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V. THE ARISTOTELIAN ETHICS. 1. RELATION OF ETHICS TO PHYSICS.-Aristotle, guided by his tendency towards the natural, has more closely connected ethics and physics than either of his predecessors, Socrates or Plato, had done. While Plato found it impossible to speak of the good in man's moral condition, disconnected from the idea of the good in itself, Aristotle's princ.i.p.al object is to determine what is good for man solely; and he supposes that the good in itself, the idea of the good, in no way facilitates the knowledge of that good, which alone is attainable in practical life. It is only the latter, the moral element in the life of men, and not the good in the great affairs of the universe, with which ethics has to do. Aristotle therefore considers the good especially in its relation to the natural condition of men, and affirms that it is the end towards which nature herself tends. Instead of viewing the moral element as something purely intellectual, he rather apprehends it as only the bloom of the physical, which here becomes spiritualized and ethical; instead of making virtue to be knowledge, he treats it as the normal perfection of the natural instinct. That man is _by nature_ a political animal, is his fundamental proposition for the doctrine of the state.
From this connection of the ethical and the physical, arose the objections which Aristotle urged against the Socratic conception of virtue. Socrates had looked to the dialectical exclusively for the ground of all morality, and had accordingly made virtue and knowledge one. But in this, said Aristotle, the pathological element which is a.s.sociated by nature with every moral act, is destroyed. It is not reason, but the circ.u.mstances and natural bias of the soul which are the first ground of virtue. There is an instinct in the soul which at first strives unconsciously after the good, which is only subsequently sought with the full moral insight. Moral virtue arises first from that which is natural. It is on this ground, also, that Aristotle combats the notion that virtue may be learned. It is not through the perfection of knowledge, but by exercise that we become acquainted with the good. It is by a practice of moral acts that we become virtuous, just as by a practice of building and of music we become architects and musicians; for the habit which is the ground of moral constancy, is only a fruit of the abundant repet.i.tion of a moral action. Hence it is that originally we have our virtuous or our vicious dispositions in our power, but as soon as they are formed either to virtue or to vice, we are no longer able to control them. It is by three things, therefore, nature, habit, and reason, that man becomes good. The standpoint of Aristotle is in these respects directly opposed to that of Socrates. While Socrates regarded the moral and the natural as two opposites, and made the moral conduct to be the consequent of a rational enlightenment, Aristotle treated both as different steps of development, and reversing the order of Socrates, made the rational enlightenment in moral things consequent upon the moral conduct.
2. THE HIGHEST GOOD.-Every action has an end; but since every end is only itself a means to some other, we need therefore something after which we can strive for its own sake, and which is a good absolutely, or a best. What now is this highest good and supreme object of human pursuit? In name, at least, all men are agreed upon it, and call it happiness, but what happiness is, is a much disputed point. If asked in what human happiness consists, the first characteristic given would be that it belongs alone to the peculiar being of man. But sensation is not peculiar to man, for he shares this with the brute. A sensation of pleasure, therefore, which arises when some desire is gratified, may be the happiness of the brute, but certainly does not const.i.tute the essential of human happiness. Human happiness must express the completeness of intelligent existence, and because intelligence is essentially activity, therefore the happiness of man cannot consist in any merely pa.s.sive condition, but must express a completeness of human action. Happiness therefore is a well-being, which is at the same time a well-doing, and it is a well-doing which satisfies all the conditions of nature, and which finds the highest contentment or well-being in an unrestrained energy. Activity and pleasure are thus inseparably bound together by a natural bond, and happiness is the result of their union when they are sustained through a perfect life. Hence the Aristotelian definition of happiness. It is a perfect practical activity in a perfect life.
Although it might seem from this as though Aristotle placed the happiness of man in the natural activity of the soul, and regarded this as self-sufficient, still he is not blind to the fact that perfect happiness is dependent on other kinds of good whose possession is not absolutely within our power. It is true he expresses an opinion, that outward things in moderation are sufficient, and that only great success or signal reverses materially influence the happens of life; still he holds that wealth, the possession of friends and children, n.o.ble birth, beauty of body, etc., are more or less necessary conditions of happiness, though these are partly dependent on accidental circ.u.mstances. These wavering and inconsistent views of Aristotle respecting the nature of happiness, naturally rise from his empirical method of investigation. Careful in noting every thing which our limited experience seems to utter, he expressly avoids making either virtue or pleasure his principle, because actual experience shows the separation of the two. Although therefore he gives directions in general to strive after that pleasure in which the good man delights, or which is connected with a virtuous activity, yet is pleasure with him an end for its own sake, and not merely an accident of virtue, an empiricist, Aristotle is here also a dualist, while the Stoics and Epicureans have respectively taken and held fast to each of the two sides.
3. CONCEPTION OF VIRTUE.-As has already been seen in the Aristotelian Polemic against Socrates, virtue is the product of an oft-repeated moral action, a condition acquired through practice, a moral dexterity of the soul. The nature of this dexterity is seen in the following way: every action completes something as its work; but now if a work is imperfect when it has either a want or a superfluity, so also is every action imperfect in so far as there is in it either too little or too much; its perfection, therefore, is only found as it contains the right degree, the true mean between the too much and too little. Accordingly, virtue in general may be explained as the observation of the right mean in action, by which is meant not the arithmetical or absolute mean, but the one relative to ourselves. For what is enough for one individual is insufficient for another. The virtue of a man, of a woman, of a child, and of a slave is respectively different. Thus, virtue depends upon time, circ.u.mstance, and relation. The determination of this correct mean will always waver. In the impossibility of an active and exhaustive formula, we can only say respecting it that it is the correct mean as determined by a correct practical insight which is seen to be such by the intelligent man.
It follows from this general conception of virtue, that there will be as many separate virtues as there are circ.u.mstances of life, and as men are ever entering into new relations, in which it becomes difficult practically to determine the correct method of action, Aristotle, in opposition to Plato, would limit the field of separate virtues by no definite number. Only certain fundamental virtues can be named according as there are certain fixed and fundamental relations among men. For instance, man has a fixed relation to pleasure and pain. In relation to pain, the true moral mean is found in neither fearing nor courting it, and this is valor. In relation to pleasure, the true mean standing between greediness and indifference is temperance. In social life, the moral mean is between doing and suffering wrong, which is justice. In a similar way many other virtues might be characterized, each one of them standing as a mean between two vices, the one of which expresses a want and the other a superfluity. A closer exhibition of the Aristotelian doctrine of virtue would have much psychological and linguistic interest, though but little philosophical worth. Aristotle takes the conception of his virtues more from the use of language than from a thoroughly applied principle of cla.s.sification. His cla.s.sification of virtues is, therefore, without any stable ground, and is differently given in different places. The conception of the correct mean which Aristotle makes the measure of a moral act is obviously unworthy of a systematic representation, for as it cannot be determined how the intelligent man would act in every case, there could never be given any specific directions how others should act. In fine, the criterion of virtue as the correct mean between two vices cannot be always applied for in the virtue of wisdom, _e. g._ which Aristotle describes as the mean between simplicity and cunning, there is no such thing as too much.
4. THE STATE.-Aristotle, like Plato, makes the highest condition of moral virtue attainable only through political life. The state exists before the individual, as the whole is prior to its parts. The rationality and morality of the state is thus antecedent to that of the individual. Hence in the best state, moral and political virtue, the virtue of the man and the virtue of the citizen are one and the same thing, although in states as they are, the good citizen is not necessarily also the good man. But though this principle harmonized with Plato, yet Aristotle, at whose time the old aboriginal states had already begun their process of dissolution, cherished a very different view concerning the relation of the individual and the family to the state. He allows to both these an incomparably greater consideration, and yields to them a far wider field of independent action. Hence he combats Plato's community of wives and goods, not simply on the ground of its practicability, but also on the ground of its principle, since the state cannot be conceived as a strict unit, or as possessing any such centralization as would weaken or destroy individual activity. With Plato the state is but the product of the philosophical reflection, while with Aristotle it results from given circ.u.mstances, from history and experience, and he therefore wholly omits to sketch a model state or a normal const.i.tution, but carefully confines his attention to those which actually exist. Although the ideal of a state const.i.tution in the form of a limited monarchy is unmistakably in his mind, still he contents himself with portraying the different kinds of polities in their peculiarities, their origin, and their reciprocal transitions. He does not undertake to declare which is the best state absolutely, since this depends upon circ.u.mstances, and one const.i.tution is not adapted for every state. He simply attempts to show what form of the state is relatively the best and the most advisable under certain historical circ.u.mstances, and under given natural, climatic, geographic, economic, and intellectual conditions. In this he is faithful to the character of his whole philosophy. Standing on the basis of the empirical, he advances here as elsewhere, critically and reflectively, and in despair of attaining the absolutely true and good, he seeks for these relatively, with his eye fixed only on the probable and the practicable.
VI.-THE PERIPATETIC SCHOOL.-The school of Aristotle, called the Peripatetic, can here only be mentioned; the want of independence in its philosophizing, and the absence of any great and universal influence, rendering it unworthy an extended notice. Theophrastus, Eudemus, and Strato are its most famous leaders. Like most philosophical schools, it confines itself chiefly to a more thorough elaboration and explanation of the system of its master. In some empirical provinces, especially the physical, the attempt was made to carry out still further the system, while at the same time its speculative basis was set aside and neglected.
VII.-TRANSITION TO THE POST-ARISTOTELIAN PHILOSOPHY.-The productive energy of Grecian philosophy expends itself with Aristotle, contemporaneously and in connection with the universal decay of Grecian life and spirit. Instead of the great and universal systems of a Plato and an Aristotle, we have now systems of a partial and one-sided character, corresponding to that universal breach between the subject and the objective world which characterized the civil, religious, and social life of this last epoch of Greece, the time succeeding Alexander the Great. That subjectivity, which had been first propounded by the Sophists, was at length, after numerous struggles, victorious, though its triumph was gained upon the ruins of the Grecian civil and artistic life; the individual has become emanc.i.p.ated, the subject is no longer to be given up to the objective world, the liberated subjectivity must now be perfected and satisfied. This process of development is seen in the post-Aristotelian philosophy, though it finds its conditioning cause in the character of the preceding philosophical strivings. The dualism which formed the chief want of the systems both of Plato and Aristotle, has forced itself upon our attention at every step. The attempt which had been made, with the greatest expenditure of which the Grecian mind was capable, to refer back to one ultimate ground both subject and object, mind and matter, had produced no satisfactory result; and these two oppositions, around which all previous philosophy had struggled in vain, still remained disconnected. Wearied with the fruitless attempts at mediation, the subject now breaks with the objective world. Its attention is directed towards itself in its own self-consciousness. The result of this gives us either STOICISM, where the moral subject appears in the self-sufficiency of the sage to whom every external good and every objective work is indifferent, and who finds a good only in a moral activity; or EPICUREANISM, where the subject delights itself in the inner feeling of pleasure and the calm repose of a satisfied heart, enjoying the present and the past, and never fearing the future while it sees in the objective world only a means by which it can utter itself; or, again, Scepticism, where the subject, doubting and rejecting all objective truth and science, appears in the apathy of the Sceptic, who has broken both theoretically and practically with the objective world.
In fine, NEW-PLATONISM, the last of the ancient philosophical systems, bears this same character of subjectivity, for this whole system turns upon the exaltation of the subject to the absolute, and wherever it speculates respecting G.o.d and his relation to man, it is alone in order to establish the progressive transition from the absolute object to the human personality. The ruling principle in it all is the interest of the subjectivity, and the fact that in this system there are numerous objective determinations, is only because the subject has become absolute.
Zeno, of Cittium, a city of Cyprus, an elder contemporary of Antigonus Gonatas, king of Macedon, is generally given as the founder of the Stoical school. Deprived of his property by shipwreck, he took refuge in philosophy, incited also by an inner bias to such pursuits. He at first became a disciple of the Cynic Crateas, then of Stilpo, one of the Megarians, and lastly he betook himself to the Academy, where he heard the lessons of Xenocrates and Polemo. Hence the eclectic character of his teaching. It has in fact been charged against him, that differing but little if at all from the earlier schools, he attempted to form a school of his own, with a system wherein he had changed nothing but names. He opened a school at Athens, in the "variegated porch," so called from the paintings of Polygnotus, with which it was adorned, whence his adherents received the name of "philosophers of the porch"
(Stoics). Zeno is said to have presided over his school for fifty-eight years, and at a very advanced age to have put an end to his existence.
He is praised for the temperance and the austerity of his habits, while his abstemiousness is proverbial. The monument in his honor, erected after his death by the Athenians, at the instance of Antigonus, bore the high but simple eulogium that his life had been in unison with his philosophy. _Cleanthes_ was the successor of Zeno in the Stoic school, and faithfully carried out the method of his master. Cleanthes was succeeded by _Chrysippus_, who died about 208 B. C. He has been regarded as the chief prop of this school, in which respect it was said of him, that without a Chrysippus there would never have been a Porch. At all events, as Chrysippus was an object of the greatest veneration, and of almost undisputed authority with the later Stoics, he ought to be considered as the princ.i.p.al founder of the school. He was a writer so voluminous, that his works have been said to amount to seven hundred and five, among which, however, were repeated treatises upon the same propositions, and citations without measure from poets and historians, given to prove and ill.u.s.trate his opinions. Not one of all his writings has come down to us. Chrysippus closes the series of the philosophers who founded the Porch. The later heads of the school, as _Panaetius_, the friend of the younger Scipio (his famous work De Officiis, Cicero has elaborated in his treatise of the same name), and _Posidonius_, may be cla.s.sed with Cicero, Pompeius, and others, and were eclectic in their teachings. The Stoics have connected philosophy most intimately with the duties of practical life. Philosophy is with them the practice of wisdom, the exercise of virtue. Virtue and science are with them one, in so far at least that they divide virtue in reference to philosophy into physical, ethical, and logical. But though they go on according to this threefold division, and treat of logic and physics, and though they even rank physics higher than either of the other sciences, regarding it as the mother of the ethical and the science of the Divine, yet do we find their characteristic standpoint most prominently in their theory of morals.
1. LOGIC.-We have already said that it is the breach between subject and object, which forms the basis of all post-Aristotelian philosophy. The beginning of this philosophy of subjectivity is found with the Stoics.
The feature most worthy of notice in their logic, is the striving after a subjective criterion of the truth, by which they might distinguish the true representation from the false. Since they limited all scientific knowledge to the knowledge of the senses, they found this criterion in that which was evident in the sensuous impression. They conceived that they had answered the whole problem, in affirming that the true or conceivable representation reveals not only itself, but also its object: it, they said, is nothing else than a representation which is produced by a present object in a manner like itself.
2. PHYSICS.-In their physics, where they follow for the most part Herac.l.i.tus, the Stoics are distinguished from their predecessors, especially from Plato and Aristotle, by their thoroughly carried out proposition that nothing uncorporeal exists, that every thing essential is corporeal (just as in their logic they had sought to derive all knowledge from the sensuous perception). This sensualism or materialism of the Stoics which, as we have seen in their logic, lies at the basis of their theory of knowledge, might seem foreign to all their moral and idealistic tendencies, but is clearly explained from their subjective standpoint, for, when the thought has become so intensely engrossed in the subject, the objective world can only be regarded as a corporeal and material existence. The most immediate consequence of such a view is their pantheism. Aristotle before them had separated the Divine Being from the world, as the pure and eternal form from the eternal matter; but so far as this separation implied a distinction which was not simply logical, but actual and real, the Stoics would not admit it. It seemed to them impossible to dissever G.o.d from matter, and they therefore considered G.o.d and the world as power and its manifestation, and thus as one. Matter is the pa.s.sive ground of things, the original substratum for the divine activity: G.o.d is the active and formative energy of matter dwelling within it, and essentially united to it: the world is the body of G.o.d, and G.o.d is the soul of the world. The Stoics, therefore, considered G.o.d and matter as one identical substance, which, on the side of its pa.s.sive and changeable capacity they call matter, and on the side of its active and changeless energy, G.o.d. But since they, as already remarked, considered the world as ensouled by G.o.d in the light of a living and rational being, they were obliged to treat the conception of G.o.d not only in a physical but also in its ethical aspect. G.o.d is not only in the world as the ruling and living energy of this great [????
Greek: zoon] (animal), but he is also the universal reason which rules the whole world and penetrates all matter; he is the gracious Providence which cares for the individual and the whole; he is wise, and is the ground of that natural law which commands the good and forbids the evil; he punishes and rewards; he possesses a perfect and blessed life. But accustomed to regard every thing spiritual only in a sensuous way, the Stoics were obliged to clothe this ideal conception of G.o.d in a material form, apprehending it as the vital warmth or an original fire, a.n.a.logous to the view of the earlier natural philosophers, who held that the soul, and even reason itself, consisted in the vital warmth. The Stoics express this thought in different ways. At one time they call G.o.d the rational breath which pa.s.ses through all nature; at another, the artistic fire which fashions or begets the universe; and still again the ether; which, however, they hardly distinguish from the artistic fire.
From these varying views, we see that it did not belong to the Stoics to represent the conception of G.o.d in any determinate kind of existence.
They availed themselves of these expressions only to indicate that G.o.d, as the universal animating energy in the world, could not be disconnected from a corporeal agency. This identification of G.o.d and the world, according to which the Stoics regarded the whole formation of the universe as but a period in the development of G.o.d, renders their remaining doctrine concerning the world very simple. Every thing in the world seemed to them to be permeated by the divine life, and was regarded as but the flowing out of this most perfect life through certain channels, until it returned in a necessary circle back again to itself. It is not necessary here to speak more closely of the physics of this school.
3. THE ETHICS.-The ethics of the Stoics is most closely connected with their physics. In the physics we saw the rational order of the universe as it existed through the divine thought. In the ethics, the highest law of human action, and thus the whole moral legality of life is dependent upon this rational order and conformity to law in universal nature, and the highest good or the highest end of our strivings is to shape our life according to this universal law, to live in conformity with the harmony of the world or with nature. "Follow nature," or "live in harmony with nature," is the moral maxim of the Stoics. More accurately: live in harmony with thy rational nature so far as this has not been distorted nor refined by art, but is held in its natural simplicity.
From this moral principle, in which we have also the Stoic conception of virtue, the peculiarities of their theory of morals follow with logical necessity.
(1.) _Respecting the Relation of Virtue to Pleasure._-When the demand is made that the life should be in conformity with nature, the individual becomes wholly subjected to the universal, and every personal end is excluded. Hence pleasure, which of all ends is the most individual, must be disregarded. In pleasure that activity in which blessedness consists is abated, and this could only appear to the Stoics as a restraint of life, and thus as an evil. Pleasure is not in conformity with nature, and is no end of nature, says Cleanthes; and though other Stoics relax a little from the strictness of this opinion, and admit that pleasure may be according to nature, and is to be considered in a certain degree as a good, yet they all held fast to the doctrine, that it has no moral worth and is no end of nature, but is only something which is accidentally connected with the free and fitting activity of nature, while itself is not an activity, but a pa.s.sive condition of the soul. In this lies the whole severity of the Stoic doctrine of morals; every thing personal is cast aside, every external end of action is foreign to the moral man, the action in wisdom is the only good. From this follows directly:
(2.) _The View of the Stoics Concerning External Good._-If virtue, as the activity in conformity to nature, is exclusively a good, and if it alone can lead to happiness, then external good of every kind is something morally indifferent, and can neither be the object of our striving nor the end of any moral action. The action itself and not that towards which it tends is good. Hence such special ends as health, wealth, &c., are in themselves worthless and indifferent. They may result either in good or evil, and when deprived of them the happiness of the virtuous man is not destroyed. The Stoics yield from the rigor of their fundamental principle only in a single instance. They admit that there may be a distinction among indifferent things; that while none of these can be called a moral good, yet some may be preferable to others, and that the preferable, so far as it contributes to a life in conformity to nature, should enter into the account of a moral life. So the sage will prefer health and wealth when these are balanced in the choice with sickness and poverty, but though these objects have been rationally chosen, he does not esteem them as really good, for they are not the highest, they are inferior to the virtuous acting, in comparison with which every thing else sinks to insignificance. In making this distinction between the good and the preferable, we see how the Stoics exclude from the good every thing relative, and hold fast to it alone in its highest significance.
(3.) This abstract apprehension of the conception of virtue is still farther verified in the rigid antagonism which the Stoics affirmed between virtue and not-virtue, reason and sense. Either, they conclude, reason is awakened in the life of man and holds the mastery over him, or it is not awakened, and he serves his irrational instincts. In the former case we have a good and in the latter a bad man, while between these two cases as between virtue and vice, there is no mean. And since virtue cannot be partially possessed, but the man must be wholly virtuous or not at all, it follows that virtue as such is without degree, just as truth is, and hence also all good acts are equally good, because they spring from the full freedom of the reason, and all vicious ones equally bad, because they are impelled by the irrational instinct.
(4.) But this abstractedness of the moral standpoint, this rigid opposition of reason and irrationality, of the highest good and the individual good, of virtue and pleasure, has no power to furnish a system of concrete moral duties. The universal moral principle of the Stoics fails in its applicability to the individual instance. The Stoic morals has no concrete principle of moral self-determination. How must we act in every individual instance, in every moral relation, so as to act according to nature? To this inquiry Stoicism can give no answer.
Its system of particular duties is thus wholly without a scientific form, and is only held together by some universal conceptions which it contains. For the most part they satisfy themselves with describing in general terms the action according to nature, and with portraying their ideal of the wise man. The characteristics which they give this ideal are partly paradoxical. The wise man is free even in chains, for he acts from himself unmoved by fear or desire; the wise man alone is king, for he alone is not bound by laws and owes fealty to no one; he is the true rich man, the true priest, prophet, and poet. He is exalted above all law and every custom; even that which is most despicable and base-deception, suicide, murder-he may commit at a proper time and in a virtuous character. In a word the Stoics describe their wise man as a G.o.d, and yield it to him to be proud and to boast of his life like Zeus.
But where shall we find such a sage? Certainly not among the living. In the time long ago there may have been a perfect sage of such a pattern; but now, and for a long time back, are men at best only fools who strive after wisdom and virtue. The conception of the wise man represented, therefore, to the Stoics only an ideal, the actualization of which we should strive after, though without ever hoping to reach it; and yet their system of particular duties is almost wholly occupied in portraying this unreal and abstract ideal-a contradiction in which it is seen most clearly that their whole standpoint is one of abstract subjectivity.
The Epicurean school arose at Athens, almost contemporaneously with the Porch, though perhaps a little earlier than this. Epicurus, its founder, was born 342 B.C., six years after the death of Plato. Of his youth and education little is known. In his thirty-sixth year he opened a philosophical school at Athens, over which he presided till his death, 271 B.C. His disciples and adherents formed a social league, in which they were united by the closest band of friendship, ill.u.s.trating the general condition of things in Greece after the time of Alexander, when the social took the place of the decaying poetical life. Epicurus himself compared his society to the Pythagorean fraternity, although the community of goods, which forms an element in the latter, Epicurus excludes, affirming that true friends can confide in one another. The moral conduct of Epicurus has been repeatedly a.s.sailed but, according to the testimony of the most reliable witnesses, his life was blameless in every respect, and his personal character was estimable and amiable.
Moreover, it cannot be doubted that much of that, which is told by some, of the offensive voluptuousness of the Epicurean band, should be regarded as calumny. Epicurus was a voluminous writer, surpa.s.sing, in this respect, even Aristotle, and exceeded by Chrysippus alone. To the loss of his greater works he has himself contributed, by his practice of composing summaries of his system, which he recommended his disciples to commit to memory. These summaries have been for the most part preserved.
The end which Epicurus proposed to himself in science is distinctly revealed in his definition of philosophy. He calls it an activity which, by means of conceptions and arguments, procures the happiness of life.
Its end is, therefore, with him essentially a practical one, and on this account the object of his whole system is to produce a scheme of morals which should teach us how we might inevitably attain a happy life. It is true that the Epicureans adopted the usual division of philosophy into logic, which they called canonics, physics, and ethics; but they confined logic to the doctrine of the criterion of truth, and considered it only as an instrument and introduction to physics, while they only treated of physics as existing wholly for ethics, and being necessary in order to free men from superst.i.tious fear, and deliver them from the power of fables and mythical fancies concerning nature, which might hinder the attainment of happiness. We have therefore in Epicureanism the three old parts of philosophy, but in a reversed order, since logic and physics here stand as the handmaids of ethics. We shall confine ourselves in our exposition to the latter, since the Epicurean canonics and physics offer little scientific interest, and since the physics especially is not only very incomplete and without any internal connection, but rests entirely upon the atomic theory of Democritus.
Epicurus, like Aristotle and the other philosophers of his day, placed the highest good in happiness, or a happy life. More closely he makes pleasure to be the princ.i.p.al const.i.tuent of happiness, and even calls it the highest good. But Epicurus goes on to give a more accurate determination of pleasure, and in this he differs essentially from his predecessors, the Cyrenians. (_cf._ -- XIII. 3.)
1. While with Aristippus the pleasure of the moment is made the end of human efforts, Epicurus directs men to strive after a system of pleasures which should insure an abiding course of happiness for the whole life. _True_ pleasure is thus the object to be considered and weighed. Many a pleasure should be despised because it will result in pain, and many a pain should be rejoiced in because it would lead to a greater pleasure.
2. Since the sage will seek after the highest good, not simply for the present but for his whole life, he will hold the pleasures and pains of the soul, which like memory and hope stretch over the past and the future, in greater esteem than those of the body, which relate only to the present moment. The pleasure of the soul consists in the untroubled tranquillity of the sage, who rests secure in the feeling of his inner worth and his exaltation above the strokes of destiny. Thus Epicurus, would say that it is better to be miserable but rational than to be happy and irrational, and that the wise man might be happy though in torture. He would even affirm, like a true follower of Aristotle, that pleasure and happiness were most closely connected with virtue, that virtue is in fact inseparable from true pleasure, and that there can be no agreeable life without virtue, and no virtue without an agreeable life.
3. While other Hedonists would regard the most positive and intense feeling of pleasure as the highest good, Epicurus, on the other hand, fixed his eye on a happiness which should be abiding and for the whole life. He would not seek the most exquisite enjoyments in order to attain to a happy life, but he rather recommends one to be satisfied with little, and to practise sobriety and temperance of life. He guards himself against such a false application of his doctrine as would imply that the pleasure of the debauchee were the highest good, and boasts that with a little barley-bread and water he would rival Zeus in happiness. He even expresses an aversion for all costly pleasures, not, however, in themselves, but because of the evil consequences which they entail. True, the Epicurean sage need not therefore live as a Cynic. He will enjoy himself where he can without harm, and will even seek to acquire means to live with dignity and ease. But though all these enjoyments of life may properly belong to the sage, yet he _can_ deprive himself of them without misery-though he _ought_ not to do so-since he enjoys the truest and most essential pleasure in the calmness of his soul and the tranquillity of his heart. In opposition to the positive pleasure of some Hedonists, the theory of Epicurus expends itself in negative conceptions, representing that freedom from pain is pleasure, and that hence the activity of the sage should be prominently directed to avoid that which is disagreeable. All that man does, says Epicurus, is that he may neither suffer nor apprehend pain, and in another place he remarks, that not to live is far from being an evil. Hence death, for which men have the greatest terror, the wise man does not fear. For while we live, death is not, and when death is, we are not; when it is present we feel it not, for it is the end of all feeling, and that, which by its presence cannot affect our happiness, ought not, when thought of as a future, to trouble us. Here Epicurus must bear the censure urged against him by the ancients, that he does not recognize any positive end of life, and that the object after which his sage should strive is a mere pa.s.sionless state.
The crown of Epicurus's view of the universe is his doctrine of the G.o.ds, where he has carried over his ideal of happiness. To the G.o.ds belong a human form, though without any fixed body or human wants. In the void s.p.a.ce they lead an undisturbed and changeless life, whose happiness is incapable of increase. From the blessedness of the G.o.ds he inferred that they had nothing to do with the management of our affairs, for blessedness is repose, and on this account the G.o.ds neither take trouble to themselves nor cause it to others. It may indeed be said that these inactive G.o.ds of Epicurus, these indestructible and yet not fixed forms, these bodies which are not bodies, have but an ill connection with his general system, in which there is in fact no point to which his doctrine of the G.o.ds can be fitly joined-but a strict scientific connection is hardly the merit of this whole philosophy.
SCEPTICISM AND THE NEW ACADEMY.
This subjective direction already noticed was carried out to its farthest extent by the Sceptics, who broke down completely the bridge between subject and object, denying all objective truth, knowledge and science, and wholly withdrawing the philosopher from every thing but himself and his own subjective estimates. In this direction we may distinguish between the old Scepticism, the new Academy, and the later Scepticism.
1. THE OLD SCEPTICISM.-_Pyrrho_ of Elis, who was perhaps a cotemporary of Aristotle, was the head of the old Sceptics. He left no writings behind him, and we are dependent for a knowledge of his opinions upon his scholar and follower, Timon of Phlius. The tendency of these sceptical philosophers, like that of the Stoics and Epicureans, was a practical one, for philosophy, said they, ought to lead us to happiness.
But in order to live happily we must know how things are, and, therefore, in what kind of a relation we stand to them. The first of these questions the Sceptics answered by attempting to show that all things, without exception, are indifferent as to truth and falsehood, uncertain, and in nowise subject to man's judgment. Neither our senses nor our opinions concerning any thing teach us any truth; to every precept and to every position a contrary may be advanced, and hence the contradictory views of men, and especially of the philosophies of the schools respecting one and the same thing. All objective knowledge and science being thus impossible, the true relation of the philosopher to things consists in the entire suspension of judgment, and the withholding of every positive a.s.sertion. In order to avoid every thing like a positive a.s.sertion, the Sceptics had recourse to a variety of artifices, and availed themselves of doubtful modes of expression, such as _it is possible_; _it may be so_; _perhaps_; _I a.s.sert nothing_,-cautiously subjoining to this last-_not even that I a.s.sert nothing_. By this suspension of judgment the Sceptics thought they could attain their practical end, happiness; for the abstinence from all positive opinion is followed by a freedom from all mental disturbance, as a substance is by a shadow. He who has embraced Scepticism lives thenceforward tranquilly, without inquietude, without agitation, with an equable state of mind, and, in fact, divested of his humanity. Pyrrho is said to have originated the doctrine which lies at the basis of sceptical apathy, that no difference exists between sickness and health, or between life and death. The Sceptics, for the most part, derived the material for their views from the previous investigations in the dogmatic schools. But the grounds on which they rested were far from being profound, and were for the most part either dialectic errors which could easily be refuted, or mere subtleties. The use of the following ten tropes is ascribed to the old Sceptics, though these were perhaps not definitely brought out by either Pyrrho or Timon, but were probably first collected by aenesidemus, soon after the time of Cicero. The withholding of all decisive judgment may rest; (1) upon the distinction generally existing between individual living objects; (2) upon the difference among men; (3) the different functions of the organs of sense; (4) the circ.u.mstances under which objects appear; (5) the relative positions, intervals, and places; (6) intermixtures; (7) the quant.i.ties and modifications of the objects we perceive; (8) relations; (9) the frequent or rare occurrence; (10) the different ways of life, the varieties of customs and laws, the mythical representations and dogmatic opinions of men.
2. THE NEW ACADEMY.-Scepticism, in its conflict with the Stoics, as it appeared in the Platonic school established by _Arcesilaus_ (316-241), has a far greater significance than belongs to the performances of the Pyrrhonists. In this school Scepticism sought its support by its great respect for the writings and its transmission of the oral teachings of Plato. Arcesilaus could neither have a.s.sumed nor maintained the chair of instruction in the Academy, had he not carefully cherished and imparted to his disciples the impression that his own view, respecting the withholding of a decisive judgment, coincided essentially with that of Socrates and of Plato, and if he had not also taught that he only restored the genuine and original significance of Platonism, when he set aside the dogmatic method of teaching. An immediate incitement to the efforts of Arcesilaus is found in his opposition to the rigid dogmatic system which had lately arisen in the Porch, and which claimed to be in every respect an improvement upon Platonism. Hence, as Cicero remarks, Arcesilaus directed all his sceptical and polemic attacks against Zeno, the founder of Stoicism. He granted with his opponent that no representation should form a part of undoubted knowledge, if it could possibly have arisen through any other object than that from which it actually sprung, but he would not admit that there might be a notion which expressed so truly and accurately its own object, that it could not have arisen from any other. Accordingly, Arcesilaus denied the existence of a criterion which could certify to us the truth of our knowledge. If there be any truth in our affirmations, said he, we cannot be certain of it. In this sense he taught that one can know nothing, not even that he does know nothing. But in moral matters, in choosing the good and rejecting the evil, he taught that we should follow that which is probable.
Of the subsequent leaders in the new Academy, _Carneades_ (214-129) alone need here be mentioned, whose whole philosophy, however, consists almost exclusively in a polemic against Stoicism and in the attempt to set up a criterion of truth. His positive performance is the attempt to bring out a philosophical theory of probabilities. The later Academicians fell back to an eclectic dogmaticism.
3. THE LATER SCEPTICISM.-Once more we meet with a peculiar Scepticism at the time when Grecian philosophy had wholly fallen to decay. To this time belong _aenesidemus_, who probably-though this cannot be affirmed with certainty-lived but a little after Cicero; _Agrippa_, whose date is also uncertain, though subsequent to aenesidemus, and _s.e.xtus Empiricus_-_i. e._ a Grecian physician of the empiric sect, who probably flourished in the first half of the third century of the Christian era.
These are the most significant names. Of these the last has the greatest interest for us, from two writings which he left behind him (the hypotyposes of Pyrrho in three books, and a treatise against the mathematicians in nine books), which are sources of much historical information. In these he has profusely collected every thing which the Scepticism of the ancients knew how to advance against the certainty of knowledge.