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Originally, these four elements were absolutely alike and unmovable, dwelling together in a divine sphere where friendship united them, until gradually strife pressing from the circ.u.mference to the centre of the sphere (_i. e._ attaining a separating activity), broke this union, and the formation of the world immediately began as the result.
2. THE FOUR ELEMENTS.-With his doctrine of the four elements, Empedocles, on the one side, may be joined to the series of the Ionic philosophers, but, on the other, he is excluded from this by his a.s.suming the original elements to be four. He is distinctly said by the ancients to have originated the theory of the four elements. He is more definitely distinguished from the old Ionics, from the fact that he ascribed to his four "root-elements" a changeless being, by virtue of which they neither arose from each other nor departed into each other, and were capable of no change of essence but only of a change of state.
Every thing which is called arising and departing, every change rests therefore only upon the mingling and withdrawing of these eternal and fundamental materials; the inexhaustible manifoldness of being rests upon the different proportions in which these elements are mingled.
Every becoming is conceived as such only as a change of place. In this we have a mechanical in opposition to a dynamic explanation of nature.
3. THE TWO POWERS.-Whence now can arise any becoming, if in matter itself there is found no principle to account for the change? Since Empedocles did not, like the Eleatics, deny that there was change, nor yet, like Herac.l.i.tus, introduce it in his matter, as an indwelling principle, so there was no other course left him but to place, by the side of his matter, a moving power. The opposition of the one and the many which had been set up by his predecessors, and which demanded an explanation, led him to ascribe to this moving power, two originally diverse directions, viz.: repulsion and attraction. The separation of the one into the many, and the union again of the many into the one, had indicated an opposition of powers which Herac.l.i.tus had already recognized. While now Parmenides starting from the one had made love as his principle, and Herac.l.i.tus starting from the many had made strife as his, Empedocles combines the two as the principle of his philosophy. The difficulty is, he has not sufficiently limited in respect to one another, the sphere of operation of these two directions of his power.
Although, to friendship belonged peculiarly the attractive, and to strife the repelling function, yet does Empedocles, on the other hand, suffer his strife to have in the formation of the world a unifying, and his friendship a dividing effect. In fact, the complete separation of a dividing and unifying power in the movement of the becoming, is an unmaintainable abstraction.
4. RELATION OF THE EMPEDOCLEAN TO THE ELEATIC AND HERAc.l.i.tIC PHILOSOPHY.-Empedocles, by placing, as the principle of the becoming, a moving power by the side of his matter, makes his philosophy a mediation of the Eleatic and Herac.l.i.tic principles, or more properly a placing of them side by side. He has interwoven these two principles in equal proportions in his system. With the Eleatics he denied all arising and departing, _i. e._ the transition of being into not-being and of not-being into being, and with Herac.l.i.tus he shared the interest to find an explanation for change. From the former he derived the abiding, unchangeable being of his fundamental matter, and from the latter the principle of the moving power. With the Eleatics, in fine, he considered the true being in an original and indistinguishable unity as a sphere, and with Herac.l.i.tus, he regarded the present world as a constant product of striving powers and oppositions. He has, therefore, been properly called an Eclectic, who has united the fundamental thoughts of his two predecessors, though not always in a logical way.
THE ATOMISTIC PHILOSOPHY.
1. ITS PROPOUNDERS.-Empedocles had sought to effect a combination of the Eleatic and Herac.l.i.tic principle-the same was attempted, though in a different way, by the Atomists, Leucippus and Democritus. Democritus, the better known of the two, was the son of rich parents, and was born about 460 B. C. in Abdera, an Ionian colony. He travelled extensively, and no Greek before the time of Aristotle possessed such varied attainments. He embodied the wealth of his collected knowledge in a series of writings, of which, however, only a few fragments have come down to us. For rhythm and elegance of language, Cicero compared him with Plato. He died in a good old age.
2. THE ATOMS.-Empedocles derived all determinateness of the phenomenal from a certain number of qualitatively determined and undistinguishable original materials, while the Atomists derived the same from an originally unlimited number of const.i.tuent elements, or atoms, which were h.o.m.ogeneous in respect of quality, but diverse in respect of form.
These atoms are unchangeable, material particles, possessing indeed extension, but yet indivisible, and can only be determined in respect of magnitude. As being, and without quality, they are entirely incapable of any transformation or qualitative change, and, therefore, all becoming is, as with Empedocles, only a change of place. The manifoldness of the phenomenal world is only to be explained from the different form, disposition, and arrangement of the atoms as they become, in various ways, united.
3. THE FULNESS AND THE VOID.-The atoms, in order to be atoms, _i. e._ undivided and impenetrable unities,-must be mutually limited and separated. There must be something set over against them which preserves them as atoms, and which is the original cause of their separateness and impenetrability. This is the void s.p.a.ce, or more strictly the intervals which are found between the atoms, and which hinder their mutual contact. The atoms, as being and absolute fulness, and the interval between them, as the void and the not-being, are two determinations which only represent in a real and objective way, what are in thought, as logical conceptions, the two elements in the Herac.l.i.tic becoming, viz. being and the not-being. But since the void s.p.a.ce is one determination of being, it must possess objective reality no less than the atoms, and Democritus even went so far as to expressly affirm in opposition to the Eleatics, that being is no more than nothing.
4. THE ATOMISTIC NECESSITY.-Democritus, like Empedocles, though far more extensively than he, attempted to answer the question-whence arise these changes and movements which we behold? Wherein lies the ground that the atoms should enter into these manifold combinations, and bring forth such a wealth of inorganic and organic forms? Democritus attempted to solve the problem by affirming that the ground of movement lay in the gravity or original condition of the material particles, and, therefore, in the matter itself, but in this way he only talked about the question without answering it. The idea of an infinite series of causalities was thus attained, but not a final ground of all the manifestations of the becoming, and of change. Such a final ground was still to be sought, and as Democritus expressly declared that it could not lie in an ultimate reason ????, where Anaxagoras placed it, there only remained for him to find it in an absolute necessity, or a necessary pre-determinateness ??????. This he adopted as his "final ground," and is said to have named it chance t???, in opposition to the inquiry after final causes, or the Anaxagorean teleology. Consequent upon this, we find as the prominent characteristic of the later Atomistic school (Diagoras the Melier), polemics against the G.o.ds of the people, and a constantly more publicly affirmed Atheism and Materialism.
5. RELATIVE POSITION OF THE ATOMISTIC PHILOSOPHY.-Hegel characterizes the relative position of the Atomistic Philosophy as follows, viz.:-"In the Eleatic Philosophy being and not-being stand as ant.i.theses,-being alone is, and not-being is not; in the Herac.l.i.tic idea, being and not-being are the same,-both together, _i. e._ the becoming, are the predicate of concrete being; but being and not-being, as objectively determined, or in other words, as appearing to the sensuous intuition, are precisely the same as the ant.i.thesis of the fulness and the void.
Parmenides, Herac.l.i.tus and the Atomists all sought for the abstract universal; Parmenides found it in _being_, Herac.l.i.tus in the _process_ of being _per se_, and the Atomists in the _determination_ of being _per se_." So much of this as ascribes to the Atomists the characteristic predicate of being _per se_ is doubtless correct,-but the real thought of the Atomistic system is rather a.n.a.logous with the Empedoclean, to explain the possibility of the becoming, by presupposing these substances as possessing being _per se_, but without quality. To this end the not-being or the void, _i. e._ the side which is opposed to the Eleatic principle, is elaborated with no less care than the side which harmonizes with it, _i. e._ that the atoms are without quality and never change in their original elements. The Atomistic Philosophy is therefore a mediation between the Eleatic and the Herac.l.i.tic principles. It is Eleatic in affirming the undivided being _per se_ of the atoms;-Herac.l.i.tic, in declaring their multeity and manifoldness. It is Eleatic in the declaration of an absolute fulness in the atoms, and Herac.l.i.tic in the claim of a real not-being, _i. e._ the void s.p.a.ce. It is Eleatic in its denial of the becoming, _i. e._ of the arising and departing,-and Herac.l.i.tic in its affirmation that to the atoms belong movement and a capacity for unlimited combinations. The Atomists carried out their leading thought more logically than Empedocles, and we might even say that their system is the perfection of a purely mechanical explanation of nature, since all subsequent Atomists, even to our own day, have only repeated their fundamental conceptions. But the great defect which cleaves to every Atomistic system, Aristotle has justly recognized, when he shows that it is a contradiction, on the one hand, to set up something corporeal or s.p.a.ce-filling as indivisible, and on the other, to derive the extended from that which has no extension, and that the consciousless and inconceivable necessity of Democritus is especially defective, in that it totally banishes from nature all conception of design. This is the point to which Anaxagoras turns his attention, and introduces his principle of an intelligence working with design.
1. HIS PERSONAL HISTORY.-Anaxagoras is said to have been born at Clazamena, about the year 500 B. C.; to have gone to Athens immediately, or soon after the Persian war, to have lived and taught there for a long time, and, finally, accused of irreverence to the G.o.ds, to have fled, and died at Lampsacus, at the age of 72. He it was who first planted philosophy at Athens, which from this time on became the centre of intellectual life in Greece. Through his personal relations to Pericles, Euripides, and other important men,-among whom Themistocles and Thucydides should be named-he exerted a decisive influence upon the culture of the age. It was on account of this that the charge of defaming the G.o.ds was brought against him, doubtless by the political opponents of Pericles. Anaxagoras wrote a work "_Concerning Nature_"
which in the time of Socrates was widely circulated.
2. HIS RELATION TO HIS PREDECESSORS.-The system of Anaxagoras starts from the same point with his predecessors, and is simply another attempt at the solution of the same problem. Like Empedocles and the Atomists so did Anaxagoras most vehemently deny the becoming. "The becoming and departing,"-so runs one of his sayings-"the Greeks hold without foundation, for nothing can ever be said to become or depart; but, since existing things may be compounded together and again divided, we should name the becoming more correctly a combination, and the departing a separation." From this view, that every thing arose by the mingling of different elements, and departed by the withdrawing of these elements, Anaxagoras, like his predecessors, was obliged to separate matter from the moving power. But though his point of starting was the same, yet was his direction essentially different from that of any previous philosopher. It was clear that neither Empedocles nor Democritus had satisfactorily apprehended the moving power. The mythical energies of love and hate of the one, or the unconscious necessity of the other, explained nothing, and least of all, the design of the becoming in nature. The conception of an activity which could thus work designedly, must, therefore, be brought into the conception of the moving power, and this Anaxagoras accomplished by setting up the idea of a world-forming intelligence (????), absolutely separated from all matter and working with design.
3. THE PRINCIPLE OF THE ????.-Anaxagoras described this intelligence as free to dispose, unmingled with any thing, the ground of movement, but itself unmoved, every where active, and the most refined and pure of all things. Although these predicates rest partly upon a physical a.n.a.logy, and do not exhibit purely the conception of immateriality, yet on the other hand does the attribute of thought and of a conscious acting with design admit no doubt to remain of the decided idealistic character of the Anaxagorean principle. Nevertheless, Anaxagoras went no farther than to enunciate his fundamental thought without attempting its complete application. The explanation of this is obvious from the reasons which first led him to adopt his principle. It was only the need of an original cause of motion, to which also might be attributed the capacity to work designedly, which had led him to the idea of an immaterial principle. His ????, therefore, is almost nothing but a mover of matter, and in this function nearly all its activity is expended. Hence the universal complaint of the ancients, especially of Plato and Aristotle, respecting the mechanical character of his doctrine. In Plato's Phaedon Socrates relates that, in the hope of being directed beyond a simple occasioning, or mediate cause, he had turned to the book of Anaxagoras, but had found there only a mechanical instead of a truly teleological explanation of being. And as Plato so also does Aristotle find fault with Anaxagoras in that, while he admits mind as the ultimate ground of things, he yet resorts to it only as to a _Deus ex machina_ for the explanation of phenomena, whose necessity he could not derive from the causality in nature. Anaxagoras, therefore, has rather postulated than proved mind as an energy above nature, and as the truth and actuality of natural being.
The further extension of his system, his doctrine concerning the h.o.m.oiomeria (const.i.tuent elements of things), which according to him existed together originally in a chaotic condition until with their separation and parting the formation of the world began-can here only be mentioned.
4. ANAXAGORAS AS THE CLOSE OF THE PRE-SOCRATIC REALISM.-With the Anaxagorean principle of the ????, _i. e._ with the acquisition of an absolutely immaterial principle, closes the realistic period of the old Grecian Philosophy. Anaxagoras combined together the principles of all his predecessors. The infinite matter of the Hylics is represented in his chaotic original mingling of things; the Eleatic pure being appears in the idea of the ????; the Herac.l.i.tic power of becoming and the Empedoclean moving energies are both seen in the creating and arranging power of the eternal mind, while the Democritic atoms come to view in the h.o.m.oiomeria. Anaxagoras is the closing point of an old and the beginning point of a new course of development,-the latter through the setting up of his ideal principle, and the former through the defective and completely physical manner in which this principle was yet again applied.
THE SOPHISTIC PHILOSOPHY.
1. RELATION OF THE SOPHISTIC PHILOSOPHY TO THE ANAXAGOREAN PRINCIPLE.-Anaxagoras had formed the conception of mind, and in this had recognized thought as a power above the objective world. Upon this newly conquered field the Sophistic philosophy now began its gambols, and with childish wantonness delighted itself in setting at work this power, and in destroying, by means of a subjective dialectic, all objective determinations. The Sophistic philosophy-though of far more significance from its relation to the culture of the age than from its philosophy-had for its starting principle the breach which Anaxagoras had commenced between the subjective and the objective,-the Ego and the external world. The subject, after recognizing himself as something higher than the objective world, and especially as something above the laws of the state, above custom and religious tradition and the popular faith, in the next place attempted to prescribe laws for this objective world, and instead of beholding in it the historical manifestation of reason, he looked upon it only as an exanimated matter, upon which he might exercise his will.
The Sophistic philosophy should be characterized as the clearing up reflection. It is, therefore, no philosophical system, for its doctrines and affirmations exhibit often so popular and even trivial a character that for their own sake they would merit no place at all in the history of philosophy. It is also no philosophical school in the ordinary sense of the term,-for Plato cites a vast number of persons under the common name of "Sophists,"-but it is an intellectual and widely spread direction of the age, which had struck its roots into the whole moral, political, and religious character of the Athenian life of that time, and which may be called the Athenian clearing up period.
2. RELATION OF THE SOPHISTIC PHILOSOPHY TO THE UNIVERSAL LIFE OF THAT AGE.-The Sophistic philosophy is, theoretically, what the whole Athenian life during the Peloponnesian war was practically. Plato justly remarks in his Republic that the doctrines of the Sophists only expressed the very principles which guided the course of the great ma.s.s of men of that time in their civil and social relations, and the hatred with which they were pursued by the practical statesmen, clearly indicates the jealousy with which the latter saw in them their rivals and the destroyers of their polity. If the absoluteness of the empirical subject-i. e. the view that the individual Ego can arbitrarily determine what is true, right and good,-is in fact the theoretical principle of the Sophistic philosophy, so does this in a practical direction, as an unlimited Egoism meet us in all the spheres of the public and private life of that age. The public life had become an arena of pa.s.sion and selfishness; those party struggles which racked Athens during the Peloponnesian war had blunted and stifled the moral feeling; every individual accustomed himself to set up his own private interest above that of the state and the common weal, and to seek in his own arbitrariness and advantage the measuring rod for all his actions. The Protagorean sentence that "the man is the measure of all things" became practically carried out only too faithfully, and the influence of the orator in the a.s.semblies of the people and the courts, the corruptibility of the great ma.s.ses and their leaders, and the weak points which showed to the adroit student of human nature the covetousness, vanity, and factiousness of others around him, offered only too many opportunities to bring this rule into practice.
Custom had lost its weight; the laws were regarded as only an agreement of the majority, the civil ordinance as an arbitrary restriction, the moral feeling as the effect of the policy of the state in education, the faith in the G.o.ds as a human invention to intimidate the free power of action, while piety was looked upon as a statute which some men have enacted and which every one else is justified in using all his eloquence to change. This degradation of a necessity, which is conformable to nature and reason, and which is of universal validity,-to an accidental human ordinance, is chiefly the point in which the Sophistic philosophy came in contact with the universal consciousness of the educated cla.s.s of that period, and we cannot with certainty determine what share science and what share the life may have had in this connection,-whether the Sophistic philosophy found only the theoretical formula for the practical life and tendencies of the age, or whether the moral corruption was rather a consequence of that destructive influence which the principles of the Sophists exerted upon the whole course of contemporaneous thought.
It would be, however, to mistake the spirit of history if we were only to bewail the epoch of the Sophists instead of admitting for it a relative justification. These phenomena were in part the necessary product of the collective development of the age. The faith in the popular religion fell so suddenly to the ground simply because it possessed in itself no inner, moral support. The grossest vices and acts of baseness could all be justified and excused from the examples of mythology. Even Plato himself, though otherwise an advocate of a devout faith in the traditional religion, accuses the poets of his nation with leading the very moral feeling astray, through the unworthy representations which they had spread abroad concerning the G.o.ds and the hero world. It was moreover unavoidable that the advancing science should clash with tradition. The physical philosophers had already long lived in open hostility to the popular religion, and the more convincingly they demonstrated by a.n.a.logies and laws that many things which had hitherto been regarded as the immediate effect of Divine omnipotence, were only the results of natural causes, so much the more easily would it happen that the educated cla.s.ses would become perplexed in reference to all their previous convictions. It was no wonder then that the transformed consciousness of the time should penetrate all the provinces of art and poesy; that in sculpture, wholly a.n.a.logous to the rhetoric art of the Sophistic philosophy, the emotive should occupy the place of the elevated style; that Euripides, the sophist among tragedians, should bring the whole philosophy of the time and its manner of moral reflection upon the stage; and that, instead of like the earlier poets, bringing forward his actors to represent an idea, he should use them only as means to excite a momentary emotion or some other stage effect.
3. TENDENCIES OF THE SOPHISTIC PHILOSOPHY.-To give a definite cla.s.sification of the Sophistic philosophy, which should be derived from the conception of the general phenomena of the age, is exceedingly difficult, since, like the French "clearing up" of the last century, it entered into every department of knowledge. The Sophists directed the universal culture of the time. Protagoras was known as a teacher of virtue, Gorgias as a rhetorician and politician, Prodicus as a grammarian and teacher of synonyms, Hippias as a man of various attainments, who besides astronomical and mathematical studies busied himself with a theory of mnemonics; others took for their problem the art of education, and others still the explanation of the old poets; the brothers Euthydemus and Dionysidorus gave instruction in the bearing of arms and military tactics; many among them, as Gorgias, Prodicus, and Hippias, were intrusted with emba.s.sies: in short the Sophists, each one according to his individual tendency, took upon themselves every variety of calling and entered into every sphere of science; their method is the only thing common to all. Moreover the relation of the Sophists to the educated public, their striving after popularity, fame and money, disclose the fact that their studies and occupations were for the most part controlled, not by a subjective scientific interest, but by some external motive. With that roving spirit which was an essential peculiarity of the later Sophists, travelling from city to city, and announcing themselves as thinkers by profession-and giving their instructions with prominent reference to a good recompense and the favor of the rich private cla.s.ses, it was very natural that they should discourse upon the prominent questions of universal interest and of public culture, with occasional reference also to the favorite occupation of this or that rich man with whom they might be brought in contact. Hence their peculiar strength lay far more in a formal dexterity, in an acuteness of thought and a capacity of bringing it readily into exercise, in the art of discourse than in any positive knowledge; their instruction in virtue was given either in positive dogmatism or in empty bombast, and even where the Sophistic philosophy became really polymathic, the art of speech still remained as the great thing. So we find in Xenophon, Hippias boasting that he can speak repeatedly upon every subject and say something new each time, while we hear it expressly affirmed of others, that they had no need of positive knowledge in order to discourse satisfactorily upon every thing, and to answer every question extemporaneously; and when many Sophists make it a great point to hold a well-arranged discourse about something of the least possible significance (_e. g._ salt), so do we see that with them the thing was only a means while the word was the end, and we ought not to be surprised that in this respect the Sophistic philosophy sunk to that empty technicality which Plato in his Phaedrus, on account of its want of character, subjects to so rigid a criticism.
4. THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THE SOPHISTIC PHILOSOPHY FROM ITS RELATION TO THE CULTURE OF THE AGE.-The scientific and moral defect of the Sophistic philosophy is at first view obvious; and, since certain modern writers of history with over-officious zeal have painted its dark sides in black, and raised an earnest accusation against its frivolity, immorality, and greediness for pleasure, its conceitedness and selfishness, and bare appearance of wisdom and art of dispute-it needs here no farther elucidation. But the point in it most apt to be overlooked is the merit of the Sophists in their effect upon the culture of the age. To say, as is done, that they had only the negative merit of calling out the opposition of Socrates and Plato, is to leave the immense influence and the high fame of so many among them, as well as the revolution which they brought about in the thinking of a whole nation, an inexplicable phenomenon. It were inexplicable that _e. g._ Socrates should attend the lectures of Prodicus, and direct to him other students, if he did not acknowledge the worth of his grammatical performances or recognize his merit for the soundness of his logic.
Moreover, it cannot be denied that Protagoras has. .h.i.t upon many correct principles of rhetoric, and has satisfactorily established certain grammatical categories. Generally may it be said of the Sophists, that they threw among the people a fulness in every department of knowledge; that they strewed about them a vast number of fruitful germs of development; that they called out investigations in the theory of knowledge, in logic and in language; that they laid the basis for the methodical treatment of many branches of human knowledge, and that they partly founded and partly called forth that wonderful intellectual activity which characterized Athens at that time. Their greatest merit is their service in the department of language. They may even be said to have created and formed the Attic prose. They are the first who made style as such a separate object of attention and study, and who set about rigid investigations respecting number and the art of rhetorical representation. With them Athenian eloquence, which they first incited, begins. Antiphon as well as Isocrates-the latter the founder of the most flourishing school of Greek rhetoric-are offshoots of the Sophistic philosophy. In all this there is ground enough to regard this whole phenomenon as not barely a symptom of decay.
5. INDIVIDUAL SOPHISTS.-The first, who is said to have been called, in the received sense, Sophist, is _Protagoras_ of Abdera, who flourished about 440 B. C. He taught, and for wages, in Sicily and in Athens, but was driven out of the latter place as a reviler of the G.o.ds, and his book concerning the G.o.ds was burnt by the herald in the public market-place. It began with these words: "I can know nothing concerning the G.o.ds, whether they exist or not; for we are prevented from gaining such knowledge not only by the obscurity of the thing itself, but by the shortness of the human life," In another writing he develops his doctrine concerning knowing or not-knowing. Starting from the Herac.l.i.tic position that every thing is in a constant flow, and applying this preeminently to the thinking subject, he taught that the man is the measure of all things, who determines in respect of being that it may be, and of not-being that it may not be, _i. e._ that is true for the perceiving subject which he, in the constant movement of things and of himself, at every moment perceives and is sensible of-and hence he has theoretically no other relation to the external world than the sensuous apprehension, and practically no other than the sensuous desire. But now, since perception and sensation are as diverse as the subjects themselves, and are in the highest degree variable in the very same subject, there follows the farther result that nothing has an objective validity and determination, that contradictory affirmations in reference to the same object must be received as alike true, and that error and contradiction cannot be. Protagoras does not seem to have made any efforts to give these frivolous propositions a practical and logical application. According to the testimony of the ancients, a personal character worthy of esteem, cannot be denied him; and even Plato, in the dialogue which bears his name, goes no farther than to object to his complete obscurity respecting the nature of morality, while, in his Gorgias and Philebus, he charges the later Sophists with affirming the principles of immorality and moral baseness.
Next to Protagoras, the most famous Sophist was _Gorgias_. During the Peloponnesian war (426 B. C.), he came from Leontium to Athens in order to gain a.s.sistance for his native city against the encroachments of Syracuse, After the successful accomplishment of his errand he still abode for some time in Athens, but resided the latter part of his life in Thessaly, where he died about the same time with Socrates. The pompous ostentation of his external appearance is often ridiculed by Plato, and the discourses through which he was wont to exhibit himself display the same character, attempting, through poetical ornament, and florid metaphors, and uncommon words, and a ma.s.s of hitherto unheard of figures of speech, to dazzle and delude the mind. As a philosopher he adhered to the Eleatics, especially to Zeno, and attempts to prove upon the basis of their dialectic schematism, that universally nothing is, or if there could be a being, it would not be cognizable, or if cognizable it would not be communicable. Hence his writing bore characteristically enough the t.i.tle-"_Concerning Not-being or Nature_." The proof of the first proposition that universally nothing is, since it can be established neither as being nor as not-being, nor yet as at the same time both being and not-being, rests entirely upon the position that all existence is a s.p.a.ce-filling existence (has place and body), and is in fact the final consequence which overturns itself, in other words the self-destruction of the hitherto physical method of philosophizing.
The later Sophists with reckless daring carried their conclusions far beyond Gorgias and Protagoras. They were for the most part free thinkers, who pulled to the ground the religion, laws, and customs of their birth. Among these should be named, prominently, the tyrant Critias, Polus, Callicles, and Thrasymachus. The two latter openly taught the right of the stronger as the law of nature, the unbridled satisfaction of desire as the natural right of the stronger, and the setting up of restraining laws as a crafty invention of the weaker; and Critias, the most talented but the most abandoned of the thirty tyrants, wrote a poem, in which he represented the faith in the G.o.ds as an invention of crafty statesmen. Hippias of Elis, a man of great knowledge, bore an honorable character, although he did not fall behind the rest in bombast and boasting; but before all, was Prodicus, in reference to whom it became a proverb to say-"as wise as Prodicus," and concerning whom Plato himself and even Aristophanes never spoke without veneration. Especially famous among the ancients were his parenetical (persuasive) lectures concerning the choice of a mode of life (Xenophon's Memorabilia, II. 1), concerning external good and its use, concerning life and death, &c., discourses in which he manifests a refined moral feeling, and his observation of life; although, through the want of a higher ethical and scientific principle, he must be placed behind Socrates, whose forerunner he has been called. The later generations of Sophists, as they are shown in the Euthydemus of Plato, sink to a common level of buffoonery and disgraceful strife for gain, and comprise their whole dialectic art in certain formulae for entangling fallacies.
6. TRANSITION TO SOCRATES AND CHARACTERISTIC OF THE FOLLOWING PERIOD.-That which is true in the Sophistic philosophy is the truth of the subjectivity, of the self-consciousness, _i. e._ the demand that every thing which I am to admit must be shown as rational before my own consciousness-that which is false in it is its apprehension of this subjectivity as nothing farther than finite, empirical egoistic subjectivity, _i. e._ the demand that my accidental will and opinion should determine what is rational; its truth is that it set up the principle of freedom, of self-certainty; its untruth is that it established the accidental will and notion of the individual upon the throne. To carry out now the principle of freedom and self-consciousness to its truth, to gain a true world of objective thought with a real and distinct content, by the same means of reflection which the Sophists had only used to destroy it, to establish the objective will, the rational thinking, the absolute or ideal in the place of the empirical subjectivity was the problem of the next advent in philosophy, the problem which Socrates took up and solved. To make the absolute or ideal subjectivity instead of the empirical for a principle, is to affirm that the true measure of all things is not _my_ (_i. e._ the individual person's) opinion, fancy and will; that what is true, right and good, does not depend upon my caprice and arbitrary determination, or upon that of any other empirical subject; but while it is _my_ thinking, it is my _thinking_, the rational within me, which has to decide upon all those points. But my thinking, my reason, is not something specially belonging to me, but something common to every rational being; something universal, and in so far as I am a rational and thinking being, is my subjectivity a universal one. But every thinking individual has the consciousness that what he holds as right, as duty, as good or evil, does not appear as such to him alone but to every rational being, and that consequently his thinking has the character of universality, of universal validity, in a word-of objectivity. This then in opposition to the Sophistic philosophy is the standpoint of Socrates, and therefore with him the _philosophy of objective thought_ begins. What Socrates could do in opposition to the Sophists was to show that reflection led to the same results as faith or obedience, hitherto without reflection, had done, and that the thinking man guided by his free consciousness and his own conviction, would learn to form the same judgments and take the same course to which life and custom had already and unconsciously induced the ordinary man. The position, that while the man is the measure of all things, it is the man as universal, as thinking, as rational, is the fundamental thought of the Socratic philosophy, which is, by virtue of this thought, the positive complement of the Sophistic principle.
With Socrates begins the second period of the Grecian philosophy. This period contains three philosophical systems, whose authors, standing to each other in the personal relation of teacher and pupil, represent three successive generations,-SOCRATES, PLATO, ARISTOTLE.
1. HIS PERSONAL CHARACTER.-The new philosophical principle appears in the personal character of Socrates. His philosophy is his mode of acting as an individual; his life and doctrine cannot be separated. His biography, therefore, forms the only complete representation of his philosophy, and what the narrative of Xenophon presents us as the definite doctrine of Socrates, is consequently nothing but an abstract of his inward character, as it found expression from time to time in his conversation. Plato yet more regarded his master as such an archetypal personality, and a luminous exhibition of the historical Socrates is the special object of his later and maturer dialogues, and of these again, the Symposium is the most brilliant apotheosis of the Eros incarnated in the person of Socrates, of the philosophical impulse transformed into character.
Socrates was born in the year 469 B. C, the son of Sophroniscus, a sculptor, and Phaenarete, a midwife. In his youth he was trained by his father to follow his own profession, and in this he is said not to have been without skill. Three draped figures of the Graces, called the work of Socrates, were seen by Pausanias, upon the Akropolis. Little farther is known of his education. He may have profited by the instruction of Prodicus and the musician, Damon, but he stood in no personal connection with the proper philosophers, who flourished before, or cotemporaneously with him. He became what he was by himself alone, and just for this reason does he form an era in the old philosophy. If the ancients call him a scholar of Anaxagoras, or of the natural philosopher, Archelaus, the first is demonstrably false, and the second, to say the least, is altogether improbable. He never sought other means of culture than those afforded in his native city. With the exception of one journey to a public festival, the military campaigns which led him as far as Potidaea, Delion, and Amphipolis, he never left Athens.
The period when Socrates first began to devote himself to the education of youth, can be determined only approximately from the time of the first representation of the Clouds of Aristophanes, which was in the year 423. The date of the Delphic oracle, which p.r.o.nounced him the wisest of men, is not known. But in the traditions of his followers, he is almost uniformly represented as an old, or as a gray-headed man. His mode of instruction, wholly different from the pedantry and boastful ostentation of the Sophists, was altogether unconstrained, conversational, popular, starting from objects lying nearest at hand and the most insignificant, and deriving the necessary ill.u.s.trations and proofs from the most common matters of every day life; in fact, he was reproached by his cotemporaries for speaking ever only of drudges, smiths, cobblers and tanners. So we find him at the market, in the gymnasia, in the workshops, busy early and late, talking with youth, with young men, and with old men, on the proper aim and business of life, convincing them of their ignorance, and wakening up in them the slumbering desires after knowledge. In every human effort, whether directed to the interests of the commonwealth, or to the private individual and the gains of trade, to science or to art, this master of helps to spiritual births could find fit points of contact for the awakening of a true self-knowledge, and a moral and religions consciousness. However often his attempts failed, or were rejected with bitter scorn, or requited with hatred and unthankfulness, yet, led on by the clear conviction that a real improvement in the condition of the state could come only from a proper education of its youth, he remained to the last true to his chosen vocation. Purely Greek in these relations to the rising generation, he designated himself, by preference, as the most ardent lover; Greek too in this, that with him, notwithstanding these free relations of friendship, his own domestic life fell quite into the background. He nowhere shows much regard for his wife and children; the notorious, though altogether too much exaggerated ill-nature of Xantippe, leads us to suspect, however, that his domestic relations were not the most happy.
As a man, as a practical sage, Socrates is pictured in the brightest colors by all narrators. "He was," says Xenophon, "so pious, that he did nothing without the advice of the G.o.ds; so just, that he never injured any one even in the least; so completely master of himself, that he never chose the agreeable instead of the good; so discerning, that he never failed in distinguishing the better from the worse;" in short, he was "just the best and happiest man possible." (Xen. _Mem._ I. 1, 11.
IV. 8, 11.) Still that which lends to his person such a peculiar charm, is the happy blending and harmonious connection of all its characteristic traits, the perfection of a beautiful, plastic nature. In all this universality of his genius, in this force of character, by which he combined the most contradictory and incongruous elements into a harmonious whole, in this lofty elevation above every human weakness,-in a word, as a perfect model, he is most strikingly depicted in the brilliant eulogy of Alcibiades, in the Symposium of Plato. In the scantier representation of Xenophon, also, we find everywhere a cla.s.sic form, a man possessed of the finest social culture, full of Athenian politeness, infinitely removed from every thing like gloomy asceticism, a man as valiant upon the field of battle as in the festive hall, conducting himself with the most unconstrained freedom, and yet with entire sobriety and self-control, a perfect picture of the happiest Athenian time, without the acerbity, the one-sidedness, and contracted reserve of the later moralists, an ideal representation of the genuinely human virtues.
2. SOCRATES AND ARISTOPHANES.-Socrates seems early to have attained universal celebrity through the peculiarities attaching to his person and character. Nature had furnished him with a remarkable external physiognomy. His crooked, turned-up nose, his projecting eye, his bald pate, his corpulent body, gave his form a striking similarity to the Silenic, a comparison which is carried out in Xenophon's "Feast," in sprightly jest, and in Plato's Symposium, with as much ingenuity as profoundness. To this was added his miserable dress, his going barefoot, his posture, his often standing still, and rolling his eyes. After all this, one will hardly be surprised that the Athenian comedy took advantage of such a remarkable character. But there was another and peculiar motive, which influenced Aristophanes. He was a most ardent admirer of the good old times, an enthusiastic eulogist of the manners and the const.i.tution, under which the fathers had been reared. As it was his great object to waken up anew in his people, and to stimulate a longing after those good old times, his pa.s.sionate hatred broke out against all modern efforts in politics, art and philosophy, of that increasing mock-wisdom, which went hand in hand with a degenerating democracy. Hence comes his bitter railing at Cleon, the Demagogue (in the _Knights_), at Euripides, the sentimental play-writer (in the _Frogs_) and at Socrates, the Sophist (in the _Clouds_). The latter, as the representative of a subtle, destructive philosophy, must have appeared to him just as corrupt and pernicious, as the party of progress in politics, who trampled without conscience upon every thing which had come down from the past. It is, therefore, the fundamental thought of the Clouds to expose Socrates to public contempt, as the representative of the Sophistic philosophy, a mere semblance of wisdom, at once vain, profitless, corrupting in its influence upon the youth, and undermining all true discipline and morality. Seen in this light, and from a moral standpoint, the motives of Aristophanes may find some excuse, but they cannot be justified; and his representation of Socrates, into whose character all the characteristic features of the Sophistic philosophy are interwoven, even the most contemptible and hateful, yet so that the most unmistakable likeness is still apparent, cannot be admitted on the ground that Socrates did really have the greatest formal resemblance to the Sophists. The Clouds can only be designated as a culpable misunderstanding, and as an act of gross injustice brought about by blinded pa.s.sion; and Hegel, when he attempts to defend the conduct of Aristophanes, forgets, that, while the comic writer may caricature, he must do it without having recourse to public calumniation. In fact all the political and social tendencies of Aristophanes rest on a gross misunderstanding of historical development. The good old times, as he fancies them, are a fiction. It lies just as little in the realm of possibility, that a morality without reflection, and a homely ingenuousness, such as mark a nation's childhood, should be forced upon a time in which reflection has utterly eaten out all immediateness, and unconscious moral simplicity, as that a grown up man should became a child again in the natural way. Aristophanes himself attests the impossibility of such a return, when in a fit of humor, with cynic raillery, he gives up all divine and human authority to ridicule, and thereby, however commendable may have been the patriotic motive prompting him to this comic extravagance, demonstrates, that he himself no longer stands upon the basis of the old morality, that he too is the son of his time.