Page images
PDF
EPUB

heaven of night, and the varying brightness of the waxing and the waning moon, and the regular movements of all the heavenly bodies and their risings and settings governed by an everlasting and unchanging law,-could they doubt that the Gods really existed, and that these mighty works were theirs ?'

With the death of Aristotle a new age begins. The fearless spirit of Greek thought which had soared upwards as on eagle wings to the empyrean, gazing with Plato on the Ideas clustered around the one supreme Idea of Good, contemplating with Aristotle the Thought of Thought, the Form and End and Cause of all existence, sank back to earth in weariness when once the spell of the mighty masters was removed. A feebler generation followed whose lot was cast in a more ungenial time. As the great prae-Socratic movement had terminated in the scepticism of the 'Sophists, so this greater movement produced its natural reaction in the scepticism of Pyrrho and the later Academy. Even the dogmatic systems which sprang up along with them, while asserting man's claim to know, yet changed the object and limited the range of knowledge, as it was understood by the preceding age. Lofty idealist systems require strenuous effort of thought and imagination on the part of their adherents, if they are not to wither into mere empty phrases and barren formalism. While the founders live, enthusiastic faith gives a motive for effort, and supplies any deficiency in the evidence demanded by reason: when that first enthusiasm has died away, slumbering doubts awake in the minds of the more independent disciples, and the ruder and coarser among them are likely to seize on some one portion or aspect of the master's teaching, losing sight of its more subtle and refined elements, and to make that stand for the whole; or perhaps they break away altogether and fall back on some earlier and simpler philosophy.

So here, men were not only repelled by the difficulty of understanding what Plato and Aristotle really meant; they had further positive grounds for departing from them when they found them opposed to each other on essential points, such as the nature and import of ideas, when they saw the weaknesses of the former laid bare in the criticisms of the latter, and became aware of the vagueness and uncertainty which characterized the the critic's own utterances in regard to questions of deep practical interest such as the nature of God and the providential government of the world. Under these circumstances those who still believed that it was possible for men to attain to knowledge, practically limited the range of knowledge to what had reference to man's own immediate use; all that they asked for was knowledge so far as it is needed to direct the life of man; and by man they meant the individual standing alone, not man

as the citizen of a Greek móds. We shall see, when we come to

. speak of the Stoics, in what way the political circumstances of the time contributed to this change of view. Again, the abstruseness and indefiniteness, which offended them in preceding philosophers, were especially connected with Ideas and Forms, with the depreciation of the senses and the glorification of incorporeal spirit. All this might be avoided by the assumption that the sole ground of knowledge is sensation, and that body is the only thing which can either act or be acted upon. The postAristotelian schools therefore were predominantly ethical, sensationalist, and materialist, as opposed to the idealistic metaphysics of the preceding age.

Of these schools the least original and the least important is the Peripatetic. The immediate successor of Aristotle was Theophrastus, whose Characters and treatises on Botany we still possess, together with fragments of other works. He appears to have carried further his master's investigations upon particular points, without diverging from his general principles. Cicero charges him with assigning too much weight to fortune as an element of happiness. Strato, who succeeded him as head of the Lyceum in 287 B.C., dethroned the Nous of Aristotle, and explained the ordered movement of the universe by ascribing to the several parts of matter an inward plastic life, whereby they could artificially frame themselves to the best advantage according to their several capabilities without any conscious or reflexive knowledge!' Cicero says that he is omnino semovendus from the true Peripatetics, as he abandoned ethics and departed very widely from his predecessors in physics, to which he confined himself. Aristoxenus and Dicaearchus were contemporaries of Theophrastus; the former is chiefly known as the writer of the first scientific treatise on Music, the latter was a voluminous popular writer much esteemed by Cicero. He denied the immortality of the soul. After the time of Andronicus, mentioned above, the Peripatetics were chiefly known as laborious commentators. Cratippus presided over the school during the lifetime of Cicero, who sent young Marcus to Athens to attend his lectures.

1 Cudworth 1. p. 149.

M, P.

IO

a

The first name among the Sceptics is Pyrrho of Elis (fl. about 320 B.C.), who is said to have had some connexion with the Megarian and the Atomic schools, and to have accompanied Alexander on his expedition into India, and thus learnt something of the doctrines of the Magi and the Indian Gymnosophists. Perhaps the influence of the latter may be traced in the three positions attributed to him, (1) that the wise man should practise étoxý, suspension of judgment, (2) that all external things are adápopa, matters of indifference to him, (3) that he will thus be free from passion and anxiety, and arrive at the condition of complete atapačia, imperturbability. Pyrrho left no writings, but his pupil, Timon of Phlius (fl. 280 B.C.), was a voluminous writer. We have a few fragments of his Silli, a satirical poem in which he ridiculed the tenets of other philosophers. When the Academy became sceptical there was no room for an independent Pyrrhonist school, but it revived in the person of Aenesidemus when the Academy became identified with an eclectic dogmatism under Antiochus. The sceptical argument was summed up in ten tpótol, and is given in full in the works of Sextus Empiricus (Al. 200 A.D.).' The most important points in it are as follows: (1) the discrepancy of opinions among wise and honest men, (2) the relativity of all knowledge, i.e. the manner in which it varies with the physical and mental conditions of the observer or thinker, (3) the impossibility of proving the first principles on which proof is based, (4) the petitio principii involved in the syllogism, the major premiss assuming the truth of the conclusion.

We turn back now to trace the fortunes of the Academy, which may be conveniently divided into three schools, the Old, the Middle or Sceptical, and the Reformed or Eclectic Academy'. To the first belong the names of Speusippus Xenocrates and Polemo, who successively presided over the school between 347 and 270 B.C., as well as those of. Heraclides of Pontus, Crantor and Crates.

They appear to have modified the Platonic doctrines mainly by the admixture of Pythagorean elements. Crantor's writings were used by Cicero for his Consolatio and Tusculan Disputations. The chief expounders of the Middle Academy were its founder Arcesilaus 315—241 B.C., (characterized in a line borrowed from the Homeric description of the Chimaera as πρόσθε Πλάτων, όπιθεν Πύρρων, μέσσος Διόδωρος, implying that by his dialectic quibbling he had changed the Platonism, which he professed, into a mere Pyrrhonism), Carneades of Cyrene 214—129 B.C., one of the Athenian ambassadors to Rome in 155 B.c.”, and Clitomachus of Carthage, the literary exponent of the views of his master Carneades, who is said to have never written anything himself. They neglected the positive doctrine of Plato, and employed themselves mainly in a negative polemic against the dogmatism

1 Cicero only recognized the Old and the New Academy, the latter corresponding to what is above called the Middle Academy, but including Philo. Antiochus himself claimed to be a true representative of the Old Academy. Later writers made five Academic schools, the second founded by Arcesilaus, the third by Carneades, the fourth by Philo, the fifth by Antiochus.

2 Carneades had an extraordinary reputation for acuteness and skill in argument, as is shown by a line of Lucilius (preserved by Lactantius v. 15), in which Neptune speaks of some question as insoluble even to a Carneades, nec si Carncaden ipsum ad nos Orcu' remittat.

« PreviousContinue »