A Short History of Greek Philosophy
by John Marshall
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One can easily understand this as the doctrine of such a man as Aristippus, the easy-going man of the world, the courtier and the wit, the favourite of the tyrant Dionysius; it fits in well enough with a life of genial self-indulgence; it always reappears whenever a man has reconciled himself 'to roll with pleasure in a sensual sty.' But life is not always, nor for most persons at any time, a thing of ease and soft enchantments, and the Cyrenaic philosophy must remain for the general work-a-day world a stale exotic. 'Every man for himself and the devil take the hindmost,' is a maxim which comes as a rule {128} only to the lips of the worldly successful, while they think themselves strong enough to stand alone. But this solitude of selfishness neither works nor lasts; every man at some time becomes 'the hindmost,' if not before, at least in the hour of death for him or his; at that hour he is hardly disposed, for himself or those he loves, to repeat his maxim.

II. ANTISTHENES AND THE CYNICS.—Aristippus, in his praises of pleasure as the one good for man (see above, p. 126), remarks that there were some who [209] refused pleasure "from perversity of mind," taking pleasure, so to speak, in the denial of pleasure. The school of the Cynics made this perverse mood, as Aristippus deemed it, the maxim of their philosophy. As the Cyrenaic school was the school of the rich, the courtly, the self-indulgent, so the Cynic was the school of the poor, the exiles, the ascetics. Each was an extreme expression of a phase of Greek life and thought, though there was this point of union [215] between them, that liberty of a kind was sought by both. The Cyrenaics claimed liberty to please themselves in the choice of their enjoyments; the Cynics sought liberty through denial of enjoyments. [219] Both, moreover, were cosmopolitan; they mark the decay of the Greek patriotism, which was essentially civic, and the rise of the wider but less intense conception of humanity. Aristippus, in a conversation with Socrates (Xenoph. Memor. II. i.) on the {129} qualifications of those who are fitted to be magistrates, disclaims all desire to hold such a position himself. "There is," he says, "to my thinking, a middle way, neither of rule nor of slavery, but of freedom, which leads most surely to true happiness. So to avoid all the evils of partisanship and faction I nowhere take upon me the position of a citizen, but in every city remain a sojourner and a stranger." And in like manner Antisthenes the Cynic, being asked how a man should approach politics, answered, "He will approach it as he will fire, not too near, lest he be burnt; not too far away, lest he starve of cold." And Diogenes, being asked of what city he was, answered, "I am a citizen of the world." The Cynic ideal, in fact, was summed up in these four words—wisdom, independence, free speech, liberty.


Antisthenes, founder of the school, was a native of Athens, but being of mixed blood (his mother was a Thracian) he was not recognised as an Athenian citizen. He was a student first under Gorgias, and acquired from him a considerable elegance of literary style; subsequently he became a devoted hearer of Socrates, and became prominent among his followers for an asceticism surpassing his master's. One day, we are told, he showed a great rent in the thread-bare cloak which was his only garment, whereupon Socrates slily remarked, "I can see through your cloak your love of glory." He carried a leathern {130} scrip and a staff, and the 'scrip and staff' became distinctive marks of his school. The name Cynic, derived from the Greek word for a dog, is variously accounted for, some attributing it to the 'doglike' habits of the school, others to their love of 'barking' criticism, others to the fact that a certain gymnasium in the outskirts of Athens, called Cynosarges, sacred to Hercules the patron-divinity of men in the political position of Antisthenes, was a favourite resort of his. He was a voluminous, some thought a too voluminous, [216] expounder of his tenets. Like the other Incomplete Socratics, his teaching was mainly on ethical questions.


His chief pupil and successor was the famous Diogenes, a native of Sinope, a Greek colony on the Euxine Sea. He even bettered the instructions of his master in the matter of extreme frugality of living, claiming that he was a true follower of Hercules in preferring independence to every other good. The tale of his living in a cask or tub is well known. His theory was that the peculiar privilege of the gods consisted in their need of nothing; men approached nearest the life of the gods in needing as little as possible.


Many other sayings of one or other teacher are quoted, all tending to the same conclusion. For example, "I had rather be mad than enjoying myself!" "Follow the pleasures that come after pains, not those which bring pains in their train." "There {131} are pains that are useless, there are pains that are natural: the wise choose the latter, and thus find happiness even through pain. For the very contempt of pleasure comes with practice to be the highest pleasure." "When I wish a treat," says Antisthenes, "I do not go and buy it at great cost in the marketplace; I find my storehouse of pleasures in the soul."


The life of the wise man, therefore, was a training of mind and body to despise pleasure and attain independence. In this way virtue was teachable, and could be so acquired as to become an inseparable possession. The man who had thus attained to wisdom, not of words, but of deeds, was, as it were, in an impregnable fortress that could neither crumble into ruin nor be lost by treachery. And so Antisthenes, being asked what was the most essential point of learning, answered, "To unlearn what is evil." That is to say, to the Cynic conception, men were born with a root of evil in them in the love of pleasure; the path of wisdom was a weaning of soul and body by practice from the allurements of pleasure, until both were so perfectly accustomed to its denial as to find an unalloyed pleasure in the very act of [219] refusing it. In this way virtue became absolutely sufficient for happiness, and so far was it from being necessary to have wealth or the admiration of men in addition, that the true kingly life was "to do well, {132} and be ill spoken of." All else but virtue was a matter of indifference.

The cosmopolitan temper of these men led them to hold of small account the forms and prejudices of ordinary society: they despised the rites of marriage; they thought no flesh unclean. They believed in no multifarious theology; there was but one divinity—the power that ruled all nature, the one absolutely self-centred independent being, whose manner of [221] existence they sought to imitate. Nor had they any sympathy with the subtleties of verbal distinction cultivated by some of the Socratics, as by other philosophers or Sophists of their time. Definitions and abstractions and classifications led to no good. A man was a man; what was good was good; to say that a man was good did not establish the existence of some abstract class of goods. As Antisthenes once said to Plato, "A horse I see, but 'horseness' I do not see." What the exact point of this criticism was we may reserve for the present.


III. EUCLIDES THE MEGARIC.—Euclides, a native of Megara on the Corinthian isthmus, was a devoted hearer of Socrates, making his way to hear him, sometimes even at the 'risk of his life, in defiance of a decree of his native city forbidding intercourse with Athens. When Plato and other Athenian followers of Socrates thought well to quit Athens for {133} a time after Socrates' execution, they were kindly entertained by Euclides at Megara.

The exact character of the development which the Socratic teaching received from Euclides and his school is a matter of considerable doubt. The allusions to the tenets of the school in Plato and [223] others are only fragmentary. We gather, however, from them that Euclides was wholly antithetical to the personal turn given to philosophy, both by the Cyrenaics and the Cynics. He revived and developed with much dialectical subtlety the metaphysical system of Parmenides and the Eleatics, maintaining that there is but one absolute existence, and that sense and sense-perceptions as against this [224] are nothing. This one absolute existence was alone absolutely good, and the good for man could only be found in such an absorption of himself in this one absolute good through reason and contemplation, as would bring his spirit into perfectness of union with it. Such absorption raised a man above the troubles and pains of life, and thus, in insensibility to these through reason, man attained his highest good.

The school is perhaps interesting only in so far as it marks the continued survival of the abstract dialectic method of earlier philosophy. As such it had a very definite influence, sometimes through agreement, sometimes by controversy, on the systems of Plato and Aristotle now to be dealt with.




Student and wanderer—The Dialogues—Immortal longings—Art is love—Knowledge through remembrance—Platonic love


This great master, the Shakespeare of Greek philosophy, as one may call him, for his fertility, his variety, his humour, his imagination, his poetic grace, was born at Athens in the year 429 B.C. He was of noble family, numbering among his ancestors no less a man than the great lawgiver Solon, and tracing back his descent even further to the [240] legendary Codrus, last king of Athens. At a very early age he seems to have begun to study the philosophers, Heraclitus more particularly, and before he was twenty he had written a tragedy. About that time, however, he met Socrates; and at once giving up all thought of poetic fame he burnt his poem, and devoted himself to the hearing of Socrates. For ten years he was his constant companion. When Socrates met his death in 399, Plato and other followers of the master fled at first to Megara, as already mentioned (above, p. 132); he then entered on a period of extended travel, first to Cyrene and {135} Egypt, thence to Italy and Sicily. In Italy he devoted himself specially to a study of the doctrine of Pythagoras. It is said that at Syracuse he offended the tyrant Dionysius the elder by his freedom of speech, and was delivered up to the Spartans, who were then at war with Athens. [241] Ultimately he was ransomed, and found his way back to Athens, but he is said to have paid a second visit to Sicily when the younger Dionysius became tyrant. He seems to have entertained the hope that he might so influence this young man as to be able to realise through him the dream of his life, a government in accordance with the dictates of [242] philosophy. His dream, however, was disappointed of fruition, and he returned to Athens, there in the 'groves of Academus' a mythic hero of Athens, to spend the rest of his days in converse with his followers, and there at the ripe age of eighty-one he died. From the scene of his labours his philosophy has ever since been known as the Academic [243] philosophy. Unlike Socrates, he was not content to leave only a memory of himself and his conversations. He was unwearied in the redaction and correction of his written dialogues, altering them here and there both in expression and in structure. It is impossible, therefore, to be absolutely certain as to the historical order of composition or publication among his numerous {136} dialogues, but a certain approximate order may be fixed.

We may take first a certain number of comparatively short dialogues, which are strongly Socratic in the following respects: first, they each seek a definition of some particular virtue or quality; second, each suggests some relation between it and knowledge; third, each leaves the answer somewhat open, treating the matter suggestively rather than dogmatically. These dialogues are Charmides, which treats of Temperance (mens sana in corpore sano); Lysis, which treats of Friendship; Laches, Of Courage; Ion, Of Poetic Inspiration; Meno, Of the teachableness of Virtue; Euthyphro, Of Piety.

The last of these may be regarded as marking a transition to a second series, which are concerned with the trial and death of Socrates. The Euthyphro opens with an allusion by Socrates to his approaching trial, and in the Apology we have a Platonic version of Socrates' speech in his own defence; in Crito we have the story of his noble self-abnegation and civic obedience after his condemnation; in Phaedo we have his last conversation with his friends on the subject of Immortality, and the story of his death.

Another series of the dialogues may be formed of those, more or less satirical, in which the ideas and methods of the Sophists are criticised: Protagoras, {137} in which Socrates suggests that all virtues are essentially one; Euthydemus, in which the assumption and 'airs' of some of the Sophists are made fun of; Cratylus, Of the sophistic use of words; Gorgias, Of the True and the False, the truly Good and the truly Evil; Hippias, Of Voluntary and Involuntary Sin; Alcibiades, Of Self-Knowledge; Menexenus, a (possibly ironical) set oration after the manner of the Sophists, in praise of Athens.

The whole of this third series are characterised by humour, dramatic interest, variety of personal type among the speakers, keenness rather than depth of philosophic insight. There are many suggestions of profounder thoughts, afterwards worked out more fully; but on the whole these dialogues rather stimulate thought than satisfy it; the great poet-thinker is still playing with his tools.

A higher stage is reached in the Symposium, which deals at once humorously and profoundly with the subject of Love, human and divine, and its relations to Art and Philosophy, the whole consummated in a speech related by Socrates as having been spoken to him by Diotima, a wise woman of Mantineia. From this speech an extract as translated by Professor Jowett may be quoted here. It marks the transition point from the merely playful and critical to the relatively serious and dogmatic stage in the mind of Plato:—

{138} "Marvel not," she said, "if you believe that love is of the immortal, as we have already several times acknowledged; for here again, and on the same principle too, the mortal nature is seeking as far as is possible to be everlasting and immortal: and this is only to be attained by generation, because generation always leaves behind a new existence in the place of the old. Nay even in the life of the same individual there is succession and not absolute unity: a man is called the same, and yet in the short interval which elapses between youth and age, and in which every animal is said to have life and identity, he is undergoing a perpetual process of loss and reparation—hair, flesh, bones, blood, and the whole body are always changing. Which is true not only of the body, but also of the soul, whose habits, tempers, opinions, desires, pleasures, pains, fears, never remain the same in any one of us, but are always coming and going; and equally true of knowledge, which is still more surprising—for not only do the sciences in general come and go, so that in respect of them we are never the same; but each of them individually experiences a like change. For what is implied in the word 'recollection,' but the departure of knowledge, which is ever being forgotten and is renewed and preserved by recollection, and appears to be the same although in reality new, according to that law of succession by which all mortal things are preserved, not absolutely the same, but by substitution, the old worn-out mortality leaving another new and similar existence behind—unlike the divine, which is always the same and not another? And in this way, Socrates, the mortal body, or mortal anything, partakes of immortality; but the immortal in another way. Marvel not then at the love which all men have of their offspring; for that universal love and interest is for the sake of immortality."

I was astonished at her words, and said: "Is this really true, O thou wise Diotima?" And she answered with all the authority of a sophist: "Of that, Socrates, you may be assured;—think only of the ambition of men, and you will wonder at the senselessness of their ways, unless you consider how they are stirred by the love of an immortality of fame. They are ready to run risks greater far than they would have run for their children, and to spend money and undergo any sort of {139} toil, and even to die for the sake of leaving behind them a name which shall be eternal. Do you imagine that Alcestis would have died to save Admetus, or Achilles to avenge Patroclus, or your own Codrus in order to preserve the kingdom for his sons, if they had not imagined that the memory of their virtues, which is still retained among us, would be immortal? Nay," she said, "I am persuaded that all men do all things, and the better they are the more they do them, in hope of the glorious fame of immortal virtue; for they desire the immortal.

"They whose bodies only are creative, betake themselves to women and beget children—this is the character of their love; their offspring, as they hope, will preserve their memory and give them the blessedness and immortality which they desire in the future. But creative souls—for there certainly are men who are more creative in their souls than in their bodies—conceive that which is proper for the soul to conceive or retain. And what are these conceptions?—wisdom and virtue in general. And such creators are poets and all artists who are deserving of the name inventor. But the greatest and fairest sort of wisdom by far is that which is concerned with the ordering of states and families, and which is called temperance and justice. And he who in youth has the seed of these implanted in him and is himself inspired, when he comes to maturity desires to beget and generate. He wanders about seeking beauty that he may beget offspring—for in deformity he will beget nothing—and naturally embraces the beautiful rather than the deformed body; above all when he finds a fair and noble and well-nurtured soul, he embraces the two in one person, and to such an one he is full of speech about virtue and the nature and pursuits of a good man; and he tries to educate him; and at the touch of the beautiful which is ever present to his memory, even when absent, he brings forth that which he had conceived long before, and in company with him tends that which he brings forth; and they are married by a far nearer tie and have a closer friendship than those who beget mortal children, for the children who are their common offspring are fairer and more immortal. Who, when he thinks of Homer and Hesiod and other great poets, {140} would not rather have their children than ordinary human ones? Who would not emulate them in the creation of children such as theirs, which have preserved their memory and given them everlasting glory? Or who would not have such children as Lycurgus left behind him to be the saviours, not only of Lacedaemon, but of Hellas, as one may say? There is Solon, too, who is the revered father of Athenian laws; and many others there are in many other places, both among Hellenes and barbarians. All of them have given to the world many noble works, and have been the parents of virtue of every kind, and many temples have been raised in their honour for the sake of their children; which were never raised in honour of any one, for the sake of his mortal children.

"These are the lesser mysteries of love, into which even you, Socrates, may enter; to the greater and more hidden ones which are the crown of these, and to which, if you pursue them in a right spirit, they will lead, I know not whether you will be able to attain. But I will do my utmost to inform you, and do you follow if you can. For he who would proceed aright in this matter should begin in youth to visit beautiful forms; and first, if he be guided by his instructor aright, to love one such form only—out of that he should create fair thoughts; and soon he will of himself perceive that the beauty of one form is akin to the beauty of another; and then if beauty of form in general is his pursuit, how foolish would he be not to recognise that the beauty in every form is one and the same! And when he perceives this he will abate his violent love of the one, which he will despise and deem a small thing, and will become a lover of all beautiful forms; in the next stage he will consider that the beauty of the mind is more honourable than the beauty of the outward form. So that if a virtuous soul have but a little comeliness, he will be content to love and tend him, and will search out and bring to the birth thoughts which may improve the young, until he is compelled to contemplate and see the beauty of institutions and laws, and to understand that the beauty of them all is of one family, and that personal beauty is a trifle; and after laws and institutions he will go on to the sciences, that he may see their beauty, being not like a servant in love with the beauty of one youth or man or {141} institution, himself a slave mean and narrow-minded, but drawing towards and contemplating the vast sea of beauty, he will create many fair and noble thoughts and notions in boundless love of wisdom; until on that shore he grows and waxes strong, and at last the vision is revealed to him of a single science, which is the science of beauty everywhere. To this I will proceed; please to give me your very best attention.

"He who has been instructed thus far in the things of love, and who has learned to see the beautiful in due order and succession, when he comes toward the end will suddenly perceive a nature of wondrous beauty (and this, Socrates, is the final cause of all our former toils)—a nature which in the first place is everlasting, not growing and decaying, or waxing and waning, in the next place not fair in one point of view and foul in another, or at one time or in one relation or at one place fair, at another time or in another relation or at another place foul, as if fair to some and foul to others, or in the likeness of a face or hands or any other part of the bodily frame, or in any form of speech or knowledge, or existing in any other being; as for example, in an animal, or in heaven, or in earth, or in any other place, but beauty only, absolute, separate, simple, and everlasting, which without diminution and without increase, or any change, is imparted to the ever-growing and perishing beauties of all other things. He who under the influence of true love rising upward from these begins to see that beauty, is not far from the end. And the true order of going or being led by another to the things of love, is to use the beauties of earth as steps along which he mounts upwards for the sake of that other beauty, going from one to two, and from two to all fair forms, and from fair forms to fair practices, and from fair practices to fair notions, until from fair notions he arrives at the notion of absolute beauty, and at last knows what the essence of beauty is. This, my dear Socrates," said the stranger of Mantineia, "is that life above all others which a man should live, in the contemplation of beauty absolute; a beauty which if you once beheld, you would see not to be after the measure of gold, and garments, and fair boys and youths, whose presence now entrances you; and you and many a one would be content to live seeing only and conversing with them without meat or drink, {142} if that were possible—you only want to be with them and to look at them. But what if man had eyes to see the true beauty—the divine beauty, I mean, pure and clear and unalloyed, not clogged with the pollutions of mortality, and all the colours and vanities of human life—thither looking, and holding converse with the true beauty divine and simple? Do you not see that in that communion only, beholding beauty with the eye of the mind, he will be enabled to bring forth, not images of beauty, but realities (for he has hold not of an image but of a reality), and bringing forth and nourishing true virtue to become the friend of God and be immortal, if mortal man may. Would that be an ignoble life?" (Jowett, Plato, vol. ii. p. 58).

Closely connected in subject with the Symposium is the Phaedrus. As Professor Jowett observes: "The two dialogues together contain the whole philosophy of Plato on the nature of love, which in The Republic and in the later writings of Plato is only introduced playfully or as a figure of speech. But in the Phaedrus and Symposium love and philosophy join hands, and one is an aspect of the other. The spiritual and emotional is elevated into the ideal, to which in the Symposium mankind are described as looking forward, and which in the Phaedrus, as well as in the Phaedo, they are seeking to recover from a former state of existence."

We are here introduced to one of the most famous conceptions of Plato, that of Reminiscence, or Recollection, based upon a theory of the prior existence of the soul. In the Meno, already alluded to, Socrates is representing as eliciting from one of Meno's slaves {143} correct answers to questions involving a knowledge or apprehension of certain axioms of the science of mathematics, which, as Socrates learns, the slave had never been taught. Socrates argues that since he was never taught these axioms, and yet actually knows them, he must have known them before his birth, and concludes from this to the immortality of the soul. In the Phaedo this same argument is worked out more fully. As we grow up we discover in the exercise of our senses that things are equal in certain respects, unequal in many others; or again, we appropriate to things or acts the qualities, for example, of beauty, goodness, justice, holiness. At the same time we recognise that these are ideals, to which in actual experience we never find more than an approximation, for we never discover in any really existing thing or act absolute equality, or justice, or goodness. In other words, any act of judgment on our part of actual experiences consists in a measuring of these experiences by standards which we give or apply to them, and which no number of experiences can give to us because they do not possess or exemplify them. We did not consciously possess these notions, or ideals, or ideas, as he prefers to call them, at birth; they come into consciousness in connection with or in consequence of the action of the senses; but since the senses could not give these ideas, the process of {144} knowledge must be a process of Recollection. Socrates carries the argument a step further. "Then may we not say," he continues, "that if, as we are always repeating, there is an absolute beauty and goodness and other similar ideas or essences, and to this standard, which is now discovered to have existed in our former state, we refer all our sensations, and with this compare them—assuming these ideas to have a prior existence, then our souls must have had a prior existence, but if not, not? There is the same proof that these ideas must have existed before we were born, as that our souls existed before we were born; and if not the ideas, then not the souls."

In the Phaedrus this conception of a former existence is embodied in one of the Myths in which Plato's imaginative powers are seen at their highest. In it the soul is compared to a charioteer driving two winged steeds, one mortal, the other immortal; the one ever tending towards the earth, the other seeking ever to soar into the sky, where it may behold those blessed visions of loveliness and wisdom and goodness, which are the true nurture of the soul. When the chariots of the gods go forth in mighty and glorious procession, the soul would fain ride forth in their train; but alas! the mortal steed is ever hampering the immortal, and dragging it down.

If the soul yields to this influence and descends to earth, there she takes human form, but in higher {145} or lower degree, according to the measure of her vision of the truth. She may become a philosopher, a king, a trader, an athlete, a prophet, a poet, a husbandman, a sophist, a tyrant. But whatever her lot, according to her manner of life in it, may she rise, or sink still further, even to a beast or plant.

Only those souls take the form of humanity that have had some vision of eternal truth. And this vision they retain in a measure, even when clogged in mortal clay. And so the soul of man is ever striving and fluttering after something beyond; and specially is she stirred to aspiration by the sight of bodily loveliness. Then above all comes the test of good and evil in the soul. The nature that has been corrupted would fain rush to brutal joys; but the purer nature looks with reverence and wonder at this beauty, for it is an adumbration of the celestial joys which he still remembers vaguely from the heavenly vision. And thus pure and holy love becomes an opening back to heaven; it is a source of happiness unalloyed on earth; it guides the lovers on upward wings back to the heaven whence they came.



PLATO (continued)

The Republic—Denizens of the cave—The Timaeus—A dream of creation

And now we pass to the central and crowning work of Plato, The Republic, or Of Justice—the longest with one exception, and certainly the greatest of all his works. It combines the humour and irony, the vivid characterisation and lively dialogue of his earlier works, with the larger and more serious view, the more constructive and statesmanlike aims of his later life. The dialogue opens very beautifully. There has been a festal procession at the Piraeus, the harbour of Athens, and Socrates with a companion is wending his way homeward, when he is recalled by other companions, who induce him to visit the house of an aged friend of his, Cephalus, whom he does not visit too often. Him he finds seated in his court, crowned, as the custom was, for the celebration of a family sacrifice, and beholds beaming on his face the peace of a life well spent and reconciled. They talk of the happiness that comes in old age to those who have done good and not evil, and who are not too severely {147} tried in the matter of worldly cares. Life to this good old man seems a very simple matter; duty to God, duty to one's neighbours, each according to what is prescribed and orderly; this is all, and this is sufficient.

Then comes in the questioning Socrates, with his doubts and difficulties as to what is one's duty in special circumstances; and the discussion is taken up, not by the good old man, "who goes away to the sacrifice," but by his son, who can quote the authorities; and by Thrasymachus, the Sophist, who will have nothing to do with authority, but maintains that interest is the only real meaning of justice, and that Might is Right. Socrates, by analogy of the arts, shows that Might absolutely without tincture of justice is mere weakness, and that there is honour even among thieves. Yet the exhibition of the 'law working in the members' seems to have its weak side so long as we look to individual men, in whom there are many conflicting influences, and many personal chances and difficulties, which obscure the relation between just action and happiness.

Socrates therefore will have justice 'writ large' in the community as a whole, first pictured in its simpler, and then in its more complex and luxurious forms. The relation of the individual to the community is represented chiefly as one of education and training; and many strange theories—as of the equal {148} training of men and women, and the community of wives, ideas partially drawn from Sparta—are woven into the ideal structure. Then the dialogue rises to a larger view of education, as a preparation of the soul of man, not for a community on earth, but for that heavenly life which was suggested above (p. 144) in the myth of the steeds.

The purely earthly unideal life is represented as a life of men tied neck and heels from birth in a cave, having their backs to the light, and their eyes fixed only on the shadows which are cast upon the wall. These they take for the only realities, and they may acquire much skill in interpreting the shadows. Turn these men suddenly to the true light, and they will be dazzled and blinded. They will feel as though they had lost the realities, and been plunged into dreams. And in pain and sorrow they will be tempted to grope back again to the familiar darkness.

Yet if they hold on in patience, and struggle up the steep till the sun himself breaks on their vision, what pain and dazzling once more, yet at the last what glorious revelation! True, if they revisit their old dwelling-place, they will not see as well as their fellows who are still living contentedly there, knowing nothing other than the shadows. They may even seem to these as dreamers who have lost their senses; and should they try to enlighten these denizens of the cave, they may be persecuted or {149} even put to death. Such are the men who have had a sight of the heavenly verities, when compared with the children of earth and darkness.

Yet the world will never be right till those who have had this vision come back to the things of earth and order them according to the eternal verities; the philosopher must be king if ever the perfect life is to be lived on earth, either by individual or community. As it would be expressed in Scriptural language, "The kingdoms of this world must become the kingdoms of the Lord and of His Christ."

For the training of these ideal rulers an ideal education is required, which Plato calls dialectic; something of its nature is described later on (p. 170), and we need not linger over it here.

The argument then seems to fall to a lower level. There are various approximations in actual experience to the ideal community, each more or less perfect according to the degree in which the good of the individual is also made the good of all, and the interests of governors and governed are alike. Parallel with each lower form of state is a lower individual nature, the worst of all being that of the tyrant, whose will is his only law, and his own self-indulgence his only motive. In him indeed Might is Right; but his life is the very antithesis of happiness. Nay, pleasure of any kind can give no law to reason; reason can judge of pleasure, but not vice versa. There is no profit to a {150} man though he gain the whole world, if himself be lost; if he become worse; if the better part of him be silenced and grow weaker. And after this 'fitful fever' is over, may there not be a greater bliss beyond? There have been stories told us, visions of another world, where each man is rewarded according to his works. And the book closes with a magnificent Vision of Judgment. It is the story of Er, son of Armenius, who being wounded in battle, after twelve days' trance comes back to life, and tells of the judgment seat, of heavenly bliss and hellish punishments, and of the renewal of life and the new choice given to souls not yet purified wholly of sin. "God is blameless; Man's Soul is immortal; Justice and Truth are the only things eternally good." Such is the final revelation.

The Timaeus is an attempt by Plato, under the guise of a Pythagorean philosopher, to image forth as in a vision or dream the actual framing of the universe, conceived as a realisation of the Eternal Thought or Idea. It will be remembered that in the analysis already given (p. 143) of the process of knowledge in individual men, Plato found that prior to the suggestions of the senses, though not coming into consciousness except in connection with sensation, men had ideas that gave them a power of rendering their sensations intelligible. In the Timaeus Plato attempts a vision of the universe as though he saw {151} it working itself into actuality on the lines of those ideas. The vision is briefly as follows: There is the Eternal Creator, who desired to make the world because He was good and free from jealousy, and therefore willed that all things should be like Himself; that is, that the formless, chaotic, unrealised void might receive form and order, and become, in short, real as He was. Thus creation is the process by which the Eternal Creator works out His own image, His own ideas, in and through that which is formless, that which has no name, which is nothing but possibility,—dead earth, namely, or Matter. And first the world-soul, image of the divine, is formed, on which as on a "diamond network" the manifold structure of things is fashioned—the stars, the seven planets with their sphere-music, the four elements, and all the various creatures, aetherial or fiery, aerial, aqueous, and earthy, with the consummation of them all in microcosm, in the animal world, and specially in man.

One can easily see that this is an attempt by Plato to carry out the reverse process in thought to that which first comes to thinking man. Man has sensations, that is, he comes first upon that which is conceivably last in creation, on the immediate and temporary things or momentary occurrences of earth. In these sensations, as they accumulate into a kind of habitual or unreasoned knowledge or opinion, he discovers elements which have been active to {152} correlate the sensations, which have from the first exercised a governing influence upon the sensations, without which, indeed, no two sensations could be brought together to form anything one could name. These regulative, underlying, permanent elements are Ideas, i.e. General Forms or Notions, which, although they may come second as regards time into consciousness, are by reason known to have been there before, because through them alone can the sensations become intelligibly possible, or thinkable, or namable. Thus Plato is led to the conception of an order the reverse of our individual experience, the order of creation, the order of God's thought, which is equivalent to the order of God's working; for God's thought and God's working are inseparable.

Of course Plato, in working out his dream of creation absolutely without any scientific knowledge, the further he travels the more obviously falls into confusion and absurdity; where he touches on some ideas having a certain resemblance to modern scientific discoveries, as the law of gravitation, the circulation of the blood, the quantitative basis of differences of quality, etc., these happy guesses are apt to lead more frequently wrong than right, because they are not kept in check by any experimental tests. But taken as a 'myth,' which is perhaps all that Plato intended, the work offers much that is profoundly interesting.


With the Timaeus is associated another dialogue called the Critias, which remains only as a fragment. In it is contained a description of the celebrated visionary kingdom of Atlantis, lying far beyond the pillars of Hercules, a land of splendour and luxury and power, a land also of gentle manners and wise orderliness. "The fiction has exercised a great influence over the imagination of later ages. As many attempts have been made to find the great island as to discover the country of the lost tribes. Without regard to the description of Plato, and without a suspicion that the whole narrative is a fabrication, interpreters have looked for the spot in every part of the globe—America, Palestine, Arabia Felix, Ceylon, Sardinia, Sweden. The story had also an effect on the early navigators of the sixteenth century" (Jowett, Plato, vol. iii. p. 679).



PLATO (continued)

Metaphysics and psychology—Reason and pleasure—Criticism of the ideas—Last ideals

We now come to a series of highly important dialogues, marked as a whole by a certain diminution in the purely artistic attraction, having less of vivid characterisation, less humour, less dramatic interest, less perfect construction in every way, but, on the other hand, peculiarly interesting as presenting a kind of after-criticism of his own philosophy. In them Plato brings his philosophic conceptions into striking relation with earlier or rival theories such as the Eleatic, the Megarian, the Cyrenaic, and the Cynic, and touches in these connections on many problems of deep and permanent import.

The most remarkable feature in these later dialogues is the disappearance, or even in some cases the apparently hostile criticism, of the doctrine of Ideas, and consequently of Reminiscence as the source of knowledge, and even, apparently, of Personal {155} Immortality, so far as the doctrine of Reminiscence was imagined to guarantee it. This, however, is perhaps to push the change of view too far. We may say that Plato in these dialogues is rather the psychologist than the metaphysician; he is attempting a revised analysis of mental processes. From this point of view it was quite intelligible that he should discover difficulties in his former theory of our mental relation to the external reality, without therefore seeing reason to doubt the existence of that reality. The position is somewhat similar to that of a modern philosopher who attempts to think out the psychological problem of Human Will in relation to Almighty and Over-ruling Providence. One may very clearly see the psychological difficulties, without ceasing to believe either in the one or the other as facts.

Throughout Plato's philosophy, amidst every variation of expression, we may take these three as practically fixed points of belief or of faith, or at least of hope; first, that Mind is eternally master of the universe; second, that Man in realising what is most truly himself is working in harmony with the Eternal Mind, and is in this way a master of nature, reason governing experience and not being a product of experience; and thirdly (as Socrates said before his judges), that at death we go to powers who are wise and good, and to men departed who in their day shared in the divine wisdom and goodness,—that, in short, there is something remaining for the dead, and better for those that have done good than for those that have done evil.

The first of the 'psychological dialogues,' as we have called them, is the Philebus. The question here is of the summum bonum or chief good. What is it? Is it pleasure? Is it wisdom? Or is it both? In the process of answering these questions Plato lays down rules for true definition, and establishes classifications which had an immense influence on his successor Aristotle, but which need not be further referred to here.

The general gist of the argument is as follows. Pleasure could not be regarded as a sufficient or perfect good if it was entirely emptied of the purely intellectual elements of anticipation and consciousness and memory. This would be no better than the pleasure of an oyster. On the other hand, a purely intellectual existence can hardly be regarded as perfect and sufficient either. The perfect life must be a union of both.

But this union must be an orderly and rational union; in other words, it must be one in which Mind is master and Pleasure servant; the finite, the regular, the universal must govern the indefinite, variable, particular. Thus in the perfect life there are four elements; in the body, earth, water, air, fire; in the soul, the finite, the indefinite, the union of the {157} two, and the cause of that union. If this be so, he argues, may we not by analogy argue for a like four-fold order in the universe? There also we find regulative elements, and indefinite elements, and the union of the two. Must there not also be the Great Cause, even Divine Wisdom, ordering and governing all things?

The second of the psychological series is the Parmenides, in which the great Eleatic philosopher, in company with his disciple Zeno, is imagined instructing the youthful Socrates when the two were on a visit to Athens, which may or may not be historical (see above, p. 34). The most striking portion of this dialogue is the criticism already alluded to of Plato's own theory of Ideas, put into the mouth of Parmenides. Parmenides ascertains from Socrates that he is quite clear about there being Ideas of Justice, Beauty, Goodness, eternally existing, but how about Ideas of such common things as hair, mud, filth, etc.? Socrates is not so sure; to which Parmenides rejoins that as he grows older philosophy will take a surer hold of him, and that he will recognise the same law in small things and in great.

But now as to the nature of these Ideas. What, Parmenides asks, is the relation of these, as eternally existing in the mind of God, to the same ideas as possessed by individual men? Does each individual actually partake in the thought of God through {158} the ideas, or are his ideas only resemblances of the eternal? If he partakes, then the eternal ideas are not one but many, as many as the persons who possess them. If his ideas only resemble, then there must be some basis of reference by which the resemblance is established, a tertium quid or third existence resembling both, and so ad infinitum. Socrates is puzzled by this, and suggests that perhaps the Ideas are only notions in our minds. But to this it is replied that there is an end in that case of any reality in our ideas. Unless in some way they have a true and causal relation with something beyond our minds, there is an end of mind altogether, and with mind gone everything goes.

This, as Professor Jowett remarks, "remains a difficulty for us as well as for the Greeks of the fourth century before Christ, and is the stumbling-block of Kant's Critic, and of the Hamiltonian adaptation of Kant as well as of the Platonic ideas. It has been said that 'you cannot criticise Revelation.' 'Then how do you know what is Revelation, or that there is one at all?' is the immediate rejoinder. 'You know nothing of things in themselves.'—'Then how do you know that there are things in themselves?' In some respects the difficulty pressed harder upon the Greek than upon ourselves. For conceiving of God more under the attribute of knowledge than we do, he was more under the necessity of {159} separating the divine from the human, as two spheres which had no communication with one another."

Next follows an extraordinary analysis of the ideas of 'Being' and 'Unity,' remarkable not only for its subtlety, but for the relation which it historically bears to the modern philosophic system of Hegel. "Every affirmation is ipso facto a negation;" "the negation of a negation is an affirmation;" these are the psychological (if not metaphysical) facts, on which the analysis of Parmenides and the philosophy of Hegel are both founded.

We may pass more rapidly by the succeeding dialogues of the series: the Theaetetus (already quoted from above, p. 89), which is a close and powerful investigation of the nature of knowledge on familiar Platonic lines; the Sophist, which is an analysis of fallacious reasoning; and the Statesman, which, under the guise of a dialectical search for the true ruler of men, represents once more Plato's ideal of government, and contrasts this with the ignorance and charlatanism of actual politics.

In relation to subsequent psychology, and more particularly to the logical system of Aristotle, these dialogues are extremely important. We may indeed say that the systematic logic of Aristotle, as contained in the Organon, is little more than an abstract {160} or digest of the logical theses of these dialogues. Definition and division, the nature and principle of classification, the theory of predication, the processes of induction and deduction, the classification and criticism of fallacies,—all these are to be found in them. The only addition really made by Aristotle was the systematic theory of the syllogism.

The Laws, the longest of Plato's works, seems to have been composed by him in the latest years of his long life, and was probably not published till after his death. It bears traces of its later origin in the less artful juncture of its parts, in the absence of humour, in the greater overloading of details, in the less graphic and appropriate characterisation of the speakers. These speakers are three—an Athenian, a Cretan, and a Spartan. A new colony is to be led forth from Crete, and the Cretan takes advice of the others as to the ordering of the new commonwealth. We are no longer, as in The Republic, in an ideal world, a city coming down from, or set in, the heavens. There is no longer a perfect community; nor are philosophers to be its kings. Laws more or less similar to those of Sparta fill about half the book. But the old spirit of obedience and self-sacrifice and community is not forgotten; and on all men and women, noble and humble alike, the duty is cast, to bear in common the common burden of life.


Thus, somewhat in sadness and decay, yet with a dignity and moral grandeur not unworthy of his life's high argument, the great procession of the Ideal Philosopher's dialogues closes.



PLATO (concluded)

Search for universals—The thoughts of God—God cause and consummation—Dying to earth—The Platonic education

If we attempt now, by way of appendix to this very inadequate summary of the dialogues, to give in brief review some account of the main doctrines of Plato, as they may be gathered from a general view of them, we are at once met by difficulties many and serious. In the case of a genius such as Plato's, at once ironical, dramatic, and allegorical, we cannot be absolutely certain that in any given passage Plato is expressing, at all events adequately and completely, his own personal views, even at the particular stage of his own mental development then represented. And when we add to this that in a long life of unceasing intellectual development, Plato inevitably grew out of much that once satisfied him, and attained not infrequently to new points of view even of doctrines or conceptions which remained essentially unchanged, a Platonic dogma in the strict sense must clearly not be expected. One may, however, attempt in rough outline to summarise the main {163} tendencies of his thought, without professing to represent its settled and authenticated results.


We may begin by an important summary of Plato's philosophy given by Aristotle (Met. A. 6): "In immediate succession to the Pythagorean and Eleatic philosophies came the work of Plato. In many respects his views coincided with these; in some respects, however, he is independent of the Italians. For in early youth he became a student of Cratylus and of the school of Heraclitus, and accepted from them the view that the objects of sense are in eternal flux, and that of these, therefore, there can be no absolute knowledge. Then came Socrates, who busied himself only with questions of morals, and not at all with the world of physics. But in his ethical inquiries his search was ever for universals, and he was the first to set his mind to the discovery of definitions. Plato following him in this, came to the conclusion that these universals could not belong to the things of sense, which were ever changing, but to some other kind of existences. Thus he came to conceive of universals as forms or ideas of real existences, by reference to which, and in consequence of analogies to which, the things of sense in every case received their names, and became thinkable objects."

From this it followed to Plato that in so far as the senses took an illusive appearance of themselves giving {164} the knowledge which really was supplied by reason as the organ of ideas, in the same degree the body which is the instrument of sense can only be a source of illusion and a hindrance to knowledge. The wise man, therefore, will seek to free himself from the bonds of the body, and die while he lives by philosophic contemplation, free as far as possible from the disturbing influence of the senses. This process of rational realisation Plato called Dialectic. The objects contemplated by the reason, brought into consciousness on the occurrence of sensible perception, but never caused by these, were not mere notions in the mind of the individual thinker, nor were they mere properties of individual things; this would be to make an end of science on the one hand, of reality on the other. Nor had they existence in any mere place, not even beyond the heavens. Their home was Mind, not this mind or that, but Mind Universal, which is God.

In these 'thoughts of God' was the root or essence which gave reality to the things of sense; they were the Unity which realised itself in multiplicity. It is because things partake of the Idea that we give them a name. The thing as such is seen, not known; the idea as such is known, not seen.


The whole conception of Plato in this connection is based on the assumption that there is such a thing as knowledge. If all things are ever in change, then knowledge is impossible; but conversely, if there is {165} such a thing as knowledge, then there must be a continuing object of knowledge; and beauty, goodness, [253] reality are then no dreams. The process of apprehension of these 'thoughts of God,' these eternal objects of knowledge, whether occasioned by sensation or not, is essentially a process of self-inquiry, or, as he in one stage called it, of Reminiscence. The process is the same in essence, whether going on in thought or expressed in speech; it is a process of naming. Not that names ever resemble realities fully; they are only approximations, limited by the conditions [254] of human error and human convention. There is nevertheless an inter-communion between ideas and things. We must neither go entirely with those who affirm the one (the Eleatics), nor with those who affirm the many (the Heracliteans), but accept both. There is a union in all that exists both of That Which Is, and of that concerning which all we can say is that it is Other than what is. This 'Other,' through union with what is, attains to being of a kind; while on the other hand, What Is by union with the 'Other' attains to variety, and thus more fully realises itself.


That which Plato here calls 'What Is' he elsewhere calls 'The Limiting or Defining'; the 'Other' he calls 'The Unlimited or Undefined.' Each has a function in the divine process. The thoughts of God attain realisation in the world of things which change and pass, through the infusion {166} of themselves in, or the superimposing of themselves upon, that which is Nothing apart from them,—the mere negation of what is, and yet necessary as the 'Other' or correlative of what is. Thus we get, in fact, four forms of existence: there is the Idea or Limiting (apart); there is the Negative or Unlimited (apart), there is the Union of the two (represented in language by subject and predicate), which as a whole is this frame of things as we know it; and fourthly, there is the Cause of the Union, which is God. And God is cause not only as the beginning of all things, but also as the measure and law of their perfection, and the end towards which they go. He is the Good, and the cause of Good, and the consummation and realisation of Good.

This absolute Being, this perfect Good, we cannot see, blinded as we are, like men that have been dwelling in a cave, by excess of light. We must, therefore, look on Him indirectly, as on an image of Him, in our own souls and in the world, in so far as in either we discern, by reason, that which is rational and good.


Thus God is not only the cause and the end of all good, He is also the cause and the end of all knowledge. Even as the sun is not only the most glorious of all visible objects, but is also the cause of the life and beauty of all other things, and the provider of the light whereby we see them, so also {167} is it for the eye of the soul. God is its light, God is the most glorious object of its contemplation, God we behold imaged forth in all the objects which the soul by reason contemplates.


The ideas whereof the 'Other' (or, as he again calls it, the 'Great and Small' or 'More and Less,' meaning that which is unnamable, or wholly neutral in character, and which may therefore be represented equally by contradictory attributes) by participation becomes a resemblance, Plato compared to the 'Numbers' of the Pythagoreans (cf. above, p. 25). Hence, Aristotle remarks (Met. A. 6), Plato found in the ideas the originative or formative Cause of things, that which made them what they were or could be called,—their Essence; in the 'Great and Small' he found the opposite principle or Matter (Raw Material) of things.

In this way the antithesis of Mind and Matter, whether on the great scale in creation or on the small in rational perception, is not an antithesis of unrelated opposition. Each is correlative of the other, so to speak as the male and the female; the one is generative, formative, active, positive; the other is capable of being impregnated, receptive, passive, negative; but neither can realise itself apart from the other.


This relation of 'Being' with that which is 'Other than Being' is Creation, wherein we can {168} conceive of the world as coming to be, yet not in [261] Time. And in the same way Plato speaks of a third form, besides the Idea and that which receives it, namely, 'Formless Space, the mother of all things.' As Kant might have formulated it, Time and Space are not prior to creation, they are forms under which creation becomes thinkable.


The 'Other' or Negative element, Plato more or less vaguely connected with the evil that is in the world. This evil we can never expect to perish utterly from the world; it must ever be here as the antithesis of the good. But with the gods it dwells not; here in this mortal nature, and in this region of mingling, it must of necessity still be found. The wise man will therefore seek to die to the evil, and while yet in this world of mortality, to think immortal things, and so as far as may be flee from the evil. Thereby shall he liken himself to the divine. For it is a likening to the divine to be just and holy and true.


This, then, is the summum bonum, the end of life. For as the excellence or end of any organ or instrument consists in that perfection of its parts, whereby each separately and the whole together work well towards the fulfilling of that which it is designed to accomplish, so the excellence of man must consist in a perfect ordering of all his parts to the perfect working of his whole organism as a {169} [276] rational being. The faculties of man are three: the Desire of the body, the Passion of the heart, the Thought of the soul; the perfect working of all three, Temperance, Courage, Wisdom, and consequently the perfect working of the whole man, is Righteousness. From this springs that ordered tranquillity which is at once true happiness and perfect virtue.


Yet since individual men are not self-sufficient, but have separate capacities, and a need of union for mutual help and comfort, the perfect realisation of this virtue can only be in a perfect civic [278] community. And corresponding with the three parts of the man there will be three orders in the community: the Workers and Traders, the Soldiers, and the Ruling or Guardian class. When all these perform their proper functions in perfect harmony, then is the perfection of the whole realised, in Civic Excellence or Justice.


To this end a careful civic education is necessary, first, because to know what is for the general good is difficult, for we have to learn not only in general but in detail that even the individual good can be secured only through the general; and second, because few, if any, are capable of seeking the general good, even if they know it, without the guidance of discipline and the restraints of law. Thus, with a view to its own perfection, and the good of all {170} its members, Education is the chief work of the State.

It will be remembered (see foregoing page) that in Plato's division of the soul of man there are three faculties, Desire, Passion, Reason; in the division of the soul's perfection three corresponding virtues, Temperance, Courage, Wisdom; and in the division of the state three corresponding orders, Traders, Soldiers, Guardians. So in Education there are three stages. First, Music (including all manner of artistic and refining influences), whose function it is so to attemper the desires of the heart that all animalism and sensualism may be eliminated, and only the love and longing for that which is lovely and of good report may remain. Second, Gymnastic, whose function it is through ordered labour and suffering so to subdue and rationalise the passionate part of the soul, that it may become the willing and obedient servant of that which is just and true. And third, Mathematics, by which the rational element of the soul may be trained to realise itself, being weaned, by the ordered apprehension of the 'diamond net' of laws which underlie all the phenomena of nature, away from the mere surface appearances of things, the accidental, individual, momentary,—to the deep-seated realities, which are necessary, universal, eternal.

And just as there was a perfectness of the soul {171} transcending all particular virtues, whether of Temperance or Courage or Wisdom, namely, that absolute Rightness or Righteousness which gathered them all into itself, so at the end of these three stages of education there is a higher mood of thought, wherein the soul, purified, chastened, enlightened, in communing with itself through Dialectic (the Socratic art of questioning transfigured) communes also with the Divine, and in thinking out its own deepest thoughts, thinks out the thoughts of the great Creator Himself, becomes one with Him, finds its final realisation through absorption into Him, and in His light sees light.




An unruly pupil—The philosopher's library—The predominance of Aristotle—Relation to Plato—The highest philosophy—Ideas and things—The true realism

Plato before his death bequeathed his Academy to his nephew Speusippus, who continued its president for eight years; and on his death the office passed to Xenocrates, who held it for twenty-five years. From him it passed in succession to Polemo, Crates, Crantor, and others. Plato was thus the founder of a school or sect of teachers who busied themselves with commenting, expanding, modifying here and there the doctrines of the master. Little of their works beyond the names has been preserved, and indeed we can hardly regret the loss. These men no doubt did much to popularise the thoughts of their master, and in this way largely influenced the later development of philosophy; but they had nothing substantial to add, and so the stern pruning-hook of time has cut them off from remembrance.


Aristotle was the son of a Greek physician, member of the colony of Stagira in Thrace. His father, Nicomachus by name, was a man of such {173} eminence in his profession as to hold the post of physician to Amyntas, king of Macedonia, father of Philip the subverter of Greek freedom. Not only was his father an expert physician, he was also a student of natural history, and wrote several works on the subject. We shall find that the fresh element which Aristotle brought to the Academic philosophy was in a very great measure just that minute attention to details and keen apprehension of vital phenomena which we may consider he inherited from his father. He was born 384 B.C., and on the death of his father, in his eighteenth year, he came to Athens, and became a student of philosophy under Plato, whose pupil he continued to be for twenty years,—indeed till the death of the master. That he, undoubtedly a far greater man than Speusippus or Xenocrates, should not have been nominated to the succession has been variously explained; he is said to have been lacking in respect and gratitude to the master; Plato is said to have remarked of him that he needed the curb as much as Xenocrates needed the spur. The facts really need no explanation. The original genius is never sufficiently subordinate and amenable to discipline. He is apt to be critical, to startle his easy-going companions with new and seemingly heterodox views, he is the 'ugly duckling' whom all the virtuous and commonplace brood must cackle {174} at. The Academy, when its great master died, was no place for Aristotle. He retired to Atarneus, a city of Mysia opposite to Lesbos, where a friend named Hermias was tyrant, and there he married Hermias' niece. After staying at Atarneus some three years he was invited by Philip, now king of Macedon, to undertake the instruction of his son Alexander, the future conqueror, who was then thirteen years old. He remained with Alexander for eight years, though of course he could hardly be regarded as Alexander's tutor during all that time, since Alexander at a very early age was called to take a part in public affairs. However a strong friendship was formed between the philosopher and the young prince, and in after years Alexander loaded his former master with benefits. Even while on his march of conquest through Asia he did not forget him, but sent him from every country through which he passed specimens which might help him in his projected History of Animals, as well as an enormous sum of money to aid him in his investigations.

After the death of Philip, Aristotle returned to Athens, and opened a school of philosophy on his own account in the Lyceum. Here some authorities tell us he lectured to his pupils while he paced up and down before them; hence the epithet applied to the school, the Peripatetics. Probably, however, the name is derived from the 'Peripati' or covered {175} walks in the neighbourhood of that temple in which he taught. He devoted his mornings to lectures of a more philosophical and technical character; to these only the abler and more advanced students were admitted. In the afternoons he lectured on subjects of a more popular kind—rhetoric, the art of politics, etc.—to larger audiences. Corresponding with this division, he also was in the habit of classifying his writings as Acroatic or technical, and Exoteric or popular. He accumulated a large library and museum, to which he contributed an astonishing number of works of his own, on every conceivable branch of knowledge.

The after history of Aristotle's library, including the MSS. of his own works, is interesting and even romantic. Aristotle's successor in the school was Theophrastus, who added to the library bequeathed him by Aristotle many works of his own, and others purchased by him. Theophrastus bequeathed the entire library to Neleus, his friend and pupil, who, on leaving Athens to reside at Scepsis in the Troad, took the library with him. There it remained for nearly two hundred years in possession of the Neleus family, who kept the collection hidden in a cellar for fear it should be seized to increase the royal library of Pergamus. In such a situation the works suffered much harm from worms and damp, till at last (circa 100 B.C.) they were brought out {176} and sold to one Apellicon, a rich gentleman resident in Athens, himself a member of the Peripatetic school. In 86 B.C. Sulla, the Roman dictator, besieged and captured Athens, and among other prizes conveyed the library of Apellicon to Rome, and thus many of the most important works of Aristotle for the first time were made known to the Roman and Alexandrian schools. It is a curious circumstance that the philosopher whose influence was destined to be paramount for more than a thousand years in the Christian era, was thus deprived by accident of his legitimate importance in the centuries immediately following his own.

But his temporary and accidental eclipse was amply compensated in the effect upon the civilised world which he subsequently exercised. So all-embracing, so systematic, so absolutely complete did his philosophy appear, that he seemed to after generations to have left nothing more to discover. He at once attained a supremacy which lasted for some two thousand years, not only over the Greek-speaking world, but over every form of the civilisation of that long period, Greek, Roman, Syrian, Arabic, from the Euphrates to the Atlantic, from Africa to Britain. His authority was accepted equally by the learned doctors of Moorish Cordova and the Fathers of the Church; to know Aristotle was to have all {177} knowledge; not to know him was to be a boor; to deny him was to be a heretic.

His style has nothing of the grace of Plato; he illuminates his works with no myths or allegories; his manner is dry, sententious, familiar, without the slightest attempt at ornament. There are occasional touches of caustic humour, but nothing of emotion, still less of rhapsody. His strength lies in the vast architectonic genius by which he correlates every domain of the knowable in a single scheme, and in the extraordinary faculty for illustrative detail with which he fills the scheme in every part. He knows, and can shrewdly criticise every thinker and writer who has preceded him; he classifies them as he classifies the mental faculties, the parts of logical speech, the parts of sophistry, the parts of rhetoric, the parts of animals, the parts of the soul, the parts of the state; he defines, distinguishes, combines, classifies, with the same sureness and minuteness of method in them all. He can start from a general conception, expand it into its parts, separate these again by distinguishing details till he brings the matter down to its lowest possible terms, or infimae species. Or he can start from these, find analogies among them constituting more general species, and so in ascending scale travel surely up to a general conception, or summum genus.

In his general conception of philosophy he was {178} to a large extent in agreement with Plato; but he endeavoured to attain to a more technical precision; he sought to systematise into greater completeness; he pared off everything which he considered merely metaphorical or fanciful, and therefore non-essential. The operations of nature, the phenomena of life, were used in a much fuller and more definite way to illustrate or even formulate the theory; but in its main ideas Aristotle's philosophy is Plato's philosophy. The one clothed it in poetry, the other in formulae; the one had a more entrancing vision, the other a clearer and more exact apprehension; but there is no essential divergence.

Aristotle's account of the origin or foundation of [300] philosophy is as follows (Met. A. 2): "Wonder is and always has been the first incentive to philosophy. At first men wondered at what puzzled them near at hand, then by gradual advance they came to notice and wonder at things still greater, as at the phases of the moon, the eclipses of sun and moon, the wonders of the stars, and the origin of the universe. Now he who is puzzled and in a maze regards himself as a know-nothing; wherefore the philosopher is apt to be fond of wondrous tales or myths. And inasmuch as it was a consciousness of ignorance that drove men to philosophy, it is for the correction of this ignorance, and not for any material utility, that the pursuit of knowledge exists. Indeed it is, {179} as a rule, only when all other wants are well supplied that, by way of ease and recreation, men turn to this inquiry. And thus, since no satisfaction beyond itself is sought by philosophy, we speak of it as we speak of the freeman. We call that man free whose existence is for himself and not for another; so also philosophy is of all the sciences the only one that is free, for it alone exists for itself.

"Moreover, this philosophy, which is the investigation of the first causes of things, is the most truly educative among the sciences. For instructors are persons who show us the causes of things. And knowledge for the sake of knowledge belongs most properly to that inquiry which deals with what is most truly a matter of knowledge. For he who is seeking knowledge for its own sake will choose to have that knowledge which most truly deserves the name, the knowledge, namely, of what most truly appertains to knowledge. Now the things that most truly appertain to knowledge are the first causes; for in virtue of one's possession of these, and by deduction from these, all else comes to be known; we do not come to know them through what is inferior to them and underlying them. . . . The wise man ought therefore to know not only those things which are the outcome and product of first causes, he must be possessed of the truth as to the first causes themselves. And wisdom indeed is just this {180} thoughtful science, a science of what is highest, not truncated of its head."


"To the man, therefore, who has in fullest measure this knowledge of universals, all knowledge must lie to hand; for in a way he knows all that underlies them. Yet in a sense these universals are what men find hardest to apprehend, because they stand at the furthest extremity from the perceptions of sense."


"Yet if anything exist which is eternal, immovable, freed from gross matter, the contemplative science alone can apprehend this. Physical science certainly cannot, for physics is of that which is ever in flux; nor can mathematical science apprehend it; we must look to a mode of science prior to and higher than both. The objects of physics are neither unchangeable nor free from matter; the objects of mathematics are indeed unchangeable, but we can hardly say they are free from matter; they have certainly relations with matter. But the first and highest science has to do with that which is unmoved and apart from matter; its function is with the eternal first causes of things. There are therefore three modes of theoretical inquiry: the science of physics, the science of mathematics, the science of God. For it is clear that if the divine is anywhere, it must be in that form of existence I have spoken of (i.e. in first causes). . . . If, therefore, there be {181} any form of existence immovable, this we must regard as prior, and the philosophy of this we must consider the first philosophy, universal for the same reason that it is first. It deals with existence as such, inquiring what it is and what are its attributes as pure existence."

This is somewhat more technical than the language of Plato, but if we compare it with what was said above (p. 142) we shall find an essential identity. Yet Aristotle frequently impugns Plato's doctrine of ideas, sometimes on the lines already [322] taken by Plato himself (above, p. 158), sometimes in other ways. Thus (Met. Z. 15, 16) he says: "That which is one cannot be in many places at one time, but that which is common or general is in many places at one time. Hence it follows that no universal exists apart from the individual things. But those who hold the doctrine of ideas, on one side are right, viz. in maintaining their separate existence, if they are to be substances or existences at all. On the other side they are wrong, because by the idea or form which they maintain to be separate they mean the one attribute predicable of many things. The reason why they do this is because they cannot indicate what these supposed imperishable essences are, apart from the individual substances which are the objects of perception. The result is that they simply represent them under the same forms as {182} those of the perishable objects of sensation which are familiar to our senses, with the addition of a phrase—i.e. they say 'man as such,' 'horse as such,' or 'the absolute man,' 'the absolute horse.'"

Aristotle here makes a point against Plato and his school, inasmuch as, starting from the assumption that of the world of sense there could be no knowledge, no apprehension fixed or certain, and setting over against this a world of general forms which were fixed and certain, they had nothing with which to fill this second supposed world except the data of sense as found in individuals. Plato's mistake was in confusing the mere 'this,' which is the conceived starting-point of any sensation, but which, like a mathematical point, has nothing which can be said about it, with individual objects as they exist and are known in all the manifold and, in fact, infinite relations of reality. The bare subject 'this' presents at the one extreme the same emptiness, the same mere possibility of knowledge, which is presented at the other by the bare predicate 'is.' But Plato, having an objection to the former, as representing to him the merely physical and therefore the passing and unreal, clothes it for the nonce in the various attributes which are ordinarily associated with it when we say, 'this man,' 'this horse,' only to strip them off successively as data of sensation, and so at last get, by an illusory process of {183} abstraction and generalisation, to the ultimate generality of being, which is the mere 'is' of bare predication converted into a supposed eternal substance.

Aristotle was as convinced as Plato that there must be some fixed and immovable object or reality corresponding to true and certain knowledge, but with his scientific instincts he was not content to have it left in a condition of emptiness, attractive enough to the more emotional and imaginative Plato. And hence we have elsewhere quite as strong and definite statements as those quoted above about universals [316] (p. 180), to the effect that existence is in the fullest and most real sense to be predicated of individual things, and that only in a secondary sense can existence be predicated of universals, in virtue of their being found in individual things. Moreover, among universals the species, he maintains, has more of existence in it than the genus, because it is nearer to the individual or primary existence. For if you predicate of an individual thing of what species it is, you supply a statement more full of information and more closely connected with the thing than if you predicate to what genus it belongs; for example, if asked, "What is this?" and you answer, "A man," you give more information than if you say, "A living creature."

How did Aristotle reconcile these two points of {184} view, the one, in which he conceives thought as starting from first causes, the most universal objects of knowledge, and descending to particulars; the other, in which thought starts from the individual objects, and predicates of them by apprehension of their properties? The antithesis is no accidental one; on the contrary, it is the governing idea of his Logic, with its ascending process or Induction, and its descending process or Syllogism. Was thought a mere process in an unmeaning circle, the 'upward and downward way' of Plato?

As to this we may answer first that while formally Aristotle displays much the same 'dualism' or unreconciled separation of the 'thing' and the 'idea' as Plato, his practical sense and his scientific instincts led him to occupy himself largely not with either the empty 'thing' or the equally empty 'idea,' but with the true individuals, which are at the same time the true universals, namely, real objects as known, having, so far as they are known, certain forms or categories under which you can class them, having, so far as they are not yet fully known, a certain raw material for further inquiry through observation. In this way Thought and Matter, instead of being in eternal and irreconcilable antagonism as the Real and the Unreal, become parts of the same reality, the first summing up the knowledge of things already attained, the second symbolising the infinite {185} [317] possibilities of further ascertainment. And thus the word 'Matter' is applied by Aristotle to the highest genus, as the relatively indefinite compared with the more fully defined species included under it; it is also applied by him to the individual object, in so far as that object contains qualities not yet fully brought into predication.


And second, we observe that Aristotle introduced a new conception which to his view established a vital relation between the universal and the individual. This conception he formulated in the correlatives, Potentiality and Actuality. With these he closely connected the idea of Final Cause. The three to Aristotle constituted a single reality; they are organically correlative. In a living creature we find a number of members or organs all closely interdependent and mutually conditioning each other. Each has its separate function, yet none of them can perform its particular function well unless all the others are performing theirs well, and the effect of the right performance of function by each is to enable the others also to perform theirs. The total result of all these mutually related functions is Life; this is their End or Final Cause, which does not exist apart from them, but is constituted at every moment by them. This Life is at the same time the condition on which alone each and every one of the functions constituting it can be performed. Thus {186} life in an organism is at once the end and the middle and the beginning; it is the cause final, the cause formal, the cause efficient. Life then is an Entelechy, as Aristotle calls it, by which he means the realisation in unity of the total activities exhibited in the members of the living organism.

In such an existence every part is at once a potentiality and an actuality, and so also is the whole. We can begin anywhere and travel out from that point to the whole; we can take the whole and find in it all the parts.



ARISTOTLE (continued)

Realisation and reminiscence—The crux of philosophy—Reason in education—The chief good—Origin of communities

If we look closely at this conception of Aristotle's we shall see that it has a nearer relation to the Platonic doctrine of Ideas, and even to the doctrine of Reminiscence, than perhaps even Aristotle himself realised. The fundamental conception of Plato, it will be remembered, is that of an eternally existing 'thought of God,' in manifold forms or 'ideas,' which come into the consciousness of men in connection with or on occasion of sensations, which are therefore in our experience later than the sensations, but which we nevertheless by reason recognise as necessarily prior to the sensations, inasmuch as it is through these ideas alone that the sensations are knowable or namable at all. Thus the final end for man is by contemplation and 'daily dying to the world of sense,' to come at last into the full inheritance in conscious knowledge of that 'thought of God' which was latent from the first in his soul, and of which in its fulness God Himself is eternally and necessarily possessed.



This is really Aristotle's idea, only Plato expresses it rather under a psychological, Aristotle under a vital, formula. God, Aristotle says, is eternally and necessarily Entelechy, absolute realisation. To us, that which is first in time (the individual perception) is not first in essence, or absolutely. What is first in essence or absolutely, is the universal, that is, the form or idea, the datum of reason. And this distinction between time and the absolute, between our individual experience and the essential or ultimate reality, runs all through the philosophy of Aristotle. The 'Realisation' of Aristotle is the 'Reminiscence' of Plato.

This conception Aristotle extended to Thought, to the various forms of life, to education, to morals, to politics.

Thought is an entelechy, an organic whole, in which every process conditions and is conditioned by every other. If we begin with sensation, the sensation, blank as regards predication, has relations to that which is infinitely real,—the object, the real thing before us,—which relations science will never exhaust. If we start from the other end, with the datum of thought, consciousness, existence, mind, this is equally blank as regards predication, yet it has relations to another existence infinitely real,—the subject that thinks,—which relations religion and morality and sentiment and love will never exhaust. Or, as {189} Aristotle and as common sense prefers to do, if we, with our developed habits of thought and our store of accumulated information, choose to deal with things from a basis midway between the two extremes, in the ordinary way of ordinary people, we shall find both processes working simultaneously and in organic correlation. That is to say, we shall be increasing the individuality of the objects known, by the operation of true thought and observation in the discovery of new characters or qualities in them; we shall be increasing by the same act the generality of the objects known, by the discovery of new relations, new genera under which to bring them. Individualisation and generalisation are only opposed, as mutually conditioning factors of the same organic function.


This analysis of thought must be regarded rather as a paraphrase of Aristotle than as a literal transcript. He is hesitating and obscure, and at times apparently self-contradictory. He has not, any more than Plato, quite cleared himself of the confusion between the mutually contrary individual and universal in propositions, and the organically correlative individual and universal in things as known. But on the whole the tendency of his analysis is towards an apprehension of the true realism, which neither denies matter in favour of mind nor mind in favour of matter, but recognises that both mind and matter are organically correlated, and ultimately identical.


The crux of philosophy, so far as thus apprehended by Aristotle, is no longer in the supposed dualism of mind and matter, but there is a crux still. What is the meaning of this 'Ultimately'? Or, putting it in Aristotle's formula, Why this relation of potentiality and actuality? Why this eternal coming to be, even if the coming to be is no unreasoned accident, but a coming to be of that which is vitally or in germ there? Or theologically, Why did God make the world? Why this groaning and travailing of the creature? Why this eternal 'By and by' wherein all sin is to disappear, all sorrow to be consoled, all the clashings and the infinite deceptions of life to be stilled and satisfied? An illustration of Aristotle's attempt to answer this question will be given later on (p. 201). That the answer is a failure need not surprise us. If we even now 'see only as in a glass darkly' on such a question, we need not blame Plato or Aristotle for not seeing 'face to face.'


Life is an entelechy, not only abstractedly, as already shown (above, p. 186), but in respect of the varieties of its manifestations. We pass from the elementary life of mere growth common to plants and animals, to the animal life of impulse and sensation, thence we rise still higher to the life of rational action which is the peculiar function of man. Each is a potentiality to that which is immediately above it; in {191} other words, each contains in germ the possibilities which are realised in that stage which is higher. Thus is there a touch of nature which makes the whole world kin, a purpose running through all the manifestations of life; each is a preparation for something higher.


Education is in like manner an entelechy. For what is the differentia, the distinguishing character of the life of man? Aristotle answers, the possession of reason. It is the action of reason upon the desires that raises the life of man above the brutes. This, observe, is not the restraining action of something wholly alien to the desires, which is too often how Plato represents the matter. This would be to lose the dynamic idea. The desires, as Aristotle generally conceives them, are there in the animal life, prepared, so to speak, to receive the organic perfection which reason alone can give them. Intellect, on the other hand, is equally in need of the desires, for thought without desire cannot supply motive. If intellect is logos or reason, desire is that which is fitted to be obedient to reason.

It will be remembered that the question to which Plato addressed himself in one of his earlier dialogues, already frequently referred to, the Meno, was the teachableness of Virtue; in that dialogue he comes to the conclusion that Virtue is teachable, but that there are none capable of teaching it; for the {192} wise men of the time are guided not by knowledge but by right opinion, or by a divine instinct which is incommunicable. Plato is thus led to seek a machinery of education, and it is with a view to this that he constructs his ideal Republic. Aristotle took up this view of the state as educative of the individual citizens, and brought it under the dynamic formula. In the child reason is not actual; there is no rational law governing his acts, these are the immediate result of the strongest impulse. Yet only when a succession of virtuous acts has formed the virtuous habit can a man be said to be truly good. How is this process to begin? The answer is that the reason which is only latent or dynamic in the child is actual or realised in the parent or teacher, or generally in the community which educates the child. The law at first then is imposed on the child from without, it has an appearance of unnaturalness, but only an appearance. For the law is there in the child, prepared, as he goes on in obedience, gradually to answer from within to the summons from without, till along with the virtuous habit there emerges also into the consciousness of the child, no longer a child but a man, the apprehension of the law as his own truest nature.

These remarks on education are sufficient to show that in Morals also, as conceived by Aristotle, there is a law of vital development. It may be {193} sufficient by way of illustration to quote the introductory sentences of Aristotle's Ethics, in which the question of the nature of the chief good is, in his usual tentative manner, discussed: "If there be any end of what we do which we desire for itself, while all other ends are desired for it, that is, if we do not in every case have some ulterior end (for if that were so we should go on to infinity, and our efforts would be vain and useless), this ultimate end desired for itself will clearly be the chief good and the ultimate best. Now since every activity, whether of knowing or doing, aims at some good, it is for us to settle what the good is which the civic activity aims at,—what, in short, is the ultimate end of all 'goods' connected with conduct? So far as the name goes all are pretty well agreed as to the answer; gentle and simple alike declare it to be happiness, involving, however, in their minds on the one hand well-living, on the other hand, well-doing. When you ask them, however, to define this happiness more exactly, you find that opinions are divided, and the many and the philosophers have different answers.

"But if you ask a musician or a sculptor or any man of skill, any person, in fact, who has some special work and activity, what the chief good is for him, he will tell you that the chief good is in the work well done. If then man has any special work or function, we may assume that the chief good for man {194} will be in the well-doing of that function. What now is man's special function? It cannot be mere living, for that he has in common with plants, and we are seeking what is peculiar to him. The mere life of nurture and growth must therefore be put on one side. We come next to life as sensitive to pleasure and pain. But this man shares with the horse, the ox, and other animals. What remains is the life of action of a reasonable being. Now of reason as it is in man there are two parts, one obeying, one possessing and considering. And there are also two aspects in which the active or moral life may be taken, one potential, one actual. Clearly for our definition of the chief good we must take the moral life in its full actual realisation, since this is superior to the other.

"If our view thus far be correct, it follows that the chief good for man consists in the full realisation and perfection of the life of man as man, in accordance with the specific excellence belonging to that life, and if there be more specific excellences than one, then in accordance with that excellence which is the best and the most rounded or complete. We must add, however, the qualification, 'in a rounded life.' For one swallow does not make a summer, nor yet one day. And so one day or some brief period of attainment is not sufficient to make a man happy and blest."


The close relation of this to the teaching of Socrates and Plato need hardly be insisted on, or the way in which he correlates their ideas with his own conception of an actualised perfection.


Aristotle then proceeds to a definition of the 'specific excellence' or virtue of man, which is to be the standard by which we decide how far he has fully and perfectly realised the possibilities of his being. To this end he distinguishes in man's nature three modes of existence: first, feelings such as joy, pain, anger; second, potentialities or capacities for such feelings; third, habits which are built upon these potentialities, but with an element of reason or deliberation superadded. He has no difficulty in establishing that the virtue of man must be a habit. And the test of the excellence of that habit, as of every other developed capacity, will be twofold; it will make the worker good, it will cause him to produce good work.

So far Aristotle's analysis of virtue is quite on the lines of his general philosophy. Here, however, he diverges into what seems at first a curiously mechanical conception. Pointing out that in everything quantitative there are two extremes conceivable, and a mean or average between them, he proceeds to define virtue as a mean between two extremes, a mean, however, having relation to no mere numerical standard, but having reference to us. In this last {196} qualification he perhaps saves his definition from its mechanical turn, while he leaves himself scope for much curious and ingenious observation on the several virtues regarded as means between two extremes. He further endeavours to save it by adding, that it is "defined by reason, and as the wise man would define it."

Reason then, as the impersonal ruler,—the wise man, as the personification of reason,—this is the standard of virtue, and therefore also of happiness. How then shall we escape an externality in our standard, divesting it of that binding character which comes only when the law without is also recognised and accepted as the law within? The answer of Aristotle, as of his predecessors, is that this will be brought about by wise training and virtuous surroundings, in short, by the civic community being itself good and happy. Thus we get another dynamic relation; for regarded as a member of the body politic each individual becomes a potentiality along with all the other members, conditioned by the state of which he and they are members, brought gradually into harmony with the reason which is in the state, and in the process realising not his own possibilities only, but those of the community also, which exists only in and through its members. Thus each and all, in so far as they realise their own well-being by the perfect development of the virtuous {197} habit in their lives, contribute ipso facto to the supreme end of the state, which is the perfect realisation of the whole possibilities of the total organism, and consequently of every member of it.

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