时间：<2020-07-08 00:41:30 作者：yS拉布拉多84W 浏览量：9777
In the foregoing remarks we have already passed from the purely aesthetic to the historical or psychological view of Neo-Platonism—that is, the view which considers a philosophy in reference to the circumstances of its origin. Every speculative system reflects, more or less fully, the spirit of the age in which it was born; and the absence of all allusion to contemporary events does not prove that the system of Plotinus was an exception to this rule. It only proves that the tendency of the age was to carry away men’s thoughts from practical to theoretical interests. We have already characterised the first centuries of Roman imperialism as a period of ever-increasing religious reaction; and in this reaction we attempted to distinguish between the development of supernaturalist beliefs which were native to Greece and Italy, and the importation of beliefs which had originated in the East. We saw also how philosophy shared in the general tendency, how it became theological and spiritualistic instead of ethical and naturalistic, how its professors were converted from opponents into upholders of the popular belief. Now, according to some critics, Neo-Platonism marks another stage in the gradual substitution of faith for reason, of authority for independent thought; the only question being whether we should interpret it as a product of Oriental mysticism, or as a simple sequence of the same movement which had previously led from Cicero to Seneca, from Seneca to Epictêtus, from Epictêtus to Marcus Aurelius.It is a familiar fact, first brought to light by Lessing, and generalised by him into a law of all good literary composition, that Homer always throws his descriptions into a narrative form. We are not told what a hero wore, but how he put on his armour; when attention is drawn to a particular object we are made acquainted with its origin and past history; even the reliefs on a shield are invested with life and movement. Homer was not impelled to adopt this method either by conscious reflection or by a profound poetic instinct. At a certain stage of intellectual development, every Greek would find it far easier to arrange the data of experience in successive than in contemporaneous order; the one is fixed, the other admits of indefinite variation. Pictorial and plastic art also begin with serial presentations, and only arrive at the construction of large centralised groups much later on. We have next to observe that, while Greek reflection at first followed the order of time, it turned by preference not to present or future, but to past time. Nothing in Hellenic literature reminds us of Hebrew prophecy. To a Greek all distinct prevision was merged in the gloom of coming death or the glory of anticipated fame. Of course, at every great crisis of the national fortunes much curiosity prevailed among the vulgar as to what course events would take; but it was sedulously discouraged by the noblest minds. Herodotus and46 Sophocles look on even divine predictions as purposely ambiguous and misleading. Pindar often dwells on the hopeless uncertainty of life.35 Thucydides treats all vaticination as utterly delusive. So, when a belief in the soul’s separate existence first obtained acceptance among the Greeks, it interested them far less as a pledge of never-ending life and progress hereafter, than as involving a possible revelation of past history, of the wondrous adventures which each individual had passed through before assuming his present form. Hence the peculiar force of Pindar’s congratulation to the partaker in the Eleusinian mysteries; after death he knows not only ‘the end of life,’ but also ‘its god-given beginning.’36 Even the present was not intelligible until it had been projected back into the past, or interpreted by the light of some ancient tale. Sappho, in her famous ode to Aphroditê, recalls the incidents of a former passion precisely similar to the unrequited love which now agitates her heart, and describes at length how the goddess then came to her relief as she is now implored to come again. Modern critics have spoken of this curious literary artifice as a sign of delicacy and reserve. We may be sure that Sappho was an utter stranger to such feelings; she ran her thoughts into a predetermined mould just as a bee builds its wax into hexagonal cells. Curtius, the German historian, has surmised with much plausibility that the entire legend of Troy owes its origin to this habit of throwing back contemporary events into a distant past. According to his view, the characters and scenes recorded by Homer, although unhistorical as they now stand, had really a place in the Achaean colonisation of Asia Minor.37 But, apart from any disguised allusions, old stories had an inexhaustible charm for the Greek imagination. Even during the stirring events of the Peloponnesian war, elderly Athenian47 citizens in their hours of relaxation talked of nothing but mythology.38 When a knowledge of reading became universally diffused, and books could be had at a moderate price, ancient legends seem to have been the favourite literature of the lower classes, just as among ourselves in Caxton’s time. Still more must the same taste have prevailed a century earlier. A student who opens Pindar’s epinician odes for the first time is surprised to find so little about the victorious combatants and the struggles in which they took part, so much about mythical adventures seemingly unconnected with the ostensible subject of the poem. Furthermore, we find that genealogies were the framework by which these distant recollections were held together. Most noble families traced their descent back to a god or to a god-like hero. The entire interval separating the historical period from the heroic age was filled up with more or less fictitious pedigrees. A man’s ancestry was much the most important part of his biography. It is likely that Herodotus had just as enthusiastic an admiration as we can have for Leonidas. Yet one fancies that a historian of later date would have shown his appreciation of the Spartan king in a rather different fashion. We should have been told something about the hero’s personal appearance, and perhaps some characteristic incidents from his earlier career would have been related. Not so with Herodotus. He pauses in the story of Thermopylae to give us the genealogy of Leonidas up to Heraclês; no more and no less. That was the highest compliment he could pay, and it is repeated for Pausanias, the victor of Plataea.39 The genealogical method was capable of wide extension, and could be applied to other than human or animal relationships. Hesiod’s Theogony is a genealogy of heaven and earth, and all that in them is. According to Aeschylus, gain is bred from gain, slaughter from slaughter, woe from woe. Insolence bears a child like unto herself, and this in turn gives birth to48 a still more fatal progeny.40 The same poet terminates his enumeration of the flaming signals that sped the message of victory from Troy to Argos, by describing the last beacon as ‘not ungrandsired by the Idaean fire.’41 Now, when the Greek genius had begun to move in any direction, it rushed forward without pausing until arrested by an impassable limit, and then turned back to retraverse at leisure the whole interval separating that limit from its point of departure. Thus, the ascending lines of ancestry were followed up until they led to a common father of all; every series of outrages was traced through successive reprisals back to an initial crime; and more generally every event was affiliated to a preceding event, until the whole chain had been attached to an ultimate self-existing cause. Hence the records of origination, invention, spontaneity were long sought after with an eagerness which threw almost every other interest into the shade. ‘Glory be to the inventor,’ sings Pindar, in his address to victorious Corinth; ‘whence came the graces of the dithyrambic hymn, who first set the double eagle on the temples of the gods?’42 The Prometheus of Aeschylus tells how civilisation began, and the trilogy to which it belongs was probably intended to show how the supremacy of Zeus was first established and secured. A great part of the Agamemnon deals with events long anterior to the opening of the drama, but connected as ultimate causes with the terrible catastrophe which it represents. In the Eumenides we see how the family, as it now exists, was first constituted by the substitution of paternal for maternal headship, and also how the worship of the Avenging Goddesses was first introduced into Athens, as well as how the Areopagite tribunal was founded. It is very probable that Sophocles’s earliest work, the Triptolemus, represented the origin of agriculture under a dramatic form; and if the same poet’s later pieces, as well as all those of Euripides,49 stand on quite different ground, occupied as they are with subjects of contemporaneous, or rather of eternal interest, we must regard this as a proof that the whole current of Greek thought had taken a new direction, corresponding to that simultaneously impressed on philosophy by Socrates and the Sophists. We may note further that the Aeginetan sculptures, executed soon after Salamis, though evidently intended to commemorate that victory, represent a conflict waged long before by the tutelary heroes of Aegina against an Asiatic foe. We may also see in our own British Museum how the birth of Athênê was recorded in a marble group on one pediment of the Parthenon, and the foundation of her chosen city on the other. The very temple which these majestic sculptures once adorned was a petrified memorial of antiquity, and, by the mere form of its architecture, must have carried back men’s thoughts to the earliest Hellenic habitation, the simple structure in which a gabled roof was supported by cross-beams on a row of upright wooden posts.
One need only compare the catalogue of particular histories subjoined to the Parasceve,538 with a table of Aristotle’s works, to understand how closely Bacon follows in the footsteps of his predecessor. We do, indeed, find sundry subjects enumerated on which the elder student had not touched; but they are only such as would naturally suggest themselves to a man of comprehensive intelligence, coming nearly two thousand years after his original; while they are mostly of no philosophical value whatever. Bacon’s merit was to bring the distinction between the descriptive sciences and the theoretical sciences into clearer consciousness, and to give a view of the former corresponding in completeness to that already obtained of the latter.
But even the most perfect mastery of Greek would not284 have made Plotinus a successful writer. We are told that before taking up the pen he had thoroughly thought out his whole subject; but this is not the impression produced by a perusal of the Enneads. On the contrary, he seems to be thinking as he goes along, and to be continually beset by difficulties which he has not foreseen. The frequent and disorderly interruptions by which his lectures were at one time disturbed seem to have made their way into his solitary meditations, breaking or tangling the thread of systematic exposition at every turn. Irrelevant questions are constantly intruding themselves, to be met by equally irrelevant answers. The first mode of expressing an idea is frequently withdrawn, and another put in its place, which is, in most cases, the less intelligible of the two; while, as a general rule, when we want to know what a thing is, Plotinus informs us with indefatigable prolixity what it is not.
Endurance, foresight, strength, and skill.’A plain man might find it difficult to understand how such extravagances could be deliberately propounded by the greatest intellect that Athens ever produced, except on the principle, dear to mediocrity, that genius is but little removed from madness, and that philosophical genius resembles it more nearly than any other. And his surprise would become much greater on learning that the best and wisest men of all ages have looked up with reverence to Plato; that thinkers of the most opposite schools have resorted to him for instruction and stimulation; that his writings have never been more attentively studied than in our own age—an age which has witnessed the destruction of so many illusive reputations; and that the foremost of English educators has used all his influence to promote the better understanding and appreciation of Plato as a prime element in academic culture—an influence now extended far beyond the limits of his own university through that translation of the Platonic Dialogues which is too well known to need any commendation on our part, but which we may mention as one of the principal authorities used for the present study, together with the work of a German scholar, his obligations to whom Prof. Jowett has acknowledged with characteristic grace.114
Antisthenes and his school, of which Diogenes is the most popular and characteristic type, were afterwards known as Cynics; but the name is never mentioned by Plato and Aristotle, nor do they allude to the scurrility and systematic indecency afterwards associated with it. The anecdotes relating to this unsavoury subject should be received with extreme suspicion. There has always been a tendency to believe that philosophers carry out in practice what are vulgarly believed to be the logical consequences of their theories. Thus it is related of Pyrrho the Sceptic that when6 out walking he never turned aside to avoid any obstacle or danger, and was only saved from destruction by the vigilance of his friends.9 This is of course a silly fable; and we have Aristotle’s word for it that the Sceptics took as good care of their lives as other people.10 In like manner we may conjecture that the Cynics, advocating as they did a return to Nature and defiance of prejudice, were falsely credited with what was falsely supposed to be the practical exemplification of their precepts. It is at any rate remarkable that Epictêtus, a man not disposed to undervalue the obligations of decorum, constantly refers to Diogenes as a kind of philosophical saint, and that he describes the ideal Cynic in words which would apply without alteration to the character of a Christian apostle.11Still, taking it altogether, the life of Aristotle gives one the impression of something rather desultory and dependent, not proudly self-determined, like the lives of the thinkers who went before him. We are reminded of the fresh starts and the appeals to authority so frequent in his writings. He is first detained at Athens twenty years by the attraction of Plato; and no sooner is Plato gone, than he falls under the influence of an entirely different character—Hermeias. Even when his services are no longer needed he lingers near the Macedonian Court, until Alexander’s departure leaves him once more without a patron. The most dignified period of291 his whole career is that during which he presided over the Peripatetic School; but he owes this position to foreign influence, and loses it with the temporary revival of Greek liberty. A longer life would probably have seen him return to Athens in the train of his last patron Antipater, whom, as it was, he appointed executor to his will. This was just the sort of character to lay great stress on the evidentiary value of sensation and popular opinion. It was also the character of a conservative who was likely to believe that things had always been very much what they were in his time, and would continue to remain so ever afterwards. Aristotle was not the man to imagine that the present order of nature had sprung out of a widely different order in the remote past, nor to encourage such speculations when they were offered to him by others. He would not readily believe that phenomena, as he knew them, rested on a reality which could neither be seen nor felt. Nor, finally, could he divine the movements which were slowly undermining the society in which he lived, still less construct an ideal polity for its reorganisation on a higher and broader basis. And here we at once become conscious of the chief difference separating him from his master, Plato.
Again, he tells us that—II.387
END OF THE FIRST VOLUME.
This absolute separation of Form and Matter, under their new names of Thought and Extension, once grasped, various principles of Cartesianism will follow from it by logical necessity. First comes the exclusion of final causes from philosophy, or rather from Nature. There was not, as with Epicurus, any anti-theological feeling concerned in their rejection. With Aristotle, against whom Descartes is always protesting, the final cause was not a mark of designing intelligence imposed on Matter from without; it was only a particular aspect of Form, the realisation of what Matter was always striving after by virtue of its inherent potentiality. When Form was conceived only as pure thought, there could be no question of such a process; the most highly organised bodies being only modes of figured extension. The revival of Atomism had, no doubt, a great deal to do with the preference for a mechanical interpretation of life. Aristotle had himself shown with masterly clearness the difference between his view of Nature and that taken by Democritus; thus indicating beforehand the direction in which an alternative to his own teaching might be sought; and Bacon had, in fact, already referred with approval to the example set by Democritus in dealing with teleological enquiries.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.