If Zeller’s semi-Hegelian theory of history does scant justice to the variety and complexity of causes determining the evolution of philosophy, it also draws away attention from the ultimate elements, the matter, in an Aristotelian sense, of which that evolution consists. By this I mean the development of particular ideas as distinguished from thexvii systems into which they enter as component parts. Often the formation of a system depends on an accidental combination of circumstances, and therefore cannot be brought under any particular law of progress, while the ideas out of which it is constructed exhibit a perfectly regular advance on the form under which they last appeared. Others, again, are characterised by a remarkable fixity which enables them to persist unchanged through the most varied combinations and the most protracted intervals of time. But when each system is regarded as, so to speak, an organic individual, the complete and harmonious expression of some one phase of thought, and the entire series of systems as succeeding one another in strict logical order according to some simple law of evolution, there will be a certain tendency to regard the particular elements of each as determined by the character of the whole to which they belong, rather than by their intrinsic nature and antecedent history. And I think it is owing to this limitation of view that Zeller has not illustrated, so fully as could be desired, the subtler references by which the different schools of philosophy are connected with one another and also with the literature of their own and other times. 炯炯 It is probable, however, that Aristotle’s partiality was determined more by the systematising and analytical character of his own genius than by the public opinion of his age; or rather, the same tendency was at work in philosophy and in art at the same time, and the theories of the one were unconsciously pre-adapted to the productions of the other. In both there was a decay of penetration and of originality, of life and of inspiration; in both a great development of whatever could be obtained by technical proficiency; in both an extension of surface at the expense of depth, a gain of fluency, and a loss of force. But poetry lost far more than philosophy by the change; and so the works of the one have perished while the works of the other have survived. 72 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.
We have this great advantage in dealing with Plato—that his philosophical writings have come down to us entire, while the thinkers who preceded him are known only through fragments and second-hand reports. Nor is the difference merely accidental. Plato was the creator of speculative literature, properly so called: he was the first and also the greatest artist that ever clothed abstract thought in language of appropriate majesty and splendour; and it is probably to their beauty of form that we owe the preservation of his writings. Rather unfortunately, however, along with the genuine works of the master, a certain number of pieces have been handed down to us under his name, of which some are almost universally admitted to be spurious, while the authenticity of others is a question on which the best scholars are still divided. In the absence of any very cogent external evidence, an immense amount of industry and learning has been expended on this subject, and the arguments employed on both sides sometimes make us doubt whether the reasoning powers of philologists are better developed than, according to Plato, were those of mathematicians in his time. The176 two extreme positions are occupied by Grote, who accepts the whole Alexandrian canon, and Krohn, who admits nothing but the Republic;115 while much more serious critics, such as Schaarschmidt, reject along with a mass of worthless compositions several Dialogues almost equal in interest and importance to those whose authenticity has never been doubted. The great historian of Greece seems to have been rather undiscriminating both in his scepticism and in his belief; and the exclusive importance which he attributed to contemporary testimony, or to what passed for such with him, may have unduly biassed his judgment in both directions. As it happens, the authority of the canon is much weaker than Grote imagined; but even granting his extreme contention, our view of Plato’s philosophy would not be seriously affected by it, for the pieces which are rejected by all other critics have no speculative importance whatever. The case would be far different were we to agree with those who impugn the genuineness of the Parmenides, the Sophist, the Statesman, the Philêbus, and the Laws; for these compositions mark a new departure in Platonism amounting to a complete transformation of its fundamental principles, which indeed is one of the reasons why their authenticity has been denied. Apart, however, from the numerous evidences of Platonic authorship furnished by the Dialogues themselves, as well as by the indirect references to them in Aristotle’s writings, it seems utterly incredible that a thinker scarcely, if at all, inferior to the master himself—as the supposed imitator must assuredly have been—should have consented to let his reasonings pass current under a false name, and that, too, the name of one whose teaching he in some respects controverted; while there is a further difficulty in assuming that his existence could pass unnoticed at a period marked by intense literary and philosophical activity. Readers who177 wish for fuller information on the subject will find in Zeller’s pages a careful and lucid digest of the whole controversy leading to a moderately conservative conclusion. Others will doubtless be content to accept Prof. Jowett’s verdict, that ‘on the whole not a sixteenth part of the writings which pass under the name of Plato, if we exclude the works rejected by the ancients themselves, can be fairly doubted by those who are willing to allow that a considerable change and growth may have taken place in his philosophy.’116 To which we may add that the Platonic dialogues, whether the work of one or more hands, and however widely differing among themselves, together represent a single phase of thought, and are appropriately studied as a connected series. 后又 The philosophical affinities of the new science were not exhausted by the atomistic analysis of Democritus and the regulative method of Aristotle. Platonism could hardly fail to benefit by the great impulse given to mathematical studies in the latter half of the sixteenth century. The passionate love of its founder for geometry must have recommended him as much to the most advanced minds of the period as his religious mysticism had recommended him to the theologians of the earlier Renaissance. And the increasing ascendency of the heliocentric astronomy, with its splendid defiance of sense and opinion, was indirectly a triumph for the philosophy which, more than any other, had asserted the claims of pure reason against both. We see this distinctly in Galileo. In express adhesion to Platonism, he throws his teaching into a conversational form, endeavouring to extract the truth from his opponents rather than convey it into their minds from without; and the theory of reminiscence as the source of demonstrative knowledge seems to meet with his approval.549 He is always ready with proofs drawn from observation and experiment; but nothing can be more in Plato’s spirit, nothing more unlike Aristotle and Bacon, than his encomium on the sublime genius of Aristarchus and Copernicus for having maintained a rational hypothesis against what seemed to be the evidence of their senses.550 And he elsewhere observes how much less would have been the glory of Copernicus had he known the experimental verification of his theory.551 On extending our survey still wider, we find that the existence of a thing everywhere depends on its unity.462 All bodies perish by dissolution, and dissolution means the loss of unity. Health, beauty, and virtue are merely so many different kinds of harmony and unison. Shall we then say that soul, as the great unifying power in Nature, is the One of which we are in search? Not so; for preceding investigations have taught us that soul is only an agent for transmitting ideas received from a higher power; and the psychic faculties themselves are held together by a unifying principle for which we have to account. Neither is the whole sum of existence the One, for its very name implies a plurality of parts. And the claims of the Nous to that distinction have been already disproved. In short, nothing that exists can be the One, for, as we have seen, unity is the cause of existence and must therefore precede it.
Turning back once more from the melancholy decline of a great genius to the splendour of its meridian prime, we will endeavour briefly to recapitulate the achievements which entitle Plato to rank among the five or six greatest Greeks, and among the four or five greatest thinkers of all time. He extended the philosophy of mind until it embraced not only ethics and dialectics but also the study of politics, of religion, of social science, of fine art, of economy, of language, and of education. In other words, he showed how ideas could be applied to life on the most comprehensive scale. Further, he saw that the study of Mind, to be complete, necessitates a knowledge of physical phenomena and of the realities which underlie them; accordingly, he made a return on the objective speculations which had been temporarily abandoned, thus mediating between Socrates and early Greek thought; while on the other hand by his theory of classification he mediated between Socrates and Aristotle. He based physical science273 on mathematics, thus establishing a method of research and of education which has continued in operation ever since. He sketched the outlines of a new religion in which morality was to be substituted for ritualism, and intelligent imitation of God for blind obedience to his will; a religion of monotheism, of humanity, of purity, and of immortal life. And he embodied all these lessons in a series of compositions distinguished by such beauty of form that their literary excellence alone would entitle them to rank among the greatest masterpieces that the world has ever seen. He took the recently-created instrument of prose style and at once raised it to the highest pitch of excellence that it has ever attained. Finding the new art already distorted by false taste and overlaid with meretricious ornament, he cleansed and regenerated it in that primal fount of intellectual life, that richest, deepest, purest source of joy, the conversation of enquiring spirits with one another, when they have awakened to the desire for truth and have not learned to despair of its attainment. Thus it was that the philosopher’s mastery of expression gave added emphasis to his protest against those who made style a substitute for knowledge, or, by a worse corruption, perverted it into an instrument of profitable wrong. They moved along the surface in a confused world of words, of sensations, and of animal desires; he penetrated through all those dumb images and blind instincts, to the central verity and supreme end which alone can inform them with meaning, consistency, permanence, and value. To conclude: Plato belonged to that nobly practical school of idealists who master all the details of reality before attempting its reformation, and accomplish their great designs by enlisting and reorganising whatever spontaneous forces are already working in the same direction; but the fertility of whose own suggestions it needs more than one millennium to exhaust. There is nothing in heaven or earth that was not dreamt of in his philosophy:274 some of his dreams have already come true; others still await their fulfilment; and even those which are irreconcilable with the demands of experience will continue to be studied with the interest attaching to every generous and daring adventure, in the spiritual no less than in the secular order of existence. 深地
11 为宇 Whether there exist any realities beyond what are revealed to us by this evidence, and what sensible evidence itself may be worth, were problems already actively canvassed in Aristotle’s time. His Metaphysics at once takes us into the thick of the debate. The first question of that age was, What are the causes and principles of things? On one side stood the materialists—the old Ionian physicists and their living representatives. They said that all things came from water or air or fire, or from a mixture of the four elements, or from the interaction of opposites, such as wet and dry, hot and cold.332 Aristotle, following in the track of his master, Plato, blames them for ignoring the incorporeal substances, by which he does not mean what would now be understood—feelings or states of consciousness, or even the spiritual substratum of consciousness—but rather the general qualities or assemblages of qualities which remain constant amid the fluctuations of sensible phenomena; considered, let us observe, not as subjective thoughts, but as objective realities. Another deficiency in the older physical theories is that they either ignore the efficient cause of motion altogether (like Thales), or assign causes not adequate to the purpose (like Empedocles); or when they hit on the true cause do not make the right use of it (like Anaxagoras). Lastly, they have omitted to study the final cause of a thing—the good for which it exists. ‘I would have you consider that he who appears to you to be the worst of those who have been brought up in laws and humanities would appear to be a just man and a master of justice if he were to be compared with men who had no education, or courts of justice, or laws, or any restraints upon them which compelled them to practise virtue—with the savages, for example, whom the poet Pherecrates exhibited on the stage at the last year’s Lenaean festival. If you were living among men such as the man-haters in his chorus, you would be only too glad to meet with Eurybates and Phrynondas, and you would sorrowfully long to revisit the rascality of this part of the world.’68”
Unquestionably Plotinus was influenced by the supernaturalistic movement of his age, but only as Plato had been influenced by the similar reaction of his time; and just as the Athenian philosopher had protested against the superstitions which he saw gaining ground, so also did the Alexandrian philosopher protest, with far less vigour it is true, but still to some extent, against the worse extravagances universally entertained by his contemporaries. Among these, to judge by numerous allusions in his writings, astrology and magic held the foremost place. That there was something in both, he did not venture to deny, but he constantly endeavours to extenuate their practical significance and to give a more philosophical interpretation to the alleged phenomena on which they were based. Towards the old polytheism, his attitude, without being hostile, is perfectly independent. We can see this even in his life, notwithstanding the religious colouring thrown over it by Porphyry. When invited by his disciple Amelius to join in the public worship of the gods, he proudly answered, ‘It is their business to come to me, not mine to go to them.’511 In allegorising the old myths, he handles them with as much freedom as Bacon, and evidently with no more belief in their historical character.512 In giving the name of God to his supreme principle, he is careful to exclude nearly every attribute associated with divinity even in the purest forms of contemporary theology. Personality, intelligence, will, and even existence, are expressly denied to the One. Although the first cause and highest good of all things, it is so not in a religious but in an abstract, metaphysical sense. The Nous with its ideal offspring and the world-soul are also spoken of as gods; but their personality, if they have any, is of the most shadowy description, and there is no reason for thinking that Plotinus ever wor345shipped them himself or intended them to be worshipped by his disciples. Like Aristotle, he attributes animation and divinity to the heavenly bodies, but with such careful provisions against an anthropomorphic conception of their nature, that not much devotional feeling is likely to have mingled with the contemplation of their splendour. Finally, we arrive at the daemons, those intermediate spirits which play so great a part in the religion of Plutarch and the other Platonists of the second century. With regard to these, Plotinus repeats many of the current opinions as if he shared them; but his adhesion is of an extremely tepid character; and it may be doubted whether the daemons meant much more for him than for Plato.513 四个 We have seen how the idea of Nature, first evolved by physical philosophy, was taken by some, at least, among the Sophists as a basis for their ethical teaching; then how an interpretation utterly opposed to theirs was put on it by practical men, and how this second interpretation was so generalised by the younger rhetoricians as to involve the denial of all morality whatever. Meanwhile, another equally important conception, destined to come into speedy and prolonged antagonism with the idea of Nature, and like it to exercise a powerful influence on ethical reflection, had almost contemporaneously been elaborated out of the materials which earlier speculation supplied. From Parmenides and Heracleitus down, every philosopher who had propounded a theory of the world, had also more or less peremptorily insisted on the fact that his theory differed widely from common belief. Those who held that change is86 impossible, and those who taught that everything is incessantly changing; those who asserted the indestructibility of matter, and those who denied its continuity; those who took away objective reality from every quality except extension and resistance, and those who affirmed that the smallest molecules partook more or less of every attribute that is revealed to sense—all these, however much they might disagree among themselves, agreed in declaring that the received opinions of mankind were an utter delusion. Thus, a sharp distinction came to be drawn between the misleading sense-impressions and the objective reality to which thought alone could penetrate. It was by combining these two elements, sensation and thought, that the idea of mind was originally constituted. And mind when so understood could not well be accounted for by any of the materialistic hypotheses at first proposed. The senses must differ profoundly from that of which they give such an unfaithful report; while reason, which Anaxagoras had so carefully differentiated from every other form of existence, carried back its distinction to the subjective sphere, and became clothed with a new spirituality when reintegrated in the consciousness of man.”