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Thus, so far as was possible in such altered circumstances, did the Renaissance of the second century reproduce the271 intellectual environment from which Plato鈥檚 philosophy had sprung. In literature, there was the same attention to words rather than to things; sometimes taking the form of exact scholarship, after the manner of Prodicus; sometimes of loose and superficial declamation, after the manner of Gorgias. There was the naturalism of Hippias, elaborated into a system by the Stoics, and practised as a life by the new Cynics. There was the hedonism of Aristippus, inculcated under a diluted form by the Epicureans. There was the old Ionian materialism, professed by Stoics and Epicureans alike. There was the scepticism of Protagoras, revived by Aenesid锚mus and his followers. There was the mathematical mysticism of the Pythagoreans, flourishing in Egypt instead of in southern Italy. There was the purer geometry of the Alexandrian Museum, corresponding to the school of Cyr锚n锚. On all sides, there was a mass of vague moral preaching, without any attempt to exhibit the moral truths which we empirically know as part of a comprehensive metaphysical philosophy. And, lastly, there was an immense undefined religious movement, ranging from theologies which taught the spirituality of God and of the human soul, down to the most irrational and abject superstition. We saw in the last chapter how, corresponding to this environment, there was a revived Platonism, that Platonism was in fact the fashionable philosophy of that age, just as it afterwards became the fashionable philosophy of another Renaissance thirteen centuries later. But it was a Platonism with the backbone of the system taken out. Plato鈥檚 thoughts all centred in a carefully considered scheme for the moral and political regeneration of society. Now, with the destruction of Greek independence, and the absorption everywhere of free city-states into a vast military empire, it might seem as if the realisation of such a scheme had become altogether impracticable. The Republic was, indeed, at that moment realising itself under a form adapted to the altered exigencies of the time; but no Platonist could as yet recognise272 in the Christian Church even an approximate fulfilment of his master鈥檚 dream. Failing any practical issue, there remained the speculative side of Plato鈥檚 teaching. His writings did not embody a complete system, but they offered the materials whence a system could be framed. Here the choice lay between two possible lines of construction; and each had, in fact, been already attempted by his own immediate disciples. One was the Pythagorean method of the Old Academy, what Aristotle contemptuously called the conversion of philosophy into mathematics. We saw in the last chapter how the revived Platonism of the first and second centuries entered once more on the same perilous path, a path which led farther and farther away from the true principles of Greek thought, and of Plato himself when his intellect stood at its highest point of splendour. Neo-Pythagorean mysticism meant an unreconciled dualism of spirit and matter; and as the ultimate consequence of that dualism, it meant the substitution of magical incantations and ceremonial observances for the study of reason and virtue. Moreover, it readily allied itself with Oriental beliefs, which meant a negation of natural law that the Greeks could hardly tolerate, and, under the form of Gnostic pessimism, a belief in the inherent depravity of Nature that they could not tolerate at all.

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It is an often-quoted observation of Friedrich Schlegel鈥檚 that every man is born either a Platonist or an Aristotelian. If we narrow the remark to the only class which, perhaps, its author recognised as human beings, namely, all thinking men, it will be found to contain a certain amount of truth, though probably not what Schlegel intended; at any rate something requiring to be supplemented by other truths before its full meaning can be understood. The common opinion seems to be that Plato was a transcendentalist, while Aristotle was an experientialist; and that this constitutes the most typical distinction between them. It would, however, be a mistake to292 suppose that the 脿 priori and 脿 posteriori methods were marked off with such definiteness in Plato鈥檚 time as to render possible a choice between them. The opposition was not between general propositions and particular facts, but between the most comprehensive and the most limited notions. It was as if the question were now to be raised whether we should begin to teach physiology by at once dividing the organic from the inorganic world, or by directing the learner鈥檚 attention to some one vital act. Now, we are expressly told that Plato hesitated between these two methods; and in his Dialogues, at least, we find the easier and more popular one employed by preference. It is true that he often appeals to wide principles which do not rest on an adequate basis of experimental evidence; but Aristotle does so also, more frequently even, and, as the event proved, with more fatal injury to the advance of knowledge. In his Rhetoric he even goes beyond Plato, constructing the entire art from the general principles of dialectics, psychology, and ethics, without any reference, except for the sake of illustration, to existing models of eloquence..
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Besides the encouragement which it gave to kind offices between friends and neighbours, the Stoic doctrine of humanity and mutual love was honourably exemplified in Seneca鈥檚 emphatic condemnation of the gladiatorial games and of the40 horrible abuses connected with domestic slavery in Rome.86 But we miss a clear perception that such abuses are always and everywhere the consequences of slavery; and the outspoken abolitionism of the naturalists alluded to by Aristotle does not seem to have been imitated by their successors in later ages.87 The most one can say is that the fiction of original liberty was imported into Roman jurisprudence through the agency of Stoic lawyers, and helped to familiarise men鈥檚 minds with the idea of universal emancipation before political and economical conditions permitted it to be made a reality..
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It has been mentioned that Carneades was the head of the Academic school. In that capacity, he was the lineal inheritor of Plato鈥檚 teaching. Yet a public apology for injustice, even when balanced by a previous panegyric on its opposite, might seem to be of all lessons the most alien from Platonism; and in a State governed by Plato鈥檚 own laws, it would certainly have been punishable with death. To explain this anomaly is to relate the history of Greek scepticism, which is what we shall now attempt to do.?
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We now turn to Sir A. Grant, who, as was mentioned at371 the beginning of the last chapter, makes Aristotle a supporter of the late Prof. Ferrier. We will state the learned Principal鈥檚 view in his own words:鈥.
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Nor was this all. Before philosophising, the Greeks did not think only in the order of time; they learned at a very early period to think also in the order of space, their favourite idea of a limit being made especially prominent here. Homer鈥檚 geographical notions, however erroneous, are, for his age, singularly well defined. Aeschylus has a wide knowledge of the earth鈥檚 surface, and exhibits it with perhaps unnecessary readiness. Pindar delights to follow his mythological heroes about on their travels. The same tendency found still freer scope when prose literature began. Hecataeus, one of the earliest prose-writers, was great both as a genealogist and as a geographer; and in this respect also Herodotus carried out on a great scale the enquiries most habitually pursued by his countrymen. Now, it will be remembered that we have had occasion to characterise early Ionian speculation as being, to a great extent, cosmography. The element from which it deduced all things was, in fact, that which was supposed to lie outside and embrace the rest. The geographical limit was conceived as a genealogical ancestor. Thus, the studies which men like Hecataeus carried on separately, were combined, or rather confused, in a single bold generalisation by Anaximenes and Heracleitus.
21 August, 2019 - 13:08
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21 August, 2019 - 13:08
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