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Political is not during the process of decomposition of philosophies, and dangers of the higher especially of religions, that social changes occur, for such analysis.
breakings-up commonly go on in an isolated, and therefore innocuous way; but if by chance the fragments and decomposed portions are brought together, and attempts are made by fusion to incorporate them anew, or to extract from them, by a secondary analysis, what truth they contain, a crisis is at once brought on, and—such is the course of events—in the catastrophe that ensues they are commonly all absolutely destroyed.
It was doubtless their foresight of such consequences that inthe Middle spired the Italian statesmen of the Middle Ages with a resoAges.
lute purpose of crushing in the bud every encroachment on ecclesiastical authority, and every attempt at individual interpretation of religious doctrines; for it is not to be supposed that men of clear intellect should be insensible to the obvious unreasonableness of many of the dogmas that had been consecrated by authority. But if once permission were accorded to human criticism and human interpretation, what other issue could there be than that doctrine upon doctrine, and sect upon sect should arise; that theological principles should undergo a total decomposition, until scarcely two men could be found whose views coincided; nay, even more than that, that the same man should change his opinion with the changing inci. dents of the different periods of his life? No matter what might be the plausible guise of the beginning, and the ostensibly cogent arguments for its necessity, once let the decomposition commence, and no human power could arrest it until it had become thorough and complete. Considering the prestige, the authority, and the mass of fact to be dealt with, it might take many centuries for this process to be finished, but that that result would at length be accomplished no enlightined man could doubt. The experience of the ancient European world had shown that in the act of such decomposi, tions there is but little danger, since, for the time being, each sect, and indeed each individual, has a guiding rule of life. But as soon as the period of secondary analysis is reached, a crisis must inevitably ensue, in all probability involving not only religion, but also the social contract. And though, by
the exercise of force on the part of the interests that are dis- Danger of turbed, aided by that popular sentiment which is abhorrent of outgrowing
formulas of anarchy, the crisis might, for a time, be put off, it could not faith. be otherwise than that Europe should be left in that deplorable state which must be the result when the intellect of a people has outgrown its formulas of faith,—a fearful condition to contemplate, for such a dislocation must also affect political relations, and necessarily implies revolt against existing law. Nations plunged in the abyss of irreligion must necessarily be nations in anarchy. For a time their tendency to explosion may be kept down by the firm application of the hand of power ; but this is simply an antagonism, it is no cure. The social putrefaction proceeds, working its way downward into classes that are lower and lower, until at length it involves the institutions that are relied on for its arrest. Ar- Absolute
necessity of mies, the machinery of compression, once infected, the end is
preparing at hand, but no human foresight can predict what the event shall be, especially if the contemporaneous ruling powers have these
changes. either ignorantly or wilfully neglected to prepare society for the inevitable trial it is about to undergo. It is the most solemn of all the duties of governments, when once they have become aware of such a momentous condition, to prepare the nations for its fearful consequences. For this it may, perhaps, be lawful for them to dissemble in a temporary manner, as it is sometimes proper for a physician to dissemble with his patient; it may be lawful for them even to resort to the use of force, but never should such measures of doubtful correctness be adopted without others directed to a preparation of the mass of society for the trials through which it is about to pass. Such, doubtless, were the profound views of the great Italian statesmen of the Middle Ages; such, doubtless, were the arguments by which they justified to themselves resistance against the beginning of the evil,-a course for which Europe has too often and unfairly condemned them.
It remains for us now to review the details presented in the Summary foregoing pages for the purpose
of determining the successive ceding thephases of developement through which the Greek mind passed. It is not with the truth or fallacy of these details that we have
of the pre
to do, but with their order of occurrence. They are points enabling us to describe graphically the curve of Grecian intellectual advance.
The starting-point of Greek philosophy is physical and geocentral. The earth is the grand object of the universe, and, as the necessary result, erroneous ideas are entertained as to the relations and dimensions of the sea and air. This philosophy was hardly a century old before it commenced to cosmogonize, using the principles it considered itself sure of. Long before it was able to get rid of local ideas, such as upward and downward in space, it undertook to explain the origin of the world.
But, as advances were made, it was recognized that creation, in its various parts, displays intention and design, the adaptation of means to secure proposed ends. This suggested a reasoning and voluntary agency, like that of man, in the government of the world ; and from a continual reference to human habits and acts, Greek philosophy passed through its stage of anthropoid conceptions.
A little further progress awakened suspicions that the mind of man can obtain no certain knowledge; and the opinion at last prevailed that we have no reliable criterion of truth. In the scepticism thus setting in, the approach to Oriental ideas is each successive instant more and more distinct.
This period of doubt was the immediate forerunner of more correct cosmical opinions. The heliocentric mechanism of the planetary system was introduced, the earth deposed to a subordinate position. The doctrines, both physical and intellectual, founded on geocentric ideas, were necessarily endangered, and, since these had connected themselves with the prevailing religious views, and were represented by important material in
terests, the public commenced to practise persecution and the Approach, philosophers hypocrisy. Pantheistic notions of the nature of to Oriental ideas.
the world became more distinct, and, as their necessary consequence, the doctrines of emanation, transmigration, and absorption were entertained. From this it is but a step to the suspicion that matter and motion and time are phantasms of the imagination,-opinions embodied in the atomic theory,
which asserts that atoms and space alone exist; and which became more refined when it recognized that atoms are only mathematical points, and still more so when it considered them as mere centres of force. The brink of Buddhism was here approached.
As must necessarily ever be the case where men are coexisting in different psychical stages of advance, some having made a less, some a greater intellectual progress, all these, which we have described successively, were at last contemporaneously entertained. At this point commenced the action of the Sophists, who, by setting the doctrines of one school in opposition to those of another, and representing them all as of equal value, occasioned the destruction of them all, and the philosophy founded on physical speculation came to an end.
Of this phase of Greek intellectual life, if we may compare Uniformity the beginning with the close, we cannot fail to observe how great is the improvement. The thoughts dealt with at the
progress. later period are intrinsically of a higher order than those at the outset. From the puerilities and errors with which we have thus been occupied, we learn that there is a definite mode of progress for the mind of man; from the history of later times we shall find that it is ever in the same direction.
in the man
ner of intellectual
THE GREEK AGE OF FAITH.
RISE AND DECLINE OF ETHICAL PHILOSOPHY.
Greek phi- MHE Sophists had brought on an intellectual anarchy. It losophy on the basis of is not in the nature of humanity to be contented with ethics.
such a state. Thwarted in its expectations from physics, the Greek mind turned its attention to morals. In the
progress of life, it is but a step from the age of Inquiry to the age of Faith.
Socrates, who led the way in this movement, was born B.C. his mode of teaching
469. He has exercised an influence in some respects felt to our times. Having experienced the unprofitable results arising from physical speculation, he set in contrast therewith the solid advantages to be enjoyed from the cultivation of virtue and morality. His life was one perpetual combat with the Sophists. His manner of instruction was by conversation, in which, according to the uniform testimony of all who heard him, he singularly excelled. He resorted to definitions, and therefrom drew deductions, conveying his argument under the form of a dialogue. Unlike his predecessors, who sought for truth in the investigation of outward things, he turned his attention inward, asserting the supremacy of virtue and its identity with knowledge, and the necessity of an adherence to the strict principles of justice. Considering the depraved condition to which the Sophists had reduced society, he insisted on a change in the manner of education of youth, so as to bring it in accordance with the principle that happiness is only to be found in the pursuit of virtue and goodness. Thus, therefore,