时间：<2020-06-04 15:48:16 作者：FR碳布胶mxe 浏览量：9777
329A far higher place must be assigned to Judaism among the competitors for the allegiance of Europe. The cosmopolitan importance at one time assumed by this religion has been considerably obscured, owing to the subsequent devolution of its part to Christianity. It is, however, by no means impossible that, but for the diversion created by the Gospel, and the disastrous consequences of their revolt against Rome, the Jews might have won the world to a purified form of their own monotheism. A few significant circumstances are recorded showing how much influence they had acquired, even in Rome, before the first preaching of Christianity. The first of these is to be found in Cicero’s defence of Flaccus. The latter was accused of appropriating part of the annual contributions sent to the temple at Jerusalem; and, in dealing with this charge, Cicero speaks of the Jews, who were naturally prejudiced against his client, as a powerful faction the hostility of which he is anxious not to provoke.330 Some twenty years later, a great advance has been made. Not only must the material interests of the Jews be respected, but a certain conformity to their religious prescriptions is considered a mark of good breeding, In one of his most amusing satires, Horace tells us how, being anxious to shake off a bore, he appeals for help to his friend Aristius Fuscus, and reminds him of217 some private business which they had to discuss together. Fuscus sees his object, and being mischievously determined to defeat it, answers: ‘Yes, I remember perfectly, but we must wait for some better opportunity; this is the thirtieth Sabbath, do you wish to insult the circumcised Jews?’ ‘I have no scruples on that point,‘ replies the impatient poet. ‘But I have,’ rejoins Fuscus,—‘a little weak-minded, one of the many, you know—excuse me, another time.‘331 Nor were the Jews content with the countenance thus freely accorded them. The same poet elsewhere intimates that whenever they found themselves in a majority, they took advantage of their superior strength to make proselytes by force.’332 And they pursued the good work to such purpose that a couple of generations later we find Seneca bitterly complaining that the vanquished had given laws to the victors, and that the customs of this abominable race were established over the whole earth.333 Evidence to the same effect is given by Philo Judaeus and Josephus, who inform us that the Jewish laws and customs were admired, imitated, and obeyed over the whole earth.334 Such assertions might be suspected of exaggeration, were they not, to a certain extent, confirmed by the references already quoted, to which others of the same kind may be added from later writers showing that it was a common practice among the Romans to abstain from work on the Sabbath, and even to celebrate it by praying, fasting, and lighting lamps, to visit the synagogues, to study the law of Moses, and to pay the yearly contribution of two drachmas to the temple at Jerusalem.335with honour may repay Thee,
317In the preceding chapter we traced the rise and progress of physical philosophy among the ancient Greeks. We showed how a few great thinkers, borne on by an unparalleled development of intellectual activity, worked out ideas respecting the order of nature and the constitution of matter which, after more than two thousand years, still remain as fresh and fruitful as ever; and we found that, in achieving these results, Greek thought was itself determined by ascertainable laws. Whether controlling artistic imagination or penetrating to the objective truth of things, it remained always essentially homogeneous, and worked under the same forms of circumscription, analysis, and opposition. It began with external nature, and with a far distant past; nor could it begin otherwise, for only so could the subjects of its later meditations be reached. Only after less sacred beliefs have been shaken can ethical dogmas be questioned. Only when discrepancies of opinion obtrude themselves on man’s notice is the need of an organising logic experienced. And the mind’s eye, originally focussed for distant objects alone, has to be gradually restricted in its range by the pressure of accumulated experience before it can turn from past to present, from successive to contemporaneous phenomena. We have now to undertake the not less interesting task of showing how the new culture, the new conceptions, the new power to think obtained through those earliest54 speculations, reacted on the life from which they sprang, transforming the moral, religious, and political creeds of Hellas, and preparing, as nothing else could prepare, the vaster revolution which has given a new dignity to existence, and substituted, in however imperfect a form, for the adoration of animalisms which lie below man, the adoration of an ideal which rises above him, but only personifies the best elements of his own nature, and therefore is possible for a perfected humanity to realise.
From this grand synthesis, however, a single element was omitted; and, like the uninvited guest of fairy tradition, it proved strong enough singly to destroy what had been constructed by the united efforts of all the rest. This was the sceptical principle, the critical analysis of ideas, first exercised by Protagoras, made a new starting-point by Socrates, carried to perfection by Plato, supplementing experience with Aristotle, and finally proclaimed in its purity as the sole function of philosophy by an entire school of Greek thought.While not absolutely condemning suicide, Plotinus restricts the right of leaving this world within much narrower limits than were assigned to it by the Stoics. In violently separating herself from the body, the soul, he tells us, is acting under the influence of some evil passion, and he intimates that the mischievous effects of this passion will prolong themselves into the new life on which she is destined to enter.497 Translated into more abstract language, his meaning probably is that the feelings which ordinarily prompt to suicide, are such as would not exist in a well-regulated mind. It is333 remarkable that Schopenhauer, whose views of life were, on other points, the very reverse of those held by Plotinus, should have used very much the same argument against self-destruction. According to his theory, the will to life, which it should be our principal business to conquer, asserts itself strongly in the wish to escape from suffering, and only delays the final moment of peaceful extinction by rushing from one phase of existence to another. And in order to prove the possibility of such a revival, Schopenhauer was obliged to graft on his philosophy a theory of metempsychosis, which, but for this necessity, would certainly never have found a place in it at all. In this, as in many other instances, an ethical doctrine is apparently deduced from a metaphysical doctrine which has, in reality, been manufactured for its support. All systems do but present under different formulas a common fund of social sentiment. A constantly growing body of public opinion teaches us that we do not belong to ourselves, but to those about us, and that, in ordinary circumstances, it is no less weak and selfish to run away from life than to run away from death.
The greatest of Roman orators and writers was also the first Roman that held opinions of his own in philosophy. How much original thought occurs in his voluminous contributions to the literature of the subject is more than we can determine, the Greek authorities on which he drew being known almost exclusively through the references to them contained in his disquisitions. But, judging from the evidence before us, carefully sifted as it has been by German scholars, we should feel disposed to assign him a foremost rank among the thinkers of an age certainly not distinguished either for fertility or for depth of thought. It seems clear that he gave a new basis to the eclectic tendencies of his contemporaries, and that this basis was subsequently accepted by other philosophers whose speculative capacity has never been questioned. Cicero describes himself as an adherent of the New Academy, and expressly claims to have reasserted its principles after they had fallen into neglect among the Greeks, more particularly as against his own old master Antiochus, whose Stoicising theory of cognition he agrees with Philo in repudiating.269 Like Philo also, he bases certainty on the twofold ground of a moral necessity for acting on our beliefs,270 and the existence of moral intuitions, or natural tendencies to believe in the mind itself;271 or, perhaps, more properly speaking, on the single ground of a moral sense. This, as already stated, was unquestionably a reproduction of the Platonic ideas under their subjective aspect. But in his general views about the nature and limits171 of human knowledge, Cicero leaves the Academy behind him, and goes back to Socrates. Perhaps no two men of great genius could be more unlike than these two,—for us the most living figures in ancient history if not in all history,—the Roman being as much a type of time-servingness and vacillation as the Athenian was of consistency and resolute independence. Yet, in its mere external results, the philosophy of Socrates is perhaps more faithfully reproduced by Cicero than by any subsequent enquirer; and the differences between them are easily accounted for by the long interval separating their ages from one another. Each set out with the same eager desire to collect knowledge from every quarter; each sought above all things for that kind of knowledge which seemed to be of the greatest practical importance; and each was led to believe that this did not include speculations relating to the physical world; one great motive to the partial scepticism professed by both being the irreconcilable disagreement of those who had attempted an explanation of its mysteries. The deeper ground of man’s ignorance in this respect was stated somewhat differently by each; or perhaps we should say that the same reason is expressed in a mythical form by the one and in a scientific form by the other. Socrates held that the nature of things is a secret which the gods have reserved for themselves; while, in Cicero’s opinion, the heavens are so remote, the interior of the earth so dark, the mechanism of our own bodies so complicated and subtle, as to be placed beyond the reach of fruitful observation.272 Nor did this deprivation seem any great hardship to either, since, as citizens of great and free states, both were pre-eminently interested in the study of social life; and it is characteristic of their common tendency that both should have been not only great talkers and observers but also great readers of ancient literature.273
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.
The old age of Plato seems to have been marked by restless activity in more directions than one. He began various works which were never finished, and projected others which were never begun. He became possessed by a devouring zeal for social reform. It seemed to him that nothing was wanting but an enlightened despot to make his ideal State a reality. According to one story, he fancied that such an instrument might be found in the younger Dionysius. If so, his expectations were speedily disappointed. As Hegel acutely observes, only a man of half measures will allow himself to be guided by another; and such a man would lack the energy needed to carry out Plato’s scheme.158 However this may be, the philosopher does not seem to have given up his idea that absolute monarchy was, after all, the government from which most good might be expected. A process of substitution which runs through his whole intellectual evolution was here exemplified for the last time. Just as in his ethical system knowledge, after having been regarded solely as the means for procuring an ulterior end, pleasure, subsequently became an end in itself; just as the interest in knowledge was superseded by a more absorbing interest in the dialectical machinery which was to facilitate its acquisition, and this again by the social re-organisation which was to make education a department of the State; so also the beneficent despotism originally invoked for the purpose of establishing an aristocracy on the new model, came at last to be regarded by Plato as itself the best form of government. Such, at least, seems to be the drift of a remarkable Dialogue called the Statesman, which we agree with Prof. Jowett in placing immediately before the Laws. Some have denied its authenticity, and others have placed it very early in the entire series of Platonic compositions. But it contains passages of269 such blended wit and eloquence that no other man could have written them; and passages so destitute of life that they could only have been written when his system had stiffened into mathematical pedantry and scholastic routine. Moreover, it seems distinctly to anticipate the scheme of detailed legislation which Plato spent his last years in elaborating. After covering with ridicule the notion that a truly competent ruler should ever be hampered by written enactments, the principal spokesman acknowledges that, in the absence of such a ruler, a definite and unalterable code offers the best guarantees for political stability.
The cause which first arrested and finally destroyed the free movement of Greek thought was not any intrinsic limitation or corruption of the Greek genius, but the ever-increasing preponderance of two interests, both tending, although in different ways and different degrees, to strengthen the principle of authority and to enfeeble the principle of reason. One was the theological interest, the other was the scholastic interest. The former was the more conspicuous and the more mischievous of the two. From the persecution of Anaxagoras to the prohibition of philosophical teaching by Justinian, we may trace the rise and spread of a reaction towards superstition, sometimes advancing and sometimes receding, but, on the whole, gaining ground from age to age, until from the noontide splendour of Pericles we pass to that long night which stretches in almost impenetrable darkness down to the red and stormy daybreak of the Crusades. And it was a reaction which extended through all classes, including the philosophers themselves. It seems to me that where the Athenian school, from Socrates on, fall short of their predecessors, as in some points they unquestionably do, their inferiority is largely due to this cause. Its influence is very perceptible in weakening the speculative energies of thosexii who stand at the greatest distance from the popular beliefs. It was because dislike for theology occupied so large a place in the thoughts of Epicurus and his disciples, that they valued science only as a refutation of its teaching, instead of regarding it simply as an obstacle to be removed from the path of enquiry. More than this; they became infected with the spirit of that against which they fought, and their absolute indifference to truth was the shadow which it cast on their minds.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.