时间：<2020-07-11 15:21:18 作者：oQ谷歌seoeD0 浏览量：9777
There still remained one form of government to be tried, the despotic rule of a single individual. In the course of his travels Plato came into contact with an able and powerful specimen of the tyrant class, the elder Dionysius. A number of stories relating to their intercourse have been preserved; but the different versions disagree very widely, and none of them can be entirely trusted. It seems certain, however, that Plato gave great offence to the tyrant by his freedom of speech, that he narrowly escaped death, and that he was sold into slavery, from which condition he was redeemed by the generosity of Anniceris, a Cyrenaean philosopher. It is supposed that the scathing description in which Plato has196 held up to everlasting infamy the unworthy possessor of absolute power—a description long afterwards applied by Tacitus to the vilest of the Roman emperors—was suggested by the type which had come under his own observation in Sicily.
Finally, while the attempt to attain extreme accuracy of definition was leading to the destruction of all thought and all reality within the Socratic school, the dialectic method had been taken up and parodied in a very coarse style by a class of persons called Eristics. These men had, to some extent, usurped the place of the elder Sophists as paid instructors of youth; but their only accomplishment was to upset every possible assertion by a series of verbal juggles. One of their favourite paradoxes was to deny the reality of falsehood on the Parmenidean principle that ‘nothing cannot exist.’ Plato satirises their method in the Euthydêmus, and makes a much more serious attempt to meet it in the Sophist; two Dialogues which seem to have been composed not far from one another.156 The Sophist effects a considerable simplification in the ideal theory by resolving negation into difference, and altogether omitting the notions of unity and plurality,—perhaps as a result of the investiga265tions contained in the Parmenides, another dialogue belonging to the same group, where the couple referred to are analysed with great minuteness, and are shown to be infected with numerous self-contradictions. The remaining five ideas of Existence, Sameness, Difference, Rest, and Motion, are allowed to stand; but the fact of their inseparable connexion is brought out with great force and clearness. The enquiry is one of considerable interest, including, as it does, the earliest known analysis of predication, and forming an indispensable link in the transition from Platonic to Aristotelian logic—that is to say, from the theory of definition and classification to the theory of syllogism.
Being, then, is finite in extent, and, as a consequence of its absolute homogeneity, spherical in form. There is good reason for believing that the earth’s true figure was first discovered in the fifth century B.C., but whether it was suggested by the à priori theories of Parmenides, or was19 generalised by him into a law of the whole universe, or whether there was more than an accidental connexion between the two hypotheses, we cannot tell. Aristotle, at any rate, was probably as much indebted to the Eleatic system as to contemporary astronomy for his theory of a finite spherical universe. It will easily be observed that the distinction between space and matter, so obvious to us, and even to Greek thinkers of a later date, had not yet dawned upon Parmenides. As applied to the former conception, most of his affirmations are perfectly correct, but his belief in the finiteness of Being can only be justified on the supposition that Being is identified with matter. For it must be clearly understood (and Zeller has the great merit of having proved this fact by incontrovertible arguments)17 that the Eleatic Being was not a transcendental conception, nor an abstract unity, as Aristotle erroneously supposed, nor a Kantian noumenon, nor a spiritual essence of any kind, but a phenomenal reality of the most concrete description. We can only not call Parmenides a materialist, because materialism implies a negation of spiritualism, which in his time had not yet come into existence. He tells us plainly that a man’s thoughts result from the conformation of his body, and are determined by the preponderating element in its composition. Not much, however, can be made of this rudimentary essay in psychology, connected as it seems to be with an appendix to the teaching of our philosopher, in which he accepts the popular dualism, although still convinced of its falsity, and uses it, under protest, as an explanation of that very genesis which he had rejected as impossible.But the ageless order he seesAfter resolving virtue into knowledge of pleasure, the next questions which would present themselves to so keen a thinker were obviously, What is knowledge? and What is pleasure? The Theaetêtus is chiefly occupied with a discussion of the various answers already given to the first of these enquiries. It seems, therefore, to come naturally next after the Protagoras; and our conjecture receives a further confirmation when we find that here also a large place is given to the opinions of the Sophist after whom that dialogue is named; the chief difference being that the points selected for controversy are of a speculative rather than of a practical character. There is, however, a close connexion between the argument by which Protagoras had endeavoured to prove that all mankind are teachers of virtue, and his more general principle that man is the measure of all things. And perhaps it was the more obvious difficulties attending the latter view which led Plato, after some hesitation, to reject the former along206 with it. In an earlier chapter we gave some reasons for believing that Protagoras did not erect every individual into an arbiter of truth in the sweeping sense afterwards put upon his words. He was probably opposing a human to a theological or a naturalistic standard. Nevertheless, it does not follow that Plato was fighting with a shadow when he pressed the Protagorean dictum to its most literal interpretation. There are plenty of people still who would maintain it to that extent. Wherever and whenever the authority of ancient traditions is broken down, the doctrine that one man’s opinion is as good as another’s immediately takes its place; or rather the doctrine in question is a survival of traditionalism in an extremely pulverised form. And when we are told that the majority must be right—which is a very different principle from holding that the majority should be obeyed—we may take it as a sign that the loose particles are beginning to coalesce again. The substitution of an individual for a universal standard of truth is, according to Plato, a direct consequence of the theory which identifies knowledge with sense-perception. It is, at any rate, certain that the most vehement assertors of the former doctrine are also those who are fondest of appealing to what they and their friends have seen, heard, or felt; and the more educated among them place enormous confidence in statistics. They are also fond of repeating the adage that an ounce of fact is worth a ton of theory, without considering that theory alone can furnish the balance in which facts are weighed. Plato does not go very deep into the rationale of observation, nor in the infancy of exact science was it to be expected that he should. He fully recognised the presence of two factors, an objective and a subjective, in every sensation, but lost his hold on the true method in attempting to trace a like dualism through the whole of consciousness. Where we should distinguish between the mental energies and the physical processes underlying them, or between the207 elements respectively contributed to every cognition by immediate experience and reflection, he conceived the inner and outer worlds as two analogous series related to one another as an image to its original.
308Nunc ratio nulla ‘st restandi, nulla facultas,
The glowing enthusiasm of Plato is, however, not entirely derived from the poetic traditions of his native city; or perhaps we should rather say that he and the great writers who preceded him drew from a common fount of inspiration. Mr. Emerson, in one of the most penetrating criticisms ever written on our philosopher,129 has pointed out the existence of two distinct elements in the Platonic Dialogues—one dispersive, practical, prosaic; the other mystical, absorbing, centripetal. The American scholar is, however, as we think, quite mistaken when he attributes the second of these tendencies to Asiatic influence. It is extremely doubtful whether Plato ever travelled farther east than Egypt; it is probable that his stay in that country was not of long duration; and it is certain that he did not acquire a single metaphysical idea from its inhabitants. He liked their rigid conservatism; he liked their institution of a dominant priesthood; he liked their system of popular education, and the place which it gave to mathematics made him look with shame on the ‘swinish ignorance’ of his own countrymen in that respect;130 but on the whole he classes them among the races exclusively devoted to money-making, and in aptitude for philosophy he places them far below the Greeks. Very different were the impressions brought home from his visits to Sicily and204 Southern Italy. There he became acquainted with modes of thought in which the search after hidden resemblances and analogies was a predominant passion; there the existence of a central unity underlying all phenomena was maintained, as against sense and common opinion, with the intensity of a religious creed; there alone speculation was clothed in poetic language; there first had an attempt been made to carry thought into life by associating it with a reform of manners and beliefs. There, too, the arts of dance and song had assumed a more orderly and solemn aspect; the chorus received its final constitution from a Sicilian master; and the loftiest strains of Greek lyric poetry were composed for recitation in the streets of Sicilian cities or at the courts of Sicilian kings. Then, with the rise of rhetoric, Greek prose was elaborated by Sicilian teachers into a sort of rhythmical composition, combining rich imagery with studied harmonies and contrasts of sense and sound. And as the hold of Asiatic civilisation on eastern Hellas grew weaker, the attention of her foremost spirits was more and more attracted to this new region of wonder and romance. The stream of colonisation set thither in a steady flow; the scenes of mythical adventure were rediscovered in Western waters; and it was imagined that, by grasping the resources of Sicily, an empire extending over the whole Mediterranean might be won. Perhaps, without being too fanciful, we may trace a likeness between the daring schemes of Alcibiades and the more remote but not more visionary kingdom suggested by an analogous inspiration to the idealising soul of Plato. Each had learned to practise, although for far different purposes, the royal art of Socrates—the mastery over men’s minds acquired by a close study of their interests, passions, and beliefs. But the ambition of the one defeated his own aim, to the destruction of his country and of himself; while the other drew into Athenian thought whatever of Western force and fervour was needed for the accomplishment of its205 imperial task. We may say of Plato what he has said of his own Theaetêtus, that ‘he moves surely and smoothly and successfully in the path of knowledge and inquiry; always making progress like the noiseless flow of a river of oil’;131 but everywhere beside or beneath that placid lubricating flow we may trace the action of another current, where still sparkles, fresh and clear as at first, the fiery Sicilian wine.
184The relation of Spinoza’s Substance to its attributes is ambiguous. It is at once their cause, their totality, and their unity. The highly elastic and indefinite term Power helped these various aspects to play into and replace one another according to the requirements of the system. It is associated with the subjective possibility of multiplying imaginary existences to any amount; with the causal energy in which existence originates; and with the expansiveness characteristic alike of Extension and of Thought. For the two known attributes of the universal substance are not simply related to it as co-predicates of a common subject; they severally express its essential Power, and are, to that extent, identical with one another. But when we ask, How do they express Power? the same ambiguity recurs. Substance is revealed through its attributes, as a cause through its effects; as an aggregate through its constituents; and as an abstract notion through its concrete embodiments. Thus Extension and Thought are identical through their very differences, since these illustrate the versatility of their common source, and at the same time jointly contribute to the realisation of its perfection. But, for all practical purposes, Spinoza deals only with the parallelism and resemblance of the attributes. We have to see how he establishes it, and how far he was helped in so doing by the traditions of Greek philosophy.
The merit of having worked up these loose materials into a connected sketch was, no doubt, considerable; but, according to Zeller, there is reason for attributing it to Theophrastus or even to Democritus rather than to Epicurus.193 On the other hand, the purely mechanical manner in which Lucretius supposes every invention to have been suggested by some accidental occurrence or natural phenomenon, is quite in the style of Epicurus, and reminds us of the method by which he is known to have explained every operation of the human mind.194
Plato was born in the year 429, or according to some accounts 427, and died 347 B.C. Few incidents in his biography can be fixed with any certainty; but for our purpose the most general facts are also the most interesting, and about these we have tolerably trustworthy information. His family was one of the noblest in Athens, being connected on the father’s side with Codrus, and on the mother’s with Solon; while two of his kinsmen, Critias and Charmides, were among the chiefs of the oligarchic party. It is uncertain whether he inherited any considerable property, nor is the question one of much importance. It seems clear that he enjoyed the best education Athens could afford, and that through life he possessed a competence sufficient to relieve him from the cares of material existence. Possibly the preference which he expressed, when far advanced in life, for moderate health and190 wealth arose from having experienced those advantages himself. If the busts which bear his name are to be trusted, he was remarkably beautiful, and, like some other philosophers, very careful of his personal appearance. Perhaps some reminiscences of the admiration bestowed on himself may be mingled with those pictures of youthful loveliness and of its exciting effect on the imaginations of older men which give such grace and animation to his earliest dialogues. We know not whether as lover or beloved he passed unscathed through the storms of passion which he has so powerfully described, nor whether his apparently intimate acquaintance with them is due to divination or to regretful experience. We may pass by in silence whatever is related on this subject, with the certainty that, whether true or not, scandalous stories could not fail to be circulated about him.