« PreviousContinue »
word we use is the result of the theories or controversies of
He also shows how philosophers, starting with only a material cause, gradually arrived at the ideas of motive power, form, and final cause. Without fully explaining his doctrine of the relation of the mind to external things, he says there are two kinds of reason in the soulthe one passive, which becomes all things by receiving their impress; and the other constructive, which creates all things, just as light brings colours into actual existence, while without light they would have remained mere possibilities. Matter he called timber, or the underlying, to indicate that it is implied in all existence. But without form matter cannot be perceived, and consequently cannot be actual. Thus it must always be pre-supposed and yet always eludes us. According to Aristotle, therefore, it is impossible to conceive matter as actually existing, and equally impossible to think of reason as having had a derivative origin. In another argument he shows that all the qualities of things are relative, being named from the human stand-point, and that, in short, man is the measure of all things. His general philosophy, however, is not so correct as his scientific theories. He held that sensations travel to us, water being the vehicle of sight, air of sound, fire of smell, and earth of touch and taste; but that light
an existence, not a motion; and therefore, that Empedocles was mistaken when he said that light travels from the sun to the earth, and that there is a moment when each ray is not yet seen, but is being borne mid-way. One of his most famous doctrines is that of the Law of Association,' or the existence in the mind of certain standpoints or clues, and thus recollection is the recalling of knowledge. In trying to recollect we search for something that is in sequence, or similarity, or contrast, or proximity to what we wish to think of; and no animal but man has the power of recollection, although many have memory.
Aristotle's opinions on the three great metaphysical problems, the destiny of the human soul, free-will, and the nature of God, have to be gathered from his writings generally. Whether he believed in a future life is still a matter of controversy. As to free-will, he admitted a certain
amount of determinism as controlling the human will, but he did not trace out its proportions, and merely maintained that the individual was a joint cause,' if not the sole cause, of his own character and actions. He thought mankind had existed from all eternity, and that, after attaining perfection in the sciences, arts, and society, a natural convulsion had destroyed all but a few individuals, by whom the process of development had been commenced anew, again and again.
Except in a passing metaphor, in which he says that God may be to the world as a general is to an army, none of Aristotle's utterances attribute either will, providence, or ordering of affairs to the Deity, whom he speaks of as a Supreme Being, unmoved himself, but the cause of motion to all things, the object of reason and desire, and, in short, the Good. We are told it would be absurd to attribute to Him any human functions except philosophic thought ; but that His happiness is everlasting, and that He has, or rather is, continuous and eternal life and duration.
After lying dormant for three centuries, during which the conception of original philosophies had ceased, the works of Aristotle, when republished at Rome, about fifty years before the Christian era, shared the honours awarded to the sacred books of different nations, and were subsequently adopted by the Catholic Church for the instruction of youth in logic and metaphysics. In the thirteenth century they were almost incorporated with Christianity; whilst by Dante, the philosopher was hailed as the master of those who know.' They also formed one of the chief subjects for study at the universities until the sixteenth century, when their authority was questioned by some of the new continental schools of thought. They have, however, since regained much of their ancient reputation, and will probably continue to be studied so long as higher education consists in imbuing the mind with the literature of classical antiquity, as the only true foundation of knowledge.
DIED B.C. 322.
HE highest aspects of Greek life, and its best in
fluences on the civilisation of the world, were
intimately connected with Greece as an aggregate of free, self-governing communities, resisting to the death anything like foreign dictation or interference; and the speeches of Demosthenes cannot be understood without some acquaintance with Greek politics at the time of their delivery.
In the fifth century B.C. Athens stood at the head of the Greek world; but, having been defeated by Sparta at the naval engagement of Ægos-potami, that State obtained the lead and concluded a peace with Persia, which virtually placed Greece under the domination of that country. Sparta also undermined Greek strength and unity by reducing the leading states to petty dependencies under her control, and thus permanently destroyed any general confederacy against the incursion of a hostile power from the north. Her ascendancy, however, was superseded by that of Thebes, who endeavoured to restore the federations, and to weaken her rival; until Athens, recovering from her humiliation, once more secured her former influence, and at the time of Philip's accession to the throne of Macedon, the Ægean Sea was an Athenian lake. But she had lost control over her generals, and a social war ensued, in which she was deserted by several of her richest allies. A peace
party was the result, and its advocates conciliated the rich by striving to save them from a heavy property tax; besides which the citizens preferred ease and comfort to foreign service; and, moreover, any danger from Macedon was entirely unforeseen.
The inhabitants of that country had always been looked upon by the Greeks as barbarians, until their king Archelaus in the fourth century B.C. made efforts to civilize them, and to bring them in connection with Greek culture. Internal dissensions, however, checked their progress, and when Philip began his reign, fifty years later, he was encompassed by enemies, amongst whom were the Athenians. But, having released some of them whom he had taken prisoners, he concluded peace, and waived all claims to Amphipolis, a city which, had she secured it, would have enabled Athens to maintain her supremacy in the Ægean Sea. Philip then successfully attacked his hostile neighbours; and, finding that the Athenians delayed to become masters of Amphipolis, he took it under his protection, and also formed an alliance with the adjacent city of Olynthus. He next openly seized the city of Potidæa, whilst Pydna, another possession of the Athenians, fell into his hands through treachery. Thus, in a single year, he gained three most valuable positions on the coast, with access to a gold region near them, where he founded the city of Philippi; and, gradually strengthening his army and his resources, he became a distinct menace to Greece generally.
Demosthenes was born about the time of Sparta's supremacy, and was therefore in his early manhood when Philip's power began to alarm his countrymen. His father was an Athenian, belonging to the wealthy middle class; but he died when Demosthenes was seven years old, and, his inheritance having been mismanaged by his guardians, his son began life a poor man. He had, however, received a good education, and, in spite of a feeble constitution, possessed great energy and perseverance.
Having placed himself under the instruction of an advocate, he practised speaking with pebbles in his mouth to cure himself of stammering, strengthened his lungs and voice by reciting as he ran up hill, and declaimed on the sea-shore amid the
noise of waves and storms. Success came to him early in life, and before he attained the age of thirty he had secured a large practice in the courts. He also almost necessarily became a politician, from the close connection which existed at Athens between law and politics.
His first political effort was for the son of Chabrias, who had inherited from his father immunity from any of the contributions to the State exacted by law from the richer classes of Athens, a recent enactment having abolished all such exemptions, with the professed motives of getting rid of invidious privileges, of distributing the public burdens equitably, and of providing for the celebration of the games and festivals with becoming splendour.
The arguments he used against this new law were that it was better for a few undeserving persons to enjoy such privileges, than that gifts which the State had bestowed should be withdrawn, and the national faith be broken; that a slur would be cast upon democratic government ; that it was of supreme importance that Athens, as the noblest representative of Greece, should value above all things a character for justice, generosity, and public spirit; that all human legislation must take possibilities and contingencies into account; and that the law was an offence to Nemesis, which ever waits on arrogance and presumption. He reminded his hearers of an occasion when they had contributed to discharge a debt due to the Lacedæmonians who had injured them; and would it not be shameful, now that they had it in their power to do justice to benefactors, if they preferred to break their word ? Such an envious, grudging spirit was most alien to Athenian feeling. Did they envy funeral orations, or rewards to those who win in gymnastic contests, because but few are born to partake of them ?-and had the State ever been surpassed in requiting services? In conclusion, he said, our language and laws should be such as not to shock religious sentiment. The future is uncertain to all men, and small occasions are productive of great events.
His earliest discourse in the public assembly was in opposition to Athens declaring war against Persia. I hold the king, he said, to be the common enemy of all Greeks ;