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After definition and division comes reasoning. We arrange objects in classes, that by knowing one or some we may know all. Aristotle attributes to Socrates the first systematic employment of induction as well as of general definitions.96 Nevertheless, his method was not solely inductive, nor did it bear more than a distant resemblance to the induction of modern science. His principles were not gathered from the particular classes of phenomena which they determined, or were intended to determine, but from others of an analogous character which had already been reduced to order. Observing that all handicrafts were practised according to well-defined intelligible rules, leading, so far as they went, to satisfactory results, he required that life in its entirety should be similarly systematised. This was not so much reasoning as a demand for the more extended application of reasoning. It was a truly philosophic postulate, for philosophy is not science, but precedes and underlies it. Belief and action tend to divide themselves into two provinces, of which the one is more or less organised, the other more or less chaotic. We philosophise when we try to bring the one into order, and also when we test the foundations on which the order of the other reposes, fighting both against incoherent mysticism and against traditional routine. Such is the purpose that the most distinguished thinkers of modern times—Francis Bacon, Spinoza, Hume, Kant, Auguste Comte, and Herbert Spencer—however widely they may otherwise differ, have, according to their respective lights, all set themselves to achieve. No doubt, there is149 this vast difference between Socrates and his most recent successors, that physical science is the great type of certainty to the level of which they would raise all speculation, while with him it was the type of a delusion and an impossibility. The analogy of artistic production when applied to Nature led him off on a completely false track, the ascription to conscious design of that which is, in truth, a result of mechanical causation.97 But now that the relations between the known and the unknown have been completely transformed, there is no excuse for repeating the fallacies which imposed on his vigorous understanding; and the genuine spirit of Socrates is best represented by those who, starting like him from the data of experience, are led to adopt a diametrically opposite conclusion. We may add, that the Socratic method of analogical reasoning gave a retrospective justification to early Greek thought, of which Socrates was not himself aware. Its daring generalisations were really an inference from the known to the unknown. To interpret all physical processes in terms of matter and motion, is only assuming that the changes to which our senses cannot penetrate are homogeneous with the changes which we can feel and see. When Socrates argued that, because the human body is animated by a consciousness, the material universe must be similarly animated, Democritus might have answered that the world presents no appearance of being organised like an animal. When he argued that, because statues and pictures are known to be the work of intelligence, the living models from which they are copied must be similarly due to design, Aristodêmus should have answered, that the former are seen to be manufactured, while the others are seen to grow. It might also have been observed, that if our own intelligence requires to be accounted for by a cause like itself, so also does the creative cause, and so on through an infinite regress of antecedents. Teleology has been destroyed by the Darwinian theory; but before the Origin of150 Species appeared, the slightest scrutiny might have shown that it was a precarious foundation for religious belief. If many thoughtful men are now turning away from theism, ‘natural theology’ may be thanked for the desertion. ‘I believe in God,’ says the German baron in Thorndale, ‘until your philosophers demonstrate His existence.’ ‘And then?’ asks a friend. ‘And then—I do not believe the demonstration.’The treatment of the passions by the Stoic school presents greater difficulties, due partly to their own vacillation, partly to the very indefinite nature of the feelings in question. It will be admitted that here also the claims of duty are supreme. To follow the promptings of fear or of anger, of pity or of love, without considering the ulterior consequences of our action, is, of course, wrong. For even if, in any particular instance, no harm comes of the concession, we cannot be sure that such will always be the case; and meanwhile the passion is23 strengthened by indulgence. And we have also to consider the bad effect produced on the character of those who, finding themselves the object of passion, learn to address themselves to it instead of to reason. Difficulties arise when we begin to consider how far education should aim at the systematic discouragement of strong emotion. Here the Stoics seem to have taken up a position not very consistent either with their appeals to Nature or with their teleological assumptions. Nothing strikes one as more unnatural than the complete absence of human feeling; and a believer in design might plausibly maintain that every emotion conduced to the preservation either of the individual or of the race. We find, however, that the Stoics, here as elsewhere reversing the Aristotelian method, would not admit the existence of a psychological distinction between reason and passion. According to their analysis, the emotions are so many different forms of judgment. Joy and sorrow are false opinions respecting good and evil in the present: desire and fear, false opinions respecting good and evil in the future.53 But, granting a righteous will to be the only good, and its absence the only evil, there can be no room for any of these feelings in the mind of a truly virtuous man, since his opinions on the subject of good are correct, and its possession depends entirely on himself. Everything else arises from an external necessity, to strive with which would be useless because it is inevitable, foolish because it is beneficent, and impious because it is supremely wise.
But all this time the popular belief in omens had continued unaffected, and had apparently even increased. The peculiar Greek feeling known as Deisidaimonia is first satirised by Theophrastus, who defines it as cowardice with regard to the gods, and gives several amusing instances of the anxiety occasioned by its presence—all connected with the interpretation of omens—such as Aristophanes could hardly have failed to notice had they been usual in his time. Nor were such fancies confined to the ignorant classes. Although the Stoics cannot be accused of Deisidaimonia, they gave their powerful sanction to the belief in divination, as has been already mentioned in our account of their philosophy. It223 would seem that whatever authority the great oracular centres had lost was simply handed over to lower and more popular forms of the same superstition.It will be seen that what has been singled out as an anticipation of the Darwinian theory was only one application of a very comprehensive method for eliminating design from the universe. But of what is most original and essential in Darwinism, that is, the modifiability of specific forms by the summing up of spontaneous variations in a given direction, the Epicureans had not the slightest suspicion. And wherever they or their master have, in other respects, made some84 approach to the truths of modern science, it may fairly be explained on their own principle as a single lucky guess out of many false guesses.
The third great idea of Stoicism was its doctrine of humanity. Men are all children of one Father, and citizens37 of one State; the highest moral law is, Follow Nature, and Nature has made them to be social and to love one another; the private interest of each is, or should be, identified with the universal interest; we should live for others that we may live for ourselves; even to our enemies we should show love and not anger; the unnaturalness of passion is proved by nothing more clearly than by its anti-social and destructive tendencies. Here, also, the three great Stoics of the Roman empire—Seneca, Epictêtus, and Marcus Aurelius—rather than the founders of the school, must be our authorities;82 whether it be because their lessons correspond to a more developed state of thought, or simply because they have been more perfectly preserved. The former explanation is, perhaps, the more generally accepted. There seems, however, good reason for believing that the idea of universal love—the highest of all philosophical ideas next to that of the universe itself—dates further back than is commonly supposed. It can hardly be due to Seneca, who had evidently far more capacity for popularising and applying the thoughts of others than for original speculation, and who on this subject expresses himself with a rhetorical fluency not usually characterising the exposition of new discoveries. The same remark applies to his illustrious successors, who, while agreeing with him in tone, do not seem to have drawn on his writings for their philosophy. It is also clear that the idea in question springs from two essentially Stoic conceptions: the objective conception of a unified world, a cosmos to which all men belong;38 and the subjective conception of a rational nature common to them all. These, again, are rooted in early Greek thought, and were already emerging into distinctness at the time of Socrates. Accordingly we find that Plato, having to compose a characteristic speech for the Sophist Hippias, makes him say that like-minded men are by nature kinsmen and friends to one another.83 Nature, however, soon came to be viewed under a different aspect, and it was maintained, just as by some living philosophers, that her true law is the universal oppression of the weak by the strong. Then the idea of mind came in as a salutary corrective. It had supplied a basis for the ethics of Protagoras, and still more for the ethics of Socrates; it was now combined with its old rival by the Stoics, and from their union arose the conception of human nature as something allied with and illustrated by all other forms of animal life, yet capable, if fully developed, of rising infinitely above them. Nevertheless, the individual and the universal element were never quite reconciled in the Stoic ethics. The altruistic quality of justice was clearly perceived; but no attempt was made to show that all virtue is essentially social, and has come to be recognised as obligatory on the individual mainly because it conduces to the safety of the whole community. The learner was told to conquer his passions for his own sake rather than for the sake of others; and indulgence in violent anger, though more energetically denounced, was, in theory, placed on a par with immoderate delight or uncontrollable distress. So also, vices of impurity were classed with comparatively harmless forms of sensuality, and considered in reference, not to the social degradation of their victims, but to the spiritual defilement of their perpetrators.Of nature that cannot die,268
Fresh difficulties arise in explaining the activity which the Soul, in her turn, exerts. As originally conceived, her function was sufficiently clear. Mediating between two worlds, she transforms the lower one into a likeness of the higher, stamping on material objects a visible image of the eternal Ideas revealed to her by a contemplation of the Nous. And, as a further elaboration of this scheme, we were told that the primary soul generates an inferior soul, which, again, subdivides itself into the multitude of partial souls required324 for the animation of different bodily organisms. But now that our philosopher has entered on a synthetic construction of the elements furnished by his preliminary analysis, he finds himself confronted by an entirely new problem. For his implied principle is that each hypostasis must generate the grade which comes next after it in the descending series of manifestations, until the possibilities of existence have been exhausted. But in developing and applying the noetic Ideas, the Soul, apparently, finds a pre-existing Matter ready to hand. Thus she has to deal with something lower than herself, which she did not create, and which is not created by the Forms combined with it in sensible experience. We hear of a descent from thought to feeling, and from feeling to simple vitality,476 but in each instance the depth of the Soul’s fall is measured by the extent to which she penetrates into the recesses of a substance not clearly related to her nor to anything above her.Of nature that cannot die,
We have seen how Prodicus and Hippias professed to97 teach all science, all literature, and all virtuous accomplishments. We have seen how Protagoras rejected every kind of knowledge unconnected with social culture. We now find Gorgias going a step further. In his later years, at least, he professes to teach nothing but rhetoric or the art of persuasion. We say in his later years, for at one time he seems to have taught ethics and psychology as well.73 But the Gorgias of Plato’s famous dialogue limits himself to the power of producing persuasion by words on all possible subjects, even those of whose details he is ignorant. Wherever the rhetorician comes into competition with the professional he will beat him on his own ground, and will be preferred to him for every public office. The type is by no means extinct, and flourishes like a green bay-tree among ourselves. Like Pendennis, a writer of this kind will review any book from the height of superior knowledge acquired by two hours’ reading in the British Museum; or, if he is adroit enough, will dispense with even that slender amount of preparation. He need not even trouble himself to read the book which he criticises. A superficial acquaintance with magazine articles will qualify him to pass judgment on all life, all religion, and all philosophy. But it is in politics that the finest career lies before him. He rises to power by attacking the measures of real statesmen, and remains there by adopting them. He becomes Chancellor of the Exchequer by gross economical blundering, and Prime Minister by a happy mixture of epigram and adulation.We are here confronted with an important and much disputed question, Was Aristotle an empiricist? We hold most decidedly that he was, if by empiricist is meant, what alone should be meant—one who believes that the mind neither anticipates anything in the content, nor contributes anything to the form of experience; in other words, who believes knowledge to be the agreement of thought with things imposed by things on thought. We have already shown, when discussing Sir A. Grant’s view to the contrary, that Aristotle was in no sense a transcendental idealist. The other half of our position is proved by the chapter in the Posterior Analytics already referred to, the language of which is prima facie so much in favour of our view that the burden of proof391 rests on those who give it another interpretation. Among these, the latest with whom we are acquainted is Zeller. The eminent German historian, after asserting in former editions of his work that Aristotle derived his first principles from the self-contemplation of the Nous, has now, probably in deference to the unanswerable arguments of Kampe, abandoned this position. He still, however, assumes the existence of a rather indefinable à priori element in the Aristotelian noology, on the strength of the following considerations:—In the first place, according to Aristotle, even sense-perception is not a purely passive process, and therefore intellectual cognition can still less be so (p. 190). But the passages quoted only amount to this, that the passivity of a thing which is raised from possibility to actuality differs from the passivity implied in the destruction of its proper nature; and that the objects of abstract thought come from within, not from without, in the sense that they are presented by the imagination to the reason. The pure empiricist need not deny either position. He would freely admit that to lose one’s reason through drunkenness or disease is a quite different sort of operation from being impressed with a new truth; and he would also admit that we generalise not directly from outward experience, but from that highly-abridged and representative experience which memory supplies. Neither process, however, constitutes an anticipation of outward experience or an addition to it. It is from the materialist, not from the empiricist, that Aristotle differs. He believes that the forms under which matter appears are separable from every particular portion of matter, though not from all matter, in the external world; and he believes that a complete separation between them is effected in the single instance of self-conscious reason, which again, in cognising any particular thing is identified with that thing minus its matter. Zeller’s next argument is that the cognition of ideas by the Nous is immediate, whereas the process of generalisation from experience described by Aristotle392 is extremely indirect. Here Zeller seems to misunderstand the word ?μεσο?. Aristotle never applies it to knowledge, but only to the objective relations of ideas with one another. Two terms constitute an ‘immediate’ premise when they are not connected by another term, quite irrespective of the steps by which we come to recognise their conjunction. So with the terms themselves. They are ‘immediate’ when they cannot be derived from any ulterior principle; when, in short, they are simple and uncaused. Finally, the objection that first principles, being the most certain and necessary of any, cannot be derived from sensible experience, which, dealing only with material objects, must inherit the uncertainty and contingency of matter,—is an objection, not to the empiricist interpretation of Aristotle’s philosophy, but to empiricism itself; and it is not allowable to explain away the plain words of an ancient writer in order to reconcile them with assumptions which he nowhere admits. That universality and necessity involve an à priori cognition or an intellectual intuition, is a modern theory unsupported by a single sentence in Aristotle.287 We quite agree with Zeller when he goes on to say that in Aristotle’s psychology ‘certain thoughts and notions arise through the action of the object thought about on the thinking mind, just as perception arises through the action of the perceived object on the percipient’ (p. 195); but how this differs from the purest empiricism is more than we are able to understand.Epicureanism allotted a far larger place to friendship than to all the other social virtues put together; and the disciple was taught to look to it not only for the satisfaction of his altruistic impulses, but for the crowning happiness of his life. The egoistic basis of the system was, indeed, made sufficiently prominent even here; utility and pleasure, which Aristotle had excluded from the notion of true friendship, being declared its proper ends. All the conditions of a disinterested attachment were, however, brought back by a circuitous process. It was argued that the full value of friendship could not be reaped except by those whose affection for each other went to the extent of complete self-devotion; but the Epicureans were less successful in showing how this happy condition could be realised consistently with the study of his own interest by each individual. As a matter of fact, it was realised; and the members of this school became remarkable, above all others, for the tenderness and fidelity of their personal attachments. But we may suspect that formal precepts had little to do with the result. Estrangement from the popular creed, when still uncommon, has always a tendency to draw the dissidents together;151 and where other ties, whether religious, domestic, or patriotic, are neglected, the ordinary instincts of human nature are likely to show themselves with all the more energy in the only remaining form of union. Moreover, the cheerful, contented, abstemious, unambitious characters who would be the most readily75 attracted to the Epicurean brotherhood supplied the very materials that most readily unite in placid and enduring attachments. A tolerably strict standard of orthodoxy provided against theoretical dissensions: nor were the new converts likely to possess either daring or originality enough to excite controversies where they did not already exist.
The chief theological doctrines held in common by the two schools, were the immortality of the soul and the existence of daemons. These were supposed to form a class of spiritual beings, intermediate between gods and men, and sharing to some extent in the nature of both. According to Plutarch, though very long-lived, they are not immortal; and he quotes the famous story about the death of Pan in proof of his assertion;390 but, in this respect, his opinion is not shared by Maximus Tyrius391, who expressly declares them to be immortal; and, indeed, one hardly sees how the contrary could have been maintained consistently with Platonic principles; for, if the human soul never dies, much less can spirits of a higher rank be doomed to extinction. As a class, the daemons are morally imperfect beings, subject to human passions, and capable of wrong-doing. Like men also, they are divided into good and bad. The former kind perform providential and retributive offices on behalf of the higher252 gods, inspiring oracles, punishing crime, and succouring distress. Those who permit themselves to be influenced by improper motives in the discharge of their appointed functions, are degraded to the condition of human beings. The bad and morose sort are propitiated by a gloomy and self-tormenting worship.392 By means of the imperfect character thus ascribed to the daemons, a way was found for reconciling the purified theology of Platonism with the old Greek religion. To each of the higher deities there is attached, we are told, a daemon who bears his name and is frequently confounded with him. The immoral or unworthy actions narrated of the old gods were, in reality, the work of their inferior namesakes. This theory was adopted by the Fathers of the Church, with the difference, however, that they altogether suppressed the higher class of Platonic powers, and identified the daemons with the fallen angels of their own mythology. This is the reason why a word which was not originally used in a bad sense has come to be synonymous with devil.A people so endowed were the natural creators of philo4sophy. There came a time when the harmonious universality of the Hellenic genius sought for its counterpart and completion in a theory of the external world. And there came a time, also, when the decay of political interests left a large fund of intellectual energy, accustomed to work under certain conditions, with the desire to realise those conditions in an ideal sphere. Such is the most general significance we can attach to that memorable series of speculations on the nature of things which, beginning in Ionia, was carried by the Greek colonists to Italy and Sicily, whence, after receiving important additions and modifications, the stream of thought flowed back into the old country, where it was directed into an entirely new channel by the practical genius of Athens. Thales and his successors down to Democritus were not exactly what we should call philosophers, in any sense of the word that would include a Locke or a Hume, and exclude a Boyle or a Black; for their speculations never went beyond the confines of the material universe; they did not even suspect the existence of those ethical and dialectical problems which long constituted the sole object of philosophical discussion, and have continued since the time when they were first mooted to be regarded as its most peculiar province. Nor yet can we look on them altogether or chiefly as men of science, for their paramount purpose was to gather up the whole of knowledge under a single principle; and they sought to realise this purpose, not by observation and experiment, but by the power of thought alone. It would, perhaps, be truest to say that from their point of view philosophy and science were still undifferentiated, and that knowledge as a universal synthesis was not yet divorced from special investigations into particular orders of phenomena. Here, as elsewhere, advancing reason tends to reunite studies which have been provisionally separated, and we must look to our own contemporaries—to our Tyndalls and Thomsons, our Helmholtzes and Z?llners—as furnishing the fittest parallel to5 Anaximander and Empedocles, Leucippus and Diogenes of Apollonia.
And now, looking back at the whole course of early Greek thought, presenting as it does a gradual development and an45 organic unity which prove it to be truly a native growth, a spontaneous product of the Greek mind, let us take one step further and enquire whether before the birth of pure speculation, or parallel with but apart from its rudimentary efforts, there were not certain tendencies displayed in the other great departments of intellectual activity, fixed forms as it were in which the Hellenic genius was compelled to work, which reproduce themselves in philosophy and determine its distinguishing characteristics. Although the materials for a complete Greek ethology are no longer extant, it can be shown that such tendencies did actually exist.Aristotle is more successful when he proceeds to discuss the imagination. He explains it to be a continuance of the movement originally communicated by the felt object to the organ of sense, kept up in the absence of the object itself;—as near an approach to the truth as could be made in his time. And he is also right in saying that the operations of reason are only made possible by the help of what he calls phantasms—that is, faint reproductions of sensations. In addition to this, he points out the connexion between memory and imagination, and enumerates the laws of association briefly, but with great accuracy. He is, however, altogether unaware of their scope. So far from using them to explain all the mental processes, he does not even see that they account for involuntary reminiscence, and limits them to the voluntary operation by which we recall a missing name or other image to consciousness.
Nor is this all. After sharply distinguishing what is from what is not, and refusing to admit any intermediary between them, Aristotle proceeds to discover such an intermediary in the shape of what he calls Accidental Predication.236 An accident is an attribute not necessarily or usually inhering in its subject—in other words, a co-existence not dependent on causation. Aristotle could never distinguish between the two notions of cause and kind, nor yet between interferences with the action of some particular cause and exceptions to the law of causation in general; and so he could not frame an intelligible theory of chance. Some propositions, he tells us, are necessarily true, others are only generally true; and it is the exceptions to the latter which constitute accident; as, for instance, when a cold day happens to come in the middle341 of summer. So also a man is necessarily an animal, but only exceptionally white. Such distinctions are not uninteresting, for they prove with what difficulties the idea of invariable sequence had to contend before even the highest intellects could grasp it. There was a constant liability to confound the order of succession with the order of co-existence, the order of our sensations with the order of objective existence, and the subjection of human actions to any fixed order, with the impossibility of deliberation and choice. The earlier Greek thinkers had proclaimed that all things existed by necessity; but with their purely geometrical or historical point of view, they entirely ignored the more complex questions raised by theories about classification, logical attribution, and moral responsibility. And the modifications introduced by Epicurus, into the old physics, show us how unanswerable Aristotle’s reasonings seemed to some of his ablest successors.Neo-Platonism was the form under which Greek philosophy passed into Christian teaching; and the transition was effected with less difficulty because Christianity had already absorbed some of its most essential elements from the original system of Plato himself. Meanwhile the revival of spiritualism had given an immense impulse to the study of the classic writings whence it was drawn; and the more they were studied the more prominently did their antagonism on certain important questions come into view. Hence, no sooner did the two systems between which Plotinus had established a provisional compromise come out victorious from their struggle with materialism, than they began to separate and draw off into opposing camps. The principal subject of dispute was the form under which ideas exist. The conflicting theories of365 Realism and Nominalism are already set forth with perfect clearness by Porphyry in his introduction to the Organon; and his statement of the case, as Victor Cousin has pointed out, gave the signal for a controversy forming the central interest of Scholasticism during the entire period of its duration.
Again, when oracles like that at Delphi had obtained wide-spread renown and authority, they would be consulted, not only on ceremonial questions and matters of policy, but also on debateable points of morality. The divine responses, being unbiassed by personal interest, would necessarily be given in accordance with received rules of rectitude, and would be backed by all the terrors of a supernatural sanction. It might even be dangerous to assume that the god could possibly give his support to wrong-doing. A story told by Herodotus proves that such actually was the case.E There lived once at Sparta a certain man named Glaucus, who had acquired so great a reputation for probity that, during the troublous times of the Persian conquest, a wealthy Milesian thought it advisable to deposit a large sum of money with him for safe keeping. After a considerable time the money was claimed by his children, but the honesty of Glaucus was not proof against temptation. He pretended to have forgotten the whole affair, and required a delay of three months before making up his mind with regard to the validity of their demand. During that interval he consulted the Delphic oracle to know whether he might possess himself of the money by a false oath. The answer was that it would be for his immediate advantage to do so; all must die, the faithful and the perjured alike; but Horcus (oath) had a nameless son swift to pursue without feet, strong to grasp without hands, who would destroy the whole race of the sinner. Glaucus craved forgiveness, but was informed that to tempt the god was equivalent to committing the crime. He went home and restored the deposit, but his whole family perished utterly from the land before three generations had passed by.In deed or thought of his, then it might be.CHAPTER II. THE GREEK HUMANISTS: NATURE AND LAW.
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.We have entered at some length into Hegel’s theory of the Republic, because it seems to embody a misleading conception not only of Greek politics but also of the most important attempt at a social reformation ever made by one man in the history of philosophy. Thought would be much less worth studying if it only reproduced the abstract form of a very limited experience, instead of analysing and recombining the elements of which that experience is composed. And our253 faith in the power of conscious efforts towards improvement will very much depend on which side of the alternative we accept.