Lucretius has been called Rome’s only great speculative genius. This is, of course, absurd. A talent for lucid ex101position does not constitute speculative genius, especially when it is unaccompanied by any ability to criticise the opinions expounded. The author of the De Rerum Natura probably had a lawyer’s education. He certainly exhibits great forensic skill in speaking from his brief. But Cicero and Seneca showed the same skill on a much more extensive scale; and the former in particular was immensely superior to Lucretius in knowledge and argumentative power. Besides, the poet, who was certainly not disposed to hide his light under a bushel, and who exalts his own artistic excellences in no measured terms, never professes to be anything but a humble interpreter of truths first revealed to his Greek instructor’s vivid intellect. It has, indeed, been claimed for Lucretius that he teaches a higher wisdom than his acknowledged guide.195 This assertion is, however, not borne out by a careful comparison between the two.196 In both there is the same theory of the universe, of man, and of the relations connecting them with one another. The idea of Nature in Lucretius shows no advance over the same idea in Epicurus. To each it expresses, not, as with the Stoics, a unifying power, a design by which all things work together for the best, but simply the conditions of a permanent mechanical aggregation. When Lucretius speaks of foedera Naturai, he means, not what we understand by laws of nature, that is, uniformities of causation underlying all phenomenal differences, to understand which is an exaltation of human dignity through the added power of prevision and control which it bestows, but rather the limiting possibilities of existence, the barriers against which human hopes and aspirations dash themselves in vain—an objective logic which guards us against fallacies instead of enabling us to arrive at positive conclusions. We have here the pervadingly negative character of Epicureanism,102 though probably presented with something of Roman solemnity and sternness. The idea of individuality, with which Lucretius has also been credited, occupies but a small place in his exposition, and seems to have interested him only as a particular aspect of the atomic theory. The ultimate particles of matter must be divided into unlike groups of units, for otherwise we could not explain the unlikenesses exhibited by sensible objects. This is neither the original Greek idea, that every man has his own life to lead, irrespective of public opinion or arbitrary convention; nor is it the modern delight in Nature’s inexhaustible variety as opposed to the poverty of human invention, or to the restrictions of fashionable taste. Nor can we admit that Lucretius developed Epicurean philosophy in the direction of increased attention to the external world. The poet was, no doubt, a consummate observer, and he used his observations with wonderful felicity for the elucidation and enforcement of his philosophical reasoning; but in this respect he has been equalled or surpassed by other poets who either knew nothing of systematic philosophy, or, like Dante, were educated in a system as unlike as possible to that of Epicurus. There is, therefore, every reason for assuming that he saw and described phenomena not by virtue of his scientific training, but by virtue of his artistic endowment. And the same may be said of the other points in which he is credited with improvements on his master’s doctrine. There is, no doubt, a strong consciousness of unity, of individuality, and of law running through his poem. But it is under the form of intuitions or contemplations, not under the form of speculative ideas that they are to be found. And, as will be presently shown, it is not as attributes of Nature but as attributes of life that they present themselves to his imagination. 兵阻
The analogy may be carried even farther. If Plato regarded the things of sense as not merely a veil, but an imperfect imitation of the only true realities; so also did Aristotle represent the sublunary elements as copying the disposition and activities of the ethereal spheres. They too have their concentric arrangements—first fire, then air, then water, and lastly earth in the centre; while their perpetual transformation into one another presents an image in time of the spatial rotation which those sublime beings perform. And although we think that Sir A. Grant is quite mistaken in identifying Aristotle’s Supreme Mind with the Idea of Good, there can be no doubt of its having been suggested by that Idea. It is, in fact, the translation of Plato’s abstraction into concrete reality, and the completion of a process which Plato356 had himself begun. From another point of view we may say that both master and disciple were working, each in his own way, at the solution of a problem which entirely dominates Greek philosophy from Empedocles on—the reconciliation of Parmenides and Heracleitus, Being and Becoming, the eternal and the changeful, the one and the many. Aristotle adopts the superficial, external method of placing the two principles side by side in space; and for a long time the world accepted his solution for the same reason that had commended it to his own acceptance, its apparent agreement with popular tradition and with the facts of experience. It must be confessed, however, that here also he was following the lines laid down by Plato. The Timaeus and the Laws are marked by a similar tendency to substitute astronomy for dialectics, to study the celestial movements with religious veneration, to rebuild on a scientific basis that ancient star-worship which, even among the Greeks, enjoyed a much higher authority and prestige than the humanised mythology of the poets. But for Christianity this star-worship would probably have become the official faith of the Roman world. As it is, Dante’s great poem presents us with a singular compromise between the two creeds. The crystalline spheres are retained, only they have become the abode of glorified spirits instead of being the embodiment of eternal gods. We often hear it said that the Copernican system was rejected as offensive to human pride, because it removed the earth from the centre of the universe. This is a profound mistake. Its offence was to degrade the heavenly bodies by assimilating them to the earth.254 Among several planets, all revolving round the sun, there could not be any marked qualitative difference. In the theological sense there was no longer any heaven; and with the disappearance of the solid357 sidereal sphere there was no longer any necessity for a Prime Mover. 如一 66 These reflections are offered, not in excuse but in explanation of Athenian intolerance, a phenomenon for the rest unparalleled in ancient Greece. We cannot say that men were then, or ever have been, logically obliged to choose between atheism and superstition. If instead of using Nous as a half-contemptuous nickname for the Clazomenian stranger,D his contemporaries had taken the trouble to understand what Nous really meant, they might have found in it the possibility of a deep religious significance; they might have identified it with all that was best and purest in their own guardian goddess Athênê; have recognised it as the very foundation of their own most characteristic excellences. But vast spiritual revolutions are not so easily accomplished; and when, before the lapse of many years, Nous was again presented to the Athenian people, this time actually personified as an Athenian citizen, it was again misunderstood, again rejected, and became the occasion for a display of the same persecuting spirit, unhappily pushed to a more fatal extreme.
The history of Greek philosophy, whether conceived in this comprehensive sense or as an erudite investigation into matters of detail, is a province which the Germans have made peculiarly their own; and, among German scholars, Dr. Zeller is the one who has treated it with most success. My obligations to his great work are sufficiently shown by the copious references to it which occur throughout the following pages. It is in those instances—and they are, unfortunately, very numerous—where our knowledge of particular philosophers and of their opinions rests on fragmentary or second-hand information, that I have found his assistance most valuable. This has especially been the case with reference to the pre-Socratic schools, the minor successors of Socrates, the earlier Stoics, the Sceptics, and the later Pythagoreans. I must, however, guard against the supposition that my work is, in any respect, a popularisation or abridgment of Zeller’s. To popularise Zeller would, indeed, be an impertinence, for nothing can be more luminous and interesting than his style and general mode of exposition. Nor am I playing the part of a finder to a large telescope; for my point of view by no means coincides with that of the learned German historian. Thus, while my limits have obliged me to be content with a very summary treatment of many topics which he has discussed at length, there are others, and those, in my opinion, not the least important, to which he has given less space than will be found allotted to them here. On several questions, also, I have ventured to controvert his opinions, notably with reference to the Sophists, Socrates, Aristotle, and Plotinus. My general way of looking at the Greeks and their philosophy also differs from his. And the reasons which have led me to follow an independent course in this respect involve considerixations of such interest and importance, that I shall take the liberty of specifying them in some detail. 间的 It remains to add a few words on the position which ancient and modern philosophy respectively occupy towards theology. Here their relation is one of contrast rather than of resemblance. The Greek thinkers start at an immense distance from religious belief, and their first allusions to it are marked by a scornful denial of its validity. Gradually, with the transition from physical to ethical enquiries, an approximation between the two is brought about, though not without occasional returns to their former attitude of hostility. Finally, in presence of a common danger they become interwoven and almost identified with one another; while the new religion against which they make common cause, itself presents the same spectacle of metaphysical and moral ideas entering into combination with the spontaneous products of popular mythology. And be it observed that throughout the whole of this process action and reaction were equal and contrary. The decline and corruption of philosophy was the price paid for the elevation and purification of religion. While the one was constantly sinking, the other was constantly rising, until they converged on the plane of dogmatic theology. By the very circumstances of the case, an opposite course has been imposed on the development of modern philosophy. Starting from an intimate union with religion, it slowly disengages itself from the compromising alliance; and, although, here also, the normal course of ideas has been interrupted by frequent reactions, the general movement of European thought has been no less decidedly towards a complete emancipation from the popular beliefs than the movement of Greek thought had been towards their conciliation and support. Having proved, to his satisfaction, that the nature of things is unknowable, Pyrrho proceeds to deal with the two remaining heads of the philosophic problem. To the question what should be our relation to a universe which we cannot reach, the answer is, naturally, one of total indifference. And the advantage to be derived from this attitude is, he tells us, that we shall secure the complete imperturbability wherein true happiness consists. The sceptical philosophy does not agree with Stilpo in denying the reality of actual and immediate annoyances, for it denies nothing; but it professes to dispel that very large amount of unhappiness which arises from the pursuit of fancied goods and the expectation of future calamities. In respect to the latter, what Pyrrho sought was to arrive by the exercise of reasoning at the tranquillity which unreasoning animals naturally enjoy. Thus, we are told that, when out at sea in a storm, he called the attention of the terrified passengers to a little pig which was quietly feeding in spite of the danger, and taught them that the wise man should attain to a similar kind of composure.
的一 Nor was this all. Laws and justice once established would65 require to have their origin accounted for, and, according to the usual genealogical method of the early Greeks, would be described as children of the gods, who would thus be interested in their welfare, and would avenge their violation—a stage of reflection already reached in the Works and Days of Hesiod. There still remained one form of government to be tried, the despotic rule of a single individual. In the course of his travels Plato came into contact with an able and powerful specimen of the tyrant class, the elder Dionysius. A number of stories relating to their intercourse have been preserved; but the different versions disagree very widely, and none of them can be entirely trusted. It seems certain, however, that Plato gave great offence to the tyrant by his freedom of speech, that he narrowly escaped death, and that he was sold into slavery, from which condition he was redeemed by the generosity of Anniceris, a Cyrenaean philosopher. It is supposed that the scathing description in which Plato has196 held up to everlasting infamy the unworthy possessor of absolute power—a description long afterwards applied by Tacitus to the vilest of the Roman emperors—was suggested by the type which had come under his own observation in Sicily.”
III. 看人 An unrighteous gain. That Aenesidêmus held this view is stated as a fact by Sextus, whose testimony is here corroborated by Tertullian, or rather by Tertullian’s informant, Soranus. We find, however, that Zeller, who formerly accepted the statement in question as true, has latterly seen reason to reject it.188 Aenesidêmus cannot, he thinks, have been guilty of so great an inconsistency as to base his Scepticism on the dogmatic physics of Heracleitus. And he explains the agreement of the ancient authorities by supposing that the original work of Aenesidêmus contained a critical account of the Heracleitean theory, that this was misinterpreted into an expression of his adhesion to it by Soranus, and that the blunder was adopted at second-hand by both Sextus and Tertullian.299”