Christianity and Greek Philosophy
by Benjamin Franklin Cocker
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[Footnote 370: Hamilton's "Metaphysics," vol. i. pp. 68, 69.]

This law has been the guiding principle of the Inductive Sciences, and has led to some of its most important discoveries. The unity which has been attained in physical science is not, however, the absolute unity of a material substratum, but a unity of Will and of Thought. The late discovery of the monogenesis, reciprocal convertibility, and indestructibility of all Forces in nature, leads us upward towards the recognition of one Omnipresent and Omnipotent Will, which, like a mighty tide, sweeps through the universe and effects all its changes. The universal prevalence of the same physical laws and numerical relations throughout all space, and of the same archetypal forms and teleology of organs throughout all past time, reveals to us a Unity of Thought which grasps the entire details of the universe in one comprehensive plan.[371] The positive a priori intuitions of reason and the a posteriori inductions of science equally attest that God is one.

[Footnote 371: We refer with pleasure to the articles of Dr. Winchell, in the North-western Christian Advocate, in which the a posteriori proof of "the Unity of God" is forcibly exhibited, and take occasion to express the hope they will soon be presented to the public in a more permanent form.]

4th. By denying that man has any intuitive cognitions of right and wrong, or any native and original feeling of obligation, Mr. Watson invalidates "the moral argument" for the existence of a Righteous God.

"As far as man's reason has applied itself to the discovery of truth or duty it has generally gone astray."[372] "Questions of morals do not, for the most part, lie level to the minds of the populace."[373] "Their conclusions have no authority, and place them under no obligation."[374] And, indeed, man without a revelation "is without moral control, without principles of justice, except such as may be slowly elaborated from those relations which concern the grosser interests of life, without conscience, without hope or fear in another life."[375]

[Footnote 372: "Institutes of Theology," vol. ii. p. 470.]

[Footnote 373: Ibid., vol. i. p. 15.]

[Footnote 374: Ibid., vol. i. p. 228.]

[Footnote 375: Ibid., vol. ii. p. 271.]

Now we shall not occupy our space in the elaboration of the proposition that the universal consciousness of our race, as revealed in human history, languages, legislations, and sentiments, bears testimony to the fact that the ideas of right, duty, and responsibility are native to the human mind; we shall simply make our appeal to those Sacred Writings whose verdict must be final with all theologians. That the fundamental principles of the moral law do exist, subjectively, in all human minds is distinctly affirmed by Paul, in a passage which deserves to be regarded as the chief corner-stone of moral science. "The Gentiles (ephne, heathen), which have not the written law, do by the guidance of nature (reason or conscience) the works enjoined by the revealed law; these, having no written law, are a law unto themselves; who show plainly the works of the law written on their hearts, their conscience bearing witness, and also their reasonings one with another, when they accuse, or else excuse, each other."[376] To deny this is to relegate the heathen from all responsibility. For Mr. Watson admits "that the will of a superior is not in justice binding unless it be in some mode sufficiently declared." Now in the righteous adjudgments of revelation the heathen are "without excuse." The will of God must, therefore, be "sufficiently declared" to constitute them accountable. Who will presume to say that the shadowy, uncertain, variable, easily and unavoidably corrupted medium of tradition running through forty muddy centuries is a "sufficient declaration of the will of God?" The law is "written on the heart" of every man, or all men are not accountable.

[Footnote 376: Romans, ch. ii. ver. 14-15.]

Now this "law written within the heart" immediately and naturally suggests the idea of a Lawgiver who is over us. This felt presence of Conscience, approving or condemning our conduct, suggests, as with the speed of the lightning-flash, the notion of a Judge who will finally call us to account. This "accusing or excusing of each other," this recognition of good or ill desert, points us to, and constrains us to recognize, a future Retribution; so that some hope or fear of another life has been in all ages a universal phenomenon of humanity.

It is affirmed, however, that whilst this capacity to know God may have been an original endowment of human nature, yet, in consequence of the fall, "the understanding and reason are weakened by the deterioration of his whole intellectual nature."[377] "Without some degree of education, man is wholly the creature of appetite. Labor, feasting, and sleeping divide his time, and wholly occupy his thoughts."[378]

[Footnote 377: "Institutes of Theology," vol. i. p. 15.]

[Footnote 378: Ibid., vol. i. p. 271.]

We reverently and believingly accept the teaching of Scripture as to the depravity of man. We acknowledge that "the understanding is darkened" by sin. At the same time, we earnestly maintain that the Scriptures do not teach that the fundamental laws of mind, the first principles of reason, are utterly traversed and obliterated by sin, so that man is not able to recognize the existence of God, and feel his obligation to Him. "Though they(the heathen) knew God (dioti gnontes), they did not glorify him as God, neither were thankful, but became vain in their imagination, and their foolish hearts were darkened. They changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator." "And as they did not approve of holding God with acknowledgment, God delivered them over to an unapproving mind, to work those things which are not suitable." After drawing a fearful picture of the darkness and depravity of the heathen, the Apostle adds, "Who, though they KNOW the law of God, that they who practise such things are worthy of death, not only do them, but even are well pleased with those who practise them."[379] The obvious and direct teaching of this passage is that the heathen, in the midst of their depravity and idolatry, are not utterly ignorant of God; "they know God"—"they know the law of God "—"they worship Him," though they worship the creature more than Him. They know God, and are unwilling to "acknowledge God." "They know the righteousness of God," and are "haters of God" on account of his purity; and their worshipping of idols does not proceed from ignorance of God, from an intellectual inability to know God, but from "corruption of heart," and a voluntary choice of, and a "pleasure" in, the sinful practices accompanying idol worship. Therefore, argues the Apostle, they are "without excuse." The whole drift and aim of the argument of Paul is, not to show that the heathen were, by their depravity, incapacitated to know God, but that because they knew God and knew his righteous law, therefore their depravity and licentiousness was "inexcusable."

[Footnote 379: Romans, ch. i. ver. 23-32.]

We conclude our review of opposing schools by the re-affirmation of our position, that God is cognizable by human reason. The human mind, under the guidance of necessary laws of thought, is able, from the facts of the universe, to affirm the existence of God, and to attain some valid knowledge of his character and will. Every attempt to solve the great problem of existence, to offer an explanation of the phenomenal world, or to explore the fundamental idea of reason, when fairly and fully conducted, has resulted in the recognition of a Supreme Intelligence, a personal Mind and Will, as the ground, and reason, and cause of all existence. A survey of the history of Greek Philosophy will abundantly sustain this position, and to this we shall, in subsequent chapters, invite the reader's attention.





"Then certain philosophers of the Epicureans and of the Stoics encountered Paul."—Acts xvii. 18.

"Plato affirms that this is the most just cause of the creation of the world, that works which are good should be wrought by the God who is good; whether he had read these things in the Bible, or whether by his penetrating genius he beheld the invisible things of God as understood by the things which are made"—ST. AUGUSTINE, "De Civ. Dei," lib. xi. ch. 21.

Of all the monuments of the greatness of Athens which have survived the changes and the wastes of time, the most perfect and the most enduring is her philosophy. The Propylaea, the Parthenon, and the Erechtheum, those peerless gems of Grecian architecture, are now in ruins. The magnificent sculpture of Phidias, which adorned the pediment, and outer cornice, and inner frieze of these temples, and the unrivalled statuary of gods and heroes which crowded the platform of the Acropolis, making it an earthly Olympus, are now no more, save a few broken fragments which have been carried to other lands, and, in their exile, tell the mournful story of the departed grandeur of their ancient home. The brazen statue of Minerva, cast from the spoils of Marathon, which rose in giant grandeur above the buildings of the Acropolis, and the flashing of whose helmet plumes was seen by the mariner as soon as he had rounded the Sunian promontory; and that other brazen Pallas, called, by pre-eminence, "the Beautiful;" and the enormous Colossus of ivory and of gold, "the Immortal Maid"—the protecting goddess of the Parthenon—these have perished. But whilst the fingers of time have crumbled the Pentelic marble, and the glorious statuary has been broken to pieces by vandal hands, and the gold and brass have been melted in the crucibles of needy monarchs and converted into vulgar money, the philosophic thought of Athens, which culminated in the dialectic of Plato, still survives. Not one of all the vessels, freighted with immortal thought, which Plato launched upon the stream of time, has foundered. And after the vast critical movement of European thought during the past two centuries, in which all philosophic systems have been subjected to the severest scrutiny, the method of Plato still preserves, if not its exclusive authority unquestioned, at least its intellectual pre-eminence unshaken. "Platonism is immortal, because its principles are immortal in the human intellect and heart."[380]

[Footnote 380: Butler's "Lectures on Ancient Philosophy," vol. ii. p. 9.]

Philosophy is, then, the world-enduring monument of the greatness and the glory of Athens. Whilst Greece will be forever memorable as "the country of wisdom and of wise men," Athens will always be pre-eminently memorable as the University of Greece. This was the home of Socrates, and Plato, and Aristotle—the three imperial names which, for twenty centuries, reigned supreme in the world of philosophic thought. Here schools of philosophy were founded to which students were attracted from every part of the civilized world, and by which an impulse and a direction was given to human thought in every land and in every age. Standing on the Acropolis at Athens, and looking over the city and the open country, the Apostle would see these places which are inseparably associated with the names of the men who have always been recognized as the great teachers of the pagan world, and who have also exerted a powerful influence upon Christian minds of every age. "In opposite directions he would see the suburbs where Plato and Aristotle, the two pupils of Socrates, held their illustrious schools. The streamless bed of the Ilissus passes between the Acropolis and Hymettus in a south-westerly direction, until it vanishes in the low ground which separates the city from the Piraeus." Looking towards the upper part of this channel, Paul would see gardens of plane-trees and thickets of angus-castus, "with other torrent-loving shrubs of Greece." Near the base of Lycabettus was a sacred inclosure which Pericles had ornamented with fountains. Here stood a statue of Apollo Lycius, which gave the name to the Lyceum. Here, among the plane-trees, Aristotle walked, and, as he walked, taught his disciples. Hence the name Peripatetics (the Walkers), which has always designated the disciples of the Stagirite philosopher.

On the opposite side of the city, the most beautiful of the Athenian suburbs, we have the scene of Plato's teaching. Beyond the outer Ceramicus, which was crowded with the sepulchres of those Athenians who had fallen in battle, and were buried at the public expense, the eye of Paul would rest on the favored stream of the Cephisus, flowing towards the west. On the banks of this stream the Academy was situated. A wall, built at great expense by Hipparchus, surrounded it, and Cimon planted long avenues of trees and erected fountains. Beneath the plane-trees which shaded the numerous walks there assembled the master-spirits of the age. This was the favorite resort of poets and philosophers. Here the divine spirit of Plato poured forth its sublimest speculations in streams of matchless eloquence; and here he founded a school which was destined to exert a powerful and perennial influence on human minds and hearts in all coming time.

Looking down from the Acropolis upon the Agora, Paul would distinguish a cloister or colonnade. This is the Stoa Poecile, or "Painted Porch," so called because its walls were decorated with fresco paintings of the legendary wars of Greece, and the more glorious struggle at Marathon. It was here that Zeno first opened that celebrated school which thence received the name of Stoic. The site of the garden where Epicurus taught is now unknown. It was no doubt within the city walls, and not far distant from the Agora. It was well known in the time of Cicero, who visited Athens as a student little more than a century before the Apostle. It could not have been forgotten in the time of Paul. In this "tranquil garden," in the society of his friends, Epicurus passed a life of speculation and of pleasure. His disciples were called, after him, the Epicureans.[381]

[Footnote 381: See Conybeare and Howson's "Life and Epistles of St. Paul," vol. i., Lewes's "Biographical History of Philosophy;" and Encyclopaedia Britannica, article, "Athens," from whence our materials for the description of these "places" are mainly derived.]

Here, then, in Athens the Apostle was brought into immediate contact with all the phases of philosophic thought which had appeared in the ancient world. "Amongst those who sauntered beneath the cool shadows of the plane-trees in the Agora, and gathered in knots under the porticoes, eagerly discussing the questions of the day, were the philosophers, in the garb of their several sects, ready for any new question on which they might exercise their subtlety or display their rhetoric." If there were any in that motley group who cherished the principles and retained the spirit of the true Platonic school, we may presume they felt an inward intellectual sympathy with the doctrine enounced by Paul. With Plato, "philosophy was only another name for religion: philosophy is the love of perfect Wisdom; perfect Wisdom and perfect Goodness are identical: the perfect Good is God himself; philosophy is the love of God."[382] He confessed the need of divine assistance to attain "the good," and of divine interposition to deliver men from moral ruin.[383] Like Socrates, he longed for a supernatural—a divine light to guide him, and he acknowledged his need thereof continually.[384] He was one of those who, in heathen lands, waited for "the desire of nations;" and, had he lived in Christian times, no doubt his "spirit of faith" would have joyfully "embraced the Saviour in all the completeness of his revelation and advent."[385] And in so far as the spirit of Plato survived among his disciples, we may be sure they were not among the number who "mocked," and ridiculed, and opposed the "new doctrine" proclaimed by Paul. It was "the philosophers of the Epicureans and of the Stoics who encountered Paul." The leading tenets of both these sects were diametrically opposed to the doctrines of Christianity. The ruling spirit of each was alien from the spirit of Christ. The haughty pride of the Stoic, the Epicurean abandonment to pleasure, placed them in direct antagonism to him who proclaimed the crucified and risen Christ to be "the wisdom of God."

[Footnote 382: Butler's "Lectures on Ancient Philosophy," vol. ii. p. 61.]

[Footnote 383: "Republic," bk. vi. ch. vi. vii.]

[Footnote 384: Butler's "Lectures," vol. i. p. 362.]

[Footnote 385: Wheedon on "The Will," p. 352; also Butler's "Lectures," vol. ii. p. 252]

If, however, we would justly appreciate the relation of pagan philosophy to Christian truth, we must note that, when Paul arrived in Athens, the age of Athenian glory had passed away. Not only had her national greatness waned, and her national spirit degenerated, but her intellectual power exhibited unmistakable signs of exhaustion, and weakness, and decay. If philosophy had borne any fruit, of course that fruit remained. If, in the palmy days of Athenian greatness, any field of human inquiry had been successfully explored; if human reason had achieved any conquests; if any thing true and good had been obtained, that must endure as an heir-loom for all coming time; and if those centuries of agonizing wrestlings with nature, and of ceaseless questioning of the human heart, had yielded no results, then, at least, the lesson of their failure and defeat remained for the instruction of future generations. Either the problems they sought to solve were proved to be insoluble, or their methods of solution were found to be inadequate; for here the mightiest minds had grappled with the great problems of being and of destiny. Here vigorous intellects had struggled to pierce the darkness which hangs alike over the beginning and the end of human existence. Here profoundly earnest men had questioned nature, reason, antiquity, oracles, in the hope they might learn something of that invisible world of real being which they instinctively felt must lie beneath the world of fleeting forms and ever-changing appearances. Here philosophy had directed her course towards every point in the compass of thought, and touched every accessible point. The sun of human reason had reached its zenith, and illuminated every field that lay within the reach of human ken. And this sublime era of Greek philosophy is of inestimable value to us who live in Christian times, because it is an exhaustive effort of human reason to solve the problem of being, and in its history we have a record of the power and weakness of the human mind, at once on the grandest scale and in the fairest characters.[386]

[Footnote 386: See article "Philosophy," in Smith's "Dictionary of the Bible."]

These preliminary considerations will have prepared the way for, and awakened in our minds a profound interest in, the inquiry—1st. What permanent results has Greek philosophy bequeathed to the world? 2d. In what manner did Greek philosophy fulfill for Christianity a propoedeutic office?

It will at once be obvious, even to those who are least conversant with our theme, that it would be fruitless to attempt the answer to these important questions before we have made a careful survey of the entire history of philosophic thought in Greece. We must have a clear and definite conception of the problems they sought to solve, and we must comprehend their methods of inquiry, before we can hope to appreciate the results they reached, or determine whether they did arrive at any definite and valuable conclusions. It will, therefore, devolve upon us to present a brief and yet comprehensive epitome of the history of Grecian speculative thought.

"Philosophy," says Cousin, "is reflection, and nothing else than reflection, in a vast form"—"Reflection elevated to the rank and authority of a method." It is the mind looking back upon its own sensations, perceptions, cognitions, ideas, and from thence to the causes of these sensations, cognitions, and ideas. It is thought passing beyond the simple perceptions of things, beyond the mere spontaneous operations of the mind in the cognition of things to seek the ground, and reason, and law of things. It is the effort of reason to solve the great problem of "Being and Becoming," of appearance and reality, of the changeful and the permanent. Beneath the endless diversity of the universe, of existence and action, there must be a principle of unity; below all fleeting appearances there must be a permanent substance; beyond this everlasting flow and change, this beginning and ending of finite existence, there must be an eternal being, the source and cause of all we see and know, What is that principle of unity, that permanent substance, or principle, or being?

This fundamental question has assumed three separate forms or aspects in the history of philosophy. These forms have been determined by the objective phenomena which most immediately arrested and engaged the attention of men. If external nature has been the chief object of attention, then the problem of philosophy has been, What is the arche—the beginning; what are the first principles—the elements from which, the ideas or laws according to which, the efficient cause or energy by which, and the reason or end for which the universe exists? During this period reflective thought was a PHILOSOPHY OF NATURE. If the phenomena of mind—the opinions, beliefs, judgments of men—are the chief object of attention, then the problem of philosophy has been, What are the fundamental Ideas which are unchangeable and permanent amid all the diversities of human opinions, connecting appearance with reality, and constituting a ground of certain knowledge or absolute truth? Reflective thought is now a PHILOSOPHY OF IDEAS. Then, lastly, if the practical activities of life and the means of well-being be the grand object of attention, then the problem of philosophy has been, What is the ultimate standard by which, amid all the diversities of human conduct, we may determine what is right and good in individual, social, and political life? And now reflective thought is a PHILOSOPHY OF LIFE. These are the grand problems with which philosophy has grappled ever since the dawn of reflection. They all appear in Greek philosophy, and have a marked chronology. As systems they succeed each other, just as rigorously as the phenomena of Greek civilization.

The Greek schools of philosophy have been classified from various points of view. In view of their geographical relations, they have been divided into the Ionian, the Italian, the Eleatic, the Athenian, and the Alexandrian. In view of their prevailing spirit and tendency, they have been classified by Cousin as the Sensational, the Idealistic, the Skeptical, and the Mystical. The most natural and obvious method is that which (regarding Socrates as the father of Greek philosophy in the truest sense) arranges all schools from the Socratic stand point, and therefore in the chronological order of development:


The history of philosophy is thus divided into three grand epochs. The first reaching from Thales to the time of Socrates (B.C. 639-469): the second from the birth of Socrates to the death of Aristotle (B.C. 469-322); the third from the death of Aristotle to the Christian era (B.C. 322, A.D. 1). Greek philosophy during the first period was almost exclusively a philosophy of nature; during the second period, a philosophy of mind; during the last period, a philosophy of life. Nature, man, and society complete the circle of thought. Successive systems, of course, overlap each other, both in the order of time and as subjects of human speculation; and the results of one epoch of thought are transmitted to and appropriated by another; but, in a general sense, the order of succession has been very much as here indicated. Setting aside minor schools and merely incidental discussions, and fixing our attention on the general aspects of each historic period, we shall discover that the first period was eminently Physical, the second Psychological, the last Ethical. Every stage of progress which reason, on a priori grounds, would suggest as the natural order of thought, or of which the development of an individual mind would furnish an analogy, had a corresponding realization in the development of Grecian thought from the time of Thales to the Christian era. "Thought," says Cousin, "in the first trial of its strength is drawn without." The first object which engages the attention of the child is the outer world. He asks the "how" and "why" of all he sees. His reason urges him to seek an explanation of the universe. So it was in the childhood of philosophy. The first essays of human thought were, almost without exception, discourses peri physeos (De rerum natura), of the nature of things. Then the rebound of baffled reason from the impenetrable bulwarks of the universe drove the mind back upon itself. If the youth can not interpret nature, he can at least "know himself," and find within himself the ground and reason of all existence. There are "ideas" in the human mind which are copies of those "archetypal ideas" which dwell in the Creative Mind, and after which the universe was built. If by "analysis" and "definition" these universal notions can be distinguished from that which is particular and contingent in the aggregate of human knowledge, then so much of eternal truth has been attained. The achievements of philosophic thought in this direction, during the Socratic age, have marked it as the most brilliant period in the history of philosophy—the period of its youthful vigor. Deeply immersed in the practical concerns and conflicts of public life, manhood is mainly occupied with questions of personal duty, and individual and social well-being. And so, during the hopeless turmoil of civil disturbance which marked the decline of national greatness in Grecian history, philosophy was chiefly occupied with questions of personal interest and personal happiness. The poetic enthusiasm with which a nobler age had longed for truth, and sought it as the highest good, has all disappeared, and now one sect seeks refuge from the storms and agitations of the age in Stoical indifference, the other in Epicurean effeminacy.

If now we have succeeded in presenting the real problem of philosophy, it will at once be obvious that the inquiry was not, in any proper sense, theological. Speculative thought, during the period we have marked as the era of Greek philosophy, was not an inquiry concerning the existence or nature of God, or concerning the relations of man to God, or the duties which man owes to God. These questions were all remitted to the theologian. There was a clear line of demarkation separating the domains of religion and philosophy. Religion rested solely on authority, and appealed to the instinctive faith of the human heart. She permitted no encroachment upon her settled usages, and no questioning of her ancient beliefs. Philosophy rested on reason alone. It was an independent effort of thought to interpret nature, and attain the fundamental grounds of human knowledge—to find an arche—a first principle, which, being assumed, should furnish a rational explanation of all existence. If philosophy reach the conclusion that the arche was water, or air, or fire, or a chaotic mixture of all the elements or atoms, extended and self-moved, or monads, or to pan, or uncreated mind, and that conclusion harmonized with the ancient standards of religious faith—well; if not, philosophy must present some method of conciliation. The conflicts of faith and reason; the stragglings of traditional authority to maintain supremacy; the accommodations and conciliations attempted in those primitive times, would furnish a chapter of peculiar interest, could it now be written.

The poets who appeared in the dim twilight of Grecian civilization—Orpheus, Musaeus, Homer, Hesiod—seem to have occupied the same relation to the popular mind in Greece which the Bible now sustains to Christian communities.[387] Not that we regard them as standing on equal ground of authority, or in any sense a revelation. But, in the eye of the wondering Greek, they were invested with the highest sacredness and the supremest authority. The high poetic inspiration which pervaded them was a supernatural gift. Their sublime utterances were accepted as proceeding from a divine afflatus. They were the product of an age in which it was believed by all that the gods assumed a human form,[388] and held a real intercourse with gifted men. This universal faith is regarded by some as being a relic of still more distant times, a faint remembrance of the glory of patriarchal days. The more natural opinion is, that it was begotten of that universal longing of the human heart for some knowledge of that unseen world of real being, which man instinctively felt must lie beyond the world of fleeting change and delusive appearances. It was a prolepsis of the soul, reaching upward towards its source and goal. The poet felt within him some native affinities therewith, and longed for some stirring breath of heaven to sweep the harp-strings of the soul. He invoked the inspiration of the Goddess of Song, and waited for, no doubt believed in, some "deific impulse" descending on him. And the people eagerly accepted his utterance as the teaching of the gods. They were too eager for some knowledge from that unseen world to question their credentials. Orpheus, Hesiod, Homer, were the theologoi—the theologians of that age.[389]

[Footnote 387: "Homer was, in a certain sense, the Bible of the Greeks."—Whewell, "Platonic Dialogues," p. 283.]

[Footnote 388: The universality of this belief is asserted by Cicero: "Vetus opinio est, jam usque ab heroicis ducta temporibus, eaque et populi Romani et omnium gentium firmata consensu, versari quandem inter homines divinationem."—Cicero, "De Divin." bk. i. ch. i.]

[Footnote 389: Cicero.]

These ancient poems, then, were the public documents of the religion of Greece—the repositories of the national faith. And it is deserving of especial note that the philosopher was just as anxious to sustain his speculations by quoting the high traditional authority of the ancient theologian, as the propounder of modern novelties is to sustain his notions by the authority of the Sacred Scriptures. Numerous examples of this solicitude will recur at once to the remembrance of the student of Plato. All encroachments of philosophy upon the domains of religion were watched as jealously in Athens in the sixth century before Christ, as the encroachments of science upon the fields of theology were watched in Rome in the seventeenth century after Christ. The court of the Areopagus was as earnest, though not as fanatical and cruel, in the defense of the ancient faith, as the court of the Inquisition was in the defense of the dogmas of the Romish Church. The people, also, as "the sacred wars" of Greece attest, were ready quickly to repel every assault upon the majesty of their religion. And so philosophy even had its martyrs. The tears of Pericles were needed to save Aspasia, because she was suspected of philosophy. But neither his eloquence nor his tears could save his friend Anaxagoras, and he was ostracized. Aristotle had the greatest difficulty to save his life. And Plato was twice imprisoned, and once sold into slavery.[390]

[Footnote 390: Cousin's "Lectures on the History of Philosophy," vol. i. p. 305.]

It is unnecessary that we should, in this place, again attempt the delineation of the theological opinions of the earlier periods of Grecian civilization. That the ancient Greeks believed in one Supreme God has been conclusively proved by Cudworth. The argument of his fourth chapter is incontrovertible.[391] However great the number of "generated gods" who crowded the Olympus, and composed the ghostly array of Greek mythology, they were all subordinate agents, "demiurges," employed in the framing of the world and all material things, or else the ministers of the moral and providential government of the eis Theos agentos—the one uncreated God. Beneath, or beyond the whole system of pagan polytheism, we recognize a faith in an Uncreated Mind, the Source of all the intelligence, and order, and harmony which pervades the universe the Fountain of law and justice; the Ruler of the world; the Avenger of injured innocence; and the final Judge of men. The immortality of the soul and a state of future retribution were necessary corollaries of this sublime faith. This primitive theology was unquestionably the people's faith; the faith, also, of the philosopher, in his inmost heart, however far he might wander in speculative thought. The instinctive feeling of the human heart, the spontaneous intuitions of the human reason, have led man, in every age, to recognize a God. It is within the fields of speculative thought that skepticism has had its birth. Any thing like atheism has only made its appearance amid the efforts of human reason to explain the universe. The native sentiments of the heart and the spontaneous movements of the reason have always been towards faith, that is, towards "a religious movement of the soul."[392] Unbridled speculative thought, which turns towards the outer world alone, and disregards "the voices of the soul," tends towards doubt and irreligion. But, as Cousin has said, "a complete extravagance, a total delusion (except in case of real derangement), is impossible." "Beneath reflection there is still spontaneity, when the scholar has denied the existence of a God; listen to the man, interrogate him unawares, and you will see that all his words betray the idea of a God, and that faith in a God is, without his recognition, at the bottom of his heart."[393]

[Footnote 391: "Intellectual System of the Universe;" see also ch. iii., "On the Religion of the Athenians."]

[Footnote 392: Cousin's "Hist. of Philos.," vol. i. p. 22.]

[Footnote 393: Id., ib., vol. i. p. 137.]

Let us not, therefore, be too hasty in representing the early philosophers as destitute of the idea of a God, because in the imperfect and fragmentary representations which are given us of the philosophical opinions of Thales, and Anaximenes, and Heraclitus, and Diogenes of Apollonia, we find no explicit allusions to the Uncreated Mind as the first principle and cause of all. A few sentences will comprehend the whole of what remains of the opinions of the earliest philosophers, and these were transmitted for ages by oral tradition. To Plato and Aristotle we are chiefly indebted for a stereotype of those scattered, fragmentary sentences which came to their hands through the dim and distorting medium of more than two centuries. Surely no one imagines these few sentences contain and sum up the results of a lifetime of earnest thought, or represent all the opinions and beliefs of the earliest philosophers! And should we find therein no recognition of a personal God, would it not be most unfair and illogical to assert that they were utterly ignorant of a God, or wickedly denied his being? If they say "there is no God," then they are foolish Atheists; if they are silent on that subject, we have a right to assume they were Theists, for it is most natural to believe in God. And yet it has been quite customary for Christian teachers, after the manner of some Patristic writers, to deny to those early sages the smallest glimpse of underived and independent knowledge of a Divine Being, in their zeal to assert for the Sacred Scriptures the exclusive prerogative of revealing Him.

Now in regard to the theological opinions of the Greek philosophers, we shall venture this general lemmathe majority of them recognized an "incorporeal substance"[394] an uncreated Intelligence, an ordering, governing Mind. Leucippus, Democritus, and Epicurus, who were Materialists, are perhaps the only exceptions. Many of them were Pantheists, in the higher form of Pantheism, which, though it associates the universe with its framer and mover, still makes "the moving principle" superior to that which is moved. The world was a living organism,

"Whose body nature is, and God the soul."

Unquestionably most on them recognized the existence of two first principles, substances essentially distinct, which had co-existed from eternity—an incorporeal Deity and matter.[395] We grant that the free production of a universe by a creative fiat—the calling of matter into being by a simple act of omnipotence—is not elementary to human reason. The famous physical axiom of antiquity, "De nihilo nihil, in nihilum posse reverti" under one aspect, may be regarded as the expression of the universal consciousness of a mental inability to conceive a creation out of nothing, or an annihilation.[396] "We can not conceive, either, on the one hand, nothing becoming something, or something becoming nothing, on the other hand. When God is said to create the universe out of nothing, we think this by supposing that he evolves the universe out of himself; and in like manner, we conceive annihilation only by conceiving the Creator to withdraw his creation from actuality into power."[397] "It is by faith we understand the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are were not made from things which do appear"—that is, from pre-existent matter.

[Footnote 394: "Ousian asomaton."—Plato.]

[Footnote 395: Cudworth's "Intellectual System," vol. i. p. 269.]

[Footnote 396: Mansell's "Limits of Religious Thought," p. 100.]

[Footnote 397: Sir William Hamilton's "Discussions on Philosophy," p. 575.]

Those writers[398] are, therefore, clearly in error who assert that the earliest question of Greek philosophy was, What is God? and that various and discordant answers were given, Thales saying, water is God, Anaximenes, air; Heraclitus, fire; Pythagoras, numbers; and so on. The idea of God is a native intuition of the mind. It springs up spontaneously from the depths of the human soul. The human mind naturally recognizes God as an uncreated Mind, and recognizes itself as "the offspring of God." And, therefore, it is simply impossible for it to acknowledge water, or air, or fire, or any material thing to be its God. Now they who reject this fundamental principle evidently misapprehend the real problem of early Grecian philosophic thought. The external world, the material universe, was the first object of their inquiry, and the method of their inquiry was, at the first stage, purely physical. Every object of sense had a beginning and an end; it rose out of something, and it fell back into something. Beneath this ceaseless flow and change there must be some permanent principle. What is that stoicheon—that first element? The changes in the universe seem to obey some principle of law—they have an orderly succession. What is that morphe—that form, or ideal, or archetype, proper to each thing, and according to which all things are produced? These changes must be produced by some efficient cause, some power or being which is itself immobile, and permanent, and eternal, and adequate to their production. What is that arche tes kineseos—that first principle of movement Then, lastly, there must be an end for which all things exist—a good reason why things are as they are, and not otherwise. What is that to ou eneken kai to agathon—that reason and good of all things? Now these are all archai or first principles of the universe. "Common to all first principles," says Aristotle, "is the being, the original, from which a thing is, or is produced, or is known."[399] First principles, therefore, include both elements and causes, and, under certain aspects, elements are also causes, in so far as they are that without which a thing can not be produced. Hence that highest generalization by Aristotle of all first principles; as—1. The Material Cause; 2. The Formal Cause; 3. The Efficient Cause; 4. The Final Cause. The grand subject of inquiry in ancient philosophy was not alone what is the final element from which all things have been produced? nor yet what is the efficient cause of the movement and the order of the universe? but what are those First Principles which, being assumed, shall furnish a rational explanation of all phenomena, of all becoming?

[Footnote 398: As the writer of the article "Attica," in the Encyclopaedia Britannica.]

[Footnote 399: "Metaphysics," bk. iv. ch. i. p. 112 (Bohn's edition).]

So much being premised, we proceed to consider the efforts and the results of philosophic thought in


"The first act in the drama of Grecian speculation was performed on the varied theatre of the Grecian colonies—Asiatic, insular, and Italian, verging at length (in Anaxagoras) towards Athens." During the progress of this drama two distinct schools of philosophy were developed, having distinct geographical provinces, one on the east, the other on the west, of the peninsula of Greece, and deriving their names from the localities in which they flourished. The earliest was the Ionian; the latter was the Italian school.

It would be extremely difficult, at this remote period, to estimate the influence which geographical conditions and ethnical relations exerted in determining the course of philosophic thought in these schools. Unquestionably those conditions contributed somewhat towards fixing their individuality. At the same time, it must be granted that the distinction in these two schools of philosophy is of a deeper character than can be represented or explained by geographical surroundings; it is a distinction reaching to the very foundation of their habits of thought. These schools represent two distinct aspects of philosophic thought, two distinct methods in which the human mind has essayed to solve the problem of the universe.

The ante-Socratic schools were chiefly occupied with the study of external nature. "Greek philosophy was, at its first appearance, a philosophy of nature." It was an effort of the reason to reach a "first principle" which should explain the universe. This early attempt was purely speculative. It sought to interpret all phenomena by hypotheses, that is, by suppositions, more or less plausible, suggested by physical analogies or by a priori rational conceptions.

Now there are two distinct aspects under which nature presents itself to the observant mind. The first and most obvious is the simple phenomena as perceived by the senses. The second is the relations of phenomena, cognized by the reason alone. Let phenomena, which are indeed the first objects of perception, continue to be the chief and almost exclusive object of thought, and philosophy is on the highway of pure physics. On the other hand, instead of stopping at phenomena, let their relations become the sole object of thought, and philosophy is now on the road of purely mathematical or metaphysical abstraction. Thus two schools of philosophy are developed, the one SENSATIONAL, the other IDEALIST. Now these, it will be found, are the leading and characteristic tendencies of the two grand divisions of the pre-Socratic schools; the Ionian is sensational, the Italian is idealist.

These two schools have again been the subject of a further subdivision based upon diverse habits of thought. The Ionian school sought to explain the universe by physical analogies. Of these there are two clear and obvious divisions—analogies suggested by living organisms, and analogies suggested by mechanical arrangements. One class of philosophers in the Ionian school laid hold on the first analogy. They regarded the world as a living being, spontaneously evolving itself—a vital organism whose successive developments and transformations constitute all visible phenomena. A second class laid hold on the analogy suggested by mechanical arrangements. For them the universe was a grand superstructure, built up from elemental particles, arranged and united by some ab-extra power or force, or else aggregated by some inherent mutual affinity. Thus we have two sects of the Ionian school; the first, Dynamical or vital; the second, Mechanical.[400]

[Footnote 400: Ritter's "Ancient Philosophy," vol. i. pp. 191, 192.]

The Italian school sought to explain the universe by rational conceptions and a priori ideas. Now to those who seek, by simple reflection, to investigate the relations of the external world this marked distinction will present itself: some are relations between sensible phenomena—relations of time, of place, of number, of proportion, and of harmony; others are relations of phenomena to essential being—relations of qualities to substance, of becoming to being, of the finite to the infinite. The former constituted the field of Pythagorean the latter of Eleatic contemplation. The Pythagoreans sought to explain the universe by numbers, forms, and harmonies; the Eleatics by the a priori ideas of unity, substance, Being in se, the Infinite. Thus were constituted a Mathematical and a Metaphysical sect in the Italian school. The pre-Socratic schools may, therefore, be tabulated in the following order:

I. IONIAN (Sensational), (1.) PHYSICAL {Dynamical or Vital. {Mechanical.

II. Italian (Idealist), {(2.) MATHEMATICAL Pythagoreans. {(3.) METAPHYSICAL Eleatics.

I. The Ionian or Physical School.—We have premised that the philosophers of this school attempted the explanation of the universe by physical analogies.

One class of these early speculators, the Dynamical, or vital theorists, proceeded on the supposition of a living energy infolded in nature, which in its spontaneous development continuously undergoes alteration both of quality and form. This imperfect analogy is the first hypothesis of childhood. The child personifies the stone that hurts him, and his first impulse is to resent the injury as though he imagined it to be endowed with consciousness, and to be acting with design. The childhood of superstition (whose genius is multiplicity) personifies each individual existence—a rude Fetichism, which imagines a supernatural power and presence enshrined in every object of nature, in every plant, and stock, and stone. The childhood of philosophy (whose genius is unity) personifies the universe. It regards the earth as one vast organism, animated by one soul, and this soul of the world as a "created god."[401] The first efforts of philosophy were, therefore, simply an attempt to explain the universe in harmony with the popular theological beliefs. The cosmogonies of the early speculators in the Ionian school were an elaboration of the ancient theogonies, but still an elaboration conducted under the guidance of that law of thought which constrains man to seek for unity, and reduce the many to the one.

Therefore, in attempting to construct a theory of the universe they commenced by postulating an arche—a first principle or element out of which, by a vital process, all else should be produced. "Accordingly, whatever seemed the most subtle or pliable, as well as universal element in the mass of the visible world, was marked as the seminal principle whose successive developments and transformations produced all the rest."[402] With this seminal principle the living, animating principle seems to have been associated—in some instances perhaps confounded, and in most instances called by the same name. And having pursued this analogy so far, we shall find the most decided and conclusive evidence of a tendency to regard the soul of man as similar, in its nature, to the soul which animates the world.

[Footnote 401: Plato's "Laws," bk. x. ch. i.; "Timaeus," ch. xii.]

[Footnote 402: Butler's "Lectures on Ancient Philosophy," vol. 1. p. 292.]

Thales of Miletus(B.C. 636-542) was the first to lead the way in the perilous inquiry after an arche, or first principle, which should furnish a rational explanation of the universe. Following, as it would seem, the genealogy of Hesiod, he supposed water to be the primal element out of which all material things were produced. Aristotle supposes he was impressed with this idea from observing that all things are nourished by moisture; warmth itself, he declared, proceeded from moisture; the seeds of all things are moist; water, when condensed, becomes earth.

Thus convinced of the universal presence of water, he declared it to be the first principle of things.[403]

And now, from this brief statement of the Thalean physics, are we to conclude that he recognized only a material cause of the universe? Such is the impression we receive from the reading of the First Book of Aristotle's Metaphysics. His evident purpose is to prove that the first philosophers of the Ionian school did not recognize an efficient cause. In his opinion, they were decidedly materialistic. Now to question the authority of Aristotle may appear to many an act of presumption. But Aristotle was not infallible; and nothing is more certain than that in more than one instance he does great injustice to his predecessors.[404] To him, unquestionably, belongs the honor of having made a complete and exhaustive classification of causes, but there certainly does appear something more than vanity in the assumption that he, of all the Greek philosophers, was the only one who recognized them all. His sagacious classification was simply a resume of the labors of his predecessors. His "principles" or "causes" were incipient in the thought of the first speculators in philosophy. Their accurate definition and clearer presentation was the work of ages of analytic thought. The phrases "efficient," "formal," "final" cause, are, we grant, peculiar to Aristotle; the ideas were equally the possession of his predecessors.

[Footnote 403: Aristotle's "Metaphysics," bk. i. ch. iii.]

[Footnote 404: Lewes's "Biographical History of Philosophy," p. 77; Cousin's "The True, the Beautiful, and the Good," p. 77.]

The evidence, we think, is conclusive that, with this primal element (water), Thales associated a formative principle of motion; to the "material" he added the "efficient" cause. A strong presumption in favor of this opinion is grounded on the psychological views of Thales. The author of "De Placitis Philosophorum" associates him with Pythagoras and Plato, in teaching that the soul is incorporeal, making it naturally self-active, and an intelligent substance.[405] And it is admitted by Aristotle (rather unwillingly, we grant, but his testimony is all the more valuable on that account) that, in his time, the opinion that the soul is a principle, aeikineton—ever moving, or essentially self-active, was currently ascribed to Thales. "If we may rely on the notices of Thales, he too would seem to have conceived the soul as a moving principle."[406] Extending this idea, that the soul is a moving principle, he held that all motion in the universe was due to the presence of a living soul. "He is reported to have said that the loadstone possessed a soul because it could move iron."[407] And he taught that "the world itself is animated, and full of gods."[408] "Some think that soul and life is mingled with the whole universe; and thence, perhaps, was that [opinion] of Thales that all things are full of gods,"[409] portions, as Aristotle said, of the universal soul. These views are quite in harmony with the theology which makes the Deity the moving energy of the universe—the energy which wrought the successive transformations of the primitive aqueous element. They also furnish a strong corroboration of the positive statement of Cicero—"Aquam, dixit Thales, esse initium rerum, Deum autem eam mentem quae ex aqua cuncta fingeret." Thales said that water is the first principle of things, but God was that mind which formed all things out of water;[410] as also that still more remarkable saying of Thales, recorded by Diogenes Laertius; "God is the most ancient of all things, for he had no birth; the world is the most beautiful of all things, for it is the workmanship of God."[411] We are aware that some historians of philosophy reject the statement of Cicero, because, say they, "it does violence to the chronology of speculation."[412] Following Hegel, they assert that Thales could have no conception of God as Intelligence, since that is a conception of a more advanced philosophy. Such an opinion may be naturally expected from the philosopher who places God, not at the commencement, but at the end of things, God becoming conscious and intelligent in humanity. If, then, Hegel teaches that God himself has had a progressive development, it is no wonder he should assert that the idea of God has also had an historic development, the last term of which is an intelligent God. But he who believes that the idea of God as the infinite and the perfect is native to the human mind, and that God stands at the beginning of the entire system of things, will feel there is a strong a priori ground for the belief that Thales recognized the existence of an intelligent God who fashioned the universe.

[Footnote 405: Cudworth's "Intellectual System," vol. i. p. 71.]

[Footnote 406: Aristotle, "De Anima," i. 2, 17.]

[Footnote 407: Id., ib., i. 2, 17.]

[Footnote 408: Diogenes Laertius, "Lives of the Philosophers," p. 18 (Bohn's ed.).]

[Footnote 409: Aristotle, "De Anima," i. 17.]

[Footnote 410: "De Natura Deor.," bk. i. ch. x.]

[Footnote 411: "Lives," etc., p. 19.]

[Footnote 412: Lewes's "Hist. Philos.," p. 4.]

Anaximenes of Miletus (B.C. 529-480) we place next to Thales in the consecutive history of thought. It has been usual to rank Anaximander next to the founder of the Ionian School. The entire complexion of his system is, however, unlike that of a pupil of Thales. And we think a careful consideration of his views will justify our placing him at the head of the Mechanical or Atomic division of the Ionian school. Anaximenes is the historical successor of Thales; he was unquestionably a vitalist. He took up the speculation where Thales had left it, and he carried it a step forward in its development.[413]

Pursuing the same method as Thales, he was not, however, satisfied with the conclusion he had reached. Water was not to Anaximenes the most significant, neither was it the most universal element. But air seemed universally present. "The earth was a broad leaf resting upon it. All things were produced from it; all things were resolved into it. When he breathed he drew in a part of this universal life. All things are nourished by air."[414] Was not, therefore, air the arche, or primal element of things?

[Footnote 413: Ritter's "History of Ancient Philosophy," vol. i. p. 203.]

[Footnote 414: Lewes's "Biographical History of Philosophy," p. 7.]

This brief notice of the physical speculations of Anaximenes is all that has survived of his opinions. We search in vain for some intimations of his theological views. On this merely negative ground, some writers have unjustly charged him with Atheism. Were we to venture a conjecture, we would rather say that there are indications of a tendency to Pantheism in that form of it which associates God necessarily with the universe, but does not utterly confound them. His fixing upon "air" as the primal element, seems an effort to reconcile, in some apparently intermediate substance, the opposite qualities of corporeal and spiritual natures. Air is invisible, impalpable, all-penetrating, and yet in some manner appreciable to sense. May not the vital transformations of this element have produced all the rest? The writer of the Article on Anaximenes in the Encyclopaedia Britannica tells us (on what ancient authorities he saith not) that "he asserted this air was God, since the divine power resides in it and agitates it."

Some indications of the views of Anaximenes may perhaps be gathered from the teachings of Diogenes of Apollonia (B.C. 520-490,) who was the disciple, and is generally regarded as the commentator and expounder of the views of Anaximenes. The air of Diogenes was a soul; therefore it was living, and not only living, but conscious and intelligent. "It knows much," says he; "for without reason it would be impossible for all to be arranged duly and proportionately; and whatever objects we consider will be found to be so arranged and ordered in the best and most beautiful manner."[415] Here we have a distinct recognition of the fundamental axiom that mind is the only valid explanation of the order and harmony which pervades the universe. With Diogenes the first principle is a "divine air," which is vital, conscious, and intelligent, which spontaneously evolves itself, and which, by its ceaseless transformations, produces all phenomena. The soul of man is a detached portion of this divine element; his body is developed or evolved therefrom. The theology of Diogenes, and, as we believe, of his master, Anaximenes also, was a species of Materialistic Pantheism.

[Footnote 415: Lewes's "Biographical History of Philosophy," p. 8; Ritter's "History of Ancient Philosophy," vol. i. p. 214.]

Heraclitus of Ephesus(B.C. 503-420) comes next in the order of speculative thought. In his philosophy, fire is the arche, or first principle; but not fire in the usual acceptation of that term. The Heraclitean "fire" is not flame, which is only an intensity of fire, but a warm, dry vapor—an ether, which may be illustrated, perhaps, by the "caloric" of modern chemistry. This "ether" was the primal element out of which the universe was formed; it was also a vital power or principle which animated the universe, and, in fact, the cause of all its successive phenomenal changes. "The world," he said, "was neither made by the gods nor men, and it was, and is, and ever shall be, an ever-living fire, in due proportion self-enkindled, and in due measure self-extinguished."[416] The universe is thus reduced to "an eternal fire," whose ceaseless energy is manifested openly in the work of dissolution, and yet secretly, but universally, in the work of renovation. The phenomena of the universe are explained by Heraclitus as "the concurrence of opposite tendencies and efforts in the motions of this ever-living fire, out of which results the most beautiful harmony. This harmony of the world is one of conflicting impulses, like the lyre and the bow. The strife between opposite tendencies is the parent of all things. All life is change, and change is strife."[417]

[Footnote 416: Ritter's "History of Ancient Philosophy," vol. i. p. 235.]

[Footnote 417: Lewes's "Biographical History of Philosophy," p. 70; Ritter's "History of Ancient Philosophy," vol. i. p. 244.]

Heraclitus was the first to proclaim the doctrine of the perpetual fluxion of the universe (to reon, to gignomenon—Unrest and Development), the endless changes of matter, and the mutability and perishability of all individual things. This restless, changing flow of things, which never are, but always are becoming, he pronounced to be the One and the All.

From this statement of the physical theory of Heraclitus we might naturally infer that he was a Hylopathean Atheist. Such an hypothesis would not, however, be truthful or legitimate. On a more careful examination, his system will be found to stand half-way between the materialistic and the spiritual conception of the Author of the universe, and marks, indeed, a transition from the one to the other. Heraclitus unquestionably held that all substance is material, for a philosopher who proclaims, as he did, that the senses are the only source of knowledge, must necessarily attach himself to a material element as the primary one. And yet he seems to have spiritualized matter. "The moving unit of Heraclitus—the Becoming—is as immaterial as the resting unit of the Eleatics—the Being."[418] The Heraclitean "fire" is endowed with spiritual attributes. "Aristotle calls it psyche—soul, and says that it is asomatotaton, or absolutely incorporeal ("De Anima," i. 2. 16). It is, in effect, the common ground of the phenomena both of mind and matter it is not only the animating, but also the intelligent and regulating principle of the universe; the Zynos Logos, or universal Word or Reason, which it behooves all men to follow."[419] The psychology of Heraclitus throws additional light upon his theological opinions. With him human intelligence is a detached portion of the Universal Reason. "Inhaling," said he, "through the breath the Universal Ether, which is Divine Reason, we become conscious." The errors and imperfections of humanity are consequently to be ascribed to a deficiency of the Divine Reason in man. Whilst, therefore, the theory of Heraclitus seems to materialize mind, it may, with equal fairness, be said to spiritualize matter.

[Footnote 418: Zeller's "History of Greek Philosophy," vol. i. p. 57.]

[Footnote 419: Butler's "Lectures," vol. i. p. 297, note.]

The general inference, therefore, from all that remains of the doctrine of Heraclitus is that he was a Materialistic Pantheist. His God was a living, rational, intelligent Ether—a soul pervading the universe. The form of the universe, its ever-changing phenomena, were a necessary emanation from, or a perpetual transformation of, this universal soul.

With Heraclitus we close our survey of that sect of the physical school which regarded the world as a living organism.

The second subdivision of the physical school, the Mechanical or Atomist theorists, attempted the explanation of the universe by analogies derived from mechanical collocations, arrangements, and movements. The universe was regarded by them as a vast superstructure built up from elemental particles, aggregated by some inherent force or mutual affinity.

Anaximander of Miletus (born B.C. 610) we place at the head of the Mechanical sect of the Ionian school; first, on the authority of Aristotle, who intimates that the philosophic dogmata of Anaximander "resemble those of Democritus," who was certainly an Atomist; and, secondly, because we can clearly trace a genetic connection between the opinions of Democritus and Leucippus and those of Anaximander.

The arche, or first principle of Anaximander, was to apeiron, the boundless, the illimitable, the infinite. Some historians of philosophy have imagined that the infinite of Anaximander was the "unlimited all," and have therefore placed him at the head of the Italian or "idealistic school." These writers are manifestly in error. Anaximander was unquestionably a sensationalist. Whatever his "infinite" may be found to be, one thing is clear, it was not a "metaphysical infinite"—it did not include infinite power, much less infinite mind.

The testimony of Aristotle is conclusive that by "the infinite" Anaximander understood the multitude of primary, material particles. He calls it "a migma, or mixture of elements."[420] It was, in fact, a chaos—an original state in which the primary elements existed in a chaotic combination without limitation or division. He assumed a certain "prima materia," which was neither air, nor water, nor fire, but a "mixture" of all, to be the first principle of the universe. The account of the opinions of Anaximander which is given by Plutarch ("De Placita," etc.) is a further confirmation of our interpretation of his infinite. "Anaximander, the Milesian, affirmed the infinite to be the first principle, and that all things are generated out of it, and corrupted again into it. His infinite is nothing else but matter." "Whence," says Cudworth, "we conclude that Anaximander's infinite was nothing else but an infinite chaos of matter, in which were actually or potentially contained all manner of qualities, by the fortuitous secretion and segregation of which he supposed infinite worlds to be successively generated and corrupted. So that we may easily guess whence Leucippus and Democritus had their infinite worlds, and perceive how near akin these two Atheistic hypotheses were."[421] The reader, whose curiosity may lead him to consult the authorities collected by Cudworth (pp. 185-188), will find in the doctrine of Anaximander a rude anticipation of the modern theories of "spontaneous generation" and "the transmutation of species." In the fragments of Anaximander that remain we find no recognition of an ordering Mind, and his philosophy is the dawn of a Materialistic school.

[Footnote 420: Aristotle's "Metaphysics," bk. xi. ch. ii.]

[Footnote 421: Cudworth's "Intellectual System," vol. i. pp. 186, 187.]

Leucippus of Miletus (B.C. 500-400) appears, in the order of speculation, as the successor of Anaximander. Atoms and space are, in his philosophy, the archai, or first principles of all things. "Leucippus (and his companion, Democritus) assert that the plenum and the vacuum [i.e., body and space] are the first principles, whereof one is the Ens, the other Non-ens; the differences of the body, which are only figure, order, and position, are the causes of all others."[422]

[Footnote 422: Aristotle's "Metaphysics," p. 21 (Bohn's edition).]

He also taught that the elements, and the worlds derived from them, are infinite. He describes the manner in which the worlds are produced as follows: "Many bodies of various kinds and shapes are borne by amputation from the infinite [i.e., the chaotic migma of Anaximander] into a vast vacuum, and then they, being collected together, produce a vortex; according to which, they, dashing against each other, and whirling about in every direction, are separated in such a way that like attaches itself to like; bodies are thus, without ceasing, united according to the impulse given by the vortex, and in this way the earth was produced."[423] Thus, through a boundless void, atoms infinite in number and endlessly diversified in form are eternally wandering; and, by their aggregation, infinite worlds are successively produced. These atoms are governed in their movements by a dark negation of intelligence, designated "Fate," and all traces of a Supreme Mind disappear in his philosophy. It is a system of pure materialism, which, in fact, is Atheism.

[Footnote 423: Diogenes Laertius, "Lives," p. 389.]

Democritus of Abdera (B.C. 460-357), the companion of Leucippus, also taught "that atoms and the vacuum were the beginning of the universe."[424] These atoms, he taught, were infinite in number, homogeneous, extended, and possessed of those primary qualities of matter which are necessarily involved in extension in space—as size, figure, situation, divisibility, and mobility. From the combination of these atoms all other existences are produced; fire, air, earth, and water; sun, moon, and stars; plants, animals, and men; the soul itself is an aggregation of round, moving atoms. And "motion, which is the cause of the production of every thing, he calls necessity."[425] Atoms are thus the only real existences; these, without any pre-existent mind, or intelligence, were the original of all things.

[Footnote 424: Diogenes Laertius, "Lives," p. 395.]

[Footnote 425: Id, ib., p. 394.]

The psychological opinions of Democritus were as decidedly materialistic as his physical theories. All knowledge is derived from sensation. It is only by material impact that we can know the external world, and every sense is, in reality, a kind of touch. Material images are being continually thrown off from the surface of external objects which come into actual contact with the organs of sense. The primary qualities of matter, that is, those which are involved in extension in space, are the only objects of real knowledge; the secondary qualities of matter, as softness, hardness, sweetness, bitterness, and the like, are but modifications of the human sensibilities. "The sweet exists only in form—the bitter in form, hot in form, color in form; but in causal reality only atoms and space exist. The sensible things which are supposed by opinion to exist have no real existence, but atoms and space alone exist."[426]

[Footnote 426: Lewes's "Biographical History of Philosophy," p. 96. The words of Democritus, as reported by Sextus Empiricus.]

Thus by Democritus was laid the basis of a system of absolute materialism, which was elaborated and completed by Epicurus, and has been transmitted to our times. It has undergone some slight modifications, adapting it to the progress of physical science; but it is to-day substantially the theory of Democritus. In Democritus we have the culmination of the mechanical theory of the Ionian or Physical school. In physics and psychology it terminated in pure materialism. In theology it ends in positive Atheism.

The fundamental error of all the philosophers of the physical school was the assumption, tacitly or avowedly, that sense-perception is the only source of knowledge. This was the fruitful source of all their erroneous conclusions, the parent of all their materialistic tendencies. This led them continually to seek an arche, or first principle of the universe, which should, under some form, be appreciable to sense; and consequently the course of thought tended naturally towards materialism.

Thales was unquestionably a dualist. Instructed by traditional intimations, or more probably guided by the spontaneous apperceptions of reason, he recognized, with more or less distinctness, an incorporeal Deity as the moving, animating, and organizing cause of the universe. The idea of God is a truth so self-evident as to need no demonstration. The human mind does not attain to the idea of a God as the last consequence of a series of antecedent principles. It comes at once, by an inherent and necessary movement of thought, to the recognition of God as the First Principle of all principles. But when, instead of hearkening to the simple and spontaneous intuitions of the mind, man turns to the world of sense, and loses himself in discursive thought, the conviction of a personal God becomes obscured. Then, amid the endlessly diversified phenomena of the universe, he seeks for a cause or origin which in some form shall be appreciable to sense. The mere study of material phenomena, scientifically or unscientifically conducted, will never yield the sense of the living God. Nature must be interpreted, can only be interpreted in the light of certain a priori principles of reason, or we can never "ascend from nature up to nature's God." Within the circle of mere sense-perception, the dim and undeveloped consciousness of God will be confounded with the universe. Thus, in Anaximenes, God is partially confounded with "air," which becomes a symbol; then a vehicle of the informing mind; and the result is a semi-pantheism. In Heraclitus, the "ether" is, at first, a semi-symbol of the Deity; at length, God is utterly confounded with this ether, or "rational fire," and the result is a definite materialistic pantheism. And, finally, when this feeling or dim consciousness of God, which dwells in all human souls, is not only disregarded, but pronounced to be an illusion—a phantasy; when all the analogies which intelligence suggests are disregarded, and a purely mechanical theory of the universe is adopted, the result is the utter negation of an Intelligent Cause, that is, absolute Atheism, as in Leucippus and Democritus.







In the previous chapter we commenced our inquiry with the assumption that, in the absence of the true inductive method of philosophy which observes, and classifies, and generalizes facts, and thence attains a general principle or law, two only methods were possible to the early speculators who sought an explanation of the universe—1st, That of reasoning from physical analogies; or, 2d, That of deduction from rational conceptions, or a priori ideas.

Accordingly we found that one class of speculators fixed their attention solely on the mere phenomena of nature, and endeavored, amid sensible things, to find a single element which, being more subtile, and pliable, and universally diffused, could be regarded as the ground and original of all the rest, and from which, by a vital transformation, or by a mechanical combination and arrangement of parts, all the rest should be evolved. The other class passed beyond the simple phenomena, and considered only the abstract relations of phenomena among themselves, or the relations of phenomena to the necessary and universal ideas of the reason, and supposed that, in these relations, they had found an explanation of the universe. The former was the Ionian or Sensation school; the latter was the Italian or Idealist school.

We have traced the method according to which the Ionian school proceeded, and estimated the results attained. We now come to consider the method and results of


This school we have found to be naturally subdivided into—1st, The Mathematical sect, which attempted the explanation of the universe by the abstract conceptions of number, proportion, order, and harmony; and, 2d, The Metaphysical school, which attempted the interpretation of the universe according to the a priori ideas of unity, of Being in se, of the Infinite, and the Absolute.

Pythagoras of Samos(born B.C. 605) was the founder of the Mathematical school.

We are conscious of the difficulties which are to be encountered by the student who seeks to attain a definite comprehension of the real opinions of Pythagoras. The genuineness of many of those writings which were once supposed to represent his views, is now questioned. "Modern criticism has clearly shown that the works ascribed to Timaeus and Archytas are spurious; and the treatise of Ocellus Lucanus on 'The Nature of the All' can not have been written by a Pythagorean."[427] The only writers who can be regarded as at all reliable are Plato and Aristotle; and the opinions they represent are not so much those of Pythagoras as "the Pythagoreans." This is at once accounted for by the fact that Pythagoras taught in secret, and did not commit his opinions to writing. His disciples, therefore, represent the tendency rather than the actual tenets of his system; these were no doubt modified by the mental habits and tastes of his successors.

[Footnote 427: Lewes's "Biographical History of Philosophy," p. 24.]

We may safely assume that the proposition from which Pythagoras started was the fundamental idea of all Greek speculation—that beneath the fleeting forms and successive changes of the universe there is some permanent principle of unity[428] The Ionian school sought that principle in some common physical element; Pythagoras sought, not for "elements," but for "relations," and through these relations for ultimate laws indicating primal forces.

[Footnote 428: See Plato, "Timaeus," ch. ix. p. 331 (Bohn's edition); Aristotle's "Metaphysics," bk. v. ch. iii.]

Aristotle affirms that Pythagoras taught "that numbers are the first principles of all entities," and, "as it were, a material cause of things,"[429] or, in other words, "that numbers are substances that involve a separate subsistence, and are primary causes of entities."[430]

[Footnote 429: Aristotle's "Metaphysics," bk. i. ch. v.]

[Footnote 430: Id., ib., bk. xii. ch. vi.]

Are we then required to accept the dictum of Aristotle as final and decisive? Did Pythagoras really teach that numbers are real entities—the substance and cause of all other existences? The reader may be aware that this is a point upon which the historians of philosophy are not agreed. Ritter is decidedly of opinion that the Pythagorean formula "can only be taken symbolically."[431] Lewes insists it must be understood literally.[432] On a careful review of all the arguments, we are constrained to regard the conclusion of Ritter as most reasonable. The hypothesis "that numbers are real entities" does violence to every principle of common sense. This alone constitutes a strong a priori presumption that Pythagoras did not entertain so glaring an absurdity. The man who contributed so much towards perfecting the mathematical sciences, who played so conspicuous a part in the development of ancient philosophy, and who exerted so powerful a determining influence on the entire current of speculative thought, did not obtain his ascendency over the intellectual manhood of Greece by the utterance of such enigmas. And further, in interpreting the philosophic opinions of the ancients, we must be guided by this fundamental canon—"The human mind has, under the necessary operation of its own laws, been compelled to entertain the same fundamental ideas, and the human heart to cherish the same feelings in all ages." Now if a careful philosophic criticism can not render the reported opinions of an ancient teacher into the universal language of the reason and heart of humanity, we must conclude either that his opinions were misunderstood and misrepresented by some of his successors, or else that he stands in utter isolation, both from the present and the past. His doctrine has, then, no relation to the successions of thought, and no place in the history of philosophy. Nay, more, such a doctrine has in it no element of vitality, no germ of eternal truth, and must speedily perish. Now it is well known that the teaching of Pythagoras awakened the deepest intellectual sympathy of his age; that his doctrine exerted a powerful influence on the mind of Plato, and, through him, upon succeeding ages; and that, in some of its aspects, it now survives, and is more influential to-day than in any previous age; but this element of immutable and eternal truth was certainly not contained in the inane and empty formula, "that numbers are real existences, the causes of all other existences!" If the fame of Pythagoras had rested on such "airy nothings," it would have melted away before the time of Plato.

[Footnote 431: "History of Ancient Philosophy," vol. i. p. 359.]

[Footnote 432: "Biographical History of Philosophy," p. 38.]

We grant there is considerable force in the argument of Lewes. He urges, with some pertinence, the unquestionable fact that Aristotle asserts, again and again, that the Pythagoreans taught "that numbers are the principles and substance of things as well as the causes of their modifications;" and he argues that we are not justified in rejecting the authority of Aristotle, unless better evidence can be produced.

So far, however, as the authority of Aristotle is concerned, even Lewes himself charges him, in more than one instance, with strangely misrepresenting the opinions of his predecessors.[433] Aristotle is evidently wanting in that impartiality which ought to characterize the historian of philosophy, and, sometimes, we are compelled to question his integrity. Indeed, throughout his "Metaphysics" he exhibits the egotism and vanity of one who imagines that he alone, of all men, has the full vision of the truth. In Books I. and XII. he uniformly associates the "numbers" of Pythagoras with the "forms" and "ideas" of Plato. He asserts that Plato identifies "forms" and "numbers," and regards them as real entities—substances, and causes of all other things. "Forms are numbers[434]... so Plato affirmed, similar with the Pythagoreans; and the dogma that numbers are causes to other things—of their substance-he, in like manner, asserted with them."[435] And then, finally, he employs the same arguments in refuting the doctrines of both.

[Footnote 433: "Aristotle uniformly speaks disparagingly of Anaxagoras" (Lewes's "Biographical History of Philosophy"). He represents him as employing mind (nous) simply as "a machine" for the production of the world;—"when he finds himself in perplexity as to the cause of its being necessarily an orderly system, he then drags it (mind) in by force to his assistance" "Metaphysics," (bk. i. ch. iv.). But he is evidently inconsistent with himself, for in "De Anima" (bk. i. ch. ii.) he tells us that "Anaxagoras saith that mind is at once a cause of motion in the whole universe, and also of well and fit." We may further ask, is not the idea of fitness—of the good and the befitting—the final cause, even according to Aristotle?

He also totally misrepresents Plato's doctrine of "Ideas." "Plato's Ideas," he says, "are substantial existences—real beings" ("Metaphysics," bk. i. ch. ix.). Whereas, as we shall subsequently show, "they are objects of pure conception for human reason, and they are attributes of the Divine Reason. It is there they substantially exist." (Cousin, "History of Philosophy," vol. i. p. 415). It is also pertinent to inquire, what is the difference between the "formal cause" of Aristotle and the archetypal ideas of Plato? and is not Plato's to agathon the "final cause?" Yet Aristotle is forever congratulating himself that he alone has properly treated the "formal" and the "final cause!"]

[Footnote 434: This, however, was not the doctrine of Plato. He does not say "forms are numbers." He says: "God formed things as they first arose according to forms and numbers." See "Timaeus," ch. xiv. and xxvii.]

[Footnote 435: Aristotle's "Metaphysics," bk. i. ch. vi.]

Now the writings of Plato are all extant to-day, and accessible in an excellent English translation to any of our readers. Cousin has shown,[436] most conclusively (and we can verify his conclusions for ourselves), that Aristotle has totally misrepresented Plato. And if, in the same connection, and in the course of the same argument, and in regard to the same subjects, he misrepresents Plato, it is most probable he also misrepresents Pythagoras.

[Footnote 436: "The True, the Beautiful, and the Good," pp. 77-81.]

It is, however, a matter of the deepest interest for us to find the evidence gleaming out here and there, on the pages of Aristotle, that he had some knowledge of the fact that the Pythagorean numbers were regarded as symbols. The "numbers" of Pythagoras are, in the mind of Aristotle, clearly identified with the "forms" of Plato. Now, in Chapter VI. of the First Book he says that Plato taught that these "forms" were paradeigmata—models, patterns, exemplars after which created things were framed. The numbers of Pythagoras, then, are also models and exemplars. This also is admitted by Aristotle. The Pythagoreans indeed affirm that entities subsist by an imitation (mimesis) of numbers.[437] Now if ideas, forms, numbers, were the models or paradigms after which "the Operator" formed all things, surely it can not be logical to say they were the "material" out of which all things were framed, much less the "efficient cause" of things. The most legitimate conclusion we can draw, even from the statements of Aristotle, is that the Pythagoreans regarded numbers as the best expression or representation of those laws of proportion, and order, and harmony, which seemed, to their eyes, to pervade the universe. Their doctrine was a faint glimpse of that grand discovery of modern science—that all the higher laws of nature assume the form of a precise quantitative statement.

[Footnote 437: Aristotle's "Metaphysics," bk. i. ch. vi.]

The fact seems to be this, the Pythagoreans busied themselves chiefly with what Aristotle designates "the formal cause," and gave little attention to the inquiry concerning "the material cause." This is admitted by Aristotle. Concerning fire, or earth, or the other bodies of such kind, they have declared nothing whatsoever, inasmuch as affirming, in my opinion, nothing that is peculiar concerning sensible natures.[438] They looked, as we have previously remarked, to the relations of phenomena, and having discovered certain "numerical similitudes," they imagined they had attained an universal principle, or law. "If all the essential properties and attributes of things were fully represented by the relations of numbers, the philosophy which supplied such an explanation of the universe might well be excused from explaining, also, that existence of objects, which is distinct from the existence of all their qualities and properties. The Pythagorean doctrine of numbers might have been combined with the doctrine of atoms, and the combination might have led to results worthy of notice. But, so far as we are aware, no such combination was attempted, and perhaps we of the present day are only just beginning to perceive, through the disclosures of chemistry and crystallography, the importance of such an inquiry."[439]

[Footnote 4398: Id., ib., bk. i. ch. ix.]

[Footnote 439: Whewell's "History of Inductive Sciences," vol. i. p. 78.]

These preliminary considerations will have cleared and prepared the way for a fuller presentation of the philosophic system of Pythagoras. The most comprehensive and satisfactory exposition of his "method" is that given by Wm Archer Butler in his "Lectures on Ancient Philosophy," and we feel we can not do better than condense his pages.[440]

[Footnote 440: Lecture VI. vol. i.]

Pythagoras had long devoted his intellectual adoration to the lofty idea of order, which seemed to reveal itself to his mind, as the presiding genius of the serene and silent world. He had, from his youth, dwelt with delight upon the eternal relations of space, and determinate form, and number, in which the very idea of proportion seems to find its first and immediate development, and without the latter of which (number), all proportion is absolutely inconceivable. To this ardent genius, whose inventive energies were daily adding new and surprising contributions to the sum of discoverable relations, it at length began to appear as if the whole secret of the universe was hidden in these mysterious correspondences.

In making this extensive generalization, Pythagoras may, on his known principles, be supposed to have reasoned as follows: The mind of man perceives the relations of an eternal order in the proportions of space, and form, and number. That mind is, no doubt, a portion of the soul which animates and governs the universe; for on what other supposition shall we account for its internal principle of activity—the very principle which characterizes the prime mover, and can scarce be ascribed to an inferior nature? And on what other supposition are we to explain the identity which subsists between the principles of order, authenticated by the reason and the facts of order which are found to exist in the forms and multiplicities around us, and independent of us? Can this sameness be other than the sameness of the internal and external principles of a common nature? The proportions of the universe inhere in its divine soul; they are indeed its very essence, or at least, its attributes. The ideas or principles of Order which are implanted in the human reason, must inhere in the Divine Reason, and must be reflected in the visible world, which is its product. Man, then, can boldly affirm the necessary harmony of the world, because he has in his own mind a revelation which declares that the world, in its real structure, must be the image and copy of that divine proportion which he inwardly adores.[441]

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