时间：<2020-07-07 22:42:07 作者：rG腹痛水yZe 浏览量：9777
It is, after all, very questionable whether human happiness would be increased by suppressing the thought of death as something to be feared. George Eliot, in her Legend of Jubal, certainly expresses the contrary opinion.180 The finest edge of enjoyment would be taken off if we forgot its essentially transitory character. The free man may, in Spinoza’s words, think of nothing less than of death; but he cannot prevent the sunken shadow from throwing all his thoughts of life into higher and more luminous relief. The ideal enjoyment afforded by literature would lose much of its zest were we to discard all sympathy with the fears and sorrows on which our mortal condition has enabled it so largely to draw—the lacrimae rerum, which Lucretius himself has turned to such admirable account. And the whole treasure of happiness due to mutual affection must gain by our remembrance that the time granted for its exercise is always limited, and may at any moment be brought to an end—or rather, such an94 effect might be looked for were this remembrance more constantly present to our minds.A Hellene, and an aristocrat as well. Or, using the word in its most comprehensive sense, we may say that he was an aristocrat all round, a believer in inherent superiorities of race, sex, birth, breeding, and age. Everywhere we find him restlessly searching after the wisest, purest, best, until at last, passing beyond the limits of existence itself, words fail him to describe the absolute ineffable only good, not being and not knowledge, but creating and inspiring both. Thus it came to pass that his hopes of effecting a thorough reform did not lie in an appeal to the masses, but in the selection and198 seclusion from evil influences of a few intelligent youths. Here we may detect a remarkable divergence between him and his master. Socrates, himself a man of the people, did not like to hear the Athenians abused. If they went wrong, it was, he said, the fault of their leaders.126 But according to Plato, it was from the people themselves that corruption originally proceeded, it was they who instilled false lessons into the most intelligent minds, teaching them from their very infancy to prefer show to substance, success to merit, and pleasure to virtue; making the study of popular caprice the sure road to power, and poisoning the very sources of morality by circulating blasphemous stories about the gods—stories which represented them as weak, sensual, capricious beings, setting an example of iniquity themselves, and quite willing to pardon it in men on condition of going shares in the spoil. The poets had a great deal to do with the manufacture of these discreditable myths; and towards poets as a class Plato entertained feelings of mingled admiration and contempt. As an artist, he was powerfully attracted by the beauty of their works; as a theologian, he believed them to be the channels of divine inspiration, and sometimes also the guardians of a sacred tradition; but as a critic, he was shocked at their incapacity to explain the meaning of their own works, especially when it was coupled with ridiculous pretensions to omniscience; and he regarded the imitative character of their productions as illustrating, in a particularly flagrant manner, that substitution of appearance for reality which, according to his philosophy, was the deepest source of error and evil.
But even taken in its mildest form, there were difficulties about Greek idealism which still remained unsolved. They may be summed up in one word, the necessity of subordinating all personal and passionate feelings to a higher law, whatever the dictates of that law may be. Of such self-suppression few men were less capable than Cicero. Whether virtue meant the extirpation or merely the moderation of desire and emotion, it was equally impossible to one of whom Macaulay has said, with not more severity than truth, that his whole soul was under the dominion of a girlish vanity and a craven fear.278 Such weak and well-intentioned natures174 almost always take refuge from their sorrows and self-reproaches in religion; and probably the religious sentiment was more highly developed in Cicero than in any other thinker of the age. Here also a parallel with Socrates naturally suggests itself. The relation between the two amounts to more than a mere analogy; for not only was the intellectual condition of old Athens repeating itself in Rome, but the religious opinions of all cultivated Romans who still retained their belief in a providential God, were, to an even greater extent than their ethics, derived through Stoicism from the great founder of rational theology. Cicero, like Socrates, views God under the threefold aspect of a creator, a providence, and an informing spirit:—identical in his nature with the soul of man, and having man for his peculiar care. With regard to the evidence of his existence, the teleological argument derived from the structure of organised beings is common to both; the argument from universal belief, doubtless a powerful motive with Socrates, is more distinctly put forward by Cicero; and while both regard the heavenly luminaries as manifest embodiments of the divine essence, Cicero is led by the traditions of Plato, Aristotle, and the Stoics, to present the regularity of their movements as the most convincing revelation of a superhuman intelligence, and to identify the outermost starry sphere with the highest God of all.279 Intimately associated with this view is his belief in the immortality of the soul, which he supposes will return after death to the eternal and unchangeable sphere whence it originally proceeded.280 But his familiarity with the sceptical arguments of Carneades prevented Cicero from putting forward his theological beliefs with the same confidence as Socrates; while, at the same time, it enabled him to take up a much more decided attitude of hostility towards the popular superstitions from which he was anxious, so far as possible, to purify true175 religion.281 To sum up: Cicero, like Kant, seems to have been chiefly impressed by two phenomena, the starry heavens without and the moral law within; each in its own way giving him the idea of unchanging and everlasting continuance, and both testifying to the existence of a power by which all things are regulated for the best. But the materialism of his age naturally prevented him from regarding the external order as a mere reflex or lower manifestation of the inward law by which all spirits feel themselves to be members of the same intelligible community.
The other alternative was to combine the dialectical idealism of Plato with the cosmology of early Greek thought, interpreting the two worlds of spirit and Nature as gradations of a single series and manifestations of a single principle. This was what Aristotle had attempted to do, but had not done so thoroughly as to satisfy the moral wants of his own age, or the religious wants of the age when a revived Platonism was seeking to organise itself into a system which should be the reconciliation of reason and faith. Yet the better sort of Platonists felt that this work could not be accomplished without the assistance of Aristotle, whose essential agreement with their master, as against Stoicism, they fully recognised. Their273 mistake was to assume that this agreement extended to every point of his teaching. Taken in this sense, their attempted harmonies were speedily demolished by scholars whose professional familiarity with the original sources showed them how strongly Aristotle himself had insisted on the differences which separated him from the Academy and its founder.407 To identify the two great spiritualist philosophers being impossible, it remained to show how they could be combined. The solution of such a problem demanded more genius than was likely to be developed in the schools of Athens. An intenser intellectual life prevailed in Alexandria, where the materials of erudition were more abundantly supplied, and where contact with the Oriental religions gave Hellenism a fuller consciousness of its distinction from and superiority to every other form of speculative activity. And here, accordingly, the fundamental idea of Neo-Platonism was conceived.
As might be expected, the Parmenidean paradoxes provoked a considerable amount of contradiction and ridicule. The Reids and Beatties of that time drew sundry absurd consequences from the new doctrine, and offered them as a sufficient refutation of its truth. Zeno, a young friend and20 favourite of Parmenides, took up arms in his master’s defence, and sought to prove with brilliant dialectical ability that consequences still more absurd might be deduced from the opposite belief. He originated a series of famous puzzles respecting the infinite divisibility of matter and the possibility of motion, subsequently employed as a disproof of all certainty by the Sophists and Sceptics, and occasionally made to serve as arguments on behalf of agnosticism by writers of our own time. Stated generally, they may be reduced to two. A whole composed of parts and divisible ad infinitum must be either infinitely great or infinitely little; infinitely great if its parts have magnitude, infinitely little if they have not. A moving body can never come to the end of a given line, for it must first traverse half the line, then half the remainder, and so on for ever. Aristotle thought that the difficulty about motion could be solved by taking the infinite divisibility of time into account; and Coleridge, according to his custom, repeated the explanation without acknowledgment. But Zeno would have refused to admit that any infinite series could come to an end, whether it was composed of successive or of co-existent parts. So long as the abstractions of our understanding are treated as separate entities, these and similar puzzles will continue to exercise the ingenuity of metaphysicians. Our present business, however, is not to solve Zeno’s difficulties, but to show how they illustrate a leading characteristic of Greek thought, its tendency to perpetual analysis, a tendency not limited to the philosophy of the Greeks, but pervading the whole of their literature and even of their art. Homer carefully distinguishes the successive steps of every action, and leads up to every catastrophe by a series of finely graduated transitions. Like Zeno, again, he pursues a system of dichotomy, passing rapidly over the first half of his subject, and relaxes the speed of his narrative by going into ever-closer detail until the consummation is reached. Such a poem as the ‘Achilleis’ of modern critics21 would have been perfectly intolerable to a Greek, from the too rapid and uniform march of its action. Herodotus proceeds after a precisely similar fashion, advancing from a broad and free treatment of history to elaborate minuteness of detail. So, too, a Greek temple divides itself into parts so distinct, yet so closely connected, that the eye, after separating, as easily recombines them into a whole. The evolution of Greek music tells the same tale of progressive subdivision, which is also illustrated by the passage from long speeches to single lines, and from these again to half lines in the dialogue of a Greek drama. No other people could have created mathematical demonstration, for no other would have had skill and patience enough to discover the successive identities interposed between and connecting the sides of an equation. The dialectic of Socrates and Plato, the somewhat wearisome distinctions of Aristotle, and, last of all, the fine-spun series of triads inserted by Proclus between the superessential One and the fleeting world of sense,—were all products of the same fundamental tendency, alternately most fruitful and most barren in its results. It may be objected that Zeno, so far from obeying this tendency, followed a diametrically opposite principle, that of absolutely unbroken continuity. True; but the ‘Eleatic Palamedes’ fought his adversaries with a weapon wrested out of their own hands; rejecting analysis as a law of real existence, he continued to employ it as a logical artifice with greater subtlety than had ever yet been displayed in pure speculation.18Then as now, Judaism seems to have had a much greater attraction for women than for men; and this may be accounted218 for not only by the greater credulity of the female sex, which would equally predispose them in favour of every other new religion, but also by their natural sympathy with the domestic virtues which are such an amiable and interesting feature in the Jewish character. Josephus tells us that towards the beginning of Nero’s reign nearly all the women of Damascus were attached to Judaism;336 and he also mentions that Poppaea, the mistress and afterwards the wife of Nero, used her powerful influence for the protection of his compatriots, though whether she actually became a proselyte, as some have supposed, is doubtful.337 According to Ovid, the synagogues were much visited by Roman women, among others, apparently, by those of easy virtue, for he alludes to them as resorts which the man of pleasure in search of a conquest will find it advantageous to frequent.338Aristotle’s objections to the Neo-Pythagorean theory of ideal numbers need not delay us here. They are partly a repetition of those brought against the Platonic doctrine in its338 original form, partly derived from the impossibility of identifying qualitative with quantitative differences.234
In Rome, as well as in Greece, rationalism took the form of disbelief in divination. Here at least the Epicurean, the Academician, and, among the Stoics, the disciple of Panaetius, were all agreed. But as the sceptical movement began at a much later period in Rome than in the country where it first originated, so also did the supernaturalist reaction come later, the age of Augustus in the one corresponding very nearly with the age of Alexander in the other. Virgil and Livy are remarkable for their faith in omens; and although the latter complains of the general incredulity with which narratives of such events were received, his statements are to be taken rather as an index of what people thought in the age immediately preceding his own, than as an accurate description of contemporary opinion. Certainly nothing could be farther from the truth than to say that signs and prodigies were disregarded by the Romans under the empire. Even the cool and cautious Tacitus feels himself obliged to relate sundry marvellous incidents which seemed to accompany or to prefigure great historical catastrophes; and the more credulous Suetonius has transcribed an immense number of such incidents from the pages of older chroniclers, besides informing us of the extreme attention paid even to trifling omens by Augustus.341VI.
VIII.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.To paint Socrates at his highest and his best, it was necessary to break through the narrow limits of his historic individuality, and to show how, had they been presented to him, he would have dealt with problems outside the experience of a home-staying Athenian citizen. The founder of idealism—that is to say, the realisation of reason, the systematic application of thought to life—had succeeded in his task because he had embodied the noblest elements of the Athenian Dêmos, orderliness, patriotism, self-control, and publicity of debate, together with a receptive intelligence for improvements effected in other states. But, just as the impulse which enabled those qualities to tell decisively on Greek history at a moment of inestimable importance came from the Athenian aristocracy, with its Dorian sympathies, its adventurous ambition, and its keen attention to foreign affairs, so also did Plato, carrying the same spirit into philosophy, bring the dialectic method into contact with older and broader currents of speculation, and employ it to recognise the whole spiritual activity of his race.
Such an interpretation of instinct introduces us to a new principle—self-interest; and this was, in fact, recognised on all hands as the foundation of right conduct; it was about the question, What is our interest? that the ancient moralists were disagreed. The Cynics apparently held that, for every being, simple existence is the only good, and therefore with them virtue meant limiting oneself to the bare necessaries of life; while by following Nature they meant reducing existence to its lowest terms, and assimilating our actions, so far as possible, to those of the lower animals, plants, or even stones, all of which require no more than to maintain the integrity of their proper nature.