And while both light and darkness serve mankindIn the preceding chapter we traced the rise and progress of physical philosophy among the ancient Greeks. We showed how a few great thinkers, borne on by an unparalleled development of intellectual activity, worked out ideas respecting the order of nature and the constitution of matter which, after more than two thousand years, still remain as fresh and fruitful as ever; and we found that, in achieving these results, Greek thought was itself determined by ascertainable laws. Whether controlling artistic imagination or penetrating to the objective truth of things, it remained always essentially homogeneous, and worked under the same forms of circumscription, analysis, and opposition. It began with external nature, and with a far distant past; nor could it begin otherwise, for only so could the subjects of its later meditations be reached. Only after less sacred beliefs have been shaken can ethical dogmas be questioned. Only when discrepancies of opinion obtrude themselves on man’s notice is the need of an organising logic experienced. And the mind’s eye, originally focussed for distant objects alone, has to be gradually restricted in its range by the pressure of accumulated experience before it can turn from past to present, from successive to contemporaneous phenomena. We have now to undertake the not less interesting task of showing how the new culture, the new conceptions, the new power to think obtained through those earliest54 speculations, reacted on the life from which they sprang, transforming the moral, religious, and political creeds of Hellas, and preparing, as nothing else could prepare, the vaster revolution which has given a new dignity to existence, and substituted, in however imperfect a form, for the adoration of animalisms which lie below man, the adoration of an ideal which rises above him, but only personifies the best elements of his own nature, and therefore is possible for a perfected humanity to realise. Tambin puede interesarte:
But if even so little as this remains unproved, what are we to think of the astounding assertion, that ‘Aristotle’s theory of a creative reason, fragmentary as that theory is left, is the answer to all materialistic theories of the universe. To Aristotle, as to a subtle Scottish preacher,264 “the real pre-supposition of all knowledge, or the thought which is the prius of all things, is not the individual’s consciousness of himself as individual, but a thought or self-consciousness which is beyond all individual selves, which is the unity of all individual selves, and their objects, of all thinkers and all objects of thought.”’265 How can materialism or anything else be possibly refuted by a theory which is so obscurely set forth that no two interpreters are able to agree in their explanation of it? And even were it stated with perfect clearness and fulness, how can any hypothesis be refuted by a mere dogmatic declaration of Aristotle? Are we back in the Middle Ages that his ipse dixit is to decide questions now raised with far ampler means of discussion than he could possess? As to Principal Caird’s metaphysics, we have no wish to dispute their theoretic accuracy, and can only admire the liberality of a Church in which propositions so utterly destructive of traditional orthodoxy are allowed to be preached. But one thing we are certain of, and that is, that whether or not they are consistent with Christian theism, they are utterly inconsistent with Aristotelian principles. Which is the ‘thought or self-consciousness’ referred to, a possibility or an actuality? If the former, it is not a prius, nor is it the creative reason. If the latter, it cannot transcend all or any individual selves, for, with Aristotle, individuals are the sole reality, and the supreme being of his system is pre-eminently individual; neither can it unify them, for, according to Aristotle, two things which are two in actuality cannot be one in actuality.266III.
On the other hand, Aristotle’s own theistic arguments cannot stand for a moment in the face of modern science. We know by the law of inertia that it is not the continuance, but the arrest or the beginning of motion which requires to be accounted for. We know by the Copernican system that there is no solid sidereal sphere governing the revolutions of all Nature. And we know by the Newtonian physics that354 gravitation is not dependent on fixed points in space for its operation. The Philosophy of the Philosopher Aristotle is as inconsistent with the demonstrations of modern astronomy as it is with the faith of mediaeval Catholicism.To Socrates himself the strongest reason for believing in the identity of conviction and practice was, perhaps, that he had made it a living reality. With him to know the right137 and to do it were the same. In this sense we have already said that his life was the first verification of his philosophy. And just as the results of his ethical teaching can only be ideally separated from their application to his conduct, so also these results themselves cannot be kept apart from the method by which they were reached; nor is the process by which he reached them for himself distinguishable from the process by which he communicated them to his friends. In touching on this point, we touch on that which is greatest and most distinctively original in the Socratic system, or rather in the Socratic impulse to systematisation of every kind. What it was will be made clearer by reverting to the central conception of mind. With Protagoras mind meant an ever-changing stream of feeling; with Gorgias it was a principle of hopeless isolation, the interchange of thoughts between one consciousness and another, by means of signs, being an illusion. Socrates, on the contrary, attributed to it a steadfast control over passion, and a unifying function in society through its essentially synthetic activity, its need of co-operation and responsive assurance. He saw that the reason which overcomes animal desire tends to draw men together just as sensuality tends to drive them into hostile collision. If he recommended temperance on account of the increased egoistic pleasure which it secures, he recommended it also as making the individual a more efficient instrument for serving the community. If he inculcated obedience to the established laws, it was no doubt partly on grounds of enlightened self-interest, but also because union and harmony among citizens were thereby secured. And if he insisted on the necessity of forming definite conceptions, it was with the same twofold reference to personal and public advantage. Along with the diffusive, social character of mind he recognised its essential spontaneity. In a commonwealth where all citizens were free and equal, there must also be freedom and equality of reason. Having worked out a theory of life for himself, he138 desired that all other men should, so far as possible, pass through the same bracing discipline. Here we have the secret of his famous erotetic method. He did not, like the Sophists, give continuous lectures, nor profess, like some of them, to answer every question that might be put to him. On the contrary, he put a series of questions to all who came in his way, generally in the form of an alternative, one side of which seemed self-evidently true and the other self-evidently false, arranged so as to lead the respondent, step by step, to the conclusion which it was desired that he should accept. Socrates did not invent this method. It had long been practised in the Athenian law-courts as a means for extracting from the opposite party admissions which could not be otherwise obtained, whence it had passed into the tragic drama, and into the discussion of philosophical problems. Nowhere else was the analytical power of Greek thought so brilliantly displayed; for before a contested proposition could be subjected to this mode of treatment, it had to be carefully discriminated from confusing adjuncts, considered under all the various meanings which it might possibly be made to bear, subdivided, if it was complex, into two or more distinct assertions, and linked by a minute chain of demonstration to the admission by which its validity was established or overthrown.