Imágenes de páginas

inclines to the belief that it is a rarefied body, easily movable, and somewhat of the nature of a vapour; he divides it into four activities, corresponding to the four elements entering into its constitution; and that, so far from being immortal, it is decomposed into its integral atoms, dying when the body dies. With the atomic doctrines of Democritus, Epicurus adopts the notions of that philosopher respecting sensation, to the effect that eidola or images are sloughed off from all external objects, and find access to the brain through the eye. In his theology he admits, under the circumstances we have mentioned, anthropomorphic gods, pretending to account for their origin in the chance concourse of atoms, and suggesting that they display their quietism and blessed

ness by giving themselves no concern about man His irreligion.

or his affairs. By such derisive promptings does Epicurus mock at the religion of his country-its rituals, sacrifices, prayers, and observances. He offers no better evidence of the existence of God than that there is a general belief current among men in support of such a notion ; but, when brought to the point, he does not hesitate to utter his disbelief in the national theology, and to declare that, in his judgment, it is blind chance that rules the world.

Such are the opinions to which the name of Epicurus has been attached; but there were Epicureans ages before that philosopher was born, and Epicureans there will be

in all time to come. Epicureans of

They abound in our own modern times. days, ever characterized by the same featuresan intense egoism in their social relations, superficiality in their philosophical views, if the term philosophical can be justly applied to intellects so narrow; they manifest an accordance often loud and particular with the religion of their country, while in their hearts and in their lives they are utter infidels. These are they who constitute the most specious part of modern society, and are often the self-proclaimed guardians of its interests. They are to be found in every grade of life; in the senate, in the army, in the professions, and especially in commercial pursuits, which, unhappily, tend too frequently to the development of selfishness. It is to them that society is

[ocr errors]

The New

indebted for more than half its corruptions, all its hypocrisy, and more than half its sins. It is they who infuse into it falsehood as respects the past, imposture as respects the present, fraud as respects the future; who teach it by example that the course of a man's life ought to be determined upon principles of selfishness; that gratitude and affection are well enough if displayed for effect, but that they should never be felt; that men are to be looked upon not as men, but as things to be used; that knowledge and integrity, patriotism and virtue, are the delusions of simpletons; and that wealth is the only object which is really worthy of the homage of man.

It now only remains in this chapter to speak of the later Platonism. The Old Academy, of which Plato was the founder, limited its labours to the illustra- The Middle tion and defence of his doctrines. The Middle Academy of Academy, originating with Arcesilaus, born Arcesilaus. B.C. 316, maintained a warfare with the Stoics, developed the doctrine of the uncertainty of sensual impressions and the nothingness of human knowledge. The New Academy was founded by Carneades, born Academy of B.C. 213, and participated with the preceding in many of its fundamental positions. On the one side Carneades leans to scepticism, on the other he accepts probability as his guide. This school so rapidly degenerated that at last it occupied itself with rhetoric alone. The gradual increase of scepticism and indifference throughout this period is obvious enough; thus Arcesilaus said that he knew nothing, not even his own ignorance, and denied both intellectual and sensuous knowledge. Carneades, obtaining his views from the old philosophy, found therein arguments suitable for his purpose against necessity, God, soothsaying; he did not admit that there is any such thing as justice in the abstract, declaring that it is a purely conventional thing; indeed, it

The duplicity was his rhetorical display, alternately in praise of the later of justice and against it, on the occasion of his visit to Rome, that led Cato to have him expelled from the city. Though Plato had been the representative of an age of faith, a secondary analysis of all his works, implying an exposition of their contradictions, ended in



and fifth

scepticism. If we may undertake to determine the precise aim of a philosophy whose representatives stood in such an attitude of rhetorical duplicity, it may be said to be the demonstration that there is no criterion of truth in this world. Persuaded thus of the impossibility of philosophy, Carneades was led to recommend his theory of the probable. “That which has been most perfectly analyzed and examined, and found to be devoid of improbability, is the most probable idea.” The degeneration of philosophy now became truly complete, the labours of so many great men being degraded to rhetorical and artistic purposes.

It was seen by all that Plato had destroyed all trust in the indications of the senses, and substituted for it the Ideal theory. Aristotle had deThe fourth

stroyed that, and there was nothing left to the

world but scepticism. A fourth Academy was Academies.

founded by Philo of Larissa, a fifth by Antiochus of Ascalon. It was reserved for this teacher to attach the Porch to the Academy, and to merge the doctrines of Plato in those of the Stoics. Such a heterogeneous mixture demonstrates the pass to which speculative philosophy had come, and shows us clearly that her disciples had abandoned her in despair. So ends the Greek age of Faith. How strikingly does

its history recall the corresponding period of Greek age of individual life — the trusting spirit and the

disappointment of youth. We enter on it full of confidence in things and men, never suspecting that the one may disappoint, the other deceive. Our early experiences, if considered at all, afford only matter of surprise that we could ever have been seriously occupied in such folly, or actuated by motives now seeming so inadequate. It never occurs to us that, in our present state, though the pursuits may have changed, they are none the less vain, the objects none the less delusive.

The second age of Greek philosophy ended in sophism, the third in scepticism. Speculative philosophy strikes at last upon a limit which it can not overpass. This is its state even in our own times. It reverberates against the wall that confines it without the least chance of making its way through.

End of the





THE MACEDONIAN CAMPAIGN.-Disastrous in its political Effects to

Greece, but ushering in the Age of Reason. ARISTOTLE founds the Inductive Philosophy.--His Method the Inverse of

that of Plato.-Its great power.-In his own hands it fails for want

of Knowledge, but is carried out by the Alexandrians. ZENO.—His Philosophical Aim is the Cultivation of Virtue and Know

ledge. He is in the Ethical Branch the Counterpart of Aristotle in

the Physical FOUNDATION OF THE MUSEUM OF ALEXANDRIA.The great Libraries,

Observatories, Botanical Gardens, Menageries, Dissecting Houses.--Its Effect on the rapid Development of exact Knowledge.-Influence of Euclid, Archimedes, Eratosthenes, Apollonius, Ptolemy, Hipparchus, on Geometry, Natural Philosophy, Astronomy, Chronology, Geography, Decline of the Greek Age of Reason.

TAE conquest of Persia by Alexander the Great is a most important event in European history. That adventurer, carrying out the intentions of his father Philip, commenced his attack with apparently very The Greek insignificant means, having, it is said, at the invasion of most, only thirty-four thousand infantry, four Persia. thousand cavalry, and seventy talents in money. The result of his expedition was the ruin of the Persian empire, and also the ruin of Greece. It was not without reason that his memory was cursed in his native country. Her life-blood was drained away by his successes. În view of the splendid fortunes to be made in Asia, Greece ceased to be the place for an enterprising man. To such an extent did military emigration go, that Greek recruits

Its ruinous effect on Greece.

were settled all over the Persian empire; their number was sufficient to injure irreparably the country from which they had parted, but not sufficient to Hellenize the dense and antique populations among whom they had settled.

Not only was it thus by the drain of men that the Macedonian expedition was so dreadfully disastrous to

Greece, the political consequences following those successful campaigns added to the baneful

result. Alexander could not have more effectually ruined Athens had he treated her as he did Thebes, which he levelled with the ground, massacring six thousand of her citizens, and selling thirty thousand for slaves. The founding of Alexandria was the commercial end of Athens, the finishing stroke to her old colonial system. It might have been well for her had he stopped short in his projects with the downfall of Tyre, destroyed, Injury to

not from any vindictive reasons, as is sometimes Athens from said, but because he discovered that that city the founding

was an essential part of the Persian system. It

was never his intention that Athens should derive advantage from the annihilation of her Phoenician competitor; his object was effectually carried out by the building and prosperity of Alexandria.

Though the military celebrity of this great soldier may be diminished by the history of the last hundred years, which shows a uniform result of victory when European armies are brought in contact with Asiatic, even under the most extraordinary disadvantages, there cannot be denied to him a profound sagacity and statesmanship excelled by no other conqueror. Before he became intoxicated with success, and, unfortunately, too frequently intoxicated with wine, there was much that was noble in his character. He had been under the instruction of Aristotle for several years, and, on setting out on his expedition, took with him so many learned men as

almost to justify the remark applied to it, that tendency of

as much a scientific as a military

undertaking. Among those who thus accompaigns. panied him was Callisthenes, a relative and pupil of Aristotle, destined for an evil end. Perhaps the assertion

of Alexandria.


it was

the Macedonian cam

[ocr errors]
« AnteriorContinuar »