时间：<2020-05-27 00:33:06 作者：Qm淘宝seoteW 浏览量：9777
To the criticism and systematisation of common language and common opinion succeeded the more laborious criticism and systematisation of philosophical theories. Such an enormous amount of labour was demanded for the task of working up the materials amassed by Greek thought during the period of its creative originality, and accommodating them to the popular belief, that not much could be done in the way of adding to their extent. Nor was this all. Among the most valuable ideas of the earlier thinkers were those which stood in most striking opposition to the evidence of the senses. As such they were excluded from the system which had for its object the reorganisation of philosophy on the basis of general consent. Thus not only did thought tend to become stationary, but it even abandoned some of the ground which had been formerly won.
It is remarkable that the spontaneous development of Greek thought should have led to a form of Theism not unlike that which some persons still imagine was supernaturally revealed to the Hebrew race; for the absence of any connexion between the two is now almost universally admitted. Modern science has taken up the attitude of Laplace towards the hypothesis in question; and those critics who, like Lange, are most imbued with the scientific spirit, feel inclined to regard its adoption by Plato as a retrograde movement. We may to a certain extent agree with them, without admitting that philosophy, as a whole, was injured by departing from the principles of Democritus. An intellectual like an animal organism may sometimes have to choose between retrograde metamorphosis and total extinction. The course of events drove speculation to Athens, where it could only exist on the condition of assuming a theological form. Moreover, action and reaction were equal and contrary. Mythology gained as much as philosophy lost. It was purified from immoral ingredients, and raised to the highest level which supernaturalism is capable of attaining. If the Republic was the forerunner of the Catholic Church, the Timaeus was the forerunner of the Catholic faith.Passing from life to mind, we find Empedocles teaching an even more pronounced materialism than Parmenides, inasmuch as it is stated in language of superior precision. Our souls are, according to him, made up of elements like those which constitute the external world, each of these being perceived by a corresponding portion of the same substances within ourselves—fire by fire, water by water, and so on with the rest. It is a mistake to suppose that speculation begins from a subjective standpoint, that men start with a clear consciousness of their own personality, and proceed to construct an objective universe after the same pattern. Doubtless they are too prone to personify the blind forces of Nature, and Empedocles himself has just supplied us with an example of this tendency, but they err still more by reading outward experience into their own souls, by materialising the processes of consciousness, and resolving human personality into a loose confederacy of inorganic units. Even Plato, who did more than anyone else towards distinguishing between mind and body, ended by laying down his psychology on the lines of an astronomical system. Meanwhile, to have separated the perception of an object from the object itself, in ever so slight a degree, was an important gain to thought.33 We must not omit to notice a hypothesis by which Empedocles sought to elucidate the mechanism of sensation, and which was subsequently adopted by the atomic school; indeed, as will presently be shown, we have reason to believe that the whole atomic theory was developed out of it. He held that emanations were being continually thrown off from the surfaces of bodies, and that they penetrated into the organs of sense through fine passages or pores. This may seem a crude guess, but it is at any rate much more scientific than Aristotle’s explanation. According to the latter, possibilities of feeling are converted into actualities by the presence of an object. In other words, we feel when and because we do; a safe assertion, but hardly an addition to our positive knowledge of the subject.
It is an often-quoted observation of Friedrich Schlegel’s that every man is born either a Platonist or an Aristotelian. If we narrow the remark to the only class which, perhaps, its author recognised as human beings, namely, all thinking men, it will be found to contain a certain amount of truth, though probably not what Schlegel intended; at any rate something requiring to be supplemented by other truths before its full meaning can be understood. The common opinion seems to be that Plato was a transcendentalist, while Aristotle was an experientialist; and that this constitutes the most typical distinction between them. It would, however, be a mistake to292 suppose that the à priori and à posteriori methods were marked off with such definiteness in Plato’s time as to render possible a choice between them. The opposition was not between general propositions and particular facts, but between the most comprehensive and the most limited notions. It was as if the question were now to be raised whether we should begin to teach physiology by at once dividing the organic from the inorganic world, or by directing the learner’s attention to some one vital act. Now, we are expressly told that Plato hesitated between these two methods; and in his Dialogues, at least, we find the easier and more popular one employed by preference. It is true that he often appeals to wide principles which do not rest on an adequate basis of experimental evidence; but Aristotle does so also, more frequently even, and, as the event proved, with more fatal injury to the advance of knowledge. In his Rhetoric he even goes beyond Plato, constructing the entire art from the general principles of dialectics, psychology, and ethics, without any reference, except for the sake of illustration, to existing models of eloquence.In 347 Plato died, leaving his nephew Speusippus to succeed him in the headship of the Academy. Aristotle then left Athens, accompanied by another Platonist, Xenocrates, a circumstance tending to prove that his relations with the school continued to be of a cordial character. The two settled in Atarneus, at the invitation of its tyrant Hermeias, an old fellow-student from the Academy. Hermeias was a eunuch who had risen from the position of a slave to that of vizier, and then, after his master’s death, to the possession of supreme power. Three years subsequently a still more abrupt turn of fortune brought his adventurous career to a close. Like Polycrates, he was treacherously seized and crucified by order of the Persian Government. Aristotle, who had married Pythias, his deceased patron’s niece, fled with her to Mitylênê. Always grateful, and singularly enthusiastic in his attachments, he celebrated the memory of Hermeias in a manner which gave great offence to the religious sentiment of Hellas, by dedicating a statue to him at Delphi, and composing an elegy, still extant, in which he compares the eunuch-despot to Heracles, the Dioscuri, Achilles, and Ajax; and promises him immortality from the Muses in honour of Xenian Zeus.
Yet, however much may be accounted for by these considerations, they still leave something unexplained. Why should one thinker after another so unhesitatingly assume that the order of Nature as we know it has issued not merely from a different but from an exactly opposite condition, from universal confusion and chaos? Their experience was far too limited to tell them anything about those vast cosmic changes which we know by incontrovertible evidence to have already occurred, and to be again in course of preparation. We can only answer this question by bringing into view what may be called the negative moment of Greek thought. The science of contraries is one, says Aristotle, and it certainly was so to his countrymen. Not only did they delight51 to bring together the extremes of weal and woe, of pride and abasement, of security and disaster, but whatever they most loved and clung to in reality seemed to interest their imagination most powerfully by its removal, its reversal, or its overthrow. The Athenians were peculiarly intolerant of regal government and of feminine interference in politics. In Athenian tragedy the principal actors are kings and royal ladies. The Athenian matrons occupied a position of exceptional dignity and seclusion. They are brought upon the comic stage to be covered with the coarsest ridicule, and also to interfere decisively in the conduct of public affairs. Aristophanes was profoundly religious himself, and wrote for a people whose religion, as we have seen, was pushed to the extreme of bigotry. Yet he shows as little respect for the gods as for the wives and sisters of his audience. To take a more general example still, the whole Greek tragic drama is based on the idea of family kinship, and that institution was made most interesting to Greek spectators by the violation of its eternal sanctities, by unnatural hatred, and still more unnatural love; or by a fatal misconception which causes the hands of innocent persons, more especially of tender women, to be armed against their nearest and dearest relatives in utter unconsciousness of the awful guilt about to be incurred. By an extension of the same psychological law to abstract speculation we are enabled to understand how an early Greek philosopher who had come to look on Nature as a cosmos, an orderly whole, consisting of diverse but connected and interdependent parts, could not properly grasp such a conception until he had substituted for it one of a precisely opposite character, out of which he reconstructed it by a process of gradual evolution. And if it is asked how in the first place did he come by the idea of a cosmos, our answer must be that he found it in Greek life, in societies distinguished by a many-sided but harmonious development of concurrent functions, and by52 voluntary obedience to an impersonal law. Thus, then, the circle is complete; we have returned to our point of departure, and again recognise in Greek philosophy a systematised expression of the Greek national genius.We may say almost as briefly that they inculcate complete independence both of our own passions and of external circumstances, with a corresponding respect for the independence of others, to be shown by using persuasion instead of force. Their tone will perhaps be best understood by contrast with that collection of Hebrew proverbs which has come down to us under the name of Solomon, but which Biblical critics now attribute to a later period and a divided authorship. While these regularly put forward material prosperity as the chief motive to good conduct, Hellenic wisdom teaches indifference to the variations of fortune. To a Greek, ‘the power that makes for righteousness,’ so far from being, ‘not ourselves,’ was our own truest self, the far-seeing reason which should guard us from elation and from depression, from passion and from surprise. Instead of being offered old age as a reward, we are told to be equally prepared for a long and for a short life.
Yet there was a difference between them, marking off each as the head of a whole School much wider than the Academy or the Lyceum; a difference which we can best express by saying that Plato was pre-eminently a practical, Aristotle pre-eminently a speculative genius. The object of the one was to reorganise all human life, that of the other to reorganise all human knowledge. Had the one lived earlier, he would more probably have been a great statesman or a great general than a great writer; the other would at no time have been anything but a philosopher, a mathematician, or a historian. Even from birth they seemed to be respectively marked out for an active and for a contemplative life: the one, a citizen of the foremost State in Hellas, sprung from a family in which political ambition was hereditary, himself strong, beautiful, fascinating, eloquent, and gifted with the keenest insight into men’s capacities and motives; the other a Stagirite and an Asclepiad, that is to say, without opportunities for a public career, and possessing a hereditary aptitude for anatomy and natural history, fitted by his insignificant person and delicate constitution for sedentary pursuits, and better able to acquire a knowledge even of human nature from books than from a living converse with men and affairs. Of course, we are not for a moment denying to Plato a fore294most place among the masters of those who know; he embraced all the science of his age, and to a great extent marked out the course which the science of future ages was to pursue; nevertheless, for him, knowledge was not so much an end in itself as a means for the attainment of other ends, among which the preservation of the State seems to have been, in his eyes, the most important.M Aristotle, on the other hand, after declaring happiness to be the supreme end, defines it as an energising of man’s highest nature, which again he identifies with the reasoning process or cognition in its purest form.
The Stoics held, as Mr. Herbert Spencer, who resembles them in so many respects, now holds, that all knowledge is ultimately produced by the action of the object on the subject. Being convinced, however, that each single perception, as such, is fallible, they sought for the criterion of certainty in the repetition and combination of individual impressions; and, again like Mr. Spencer, but also in complete accordance with their dynamic theory of Nature, they estimated the validity of a belief by the degree of tenacity with which it is held. The various stages of assurance were carefully distinguished and arranged in an ascending series. First came simple perception, then simple assent, thirdly, comprehension, and finally demonstrative science. These mental acts were respectively typified by extending the forefinger, by bending it as in the gesture of beckoning, by clenching the fist, and by placing it, thus clenched, in the grasp of the other hand. From another point of view, they defined a true conviction as that which can only be produced by the action of a corresponding real object on the mind.147 This theory was complicated still further by the Stoic interpretation of judgment as a voluntary act; by the ethical significance which it consequently received; and by the concentration of all wisdom in the person of an ideal sage. The unreserved bestowal of belief is a practical postulate dictated by the necessities of life; but only he who knows what those necessities are, in other words only the wise man, knows when the postulate is to be enforced. In short, the criterion of your being right is your conviction that you are right, and this conviction, if you really possess it, is a sufficient witness to its own veracity. Or again, it is the nature of man to act rightly, and he cannot do so unless he has right beliefs, confirmed and clinched by the consciousness that they are right.
That we, by Thee in honour set,
The second service of Epicurus was entirely to banish the idea of supernatural interference from the study of natural phenomena. This also was a difficult enterprise in the face of that overwhelming theological reaction begun by Socrates, continued by Plato, and carried to grotesque con115sequences by the Stoics; but, here again, there can be no question of attributing any originality to the philosopher of the Garden. That there either were no gods at all, or that if there were they never meddled with the world, was a common enough opinion in Plato’s time; and even Aristotle’s doctrine of a Prime Mover excludes the notion of creation, providence, and miracles altogether. On the other hand, the Epicurean theory of idle gods was irrational in itself, and kept the door open for a return of superstitious beliefs.We have seen how, in accordance with this view, each principle is perfected by looking back on its source.491 Thus330 the activity of the world-soul, so far as it is exercised for the benefit of what comes after and falls beneath her, is an anomaly only to be accounted for by her inferior place in the system of graduated descent; or else by the utter impotence of Matter, which is incapable of raising itself into Form by a spontaneous act of reflection, and can only passively receive the images transmitted to it from above, without being able to retain even these for any time. Nay, here also, what looks like creative energy admits of being assimilated more or less closely to an exercise of idealising thought. It is really for her own sake that the Soul fills what lies beyond her with life and light, not, like Plato’s Soul, from pure disinterested joy in the communication and diffusion of good. It is because she recoils with horror from darkness and nonentity that she shapes the formless substance into a residence for herself, on the model of the imperial palace whence she came. Thus the functions of sensation, nutrition, and reproduction are to be regarded as so many modes of contemplation. In the first, the Soul dwells on the material images which already exist; in the second and third, she strives to perpetuate and multiply them still further. And the danger is that she may become so enthralled by her own creation as to forget the divine original after which it is formed.492 Should she yield to the snare, successive transmigrations will sink her lower and lower into the depths of animalism and material darkness. To avoid this degradation, to energise with the better part of our nature, is to be good. And with the distinction between good and evil, we pass from the metaphysical to the ethical portion of the system.The analogy between Thought and Extension under the two aspects of necessary connexion and mere contingent relation in co-existence or succession, was, in truth, more interesting to its author as a basis for his ethical than as a development of his metaphysical speculations. The two orders of relations represent, in their distinction, the opposition of science to opinion or imagination, the opposition of dutiful conviction to blind or selfish impulse. Spinoza borrows from the Stoics their identification of volition with belief; but in working out the consequences of this principle it is of Plato rather than of the Stoics that he reminds us. The passions are in his system what sense, imagination, and opinion were in that of the Athenian idealist; and his ethics may almost be called the metaphysics of the Republic turned outside in. Joy, grief and desire are more or less imperfect perceptions of reality—a reality not belonging to the external world but to the conscious subject itself.571 When Spinoza traces them to a consciousness or expectation of raised or lowered power, we recognise the influence of Hobbes; but when, here as elsewhere, he identifies power with existence, we detect a return to Greek forms of thought. The great conflict between illusion and reality is fought out once more; only, this time, it is about our own essence that we are first deceived and then enlightened. If the nature and origin of outward things are half revealed, half concealed by sense and imagination, our emotions are in like manner the obscuring and distorting medium through which we apprehend our inmost selves, and whatever adds to or takes away from the plenitude of our existence; and what science is to the one, morality and religion are to the other.
We now enter on the last period of purely objective philosophy, an age of mediating and reconciling, but still profoundly original speculation. Its principal representatives, with whom alone we have to deal, are Empedocles, the Atomists, Leucippus and Democritus, and Anaxagoras. There is considerable doubt and difficulty respecting the order in which they should be placed. Anaxagoras was unquestionably the oldest and Democritus the youngest of the four, the difference between their ages being forty years. It is also nearly certain that the Atomists came after Empedocles. But if we take a celebrated expression of Aristotle’s21 literally (as there is no reason why it should not be taken),27 Anaxagoras, although born before Empedocles, published his views at a later period. Was he also anticipated by Leucippus? We cannot tell with certainty, but it seems likely from a comparison of their doctrines that he was; and in all cases the man who naturalised philosophy in Athens, and who by his theory of a creative reason furnishes a transition to the age of subjective speculation, will be most conveniently placed at the close of the pre-Socratic period.What has been said of the human soul applies equally to God, who is the soul of the world. He also is conceived under the form of a material but very subtle and all-penetrating element to which our souls are much more closely akin than to the coarse clay with which they are temporarily associated. And it was natural that the heavenly bodies, in whose composition the ethereal element seemed so visibly to predominate, should pass with the Stoics, as with Plato and Aristotle, for conscious beings inferior only in sacredness and14 majesty to the Supreme Ruler of all.32 Thus, the philosophy which we are studying helps to prove the strength and endurance of the religious reaction to which Socrates first gave an argumentative expression, and by which he was ultimately hurried to his doom. We may even trace its increasing ascendency through the successive stages of the Naturalistic school. Prodicus simply identified the gods of polytheism with unconscious physical forces;33 Antisthenes, while discarding local worship, believed, like Rousseau, in the existence of a single deity;34 Zeno, or his successors, revived the whole pantheon, but associated it with a pure morality, and explained away its more offensive features by an elaborate system of allegorical interpretation.35The enemies of hedonism had taken a malicious satisfaction in identifying it with voluptuous indulgence, and had scornfully asked if that could be the supreme good and proper object of virtuous endeavour, the enjoyment of which was habitually associated with secresy and shame. It was, perhaps, to screen his system from such reproaches that Epicurus went a long way towards the extreme limit of asceticism, and hinted at the advisability of complete abstinence from that which, although natural, is not necessary to self68-preservation, and involves a serious drain on the vital energies.134 In this respect, he was not followed by Lucretius, who has no objection to the satisfaction of animal instinct, so long as it is not accompanied by personal passion.135 Neither the Greek moralist nor the Roman poet could foresee what a great part in the history of civilisation chivalrous devotion to a beloved object was destined to play, although the uses of idealised desire had already revealed themselves to Plato’s penetrating gaze.