类型:奇幻地区:莫桑比克剧发布:2020-11-27 21:36:19


For Law was feeble, Violence enthroned,

The effect aimed at by ancient Scepticism under its last form was to throw back reflection on its original starting-point. Life was once more handed over to the guidance of sense, appetite, custom, and art.303 We may call this residuum the philosophy of the dinner-bell. That institution implies the feeling of hunger, the directing sensation of sound, the habit of eating together at a fixed time, and the art of determining time by observing the celestial revolutions. Even so limited a view contains indefinite possibilities of expansion. It involves the three fundamental relations that other philosophies have for their object to work out with greater distinctness and in fuller detail: the relation between feeling and action, binding together past, present, and future in the consciousness of personal identity; the relation of ourselves to a collective society of similarly constituted beings, our intercourse with whom is subject from the very first to laws of morality and of logic; and, finally, the relation in which we stand, both singly and combined, to that universal order by which all alike are enveloped and borne along, with its suggestions of a still larger logic and an auguster morality springing from the essential dependence of our individual and social selves on an even deeper identity than that which they immediately reveal. We have already had occasion to observe how the noble teaching of Plato and the Stoics resumes itself in a confession of this threefold synthesis; and we now see how, putting them at their very lowest, nothing less than this will content the claims of thought. Thus, in less time than it took Berkeley to pass from tar-water to the Trinity, we have led our Sceptics from their philosophy of the dinner-bell to a philosophy which the Catholic symbols, with their mythologising tendencies, can but imperfectly represent. And to carry them with us thus far, nothing more than one192 of their own favourite methods is needed. Wherever they attempt to arrest the progress of enquiry and generalisation, we can show them that no real line of demarcation exists. Let them once admit the idea of a relation connecting the elements of consciousness, and it will carry them over every limit except that which is reached when the universe becomes conscious of itself. Let them deny the idea of a relation, and we may safely leave them to the endless task of analysing consciousness into elements which are feelings and nothing more. The magician in the story got rid of a too importunate familiar by setting him to spin ropes of sand. The spirit of Scepticism is exorcised by setting it to divide the strands of reason into breadthless lines and unextended points.

After the formal and material elements of life have been separately discussed, there comes an account of the process by which they are first brought into connexion, for this is how Aristotle views generation. With him it is the information of matter by psychic force; and his notions about the part which each parent plays in the production of a new being are vitiated throughout by this mistaken assumption. Nevertheless his treatise on the subject is, for its time, one of the most wonderful works ever written, and, as we are told on good authority,257 is now less antiquated than the corresponding researches of Harvey. The philosopher鈥檚 peculiar genius for observation, analysis, and comparison will partly account for his success; but, if we mistake not, there is another and less obvious reason. Here the fatal separation of form and matter was, except at first starting, precluded by the very idea of generation; and the teleological principle of spontaneous efforts to realise a predetermined end was, as it happened, perfectly in accordance with the facts themselves.

Before ascertaining in what direction Plato sought for an outlet from these accumulated difficulties, we have to glance at a Dialogue belonging apparently to his earliest compositions, but in one respect occupying a position apart from the rest. The Crito tells us for what reasons Socrates refused to escape from the fate which awaited him in prison, as, with the assistance of generous friends, he might easily have done. The aged philosopher considered that by adopting such a course he would be setting the Athenian laws at defiance, and doing what in him lay to destroy their validity. Now, we know that the historical Socrates held justice to consist in obedience to the law of the land; and here for once we find Plato agreeing with him on a definite and positive issue. Such a sudden and singular abandonment of the sceptical attitude merits our attention. It might, indeed, be said that Plato鈥檚 inconsistencies defy all attempts at reconciliation, and that in this instance the desire to set his maligned friend in a favourable light triumphed over the claims of an impracticable logic. We think, however, that a deeper and truer solution can be found. If the Crito inculcates obedience to the laws as a binding obligation, it is not for the reasons which, according to Xenophon, were adduced by the real Socrates in his dispute with the Sophist Hippias; general utility and private interest were the sole grounds appealed to then. Plato, on185 the other hand, ignores all such external considerations. True to his usual method, he reduces the legal conscience to a purely dialectical process. Just as in an argument the disputants are, or ought to be, bound by their own admissions, so also the citizen is bound by a tacit compact to fulfil the laws whose protection he has enjoyed and of whose claims his protracted residence is an acknowledgment. Here there is no need of a transcendent foundation for morality, as none but logical considerations come into play. And it also deserves to be noticed that, where this very idea of an obligation based on acceptance of services had been employed by Socrates, it was discarded by Plato. In the Euthyphro, a Dialogue devoted to the discussion of piety, the theory that religion rests on an exchange of good offices between gods and men is mentioned only to be scornfully rejected. Equally remarkable, and equally in advance of the Socratic standpoint, is a principle enunciated in the Crito, that retaliation is wrong, and that evil should never be returned for evil.120 And both are distinct anticipations of the earliest Christian teaching, though both are implicitly contradicted by the so-called religious services celebrated in Christian churches and by the doctrine of a divine retribution which is only not retaliatory because it is infinitely in excess of the provocation received.117

The rules for distinguishing between truth and falsehood98 are given in the famous Epicurean Canon. On receiving an image into the mind, we associate it with similar images formerly impressed on us by some real object. If the association or anticipation (πρ?ληψι?) is confirmed or not contradicted by subsequent experience, it is true; false, if contradicted or not confirmed.187 The stress laid on absence of contradictory evidence illustrates the great part played by such notions as possibility, negation, and freedom in the Epicurean system. In ethics this class of conceptions is represented by painlessness, conceived first as the condition, and finally as the essence of happiness; in physics by the infinite void, the inane profundum of which Lucretius speaks with almost religious unction; and in logic by the absence of contradiction considered as a proof of reality. Here, perhaps, we may detect the Parmenidean absolute under a new form; only, by a curious reversal, what Parmenides himself strove altogether to expel from thought has become its supreme object and content.188We find the same theory reproduced and enforced with weighty illustrations by the great historian of that age. It is not known whether Thucydides owed any part of his culture to Protagoras, but the introduction to his history breathes the same spirit as the observations which we have just transcribed. He, too, characterises antiquity as a scene of barbarism, isolation, and lawless violence, particularly remarking that piracy was not then counted a dishonourable profession. He points to the tribes outside Greece, together with the most backward among the Greeks themselves, as representing the low condition from which Athens and her sister states had only emerged within a comparatively recent period. And in the funeral oration which he puts into the mouth of Pericles, the legendary glories of Athens are passed over without the slightest allusion,69 while exclusive prominence is given to her proud position as the intellectual centre of Greece. Evidently a radical change had taken place in men鈥檚 conceptions since Herodotus wrote. They were learning to despise the mythical glories of their ancestors, to exalt the present at the expense of the past, to fix their attention exclusively on immediate human interests, and, possibly, to anticipate the coming of a loftier civilisation than had as yet been seen.

It is another Cynic trait in Epicurus that he should67 address himself to a much wider audience than the Sophists, or even than Socrates and his spiritualistic successors. This circumstance suggested a new argument in favour of temperance. His philosophy being intended for the use of all mankind without exception, was bound to show that happiness is within the reach of the poor as well as of the rich; and this could not be did it depend, to any appreciable extent, on indulgences which wealth alone can purchase. And even the rich will not enjoy complete tranquillity unless they are taught that the loss of fortune is not to be feared, since their appetites can be easily satisfied without it. Thus the pains arising from excess, though doubtless not forgotten, seem to have been the least important motive to restraint in his teaching. The precepts of Epicurus are only too faithfully followed in the southern countries for whose benefit they were first framed. It is a matter of common observation, that the extreme frugality of the Italians, by leaving them satisfied with the barest sufficiency, deprives them of a most valuable spur to exertion, and allows a vast fund of possible energy to moulder away in listless apathy, or to consume itself more rapidly in sordid vice. Moreover, as economists have long since pointed out, where the standard of comfort is high, there will be a large available margin to fall back upon in periods of distress; while where it is low, the limit of subsistence will be always dangerously near.VI.

This, then, was the revolution effected by Aristotle, that he found Greek thought in the form of a solid, and unrolled into a surface of the utmost possible tenuity, transparency, and extension. In so doing, he completed what Socrates and Plato had begun, he paralleled the course already described by Greek poetry, and he offered the first example of what since then has more than once recurred in the history of philosophy. It was thus that the residual substance of Locke and Berkeley was resolved into phenomenal succession by Hume. It was thus that the unexplained reality of Kant and Fichte was drawn out into a play of logical relations by Hegel. And, if we may venture on a forecast of the future towards which speculation is now advancing, it is thus that the limits imposed on human knowledge by positivists and agnostics in our own day, are yielding to the criticism of those who wish to establish either a perfect identity or a perfect equation between consciousness and being. This is the position represented in France by M. Taine, a thinker offering many points of resemblance to Aristotle, which it would be interesting to work out had we space at our command for the purpose. The forces which are now guiding English philosophy in an analogous direction have hitherto escaped observation on account of their disunion among themselves, and their intermixture with others of a different character. But on the whole we may say that the philosophy of Mill and his school corresponds very nearly in its practical idealism to Plato鈥檚 teaching; that Mr. Herbert Spencer approaches326 Aristotle on the side of theorising systematisation, while sharing to a more limited extent the metaphysical and political realism which accompanied it: that Lewes was carrying the same transformation a step further in his unfinished Problems of Life and Mind; that the philosophy of Mr. Shadworth Hodgson is marked by the same spirit of actuality, though not without a vista of multitudinous possibilities in the background; that the Neo-Hegelian school are trying to do over again for us what their master did in Germany; and that the lamented Professor Clifford had already given promise of one more great attempt to widen the area of our possible experience into co-extension with the whole domain of Nature.209When Aristotle passes from the whole cosmos to the philosophy of life, his method of systematic division is less distinctly illustrated, but still it may be traced. The fundamental separation is between body and soul. The latter has a wider meaning than what we associate with it at present. It covers the psychic functions and the whole life of the organism, which, again, is not what we mean by life. For life with us is both individual and collective; it resides in each speck of protoplasm, and also in the consensus of the whole organism. With Aristotle it is more exclusively a central principle, the final cause of the organism, the power which holds it together, and by which it was originally shaped. Biology begins by determining the idea of the whole, and then considers the means by which it is realised. The psychic functions are arranged according to a system of teleological subordination. The lower precedes the higher in time, but is logically necessitated by it. Thus nutrition, or the vegetative life in general, must be studied in close connexion with sensation and impulse, or animal life; and this, again, with thought or pure reasoning. On the other hand, anatomy and physiology are considered from a purely chemical and mechanical point of view. A vital purpose is, indeed, assigned to every organ, but with no more reference to its specifically vital properties than if it formed part of a steam engine. Here, as always with Aristotle, the idea of moderation determines the point of view363 whence the inferior or material system is to be studied. Organic tissue is made up of the four elemental principles鈥攈ot, cold, wet, and dry鈥攎ixed together in proper proportions; and the object of organic function is to maintain them in due equilibrium, an end effected by the regulating power of the soul, which, accordingly, has its seat in the heart or centre of the body. It has been already shown how, in endeavouring to work out this chimerical theory, Aristotle went much further astray from the truth than sundry other Greek physiologists less biassed by the requirements of a symmetrical method.

In absolute value, Neo-Platonism stands lowest as well as last among the ancient schools of thought. No reader who has followed us thus far will need to be reminded how many valuable ideas were first brought to light, or reinforced with new arguments and illustrations by the early Greek thinkers, by the Sophists and Socrates, by Plato and Aristotle, by the Stoics, Epicureans, and Sceptics, and by the moralists of the Roman empire. On every subject of speculation that can be started, we continue to ask, like Plotinus himself, what the 鈥榖lessed ancients鈥 had to say about it;501 not, of course, because they lived a long time ago, but because they came first, because they said what they had to say with the unique charm of original discovery, because they were in more direct contact than we are, not, indeed, with the facts, but with the336 phenomena of Nature and life and thought. It is true that we have nothing more to learn from them, for whatever was sound in their teaching has been entirely absorbed into modern thought, and combined with ideas of which they did not dream. But until we come to Hume and his successors, there is nothing in philosophical literature that can be compared to their writings for emancipating and stimulating power; and, perhaps, when the thinkers of the last and present centuries have become as obsolete as Bacon and Descartes are now, those writings will continue to be studied with unabating zeal. Neo-Platonism, on the other hand, is dead, and every attempt made to galvanise it into new life has proved a disastrous failure. The world, that is to say the world of culture, will not read Plotinus and his successors, will not even read the books that are written about them by scholars of brilliant literary ability like MM. Vacherot and Jules Simon in France, Steinhart and Kirchner in Germany.502Logical division is, however, a process not fully represented by any fixed and formal distribution of topics, nor yet is it equivalent to the arrangement of genera and species according to their natural affinities, as in the admirable systems of Jussieu and Cuvier. It is something much more flexible and subtle, a carrying down into the minutest detail, of that psychological law which requires, as a condition of perfect consciousness, that feelings, conceptions, judgments, and, generally speaking, all mental modes should be apprehended together with their contradictory opposites. Heracleitus had a dim perception of this truth when he taught the identity of antithetical couples, and it is more or less vividly illustrated by all Greek classic literature after him; but Socrates seems to have been the first who transformed it from a law of existence into a law of cognition; with him knowledge and ignorance, reason and passion, freedom and slavery, virtue, and vice, right and wrong (πολλ?ν ?νομ?των μορφ? μ?α) were apprehended in inseparable connexion, and were employed for mutual elucidation, not only in broad masses, but also through their last subdivisions, like the delicate adjustments of light and shade on a Venetian canvas. This method of classification by graduated descent and symmetrical contrast, like the whole dialectic system of which it forms a branch, is only suited to the mental phenomena for which it was originally devised; and Hegel committed a fatal error when he applied it to explain the order of external coexistence and succession. We have already touched on the essentially subjective character of the Socratic definition, and148 we shall presently have to make a similar restriction in dealing with Socratic induction. With regard to the question last considered, our limits will not permit us, nor, indeed, does it fall within the scope of our present study, to pursue a vein of reflection which was never fully worked out either by the Athenian philosophers or by their modern successors, at least not in its only legitimate direction.There was a time when mortals lived like brutes

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Men on each other fed with mutual slaughter,The splendid guerdon of a splendid sin.鈥57

For the Platonic Idea of Good, Aristotle had substituted his own conception of self-thinking thought, as the absolute on which all Nature hangs: and we have seen how Plotinus follows him to the extent of admitting that this visible universe is under the immediate control of an incorporeal Reason, which also serves as a receptacle for the Platonic Ideas. But what satisfied Aristotle does not fully satisfy him. The first principle must be one, and Nous fails to answer the conditions of absolute unity, Even self-thinking thought involves the elementary dualism of object and subject. Again, as Plotinus somewhat inconsistently argues, Nous, being knowledge, must cognise something simpler than309 itself.458 Or, perhaps, what he means is that in Nous, which is its product, the first principle becomes self-conscious. Consciousness means a check on the outflow of energy due to the restraining action of the One, a return to and reflection on itself of the creative power.459IV.




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