will doubtless be content to accept Prof. Jowett’s verdict, that ‘on the whole not a sixteenth part of the writings which pass under the name of Plato, if we exclude the works rejected by the ancients themselves, can be fairly doubted by those who are willing to allow that a considerable change and growth may have taken place in his philosophy.’116 To which we may add that the Platonic dialogues, whether the work of one or more hands, and however widely differing among themselves, together represent a single phase of thought, and are appropriately studied as a connected series.Yet, while the Stoics were far from anticipating the methods of modern Utilitarianism, they were, in a certain sense, strict Utilitarians—that is to say, they measured the goodness or badness of actions by their consequences; in other words, by39 their bearing on the supposed interest of the individual or of the community. They did not, it is true, identify interest with pleasure or the absence of pain; but although, in our time, Hedonism and Utilitarianism are, for convenience, treated as interchangeable terms, they need not necessarily be so. If any one choose to regard bodily strength, health, wealth, beauty, intellect, knowledge, or even simple existence, as the highest good and the end conduciveness to which determines the morality of actions, he is a Utilitarian; and, even if it could be shown that a maximum of happiness would be ensured by the attainment of his end, he would not on that account become a Hedonist. Now it is certain that the early Stoics, at least, regarded the preservation of the human race as an end which rightfully took precedence of every other consideration; and, like Charles Austin, they sometimes pushed their principles to paradoxical or offensive extremes, apparently for no other purpose than that of affronting the common feelings of mankind,84 without remembering that such feelings were likely to represent embodied experiences of utility. Thus—apart from their communistic theories—they were fond of specifying the circumstances in which incest would become legitimate; and they are said not only to have sanctioned cannibalism in cases of extreme necessity, but even to have recommended its introduction as a substitute for burial or cremation; although this, we may hope, was rather a grim illustration of what they meant by moral indifference than a serious practical suggestion.85We have illustrated the position of Cicero by reference to the master who, more than any other Greek philosopher, seems to have satisfied his ideal of perfect wisdom. We must now observe that nothing is better calculated to show how inadequate was the view once universally taken of Socrates, and still, perhaps, taken by all who are not scholars, than that it should be applicable in so many points to Cicero as well. For, while the influence of the one on human thought was the greatest ever exercised by a single individual, the influence of the other was limited to the acceleration of a movement already in full activity, and moreover tending on the whole in a retrograde direction. The immeasurable superiority of the Athenian lies in his dialectical method. It was not by a mere elimination of differences that he hoped to establish a general agreement, but by reasoning down from admitted principles, which were themselves to be the result of scientific induction brought to bear on a comprehensive and ever-widening area of experience. Hence his scepticism, which was directed against authority, tended as much to stimulate enquiry as that of the Roman declaimer, which was directed against reason, tended to deaden or to depress it. Hence, also, the political philosophy of Socrates was as revolutionary as that of his imitator was conservative. Both were, in a certain sense, aristocrats; but while the aristocracy176 of the elegant rhetorician meant a clique of indolent and incapable nobles, that of the sturdy craftsman meant a band of highly-trained specialists maintained in power by the choice, the confidence, and the willing obedience of an intelligent people. And while the religion of Cicero was a blind reliance on providence supplemented by priestcraft in this world, with the hope, if things came to the worst, of a safe retreat from trouble in the next; the religion of Socrates was an active co-operation with the universal mind, an attempt to make reason and the will of God prevail on earth, with the hope, if there was any future state, of carrying on in it the intellectual warfare which alone had made life worth living here. No less a contrast could be expected between the orator who turned to philosophy only for the occupation of a leisure hour, or for relief from the pangs of disappointed ambition, and the thinker who gave her his whole existence as the elect apostle and martyr of her creed.VIII.Antisthenes pushed to its extreme consequences a movement begun by the naturalistic Sophists. His doctrine was what would now be called anarchic collectivism. The State, marriage, private property, and the then accepted forms of religion, were to be abolished, and all mankind were to herd promiscuously together.5 Either he or his followers, alone among the ancients, declared that slavery was wrong; and, like Socrates, he held that the virtue of men and women was the same.6 But what he meant by this broad human virtue, which according to him was identical with happiness, is not clear. We only know that he dissociated it in the strongest manner from pleasure. ‘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 pc蛋蛋28app 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.453IV.112 But while philosophers cannot prescribe a method to physical science, they may, to a certain extent, bring it under their cognisance, by disengaging its fundamental conceptions and assumptions, and showing that they are functions of mind; by arranging the special sciences in systematic order for purposes of study; and by investigating the law of their historical evolution. Furthermore, since psychology is the central science of philosophy, and since it is closely connected with physiology, which in turn reposes on the inorganic152 sciences, a certain knowledge of the objective world is indispensable to any knowledge of ourselves. Lastly, since the subjective sphere not only rests, once for all, on the objective, but is also in a continual state of action and reaction with it, no philosophy can be complete which does not take into account the constitution of things as they exist independently of ourselves, in order to ascertain how far they are unalterable, and how far they may be modified to our advantage. We see, then, that Socrates, in restricting philosophy to human interests, was guided by a just tact; that in creating the method of dialectic abstraction, he created an instrument adequate to this investigation, but to this alone; and, finally, that human interests, understood in the largest sense, embrace a number of subsidiary studies which either did not exist when he taught, or which the inevitable superstitions of his age would not allow him to pursue.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.We have illustrated the position of Cicero by reference to the master who, more than any other Greek philosopher, seems to have satisfied his ideal of perfect wisdom. We must now observe that nothing is better calculated to show how inadequate was the view once universally taken of Socrates, and still, perhaps, taken by all who are not scholars, than that it should be applicable in so many points to Cicero as well. For, while the influence of the one on human thought was the greatest ever exercised by a single individual, the influence of the other was limited to the acceleration of a movement already in full activity, and moreover tending on the whole in a retrograde direction. The immeasurable superiority of the Athenian lies in his dialectical method. It was not by a mere elimination of differences that he hoped to establish a general agreement, but by reasoning down from admitted principles, which were themselves to be the result of scientific induction brought to bear on a comprehensive and ever-widening area of experience. Hence his scepticism, which was directed against authority, tended as much to stimulate enquiry as that of the Roman declaimer, which was directed against reason, tended to deaden or to depress it. Hence, also, the political philosophy of Socrates was as revolutionary as that of his imitator was conservative. Both were, in a certain sense, aristocrats; but while the aristocracy176 of the elegant rhetorician meant a clique of indolent and incapable nobles, that of the sturdy craftsman meant a band of highly-trained specialists maintained in power by the choice, the confidence, and the willing obedience of an intelligent people. And while the religion of Cicero was a blind reliance on providence supplemented by priestcraft in this world, with the hope, if things came to the worst, of a safe retreat from trouble in the next; the religion of Socrates was an active co-operation with the universal mind, an attempt to make reason and the will of God prevail on earth, with the hope, if there was any future state, of carrying on in it the intellectual warfare which alone had made life worth living here. No less a contrast could be expected between the orator who turned to philosophy only for the occupation of a leisure hour, or for relief from the pangs of disappointed ambition, and the thinker who gave her his whole existence as the elect apostle and martyr of her creed.Such a character would, in any case, be remarkable; it becomes of extraordinary, or rather of unique, interest when we consider that Socrates could be and do so much, not in spite of being a philosopher, but because he was a philosopher, the chief though not the sole originator of a vast intellectual revolution; one who, as a teacher, constituted the supremacy110 of reason, and as an individual made reason his sole guide in life. He at once discovered new principles, popularised them for the benefit of others, and exemplified them in his own conduct; but he did not accomplish these results separately; they were only different aspects of the same systematising process which is identical with philosophy itself. Yet the very success of Socrates in harmonising life and thought makes it the more difficult for us to construct a complete picture of his personality. Different observers have selected from the complex combination that which best suited their own mental predisposition, pushing out of sight the other elements which, with him, served to correct and complete it. The very popularity that has attached itself to his name is a proof of this; for the multitude can seldom appreciate more than one excellence at a time, nor is that usually of the highest order. Hegel complains that Socrates has been made the patron-saint of moral twaddle.81 We are fifty years further removed than Hegel from the golden age of platitude; the twaddle of our own time is half cynical, half aesthetic, and wholly unmoral; yet there are no signs of diminution in the popular favour with which Socrates has always been regarded. The man of the world, the wit, the viveur, the enthusiastic admirer of youthful beauty, the scornful critic of democracy is welcome to many who have no taste for ethical discourses and fine-spun arguments. Ever since the age of Parmenides and Heracleitus, Greek thought had been haunted by a pervading dualism which each system had in turn attempted to reconcile, with no better result than its reproduction under altered names. And speculation had latterly become still further perplexed by the question whether the antithetical couples supposed to divide all Nature between them could or could not be reduced to so many aspects of a single opposition. In the last chapter but one we showed that there were four such competing pairs—Being and Not-Being, the One and the Many, the Same and the Other, Rest and Motion. Plato employed his very subtlest dialectic in tracing out their connexions, readjusting their relationships, and diminishing the total number of terms which they involved. In what was probably his last great speculative effort, the Timaeus, he seems to have selected Sameness and Difference as the couple best adapted to bear the heaviest strain of thought. There is some reason for believing that in his spoken lectures he followed the Pythagorean system more closely, giving the preference to the One and the Many; or he may have employed the two expressions indifferently. The former would sooner commend itself to a dialectician, the latter to a mathematician. Aristotle was both, but he was before all things a naturalist. As such, the antithesis of Being and Not-Being, to which Plato attached little or no value, suited him best. Accordingly, he proceeds to work it out with a clearness before unknown in Greek philosophy. The first and surest of all principles, he declares, is, that a thing cannot both be and not be, in the same sense of the words, and furthermore that it must either be or not be. Subsequent340 logicians prefixed to these axioms another, declaring that whatever is is. The three together are known as the laws of Identity, Contradiction, and Excluded Middle. By all, except Hegelians, they are recognised as the highest laws of thought; and even Hegel was indebted to them, through Fichte, for the ground-plan of his entire system.235Here we need no deliverance from troubles and indignities which are not felt; nor do we need to be prepared for death, knowing that we can never die. The world will no longer look askance at us, for we have ceased to concern ourselves about its reformation. No scepticism can shake our convictions, for we have discovered the secret of all knowledge through the consciousness of that which is eternal in ourselves. Thus the world of outward experience has dropped out of our thoughts, because thought has orbed into a world of its own.Again, when oracles like that at Delphi had obtained wide-spread renown and authority, they would be consulted, not only on ceremonial questions and matters of policy, but also on debateable points of morality. The divine responses, being unbiassed by personal interest, would necessarily be given in accordance with received rules of rectitude, and would be backed by all the terrors of a supernatural sanction. It might even be dangerous to assume that the god could possibly give his support to wrong-doing. A story told by Herodotus proves that such actually was the case.E There lived once at Sparta a certain man named Glaucus, who had acquired so great a reputation for probity that, during the troublous times of the Persian conquest, a wealthy Milesian thought it advisable to deposit a large sum of money with him for safe keeping. After a considerable time the money was claimed by his children, but the honesty of Glaucus was not proof against temptation. He pretended to have forgotten the whole affair, and required a delay of three months before making up his mind with regard to the validity of their demand. During that interval he consulted the Delphic oracle to know whether he might possess himself of the money by a false oath. The answer was that it would be for his immediate advantage to do so; all must die, the faithful and the perjured alike; but Horcus (oath) had a nameless son swift to pursue without feet, strong to grasp without hands, who would destroy the whole race of the sinner. Glaucus craved forgiveness, but was informed that to tempt the god was equivalent to committing the crime. He went home and restored the deposit, but his whole family perished utterly from the land before three generations had passed by.Such was the celebrated scheme by which Plato proposed to regenerate mankind. We have already taken occasion to show how it was connected with his ethical and dialectical philosophy. We have now to consider in what relation it stands to the political experience of his own and other times, as well as to the revolutionary proposals of other speculative reformers.Now, it is a remarkable fact, and one as yet not sufficiently attended to, that a metaphysical issue first raised between the Platonists and Aristotle, and regarded, at least by the latter, as of supreme importance for philosophy, should have been totally neglected at a time when abundant documents on both sides were open to consultation, and taken up with passionate eagerness at a time when not more than one or two dialogues of Plato and two or three tracts of Aristotle continued to be read in the western world. Various explanations of this singular anomaly may be offered. It may be said, for instance, that after every moral and religious question on which the schools of Athens were divided had been closed by the authoritative ruling of Catholicism, nothing remained to quarrel over but points too remote or too obscure for the Church to interfere in their decision; and that these were accordingly seized upon as the only field where human intelligence could exercise itself with any approach to freedom. The truth, however, seems to be that to take any interest in the controversy between Realism and Nominalism, it was first necessary that European thought as a whole should rise to a level with the common standpoint of their first supporters. This revolution was effected by the general adoption of a monotheistic faith. Every great system of philosophy may be considered from four distinct points of view. We may ask what is its value as a theory of the world and of human life, measured335 either by the number of new truths which it contains, or by the stimulus to new thought which it affords. Or we may consider it from the aesthetic side, as a monumental structure interesting us not by its utility, but by its beauty and grandeur. Under this aspect, a system may be admirable for its completeness, coherence, and symmetry, or for the great intellectual qualities exhibited by its architect, although it may be open to fatal objections as a habitation for human beings, and may fail to reproduce the plan on which we now know that the universe is built. Or, again, our interest in the work may be purely historical and psychological; we may look on it as the product of a particular age and a particular mind, as summing up for us under their most abstract form the ideas and aspirations which at any given moment had gained possession of educated opinion. Or, finally, we may study it as a link in the evolution of thought, as a result of earlier tendencies, and an antecedent of later developments. We propose to make a few remarks on the philosophy of Plotinus, or, what is the same thing, on Neo-Platonism in general, from each of these four points of view.This search after a scientific basis for conduct was quite in the spirit of Socrates, but Plato seems to have set very little value on his master’s positive contributions to the systematisation of life. We have seen that the Apologia is purely sceptical in its tendency; and we find a whole group of Dialogues, probably the earliest of Plato’s compositions, marked by the same negative, inconclusive tone. These are commonly spoken of as Socratic, and so no doubt they are in reference to the subjects discussed; but they would be more accurately described as an attempt to turn the Socratic method against its first originator. We know from another source that tem183perance, fortitude, and piety were the chief virtues inculcated and practised by Socrates; while friendship, if not strictly speaking a virtue, was equally with them one of his prime interests in life. It is clear that he considered them the most appropriate and remunerative subjects of philosophical discussion; that he could define their nature to his own satisfaction; and that he had, in fact, defined them as so many varieties of wisdom. Now, Plato has devoted a separate Dialogue to each of the conceptions in question,119 and in each instance he represents Socrates, who is the principal spokesman, as professedly ignorant of the whole subject under discussion, offering no definition of his own (or at least none that he will stand by), but asking his interlocutors for theirs, and pulling it to pieces when it is given. We do, indeed, find a tendency to resolve the virtues into knowledge, and, so far, either to identify them with one another, or to carry them up into the unity of a higher idea. To this extent Plato follows in the footsteps of his master, but a result which had completely satisfied Socrates became the starting-point of a new investigation with his successor. If virtue is knowledge, it must be knowledge of what we most desire—of the good. Thus the original difficulty returns under another form, or rather we have merely restated it in different terms. For, to ask what is temperance or fortitude, is equivalent to asking what is its use. And this was so obvious to Socrates, that, apparently, he never thought of distinguishing between the two questions. But no sooner were they distinguished than his reduction of all morality to a single principle was shown to be illusive. For each specific virtue had been substituted the knowledge of a specific utility, and that was all. Unless the highest good were one, the means by which it was sought could not converge to a single point; nor, according to the new ideas, could their mastery come under the jurisdiction of a single art.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.We have not here to examine the scientific achievements of Pythagoras and his school; they belong to the history of science, not to that of pure thought, and therefore lie outside the present discussion. Something, however, must be said of Pythagoreanism as a scheme of moral, religious, and social reform. Alone among the pre-Socratic systems, it undertook to furnish a rule of conduct as well as a theory of being. Yet, as Zeller has pointed out,11 it was only an apparent anomaly, for the ethical teaching of the Pythagoreans was not based on their physical theories, except in so far as a deep reverence for law and order was common to both.13 Perhaps, also, the separation of soul and body, with the ascription of a higher dignity to the former, which was a distinctive tenet of the school, may be paralleled with the position given to number as a kind of spiritual power creating and controlling the world of sense. So also political power was to be entrusted to an aristocracy trained in every noble accomplishment, and fitted for exercising authority over others by self-discipline, by mutual fidelity, and by habitual obedience to a rule of right. Nevertheless, we must look, with Zeller, for the true source of Pythagoreanism as a moral movement in that great wave of religious enthusiasm which swept over Hellas during the sixth century before Christ, intimately associated with the importation of Apollo-worship from Lycia, with the concentration of spiritual authority in the oracular shrine of Delphi, and the political predominance of the Dorian race, those Normans of the ancient world. Legend has thrown this connexion into a poetical form by making Pythagoras the son of Apollo; and the Samian sage, although himself an Ionian, chose the Dorian cities of Southern Italy as a favourable field for his new teaching, just as Calvinism found a readier acceptance in the advanced posts of the Teutonic race than among the people whence its founder sprang. Perhaps the nearest parallel, although on a far more extensive scale, for the religious movement of which we are speaking, is the spectacle offered by mediaeval Europe during the twelfth and thirteenth centuries of our era, when a series of great Popes had concentrated all spiritual power in their own hands, and were sending forth army after army of Crusaders to the East; when all Western Europe had awakened to the consciousness of its common Christianity, and each individual was thrilled by a sense of the tremendous alternatives committed to his choice; when the Dominican and Franciscan orders were founded; when Gothic architecture and Florentine painting arose; when the Troubadours and Minnes?ngers were pour14ing out their notes of scornful or tender passion, and the love of the sexes had become a sentiment as lofty and enduring as the devotion of friend to friend had been in Greece of old. The bloom of Greek religious enthusiasm was more exquisite and evanescent than that of feudal Catholicism; inferior in pure spirituality and of more restricted significance as a factor in the evolution of humanity, it at least remained free from the ecclesiastical tyranny, the murderous fanaticism, and the unlovely superstitions of mediaeval faith. But polytheism under any form was fatally incapable of coping with the new spirit of enquiry awakened by philosophy, and the old myths, with their naturalistic crudities, could not long satisfy the reason and conscience of thinkers who had learned in another school to seek everywhere for a central unity of control, and to bow their imaginations before the passionless perfection of eternal law.We have seen how Plato came to look on mathematics as217 an introduction to absolute knowledge. He now discovered a parallel method of approach towards perfect wisdom in an order of experience which to most persons might seem as far as possible removed from exact science—in those passionate feelings which were excited in the Greek imagination by the spectacle of youthful beauty, without distinction of sex. There was, at least among the Athenians, a strong intellectual element in the attachments arising out of such feelings; and the strange anomaly might often be seen of a man devoting himself to the education of a youth whom he was, in other respects, doing his utmost to corrupt. Again, the beauty by which a Greek felt most fascinated came nearer to a visible embodiment of mind than any that has ever been known, and as such could be associated with the purest philosophical aspirations. And, finally, the passion of love in its normal manifestations is an essentially generic instinct, being that which carries an individual most entirely out of himself, making him instrumental to the preservation of the race in forms of ever-increasing comeliness and vigour; so that, given a wise training and a wide experience, the maintenance of a noble breed may safely be entrusted to its infallible selection.134 All these points of view have been developed by Plato with such copiousness of illustration and splendour of language that his name is still associated in popular fancy with an ideal of exalted and purified desire. pc蛋蛋28app ‘Therefore the whole extends continuously,Once the Ideas had been brought into mutual relation and shown to be compounded with one another, the task of connecting them with the external world became considerably easier; and the same intermediary which before had linked them to it as a participant in the nature of both, was now raised to a higher position and became the efficient cause of their intimate union. Such is the standpoint of the Philêbus, where all existence is divided into four classes, the limit, the unlimited, the union of both, and the cause of their union. Mind belongs to the last and matter to the second class. There can hardly be a doubt that the first class is either identical with the Ideas or fills the place once occupied by them. The third class is the world of experience, the Cosmos of early Greek thought, which Plato had now come to look on as a worthy object of study. In the Timaeus, also a very late Dialogue, he goes further, and gives us a complete cosmogony, the general conception of which is clear enough, although the details are avowedly conjectural and figurative; nor do they seem to have exercised any influence or subsequent speculation until the time of Descartes. We are told that the world was created by God, who is absolutely good, and, being without jealousy, wished that all things should be like himself. He makes it to consist266 of a soul and a body, the former constructed in imitation of the eternal archetypal ideas which now seem to be reduced to three—Existence, Sameness, and Difference.157 The soul of the world is formed by mixing these three elements together, and the body is an image of the soul. Sameness is represented by the starry sphere rotating on its own axis; Difference by the inclination of the ecliptic to the equator; Existence, perhaps, by the everlasting duration of the heavens. The same analogy extends to the human figure, of which the head is the most essential part, all the rest of the body being merely designed for its support. Plato seems to regard the material world as a sort of machinery designed to meet the necessities of sight and touch, by which the human soul arrives at a knowledge of the eternal order without;—a direct reversal of his earlier theories, according to which matter and sense were mere encumbrances impeding the soul in her efforts after truth.And leaves us with Plotinus and pure souls.317 We have seen how the idea of Nature, first evolved by physical philosophy, was taken by some, at least, among the Sophists as a basis for their ethical teaching; then how an interpretation utterly opposed to theirs was put on it by practical men, and how this second interpretation was so generalised by the younger rhetoricians as to involve the denial of all morality whatever. Meanwhile, another equally important conception, destined to come into speedy and prolonged antagonism with the idea of Nature, and like it to exercise a powerful influence on ethical reflection, had almost contemporaneously been elaborated out of the materials which earlier speculation supplied. From Parmenides and Heracleitus down, every philosopher who had propounded a theory of the world, had also more or less peremptorily insisted on the fact that his theory differed widely from common belief. Those who held that change is86 impossible, and those who taught that everything is incessantly changing; those who asserted the indestructibility of matter, and those who denied its continuity; those who took away objective reality from every quality except extension and resistance, and those who affirmed that the smallest molecules partook more or less of every attribute that is revealed to sense—all these, however much they might disagree among themselves, agreed in declaring that the received opinions of mankind were an utter delusion. Thus, a sharp distinction came to be drawn between the misleading sense-impressions and the objective reality to which thought alone could penetrate. It was by combining these two elements, sensation and thought, that the idea of mind was originally constituted. And mind when so understood could not well be accounted for by any of the materialistic hypotheses at first proposed. The senses must differ profoundly from that of which they give such an unfaithful report; while reason, which Anaxagoras had so carefully differentiated from every other form of existence, carried back its distinction to the subjective sphere, and became clothed with a new spirituality when reintegrated in the consciousness of man.All these, however, are mere questions of detail. It is on a subject of the profoundest philosophical importance that Aristotle differs most consciously, most radically, and most fatally from his predecessors. They were evolutionists, and he was a stationarist. They were mechanicists, and he was a teleologist. They were uniformitarians, and he was a dualist. It is true that, as we mentioned at the beginning of this chapter, Mr. Edwin Wallace makes him ‘recognise the genesis of things by evolution and development,’ but the meaning of this phrase requires to be cleared up. In one sense it is, of course, almost an identical proposition. The genesis of things must be by genesis of some kind or other. The great question is, what things have been evolved, and how have they been evolved? Modern science tells us, that not only have all particular aggregates of matter and motion now existing come into being within a finite period of time, but also that the specific types under which we arrange those aggregates have equally been generated; and that their characteristics, whether structural or functional, can only be understood by tracing out their origin and history. And it further teaches us that the properties of every aggregate result from the properties of its ultimate elements, which, within the limits of our experience, remain absolutely unchanged. Now, Aristotle taught very nearly the contrary of all this. He believed that the cosmos, as we now know it, had existed, and would continue to exist, unchanged through all eternity. The sun, moon, planets, and stars, together with the orbs containing them, are composed of an absolutely ungenerable, incorruptible substance. The earth, a cold, heavy, solid sphere, though liable to superficial changes, has always occupied its present position in the centre of the universe.317 The specific forms of animal life—except a few which are produced spontaneously—have, in like manner, been preserved unaltered through an infinite series of generations. Man shares the common lot. There is no continuous progress of civilisation. Every invention and discovery has been made and lost an infinite number of times. Our philosopher could not, of course, deny that individual living things come into existence and gradually grow to maturity; but he insists that their formation is teleologically determined by the parental type which they are striving to realise. He asks whether we should study a thing by examining how it grows, or by examining its completed form: and Mr. Wallace quotes the question without quoting the answer.203 Aristotle tells us that the genetic method was followed by his predecessors, but that the other method is his. And he goes on to censure Empedocles for saying that many things in the animal body are due simply to mechanical causation; for example, the segmented structure of the backbone, which that philosopher attributes to continued doubling and twisting—the very same explanation, we believe, that would be given of it by a modern evolutionist.204 Finally, Aristotle assumes the only sort of transformation which we deny, and which Democritus equally denied—that is to say, the transformation of the ultimate elements into one another by the oscillation of an indeterminate matter between opposite qualities.Meanwhile the morality of Stoicism had enlisted a force of incalculable importance on its behalf. This was the life and death of the younger Cato. However narrow his intellect, however impracticable his principles, however hopeless his resistance to the course of history, Cato had merits which in the eyes of his countrymen placed him even higher than Caesar; and this impression was probably strengthened by the extraordinary want of tact which the great conqueror showed when he insulted the memory of his noblest foe. Pure in an age of corruption, disinterested in an age of greed, devotedly patriotic in an age of selfish ambition, faithful unto death in an age of shameless tergiversation, and withal of singularly mild and gentle character, Cato lived and died for the law of conscience, proving by his example that if a revival of old Roman virtue were still possible, only through the lessons of Greek philosophy could this miracle be wrought. And it was equally clear that Rome could only accept philosophy under a form harmonising with her ancient traditions, and embodying doctrines like those which the martyred saint of her republican liberties had professed.But before the dissolving action of Nominalism had become fully manifest, its ascendency was once more challenged; and this time, also, the philosophical impulse came from Constantinople. Greek scholars, seeking help in the West, brought with them to Florence the complete works of Plato; and these were shortly made accessible to a wider public through the Latin translation of Ficino. Their influence seems at first to have told in favour of mysticism, for this was the contemporary tendency to which they could be most readily affiliated; and, besides, in swinging back from Aristotle’s philosophy to the rival form of spiritualism, men’s minds naturally reverted, in the first instance, to what had once linked them together—the system of Plotinus. Thus Platonism was studied through an Alexandrian medium, and as the Alexandrians had looked at it, that is to say, chiefly under its theological and metaphysical aspects. As such, it became the accepted philosophy of the Renaissance;369 and much of what we most admire in the literature—at least the English literature—of that period, is directly traceable to Platonic influence. That the Utopia of Sir Thomas More was inspired by the Republic and the Critias is, of course, obvious; and the great part played by the ideal theory in Spenser’s Faery Queen, though less evident, is still sufficiently clear. As Mr. Green observes in his History of the English People (II., p. 413), ‘Spenser borrows, in fact, the delicate and refined forms of the Platonic philosophy to express his own moral enthusiasm.... Justice, Temperance, Truth are no mere names to him, but real existences to which his whole nature clings with a rapturous affection.’ Now it deserves observation, as illustrating a great revolution in European thought, that the relation of Plato to the epic of the English Renaissance is precisely paralleled by the relation of Aristotle to the epic of mediaeval Italy. Dante borrows more than his cosmography from the Stagirite. The successive circles of Hell, the spirals of Purgatory, and the spheres of Paradise, are a framework in which the characters of the poem are exhibited, not as individual actors whom we trace through a life’s history, but as types of a class and representatives of a single mental quality, whether vicious or virtuous. In other words, the historical arrangement of all previous poems is abandoned in favour of a logical arrangement. For the order of contiguity in time is substituted the order of resemblance and difference in idea. How thoroughly Aristotelian, indeed, were the lines within which mediaeval imagination moved is proved by the possibility of tracing them in a work utterly different from Dante’s—the Decameron of Boccaccio. The tales constituting this collection are so arranged that each day illustrates some one special class of adventures; only, to make good Aristotle’s principle that earthly affairs are not subject to invariable rules, a single departure from the prescribed subject is allowed in each decade; while370 during one entire day the story-tellers are left free to choose a subject at their own discretion. Among the systems of ancient philosophy, Epicureanism is remarkable for the completeness with which its doctrines were worked out by their first author, and for the fidelity with which they were handed down to the latest generation of his disciples. For a period of more than five hundred years, nothing was added to, and nothing was taken away from, the original teaching of Epicurus. In this, as in other respects, it offers a striking contrast to the system which we last reviewed. In our sketch of the Stoic philosophy, we had to notice the continual process of development through which it passed, from its commencement to its close. There is a marked difference between the earlier and the later heads of the school at Athens—between these, as a class, and the Stoics of the Roman empire—and, finally, even between two Stoics who stood so near to one another as Epictêtus and Marcus Aurelius. This contrast cannot be due to external circumstances, for the two systems were exactly coeval, and were exposed, during their whole lifetime, to the action of precisely the same environment. The cause must be sought for in the character of the philosophies themselves, and of the minds which were naturally most amenable to their respective influence. Stoicism retained enough of the Socratic spirit to foster a love of enquiry for its own sake, and an indisposition to accept any authority without a searching examination of its claims to obedience or respect. The learner was submitted54 to a thorough training in dialectics; while the ideal of life set before him was not a state of rest, but of intense and unremitting toil. Whatever particular conclusions he might carry away with him from the class-room were insignificant in comparison with the principle that he must be prepared to demonstrate them for himself with that self-assurance happily likened by Zeno to the feeling experienced when the clenched fist is held within the grasp of the other hand. Epicurus, on the contrary, did not encourage independent thought among his disciples; nor, with one exception hereafter to be noticed, did his teaching ever attract any very original or powerful intellect. From the first a standard of orthodoxy was erected; and, to facilitate their retention, the leading tenets of the school were drawn up in a series of articles which its adherents were advised to learn by heart. Hence, as Mr. Wallace observes,108 while the other chief sects among which philosophy was divided—the Academicians, the Peripatetics, and the Stoics—drew their appellation, not from their first founder, but from the locality where his lectures had been delivered, the Epicureans alone continued to bear the name of a master whom they regarded with religious veneration. Hence, also, we must add with Zeller,109 and notwithstanding the doubt expressed by Mr. Wallace,110 on the subject, that our acquaintance with the system so faithfully adhered to may be regarded as exceptionally full and accurate. The excerpts from Epicurus himself, preserved by Diogenes Laertius, the poem of Lucretius, the criticisms of Cicero, Plutarch, and others, and the fragments of Epicurean literature recovered from the Herculanean papyri, agree so well where they cover the same ground, that they may be fairly trusted to supplement each other’s deficiencies; and a further confirmation, if any was needed, is obtained by consulting the older sources, whence Epicurus borrowed most of his philosophy.VII. In criticising the Stoic system as a whole, the New Academy and the later Sceptics had incidentally dwelt on sundry absurdities which followed from the materialistic interpretation of knowledge; and Plotinus evidently derived some of his most forcible objections from their writings; but no previous philosopher that we know of had set forth the whole case for spiritualism and against materialism with such telling effect. And what is, perhaps, more important than any originality in detail, is the profound insight shown in choosing this whole question of spiritualism versus materialism for the ground whereon the combined forces of Plato and Aristotle were to fight their first battle against the naturalistic system which had triumphed over them five centuries before. It was on dialectical and ethical grounds that the controversy between Porch and Academy, on ethical and religious grounds that the controversy between Epicureanism and all other schools of philosophy, had hitherto been conducted. Cicero and Plutarch never allude to their opponents as materialists. Only once, in his polemic against Col?tes, does Plutarch observe that neither a soul nor anything else could be made out of atoms, but this is because they are discrete, not because they are extended.446 For the rest, his method is to trip up his opponents by pointing out their inconsistencies, rather than to cut the ground from under their feet by proving that their theory of the universe is wrong.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. pc蛋蛋28app The radical selfishness of Epicureanism comes out still more distinctly in its attitude towards political activity. Not only does it systematically discourage mere personal ambition73—the desire of possessing political power for the furtherance of one’s own ends—but it passes a like condemnation on disinterested efforts to improve the condition of the people by legislation; while the general rule laid down for the wise man in his capacity of citizen is passive obedience to the established authorities, to be departed from only when the exigencies of self-defence require it. On this Mr. Wallace observes that ‘political life, which in all ages has been impossible for those who had not wealth, and who were unwilling to mix themselves with vile and impure associates, was not to the mind of Epicurus.’148 No authority is quoted to prove that the abstention recommended by Epicurus was dictated by purist sentiments of any kind; nor can we readily admit that it is impossible to record a vote, to canvass at an election, or even to address a public meeting, without fulfilling one or other of the conditions specified by Mr. Wallace; and we know by the example of Littré that it is possible for a poor man to take a rather prominent part in public life, without the slightest sacrifice of personal dignity.149 It must also be remembered that Epicurus was not speaking for himself alone; he was giving practical advice to all whom it might concern—advice of which he thought, aeque pauperibus prodest, locupletibus aeque; so that when Mr. Wallace adds that, ‘above all, it is not the business of a philosopher to become a political partisan, and spend his life in an atmosphere of avaricious and malignant passions,’150 we must observe that Epicureanism was not designed to make philosophers, but perfect men. The real question is whether it would serve the public interest were all who endeavour to shape their lives by the precepts of philosophy to withdraw themselves74 entirely from participation in the affairs of their country. And, having regard to the general character of the system now under consideration, we may not uncharitably surmise that the motive for abstention which it supplied was selfish love of ease far more than unwillingness to be mixed up with the dirty work of politics.CHAPTER V. PLATO AS A REFORMER.The methodical distinction between the materials for generalisation and generalisation itself, is derived from the metaphysical distinction between Matter and Form in Nature.539 This distinction is the next great feature of Bacon’s philosophy, and it is taken, still more obviously than the first, from Aristotle, the most manifest blots of the original being faithfully reproduced in the copy. The Forms375 of simple substances were, according to the Stagirite, their sensible qualities. The Forms of aggregates were the whole complex of their differential characteristics. And although the formal cause or idea of a thing was carefully discriminated from its efficient and final causes, it was found impossible, in practice, to keep the three from running into one. Again, the distinction between single concepts and the judgments created by putting two concepts together, although clearly conveyed by the logical distinction between terms and propositions, was no sooner perceived than lost sight of, thanks to the unfortunate theory of essential predication. For it was thought that the import of universal propositions consisted either in stating the total concept to which a given mark belonged, or in annexing a new mark to a given concept. Hence, in Aristotle’s system, the study of natural law means nothing but the definition and classification of natural types; and, in harmony with this idea, the whole universe is conceived as an arrangement of concentric spheres, each receiving its impulse from that immediately above it. Precisely the same confusion of Form, Cause, and Law reigns throughout Bacon’s theory of Nature. We do, indeed, find mention made of axiomata or general propositions to a greater extent than in the Organon, but they are never clearly distinguished from Forms, nor Forms from functions.540 And although efficient and material causes are assigned to physics, while formal and final causes are reserved for metaphysics—an apparent recognition of the wide difference between the forces which bring a thing into existence and the actual conditions of its stability,—this arrangement is a departure from the letter rather than from the spirit of Aristotle’s philosophy. For the efficient causes of the De376 Augmentis answer roughly to the various kinds of motion discussed in the Physics and in the treatise On Generation and Corruption; while its Forms are, as we have seen, identified with natural causes or laws in the most general sense. And the how and the why.Neither can we admit Grote’s further contention, that in no Greek city but Athens would Socrates have been permitted to carry on his cross-examining activity for so long a168 period. On the contrary, we agree with Colonel Mure,113 that in no other state would he have been molested. Xenophanes and Parmenides, Heracleitus and Democritus, had given utterance to far bolder opinions than his, opinions radically destructive of Greek religion, apparently without running the slightest personal risk; while Athens had more than once before shown the same spirit of fanatical intolerance, though without proceeding to such a fatal extreme, thanks, probably, to the timely escape of her intended victims. M. Ernest Renan has quite recently contrasted the freedom of thought accorded by Roman despotism with the narrowness of old Greek Republicanism, quoting what he calls the Athenian Inquisition as a sample of the latter. The word inquisition is not too strong, only the lecturer should not have led his audience to believe that Greek Republicanism was in this respect fairly represented by its most brilliant type, for had such been the case very little free thought would have been left for Rome to tolerate.It has been the fashion in certain quarters to look down on these early thinkers—to depreciate the value of their speculations because they were thinkers, because, as we have already noticed, they reached their most important conclusions by thinking, the means of truly scientific observation not being within their reach. Nevertheless, they performed services to humanity comparable for value with the legislation of Solon and Cleisthenes, or the victories of Marathon and Salamis; while their creative imagination was not inferior to that of the great lyric and dramatic poets, the great architects and sculptors, whose contemporaries they were. They first taught men to distinguish between the realities of nature and the illusions of sense; they discovered or divined the indestructibility of matter and its atomic constitution; they taught that space is infinite, a conception so far from being self-evident that it transcended the capacity of Aristotle to grasp; they held that the seemingly eternal universe was brought into its present form by the operation of mechanical forces which will also effect its dissolution; confronted by the seeming permanence and solidity of our planet, with the innumerable varieties of life to be found on its surface, they declared that all things had arisen by differentiation8 from a homogeneous attenuated vapour; while one of them went so far as to surmise that man is descended from an aquatic animal. But higher still than these fragmentary glimpses and anticipations of a theory which still awaits confirmation from experience, we must place their central doctrine, that the universe is a cosmos, an ordered whole governed by number and law, not a blind conflict of semi-conscious agents, or a theatre for the arbitrary interference of partial, jealous,6 and vindictive gods; that its changes are determined, if at all, by an immanent unchanging reason; and that those celestial luminaries which had drawn to themselves in every age the unquestioning worship of all mankind were, in truth, nothing more than fiery masses of inanimate matter. Thus, even if the early Greek thinkers were not scientific, they first made science possible by substituting for a theory of the universe which is its direct negation, one that methodised observation has increasingly tended to confirm. The garland of poetic praise woven by Lucretius for his adored master should have been dedicated to them, and to them alone. His noble enthusiasm was really inspired by their lessons, not by the wearisome trifling of a moralist who knew little and cared less about those studies in which the whole soul of his Roman disciple was absorbed.