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Mind Association

The Relation of Greek Philosophy to Modern Thought


Author(s): Alfred W. Benn
Source: Mind, Vol. 7, No. 26 (Apr., 1882), pp. 231-254
Published by: Oxford University Press on behalf of the Mind Association
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I. -THE

RELATION OF GlPEEK PHILOSOPHY


MODERN THOUGHT.

TO

II.
of the Leviathanhas sometimesbeen represented
THE autlhor
as one who carriedthe BaconianMethodintopoliticsand prepared the way forits more thoroughapplicationto psychology
by Locke. But thisview,whichregardsthe threegreatleaders
of English philosophyin the seventeenthcenturyas successive
ofhistorywhich
links in a connectedseries,is a misapprehension
leavingouitof accountthe concould onlyhave arisenthroug,h
developmentof Continentalspeculation,and through
temporary
between
habitoflookingon themoderndistinction
theinveterate
as a fundamentalantithesis
empiricismand transcendentalism
dividingthe philosophersof every epoch into two opposing
schools. The truthis that,if the threewritersjust mentioned
theyagree
solelyfromexperience,
agreein deriving-knowledge
in nothingelse; and thattheirunanimityon thisone pointdoes
not amountto much,will be evidentif we considerwhat each
understoodby the notionin question. With Bacon,experience
whethertakingthe formof
was the negationof mereauthority,
ofhollowphrases,
naturalprejudice,of individualprepossession,
or of establishedsystems. The questionhow we come by that
knowledgewhich all agree to be the mostcertain,is left untouchedin his logic; eitherof the currentanswerswould have
suited his systemequally well; nor is there any reason for
believingthathe would have sided withMill ratherthanwith
Kant respectingthe originof mathematicalaxioms. With
Locke,experiencemeantthe analysisof notionsand judg,ments
anidthe
into the simple data of sense and self-consciousness;
ofthe presentday are beyondall doubt his disexperientialists
ciples; but the parentageof his philosophy,so far as it is
simiplya denial of innate ideas, must be sought,not in the
norin any othermodernwork,but in the old
NovutmOrganum,
of Aristotle,or in the commentsofthe Schoolmenwho
Orgsanon
followedAristotlein protestingagainstthe Platonismof their
time,just as Locke protestedagainstthe Platonismof Descartes
and Malebranche. The experienceof Hobbes differsboth in
eitherof these. With him,senisible
originand application-from
impressionsare not a.courtof appeal againsttraditionaljudgments,nor yet are theythe ultimateelementsinto which all
ideas may be analysed; they are the channelsthroughwhich
pulsatingmovementsare conveyedinto the mind,and these
forcesor
again,representthe actionof nmechanical
movements,

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232 The Relationof GreekPhilosophyto Afodern


Thought.
the will ofa paramountauthority. And he holds this doctrine,
partlyas a
partlyas a logical consequenceof his materialism,
safeguard against the theological pretensionswhich, in his
opinion,are a constantthreatto social order. The authorityof
the politicalsovereignis menacedonithe one hand by Papal
and on the otherby rebellioussubjectsputtingforinfallibility,
inspiration. To the Pope, Hlobbes
ward a claimto supernatural
says: "You are violatingthe law of natureby professingto
derive fromGod what is really given onlyby the consentof
men,and can onlybe given by themto theirtemporalheadthe rightto imposea particularreligion". To the Puritan he
says: " Your inwardilluminationis a superstitiousdream,and
you have no rightto use it as a pretextfor breakingthe king's
peace. Religionhas reallynothingto do withthe supernatural;
it is onlya particularwayofinculcatingobedienceto thenatural
of social union."
coinditions
Again, Hobbes differswholly from-Bacon in the deductive
characterofhis method. His logicis the old syllogisticsystemn
reorganisedon the model of mathematicalanalysis. Like all
the great thinkersof his time,he was a geometricianand a
reasoningfromgeneralto particularpromechanicalphysicist,
positionsand descendingfromcauses to effects.' His famous
not a histheoryof a social contractis a rationalconstruction,
he shows no
torical narrative. But thougha mathematician;
traces of Platonic influenCe. He is thereforeall the more
governedby Atomistand Stoic modes of thought. He treats
humannature,singleand associated,as Galileo andDescarteshad
treatedmotionand space. Like them,too,he findshimselfin
constantantagonismto Aristotle. The descriptionof man as a
social animal is disdainfullyrejected,and the political union
resolvedintoan equilibriumof manyopposingwills maintained
by violent pressurefroinwithout. In ethics,no less than in
physics,we findattractiveforcesreplaced by mechanicalimpacts.
While th%analysisof Hobbes goes much deeper thanArissynthesisis wider and
totle's,the graspof his reconstructive
in at least an equal proportion. Recognisingthe good
stronger
of the whole as the supremerule of conduct,he givesa new into the particularvirtues,'and disposesof the theory
terpretation
whichmade thema mepnbetweentwoextremesno less effectuhad disposedof the same theoryin
ally thanhis contemporaries
its applicationto the elementaryconstitutionof matter. And
just as theywereaided in theirrevoltagainst Aristotleby the
1 This is well brought
seriesofarticleson thePhilooutin a remarkable
publishedbyT6nniesin the Vierte1jahrsschrift
sophyofHobbesrecently
Jiir
Phitosopliie.
wissenschaftliche

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The Relationof GreekPtilosophyto ModernThought. 233


revivalof otherGreeksystems,so also was he. The identificathoughcommonlyattributed
tionofjusticewithpublicinterest,
an idea sharedby him
to Epicurusalone,was, like materialism,
with Stoicism,and was probablyimpressedon modernthought
by the weightoftheirunitedauthority. And whenwe findthe
philosopherof Malmesburymakingpublic happinessconsistin
orderand tranquillity,we cannot but think that this was a
generalisationfromthe Stoic and Epicurean conceptionsof
individualhappiness; forboth embracethe same ideal of passionlessrepose.
ofthe social forthe perOn the otherhand,thissubstitution
changein thevaluationof
sonal integerinvolvesa corresponding
personalfeelingsas such. What the passions-had been to later
thatthe individual soul becamieto Hobbes,
Greekphilosophy,
something,
essentiallyinfiniteand insatiable,whosedesiresgrow
whosehappiness,if such it can be called,is
as theyare gratified,
not a conditionof stablereposebut of perpetualmovementand
unrest. Here, again,the analogybetweenphysics and ethics
the
obtains. In boththerewas an originaloppositionbetweeni
idea of a limitand the idea of infiniteexpansion. In boththe
conflictwas bequeathedby ancient to modernthought. Those
who embracedbothstudieshave alwayshad a certaintendency
to take the same side in each; but thistendencyhas been more
distinctlymarkedin modernthanin ancientsystems. The successorsof Aristotle,
while fallingback on an older cosmology,
had retainedhis limitingmethodin theirspeculationson man.
If he and Plato beforehim had imprisonedthe formlessand
turbulentterrestrialelementswithin a uniformand eternal
on the desires
sphereof crystal,theyimposeda similarrestraint
and emotions,confiningthemwithina barrierof reasonwhich,
whenonce erected,could neverbe brokenthrough. And if,beforethe Athenianschoolarose,therehad been a physicalphilocalled it,the indefinite,
sophyof the infiniteor,as its impugners
to it, a philosophyof the infiniteor
therewas, corresponding
indefinitein ethics, represented,not indeed by professional
but by rhetoriciansand men of the world. Their
mioralists,
ideal was not the contentedman,but the popular oratoror the
despotwho revelsin the consciousnessof power-the abilityto
satisfyhis desires,whatevertheymaybe. And theextremeconsequenceof thisprincipleis drawnby Plato's Callicleswhenhe
declaresthattruehappinessconsistsin nursingone's desiresup
to the highestpointat whichtheycan be freelyindulged; while
his ideal of characteris the superiorindividualwho sets at
naught whateverrestraintshave been devised by a weak and
timidmajorityto protectthemselvesagainsthim.
The Greek love of balanced antithesisand circumscribing

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to ModernT7hought.
234 The Relationof GreekPhilosophy
formtriumphedover the infinitein bothfields; and altlhoug,h
a
the groundwon in physicswas lost again fora time throtugh
revivalof old theories,thiswas because true Hellenisinfound
its onlycongenialspherein ethics,and therethe philosophyof
there
P'lato continuedto reigil supreme. With Christianity,
came a certaininversionofparts. The externaluniverseagain
becamlesubjectedto narrowlimitations,and the flammantia
menia mundibeyondwhich Epicurus had dared to penetrate,
wereraisedup once moreand guiardedby new terrorsas an inmthe
tookrefugewitlhin
passable barrierto thought. But infinity
thaneven that
soul; and,whilein thislifea sternerself-control
of Stoicismwas enjoined,perspectivesof illimitabledelightin
anotherlifewere disclosed. Finally,at the Renaissanceevery
and the accumulated
overthrown,
barrierwas sihmultaneously
ofwesterncivilisationexpatiated'overa fieldwhich,if
,energies
it was vast in reality,was absolutelyunboundedin imaginiation.
Great as were the achievementsof that age,its dreamswere
greaterstill; and whatmostexeitesour wonderin the worksof
its heroes is but the fragmentof an unfinishedwhole. The
ideal oflifeset up by Aristotlewas, like his conceptionof the
in everyparticular;and the relativeposiworld,contradicted,
tionsassignedby himto act and powerwere preciselyreversed.
It has been shownhow Shakespearereflectedthe Platonismof
the fierceoutburstoftheir
his contemporaries:he reflected'also
ambition,and in describingwhat they would dare,to possess
or wearwithoutcorrival
powerand rnasterdom
solelysovereigni
all the dignitiesof honour,he borrowedalmostthe verywords
nisedby Euripidestofexpressthe feelinigsencouragedby some
teachersof his time. The same spiritis exhibiteda generation
later in the diamas of Calderon and Corneille,before their
channelby the stressof
tlioughtswere forced'into a different
the Catholic reaction;while its last and highestmanifestation
is the sentimentof Milton'sruined'archangelthat'to reignin
liell is betterthan to serve in heaven. Thus, w-henHobbes
desirefor
reducesall thepassions to modesof'the fundamental
theoryofthatwhichstands
power,he does butgive the scientific
accentsby the noblestpoetryofhis
in morethrilliing
proclaimied
age.
Whereno dangercould deter fromthe pursuitof power,no
balancingof pain withpleasureavailed' to quenchthe ardourof
desire. With fullknowledgethatviolenitdelightshave violent
ends and in theirtriumphdie,thefatefulconditionwas accepted.
Not onlydid GiordanoBruno,in consciousparallelismwithhis
theoryof matter,declare that withoutmutation,varietyand
vicissitudenothingwould be agreeable,nothinggood, nothing
delightful,that enjoymentconsists solely in transitionand

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She Relationof GreekPhilosophy


to ModernThought.235
movement,and that all pleasure lies midway between the
painfullongingoffreshappetiteand the sadnessof its satiation
and extinction
1; but the sedaterwisdomof Bacon,in touching
on the controversy
between Callicles and Socrates,seems to
inclinetowardsthe side of the former;and in all cases warns
on
men inotto maketoo muchof the inconvenieinces
attendanit
pleasure,but " so to proGureserenityas they destroynot magnanimity".2
These,then,were the principalelementsof the philosophical
Reniaissance. First,therewas a certainsurvivalofAristotelianism as a method of comprehensiveand logical arrangement.
Then therewas the new Platonism,bringing.along with it a
revival of either Alexandrian or mediaeval pantheism,and
closelyassociatedwith geomnetrical
studies; Thirdly,therewas
the old GreekAtomism,
as originallyset forthby Democritusor
to theologry,
as re-editedc
by Epicurus,traditionally
unfavourable
confirmed
potentalike fordecomposition
anldreconstruction,
by
the new astronomy,
and lendino its methodto the reformation
of matlhematics;next the later Greek ethical systems; and
finallythe formlessidea of infinitepowerwhichall Greeksystemiis
had,asssuch,conspiredto suppress,butwhich,nevertheless,
bad playeda greatpartin theearlierstagesof Greekspeculation
bothphysicaland moral.
theloftyedificeof Spinozismwas reared;
On thesefoundations
ouitof these materialsits compositestructurewas built; and
withouta previousstudyofthemit cannotbe understood.
WhetherSpinoza ever read Plato is doubtful. One hardly
sees whyhe shouldhave neglecteda writerwhoseworks were
easily accessible,and at that time verypopular with thinkingu
minds. But whetherhe was acquaintedwith the Dialogues at
firsthand or not,Plato will help us to understandSpinoza,for
it was throughthe doorof geometry
thathe enteredphilosophy,
and under the guidance of one who was saturatedwith the
Platonic spirit; so far as Christianity
influencedhim, it was
throug,helementsderived froinPlato; and hlis metaphysIical
methodwas one which,more than any other,would lhavebeen
welcomedwithdelightbytheauthoroftheJenoand theBepublic,
as an attemptto realisehis owndialecticalideal. For Spinozism
is, on the face of it, an applicationof geometricalreasoningto
philosophy,and especiallyto ethics. It is also an attemptto
prove transcendentally
what geometriciansonly assume-the
necessityof space. Now, Plato looked on geomietrical
demonstrationas the great typeof certainty,
the scientific
completion
1'
2

Spaccio della BesticaTrionfante,


sub in.

Jdvancerment
ofLearning,
Ellis & Spedding,III., 428.

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236 TheReltation
of GreekPhilosophyto ModernThought.
of what Socrateshad begunby his interrogative
method,the one
means of carrying
irrefragable
convictionintoeverydepartment
of knowledge,
and moreparticularly
intothe studyofourhighest
good. On the otherhand he saw that geometriciansassume
what itselfrequiresto be demonstrated;and he confidently
expectedthatthedeficiency
wouldbe suppliedbyhis ownprojected
methodof transcenidental
dialectics. Such at least seemsto be
the driftof the followingpassage: When I speak of the division ofthe initellectual,
yoluwill also understandme to speak of
that knowledgewhich reason herselfattains by the power of
dialectic,using the hypothesesnot as firstprinciples,but only
as hypotheses-thatis to say as steps and pointsof departure
into a-regionwhichis above hypotheses,
in orderthat she may
soarbeyondthemto thefirstprincipleof thewhole; and clinging
to this and thento that which depends on this,by successive
stepsshe descendsagain withoutthe aid of any sensible object,
beginningand endingin ideas .
The problem,then,which Spinoza set himselfwas, first,to
accountforthefundamental
assumptionsofall science,and more
particularlyof geometry,
by deducingthem froma single selfevidentprinciple;and thento use thatprincipleforthe solution
of whateverproblemsseemedto standmostin needofits application. And,as usuallyhappensin suchadventurous
enterprises,
the supposedanswerofpurereasonwas obtainedby combining
or expandingconceptionsborrowedwithoutcriticismfrompreexistingsystemsofphilosophy.
Descartes had alreadyaccomplisheda great simplification
of
the speculativeproblemby summingup all existenceunder the
two heads of extensionand thought.It remainedto accountfor
these,and to reduce thenito a singleidea. As we have seen,
theywerederivedfromGreekphilosophy,
and the bond which
was to unitethemmustbe soughtforin the same direction. It
will be remembered
thatthe systemsof Plato andAristotlewere
boundedat eitherextremity
by a determinateand by an indeterminateprinciple. With the one, existencerangedbetween
the Idea of Good at the upperend ofthe scale and emptyspace
at the lower; with the other,between absolute Thoughtand
FirstMatter. It was by combiningthe two definiteterms,space
and thouight,
that Descartes had constructedhis system; and
aftersubtractingthese the two indefinitetermsremained. In
one respectthey were even more opposed to each otherthan
werethe termswithwhichtheyhad beenrespectively
associated.
The Idea of Good represented
as
unity,identity,and constancy,
againstplurality,
and change; whileAristotle'sMatter
difference,
CC

1 Republic
VI.

511,in Jowett's
Trans.III. 398.

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The Relationof GreekPhilosophyto ModernThought.237


and indeterwas by its verydefinitionmultiform,
fluctuating,
minate. Nevertheless,
therewere equally importantanalogies
traceablebetweenthem. No veryclear accountcould be given
describedby negatives. If
of either,and bothwerecustomarily
Matterfellshortof completeexistence,theGood transcendedall
existence. If the one was a universalcapacityfor assuming
Forms,the otherwas the sourcewhence all Forms proceeded.
ofan individualwerethought
Whenthedistinctive
characteristics
away,the questionmightwell be mootedintowhich principle
it would return. The ambiguoususe ofthe word Powercontrifor it was not less
buted still furtherto their identification,
applicableto the receptivethanto the productivefaculty. Now,
we have just seen into whatimportancethe idea of Power suddenlysprangat the Renaissance: with Bruno it was the only
abiding realityof nature; with Hobbes it was the onlyobject
of humandesire.
a verylargeplace in Aristotle'sphiloAnothertermoccuipying
sophywas well adaptedto mediatebetweenand eventuallyto
unite the two speculativeextremes. This was Substance; in
in metaphysicsthe substratum
logic the subjectof predication,
of qualities,the ovicoiaor Being of the Ten Categories. Now,
FirstMattermightfairlyclaim the positionof a universalsubject orsubstance,sinceitwas investedwitheverysensiblequality
in turn;and even,as the commonelementof all Forms,with
everythinkablequalityas well. Aristotlehimselfhad finally
pronouncedforthe individualcompoundofFormand Matteras
the truesubstance. Yet he also speaksas if the essentialdefinition of a thingconstituted
the thingitself; in whichcase Forrm
alone could be the true subject; and a similarclaim mightbe
put forwardon behalfofthe PlotinianOne.
Such werethe a priori elementswhicha historicalsynthesis
had preparedto satisfythe want of a metaphysicalAbsolute.
Let us now see what resultwould follow wlhenthe newlyanalysis.
recoveredidea ofspace was subjectedto a metaphysical
Extensionis bothone and infinite. No particulararea can be
conceivedapartfromthewholewhichbothcontainsand explains
it. Again, extensionis absolutelyhomogeneous;to whatever
distancewe maytravelin imagination
therewill stillbe thesame
of similarparts. But space,withtheCartesians,
meant
repetition
morethana simplejuxtapositionofparts; havingbeen madethe
essence of matter,it *as investedwith mechanicalas well as
withgeometrical
properties. The bodies intowhichit resolved
their
itselfwere conceivedas moving,and as communicating
an unbrokenchain of causamovementto one anotherthrouglh
tion in which each constituteda single link, determiningand
determined
bytherest; so that,herealso,each partwas explained

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238 The Relationof GreekPhilosophyto ModernThougAt.


its essence,while
to an infinitewhole,repro(lucingT
by reference
existence. We can
exemptfromthe conditionof circumscribed
understand,then,that when' the necessityof accountingfor
extensionitselfonce becamefelt,the naturalsolutionwould be
relationto somegreaterwhole
to conceiveit as holdingthe samne
which its own subdivisionsheld to their sum total; in other
and an image
words it shouldbe at once a part,an emnianation,
of theultimatereality,whichin turncould be onlyconceivedas
ad infinitum.
its inultiplicationi
The directionin which a method for explaining Thought
would mostreadilysuggestitself,was givenboth in the proper
and in itspresumedparallelisinwithextension.
formofthinlking,
to thinkwas to reason,and to reason
Speakina philosophically,
was to subsumea lowerundera higheror more ulniversalconcept,to resolveall subjectsintoa singlepredicate,or to connect
all predicateswith a single subject; and owingto Aristotle's
causes,this processwas conconfusionofformalwith efficient
withthatby which we rise to the knowledge
sideredidenitical
antecedentsin the externalworld.
of determininig
Spinoza gatheredup all the threadsof speculationthusmade
readyforhis grasp,when he definedGod as a substance coneach of whichexpresseshiisinfinite
sistingofinfiniteattributes,
and eternalessence; subsequentlyaddingthat the essencehere
spokeniofis Power,and that two of the infiniteattributesare
.Extensionand Thought,whereofthe particularthingsknownto
us are nodes. If, now,we ask whythere should be such an
existenceas space,the answer is because existence,being ininclude every conceivablething. The
finite,must niecessarily
like a principleof the Epicurean philoargumentis strikingly
to
sophy,and may well have been suggestedby it. Accordinig
Lucretius,the appearanceof design in our world need not be
becauseinfiniteatomsmoving
to creativeintelligence,
attributed
time,must at lengtharrive,
in infinitemannersthroughinfilnite
at the presentframe
seriesof experiments,
aftera comprehensive
of things'; and the same principleis invokedon a smallerscale
and of
to accountforthe originof organisedbeings,ofmemory,
civil society.2 In both systemsinfinitespace is the root-conused to explain
ception; but what Lucretiushad legitimately
becoming,Spinoza illegitimatelyapplies to the elucidationof
beinig. At one strokeall empiricalknowledgeis placed on an
mutata,peromne
muLltis,
- Quia multimodis,
vexantur
Ex infinito
percitaplagis,
Omnegenusmotus,et cetus experiundo,
in taleisdisposituras,
Tandemldeveniunt
suiumacreata.-I., 1023-7.
haecrebusconsistit
QualibuLs
2 V. 853,IV. 780-800,V. 1025.

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The Relationof GreekPhilosophy


toModernThotught.239
a priorifounldation.By assumingunlimitedcreditat the bank
of the universewe entitleourselvesto draw a cheque for aniy
particularamount. Thus the idea of infiniteattributesis no
nmere
collateralspeculation,but formsan essenltialelement of
Spinozism. The knownvarietiesof existenceare,so to speak,
and fixedin theirplaces by the endless
surrounded,
supported,
multitudeofthe unknown. And this conceptioniof being as
is anotherproofof Spinoza's Platonic teiiabsolutelyilifinite,
dencies,forit involvesthe realisationof an abstractidea,thatis
to say, of Being,,which the philosophertreats as something
than the facts of consciousnesswhence it
more comprehensive
is derived.
The relationof Spinoza's Substanceto its attributesis ambiguous. It is at once their cause, their totality,and their
unity. The highlyelastic and indefiniteterm Power helped
these various aspects to play inlto and replace one another
accordingto the requirementsof the system. It is associated
withthe subjectivepossibilityof multiplyingimaginaryexistences to any amount; with the-causal energyin which existenceoriginates;and withthe expansivenesscharacteristic
alike
of Extensionand of Thought. For the two known attributes
of the universal substalice are not simply related to it as
co-predicatesof a commonsubject; theyseverallyexpress its
essential Power, and are, to that extent,identical with one
another. But whenwe ask, How do theyexpressPower? the
same ambiguityrecurs. Substanceis revealedthrougLh
its attributesas a cause throughits effects;as an aggregatethroughits
constituents;and as an abstractnotion throug,hits concrete
embodiments. Thus Extension and Thought are identical
through-their
silncethese illustratethe versaverydifferences,
tilityof theircommonsource.and at the same timejointlycontributeto the realisationofits perfection. But, forall practical
purposes,Spinoza deals onlywith the parallelismand resemblance ofthe attributes. We have to see how he establishesit,
anldhow far he was helped in so doing by the traditionsof
Greekphilosophy.
It has been already shown how Extension,having become
identified
witlhmatter,tookon its mechanicalqualities,and was
conceivedas a connectedseries of causes or lodes of motion.
The parallel foundby Spinoza forthis series is the chain of
reasons and conseque-nts
forminga demonstrativeargument;
and here he is obviously followingAristotle,who although
ostensiblydistinauishingbetween formaland efficientcauses,
hopelesslyconfouiidsthemin the second book of his Posterior
Analytics. We are said to understanda thingwhenwe bring
it undera generalrule, and whenwe discoverthe mechanical

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240 The Belationof GreekPhilosophytoModernThought.


agencywhich producesit. For instance,we may know thata
particularman will die, eitherfromthe fact that all men are
mortal,or fromthe fact that he has receiveda fatal wound.
The generalrule,however,is not the cause ofwhatwill happen,
but onlythe cause of our knowingthat it will happen; and
knowledgeof the rule by no means carrieswith it a knowledge
cause,as we see in the case of gravitationand
ofthe efficient
other natural forceswhose modusoperandiis still a complete
mystery. What deceivedAristotlewas partlyhis falseanalysis
ofthe syllogismwhichhe interpretedas the connexionof two
of a middle answeringto the causal
termsby the interposition
nexus oftwo phenomena;and partlyhis conceptionof the unispheresthroughwhichmovement
verseas a seriesof concentric
is transmittedfromwithout,thus combiningthe two ideas of
and inechanicalcausation. Be this as
notionalcomprehension
oflogical
identification
it may,Spinoza takes up the Aristotelian
withdynamicalconnexion,and gives it the widest possibledevelopment. For the Stagiritewould not, at any rate, have
any but a subjectiveexistenceto the dedreamedof attributing
series,norofextendingit beyondthe limitsof our
monstrative
actual knowledge. Spinoza, on the otherhand, assumes that
the wholeinfinitechainof materialcauses is representedby a
chain of eternalideas; and this chain he calls
corresponding
the infiniteintellectof God. Here, besides the necessitiesof
the influenceof mediaeval realislmis plainly
;systematisation,
of Plato's Ideas
evident. For,whenthe absoluteself-existence
had been surrenderedin deferenceto Aristotle'scriticism,a
homewas still foundforthemby Plotinusin the eternalNous,
and by the ChristianSchoolmenin the mindof God; nordid
so long as the divinepersuch a beliefpresentany difficulties
sonalitywas respected. The pantheism,of Spinoza, however,
was absolute,and excludedthe notion of any but a finitesubjectivity. Thus the infiniteintellectof God is an unsupported
chain of ideas recallingthe theoryat one time imaginedby
Plato.' Or its existencemay be merelywhat Aristotlewould
have called potential; in otherwords,Spinoza may mean that
reasonswill go on evolvingthemselvesso long as we chooseto
studythe dialecticofexistence,alwaysin strictparallelismwith
the naturalseries of materialmovementsconstitutingthe externaluniverse; and just as this is determinedthroughall its
parts by the totalityo-fextension,or of all matter(whether
of
so also at the sulmimit
movingor motionless)takentogether,
the logicalseriesstandstheidea of God,fromwhose definition
of everylesser idea necessarilyfollows. It
the demonstration
1 Seethepassage
theRepublic
from
quotedabove.

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T[heRelationof GreekPhilosophyto ModernThought.241


is truethatin a chain of connectedenergiesthe antecedent,
as
such, muistbe always preciselyequal to the consequent;but
apparentlythisdifficulty
did not presentitselfto Spinoza, nor
ineedwe be surprised;forKant,comincg
a centurylater,was still
so imbuedwithAristoteliantraditionsas, similarly,
to derivethe
categoryof Cause and Effectfromthe relationbetweenReason
and Consequentin hypothetical
propositions.'
Meanwhile the parallelismbetweenThoughtand Extension
was not exhaustedby the identification
just analysed. Extension was not onlya seriesof movements;it still remainedan
expressionfor coexistenceand adjacency. Spinoza, therefore,
felt himselfobligedto supplyThoughtwith a correspondingly
continuousquality. It is here that his chief origirnality
lies,
here that-he has been mostcloselyfollowedby the philosophy
of our own time. Mind,he declai'es,is an attributeeverywhere
accompanyingmatter,co-extensiveand co-infinite
with space.
Our own animationis the sum or the resultantof an animation
clingingto everyparticlethatentersintothe composition
of our
bodies. When ourthoughtsare affected
by an externalimpulse,
to supposethatthis iinpulseproceedsfronianythingmnaterial
is
a delusion; it is producedby the mind belongingto the body
whichacts on our body; or ratherthe two actions are onlydifferentaspectsof a singleprocess. Spinoza has clearlyexplained
the doctrineof animal automatisin,
and shownit to be perfectly
conceivable; but he has entirelyomittedto explain how the
parallel influenceof one thought(or feeling)on anotheris to be
understood;foralthoughthistoo is spokenof as a causal relation,it seemsto be quite different
fromthelogicalconcatenation
describedas the infiniteintellectof God; and to suppose that
idea followsfromidea like movementfrommovementwould
amountto a completematerialisation
of inind; while our philosopherwouldcertainlyhave repudiatedMr.Shadworth
Hodgson's
theorythat statesof consciousnessare onlyconnectedthrough
theirextendedsubstratumas the segmentsof a mosaicpicture
are held togetherby the underlying
surfaceof masonry.
The analogybetweenThoughtand Extensionunder the two
aspectsof necessaryconnexionand mere contingentrelationin
coexistenceor successionwas, in truth,more interestingto its
authoras a basis forhis etlhicalthan as a developmentof his
metaphysicalspeculation. The two ordersof relationsrepresenlt,
in theirdistinction,
the oppositionof scienceto opinionorimagination,the oppositionof dutifulconvictionto blind or selfish
I The tendency
into
oflogiciansis now,contrariwise,
to forcereasoning
withmathenmatical
the proposition
parallelisnm
as
physicsby ilnterpreting
an equationbetweensubjectand predicate.

16

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of GreekPhilosophyto ModernThought.
242 The Relation,
impulse. Spinoza borrowsfromthe Stoics theiridentification
withbelief; but in workingout the consequencesof
of volitioni
this principleit is of Plato ratherthan of the Stoics that he
remindsus. The passionsare in his systemwhatsense,imagination and opinionwerein thatof the Athenianidealist; and his
ethics may almost be called the metaphysicsof the Republic
turnedoutsidein. Joy,griefand desire are more or less imperfectporceptionsof reality-a realitynot belongingto the
external world but to the conscious subject itself. When
Spinoza tracesthemto a consciousnessor expectationof raised
or loweredpower,we recognisethe influenceof Hobbes; but
when,hereas elsewhere,he identifiespowerwithexistence,we
detecta returnto Greekformsof thought. The great conflict
betweenillusionand realityis foughtout once more; onlythis
timeit is about our own essencethatwe are firstdeceivedand
thenenlightened. If the nature and originof outwardthings
our
are halfrevealed,half concealedby sense and imagination,
medium
emotionsarein like mannertheobscuringand distorting
throughwhichwe apprehendour inmost selves, and whatever
adds to or takes away fromthe plenitudeof our existence; and
what scienceis to theone,moralityand religionare to the other.
It is remarkablethatwhile Spinoza was givinga new applicationto the Platonic method,anotherCartesian,Malebranche,
was workingit out morestrictlyon the old lines of speculative
de la/VJriteof this unjustlyneglected
research. The Becherche
thinkeris a methodicalaccount of the various subjectiveobstacleswhichimpedeour apprehensionof thingsas theyreally
exist,and ofthe means by which it may be facilitated. Here
also, attentionis concentratedon the subjectiveside of philosophy; and if the mental processesselected for study are of
theoreticalratherthan practicalinterest,we may probablyatthat everyethicalquestionwas
tributethisto the circumstance
alreadydecidedforMalebrancheby the Churchwhoseordershe
ofprofessed
had assumed. But it was notmerelyin thewritings
of
found
expresPlatonism
that
new
aspect
the
philosopher?
sion. All greatart embodiesin one formor anotherthe leading
conceptionsof its age; and the latter half of the seventeenth
in the comediesof Moli6re.
centuryfoundsuch a manifestation
theyowe
If theseworksstandat the head of French literature,
theirpositionnot moreto theirauthor'sbrilliantwit thanto his
profoundphilosophyof life; or ratherwe should say thatwith
him wit and philosophyare one. The comic power of Shakespearewas shownby resolvingthe outwardappearancesof this
world intoa series of dissolvingillusions. Like Spinoza and
Malebranche,Moli6returnsthe illusion in, showingwhat pervertedopinions men formof thenmselves
and others,through

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The Relationof GreekPhilosophytoModernThought. 243


misconceptions
and passionseitherof spontaneousgrowthor sedulouslyfosteredby designinghands. Society,withhim,seems
almost entirelymade up of pretendersand their dupes, both
charactersbeingnot unfrequently
combinedin the same person,
whois madea victimthrough
hisdesireto pass forwhathe is not
and cannotbe. And this is what essentiallydistinguishesthe
art of Moli6refromthe New Comedyof Athens,whichhe,.like
other moderns,had at firstfelt inclined to imitateuntil the
Ridicules showed him where his true
successofthe Pre'cieuses
opportunities
lay. For the New Comedywas Aristotelian
wlhere
it was notsimplyhumanist; thatis to sav, it was an exhibition
of typeslike thosesketchedbyAristotle'sdisciple,Theophrastus,
and alreadyprefigured
in the master'sown Ethics. These were
the perennialformsin a world of infiniteand perishingindividualexistences,not concealedbehindphenomena,
but incorporatedin themand constituting
theiressentialtruth. The Old
and
Comedyis somethingdifferent
again; it is prae-philosophic,
may be characterised
as an attemptto describegreat political
interestsand tendenciesthroughthe medium of myths and
fables and familiardomesticities,
just as the old theoriesof
nature,the old lessons of practicalwisdom,and the firstgreat
national chronicleshad been throwninto the same homely
form.'
The purelyintellectualview of human nature,the definiition
of mindin termsof cognition,
is one more fallacyfromwhich
Aristotle'steaching,had it not fallenintoneglect or contempt,
his parallelismbemighthave guardedSpinoza. Nevertheless,
saves himfromtheworst
tweenpassionand sensuousperception
extravagancesof his Greek predecessors. For the senses,however much theymightbe maligned,never were nor could be
altogetherrejected; while the passions met with little mercy
fromPlato and withnonefromthe Stoics,who consideredthem
not onlyunnecessarybut even unnatural. Spinoza morewisely
sees in themassertions,howeverobscure and confused,of the
will to be and grow which constitutesindividual existence.
And he sees thattheycan no morebe removedby pointingout
can be abolished
theirevil consequencesthansense-impressions
by proving their fallaciousness. On the other hand, when
Spinoza speaks as if one emotioncould onlybe conqueredor
expelled by anotheremotion,we must not allow his peculiar
to concealfromus the purelyintellectualcharacter
phraseology
of his whole ethical system. What he really holds is that
emotioncan be overcomeby reason or betterknowledge,be1 Greektragedy
is just thereverse-an expansionofthe old patriarchal
and feelingofa
relationsintoa mouldfittedto receivethehighestthought
civilisedage.

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Thought.
244 The Relationof GreekPhilosophytoModerin
cause it is itself an imperfectcognition. Point by point,an
analogy-or somethingmiorethanan analogy--is made out betweenthe errorsof sensuousperceptionjoined to imagination,
and the errorsof our spont,aneous
efforts
afterhappinessor selfrealisation. Both are iinposedon us fromwithout,and neither
can be gotrid ofby a simpleact of volition. Both are affected
by illusionsofperspective:the nearerobjectof desire,like the
place in
nearerobjectof perception,
assuminga disproportionate
the fieldof view. In both,accidentalcontiguityis habitually
confoundedwith causation; while in both the assignmentof
causes to effects,
insteadofbeingtracedback throughan infinite
seriesof antecedents,
stopsshortwiththe antecedentnearestto
ourselves. If objectsare classifiedaccordingto theirsuperficial
resemblancesor the usages of commonlanguage,so also are the
-desiressustainedand intensifiedby imitationand rivalry. By
moraleducationmust be conductedon the
parityof reasoniing,
same lines as intellectualeducation. First,it is shownhow our
individualexistence,dependingas it does on forcesinfinitely
exceedingour own,is to be maintained. Thisis chieflydone by
cultivatingfriendlyrelationswith other men; probably,alon the
thoug,h
Spinoza does not hiinselfmake the comparison,
same principleas that 'observedin the mutual assistanceand
rectification
of the senses,togetherwith their preservationby
means ofverbalsigns. The misleadingpassionsare to be overiomeby discovering
theirorigin; byreferring
the pleasuresand
pains which produce them to the rightcauses; -bycalling in
thoughtto redressthe balance of imagination;by dividingthe
attentionamong an infinitenumberof causes; finally,by demonstrating
the absolute necessityof whateveractions excite
them,and classifying,
them accordingto theirrelations,in the
same way thatthe phenomenaof the materialworld are dealt
withwhensubjectedto scientific
analysis.So farSpinoza,followingthe example of Stoicism,has only
studied the means by which reason conquers passion. He
now proceed5to show, in the spiritof Plato or of Platonic
how far superiorto the pleasures of sense and
Christianity,
opinionare thoseafforded
by truereligion-by the love of God
and the possession of eternallife. But, here also, as in the
Greeksystem,logic does duty for emotion. The love of God
meansno morethan viewingourselvesas fillinga place in the
of existence,and as determinedto be what
infiniteframework
we are by the totalityofforcescomposingit. And eternallife
is merelythe adjustmentofourthoughtsto the logical orderby
which all modes of existenceare deduciblefromthe idea of
infinitepower.
Thus,while Spinoza draws to a head all the tendenciesin-

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tEheRelationof GreekPhilosophy
to ModernThought. 245
herited from Greek philosophy,borrowingfrom the early
physiciststheirnecessarianism;fromthe Atomists,theirexclusion of final causes,their denial of the supernatural,
and their
infiniteworlds; fromthe Athenianschool,their distinction
between mind and body,and between reason and sense; from
Aristotle,
his parallelismbetweencausationand syllogism;from
the Epicureans,theirvindicationofpleasure;and fromtheStoics,
theiridentification
ofbeliefwithaction,theirconquestofpassion
and their devotionto humanity;-it is to the dominantPlatonism of the seventeenthcenturythat his systemowes its
foundation,its development,and its crown; for he begins by
realisingthe abstractconceptionofbeing,and infersits absolute
infinity
fromthe nlisleadinganalogyof space which is not an
'abstractionat all; deduceshis conclusionsaccordingto the geometricalmethodrecommendedby Plato; and ends like Plato,
by translating
dialecticformulasinto the emotionallanguageof
religiousfaith.
From this grand synthesis,
however,a single element was
omitted; and, like the uninvitedguest of fairy tradition,it
proved strongenough singlyto destroywhat had been constructedby the united effortsof all the rest. This was the
scepticalprinciple,the criticalanalysis of ideas,firstexercised
by Protagoras,
made a new starting-point
by Socrates,carriedto
perfectionby Plato, supplementingexperiencewith Aristotle,
and finallyproclaimedin its purityas the sole functionofphilosophyby an entireschoolof Greekthougllt.
the sterilitycommonlyassociatedwithmere
Notwithstanding
negation,it was this which,of all the later Greek schools,possessed the greatestpowersofgrowth. Besides passing through
morethan one stage ofdevelopmenton its own account,Scepticismimposedseriousmodifications
on Stoicism,gave birthto
to the establishment
of Neo-PlaEclecticism,and contribuited
tonism. The explanationis not'farto seek. The more highly
to change,
organiseda systemis,the moreresistancedoes it offer
the moredoes itstransmission
tendto assumea rigidlyscholastic
form. To 'such dogmatismthe Sceptics were. on principle,
opposed; and by keepingthe problemsofphilosophyopen,they
facilitatedthe task of all who had a newsolutionto offer;while
mindand its activitiesbeing,to some extent,safe fromthe unithrewback
versal doubt,the scepticalprinciplespontaneously
thoughton a subjectiveinstead of an objectivesynthesisof
knowledge-in otherwords,on that psychologicalidealismthe
pregnancyand comprehensiveness
of which are every day becomingmore clearlyrecognised. And we shall now see how
in
the same fertilising
power of criticismhas been manifested
moderntitnesas well.

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246 The Relationof GreecPhilosophyto ModernThought.


The sceptical philosophy,already advocatedin the Middle
Ages by Johnof Salisbury,was,like everyotherformof ancient
thought,revived at the Renaissance,but onlyunder the very
superficial
formwhichinfersfromthe coexistenceof manydivergentopinions that none of them can be true. Even so,
however,it led Montaigneto soundernotionsof tolerationand
humanitythanwere entertainedby any of his contemporaries.
WithBacon,and stillmorewithDescartes,it also appearsas the
necessarypreparationfor a remodellingof all belief; but.the
greatdogmaticsystemsstill exercisedsuch a potentinfluence
on boththose thinkersthat theirprofesseddemand fora new
methodmerelyleads up to an alteredstatementof the old unprovedassumptioins.
Meanwhile the old principleof universal doubt could no
longerbe maintainedin presenceof the certaintiesalreadywon
by modernscience. Man, in the timeof Newton,had, as Pope
terselyputs it," too muchknowledgeforthe scepticside". The
problemwas nothowto establishthereality,buthowto ascertain
the originand possibleextentof that knowledge. The firstto
perceivethis,the firstto evolvecriticismout of scepticism,
and
was Locke.
thereforethe real founderof modernphilosQphy,
Nevertheless,even with him, the advantage of studyingthe
morerecentin close connexionwiththe earlierdevelopments
of
thoughtdoes not cease; it onlyenterson a new phase. If he
cannot,like his predecessors,
be directlyaffiliatedto one or
moreof the Greekschools,his positioncan be illustratedby a
parallel derived from the historyof those schools. What
Arcesilaus and Carneades had been to Socratesand his successors,that Locke was in a large measure to Bacon and the
Cartesians. He wentback to the initialdoubtwhichwiththem
had been overborneby the dogmaticreaction,and insistedon
makingit a reality. The spiritof the Apologiais absentfrom
Plato's laterdialogues,onlyto reappearwitheven morethanits
originalpowerin the teachingof the New Academy. And,in
like manner,
Descartes'introspective
method,withitsdemandfor
clear ideas;becomes,in theEssay concerning
Hwbman
Understanding,an irresistiblesolventforthe psychologyand physicsof its
firstpropounder. The doctrineof innateideas,thedoctrinethat
thedoctrinethatthoughtis the
extensionis theessenceofmatter,
essenceof mind,the moregeneraldoctrine,
held also by Bacon,
thatthingshave a diseoverableessencewhenceall theirproperties
may be deducedby a processanalogousto mathematical
reasoning,-all collapsed when broughtto the test of definiteand
concreteexperience. We have here,indeed,somethingcomparablenot onlyto the scepticismof the New Academy,but
also to the AristoteliancriticismofPlato's metaphysics;and at

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-TheRelationof GreekPhilosophyto ModernThought. 247


firstsightit mightseem as if the Peripateticphilosophywas
destinedonce moreto regainthe positiontaken fromit by the
of its ancientfoe. But Locke was not inclinedto
resuscitation
substituteone formof scholasticisinfor another. By applying
the analytical method of Atomism to knowledge itself,he
createda weaponequally fatal to the two competingsystems.
Under his dissectionthe concreteindividual substance of the
one vanishedno less completelythan the universalideas of the
remainedbut a bundle of qualities held toother. Nothingr
getherby a subjectivebond.
Similarly,in politicalsciencethe analyticalmethodof assumto resultfroma concurrenceof individual
ino civil government
ecclesiWills,which with Hobbes had served onlyto destroywhile leaving intact and even strengthening
astical authority,
by Locke as a
the authorityof secularrulers,was reinterpreted
negationof all absolutismwhatever.
to observehow,herealso,the positivescience
It is interesting
of the age had a large share in determiningits philosophic
character. Founded on the discoveryof the earth'strue shape,
Aristotle'smetaphysicshad been overthrownby the discovery
of the earth'smotion. And now the claims of Cartesianismto
of
have furnishedan exact knowledgeofmatterand a definition
it whenceall the factsof observationcould be deduceda priori,
by the discoveryof universal gravitawere summarilyrefutedl
tion. The Cartesians complainedthat Newton was bringingr
back the occultqualitiesofthe Schoolmen;but the tendencyof
bodiesto movetowardsone anotherprovedas certainas it was
mysterious. For a time,the study of causes was
iniexplicably
supersededby the study of laws; and the new method of
physical science moved in perfect harmonywith the phenomenismof Locke. One mostimportantconsequenceof this
revolutionwas to place the new Criticalphilosophyon a footing
fromthatoccupiedby the ancientsceptics. Both
quite different
certainknowledgeto our own statesof consciousness;
restricted
but it now appearedthatthismightbe done withoutimpeaching
the value of accepted scientificconclusions,which was more
than the Academicphilosophywould have admitted. In other
words,grantingthat we were limited to phenomena,it was
shown that science consistedin ascertainingthe relationsof
these phenomenato one anotherinstead of to a problematic
realitylyingbehindthem; while,thatsuchrelationsexistedand
was what no
were,in fact,part of the phenomenathemselves,
scepticcould easily deny.
Neverthelessin each case subjectiveidealismhad theeffectof
concentratingspeculation,properlyso called, on ethical and
practical interests. Locke struck the keynote of eighteenth

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248 The Relationof GPeekPhilosophyto ModernThoutght.


to be "the
centuryphilosophywhen he pronouncedmnorality
properscienceand businessof mankindin general"''" And no
of
soonerhad moralitycometo the frontthan the significance
ancientthoughtagain made itselfapparent. Whetherthrough
consciousimitation,
or because the same causes broughtabout
the same effects,
ethical inquiriesmoved alongthe lines orioinally laid down in the schools of Athens. When rules of
conduct were not directlyreferredto a divine revelation,
theywerebased eitheron a supposedlaw of nature,or on the
necessitiesof humanhappiness,or on some combinationof the
of the eighteenthcentuiry
-two. Nothingis morecharacteristic
thanits worshipof nature. Even the theologyof the age is
deeplycolouredby it; and with the majorityof thosewho rejected theologyit became a new religion. But this sentiment
is demonstrably
of Greekorigin,and foundits most elaborate,
thoughnotits mostabsoluteexpressionin Stoicism. The Stoics
had inheritedit fromthe Cynics,who held the faithin greater
purity; and these,again,so faras we can judge,froma certain
of whose teachinghave been
Sophisticschool,some fragments
preservedby Xenophon and Plato; while the firstwho gave
was, in all probability,
wide currency
to thisfamousabstraction
assoHeracleitus. To the Stoics,however,is due that intimBate
ciationof naturalismwithteleologywhichmeetsus again in the
and even now whereverthe docphilosophyofthe last century,
trine of evolutionhas not been thoroughlyaccepted. It was
assumed, in the teeth of all evidence,that nature bears the
beneficent
design,thatevil is exclusively
marksof a uniformly
of humanorigin,and thateven humannatureis essentiallygood
restrictions.
whenunspoiledby artificial
fromthe
Yet if teleologywas, in some respects,a falling-off
rigidmechanicismfirsttaughtby the prae-Socraticschoolsand
thenagain by the Cartesianschool,in at least one respectit
markeda comparativeprogress. For the firstattemptsmade
bothby ancientand modernphilosophyto explain vital phepremanomenaon purelymechanicalprincipleswerealtogether
ture; and tfheimmenseextensionofbiologicalknowledgewhich
tookplace subsequentlyto both,could not but bring about an
irresistiblemovementin the opposite direction. The firstto
revive teleologywas Leibniz,who furnisheda transitionfrom
the seventeenthto the eighteenthcenturyby his monadology.
In this,Atomismis combinedwithAristotelianideas just as it
had previouslybeen combinedwithPlatonicideas by Descartes.
The movementof the atoms is explained by their aspiration
aftera more perfectstate instead of by mechanicalpressure.
1 Essay,Bk. iv. ch. 12.

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to MIodern
Thought. 249
of GreekPhilosophy
The JRelation
But while Leibniz still relies on the ontologicalargumentof
Descartesto provethe existenceof God, this was soon abanfor the argument
doned,alongwiththe cosmologicalargument,
fromdesign,whichwas also that used by the Stoics; whilein
ethicsthe fitnessof thingswas substitutedfor the more meas the rule of conduct; and
chanical law of self-preservation,
the subjectionof all impulse to reason was replaced by the
milderprincipleofa controlexercisedby the benievolentover
the malevolentinstincts. This was a verydistinctdeparture
faithful
fromthe Stoicmethod,yetthosewho madeit weremnore
to teleologythau Stoicismhad been; for to condemnhuman
was immplicitly
to condemnthe workof nature
feelingaltogether
or of God.
its
The othergreatethicalmethodof the eighteenthcentury,
hedonism,was closelyconnectedwith the sceptical movement
in speculativephilosophy,
and like thatreceivedan entirelynew
significance
by becomingassociatedwiththe idea of law. Those
who isolateman fromthe universeare necessarilyled to seek in
his interestsas such the sole regulatorof his actions,and their
sole sanctionin the opinion of his fellows. Protagoraswent
his unwillingnessto recognise
alreadyso far,notwithstanding
pleasureas the supremeend; and in the systemofhis truesuccessor,Aristippus,the nmostextremehedonismwent hand in
hand with the most extrenme
idealism; while with Epicurus,
again,bothare temperedby the influenceof naturalismimposing on himits conceptionsofobjectivelaw alike in scienceand
in practice. Still his systemleaned heavilyto the side of selfgratification
pure and simple; and it was reservedfor modern
thoughtto establisha completeequilibriumbetween the two
competingtendenciesof Greek ethics. This has been effected
in Utilitarianism;and those criticsare entirelymistakenl
who,
ofEpicureanismii.
like M. Guyau,regardit as a merereproduction
It mightwithfullas muchreasonbe called a modernversionof
Stoicism. The idea of humanityis essentiallyStoic; to work
forthe good of humanitywas a Stoic precept; and to sacrifice
one's own pleasureforthathighergood is a virtuewhich would
have satistiedthe most rigorousdemandsof a Cleanthes,an
Epictetus,or an Aurelius.
Utilitarianism
agreeswitlhthe ancient hedonismin holding
pleasureto be the sole good and pain the sole evil. Its adherentsalso, forthe7most
part,admitthatthe desire of the one
and the dreadof the otherare the sole motivesto action; but,
they
while makingthe end absolutelyuniversaland impersonal,
make the motive into a momentary
impulsewithout any necessaryrelationto the futurehappiness of the agent himself.
The good mandoeshis dutybecausedoingit giveshimpleasure,

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250 The Relationof GreekPhilosophyto ModernThought.


or because the failureto do it would give him pain, at the
moment; althoughhe knows that a contrarycoursewould save
him fromgreaterpain or win him greaterpleasure hereafter.
No accuratethinkerwould call this acting froma selfishor interestedmotive; nordoes it agreewiththe teachingof Epicurus.
then,
Were all sensitivebeingsto be unitedin a singleorganism,
in the sense of
interpreted
on utilitarianprinciples,self-interest,
its own preservationand pleasure,would be the only
seeking,
law that the individualisedaggregatecould rationallyobey.
subordinatedto
But the good of each partwould be rigorously
the good of the whole; and utilitarianmoralitydesiresthatwe
shouldact as ifthis hypothesiswere realised,at least in reference to ourown particularinterests. Now,theidea of humanity
such a consolidatedwhole is not Epicurean. It beas formiing
longsto the philosophywhichalways reprobatedpleasure preciselybecauseits pursuitwas associatedwith the derelictionof
public dutyand with bitterrivalryforthe possessionof what,
by its verynature,existed onlyin limitedquantities,whilethe
demandforitwas unlimitedorat anyratefarexceededthesupply.
Accordingto the Stoics,there was onlyone way in which the
individualcould studyhis privateinterestwithoutabandoning
and thiswas to findit exclusively
his positionas a social beingr,
in the practice of virtue. But virtue and public interestremained mere formsscantilysupplementedby appeals to the
until the idea of generalisedhappiness,of
traditionalmorality,
came to fill
pleasure diffusedthroughthe whole community,
themwithsubstanceand life. It has also to be observedthat
the idea ofutilityas a testof moral goodnessis quite distinct
fromhedonism. Plato proclaimsin the mostunequivocalterms
thatactionsmustbe estimatedby theirconsequencesinsteadof
by the feelingsof sympathyor antipathywlhichtheyexcite;
yet no one could object more stronglyto making pleasure the
end of action. Thus,threedistinctdoctrinesseem to converge
in imodern
Englishethics,of which all are traceable to Greek
philosophy,buttonlyone to Epicureanismin particular,and not
ultimatelyto thatbut to the oldersystemswhenceit sprang.
bya new
findourselvesconfronted
And herewe unexpectedly
relationbetweenancientand modernthought. Each acts as a
on the other,dissolvingwhat miglhtotherpowerfulprecipitant
wise have passed for inseparableassociations,and combining
elementswhicha less completeexperiencemighthave led us to
regardas necessarilyincompatiblewith one another. The instancejust analysedis highlysignificant;nordoesit standalone.
Modern spiritualistsoftentalk as if moralitywas impossible
apart fromtheir peculiar metaphysics. But the Stoics, confessedlythe purestmoralistsof antiquity,wereuncompromising

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The Ielacdionof-reek Philosophyto ModernThought.2O1


materialists;whilethe-spiritualist
Aristotletaughtwhatis not
easily distinguishable
froma veryrefined
sortof egoism. Again,
the doctrineoffree-willis now commonlyconnectedwitha beliefin the separabilityof consciousnessfrommatter,and like
that is declared to be an indispensableconditionof morality.
Among the Greeks,however,it was held by the nmaterialist
Epicureansmoredistinctlythan by any otherschool; whilethe
Stoics did not findnecessarianisminconsistent
with self-sacrificingvirtue. The partial derivationof knowledgefrom an
activityin our own minds is anothersupposed concomitant
of
spiritualism;although Aristotletraces every idea to aii externalsource,whileat the same time holding some cognitions
to be necessarilytrue-a tlheory
repudiatedby modernexperientialists. To Plato the spirituality
of the soul seemedto involve
its pre-existence
no less thanits immortality,
a consequencenot
acceptedby his mnodern
imitators. Teleologyis now commonly
opposed to pantheism; the two were closely combined in
Stoicism; while Aristotle,althoughhe believed in a personal
God, attributed
the marksof design in natureto purelyunconscious agencies.
The naturalismand utilitarianismof the eighteenthcentury
are the last conceptionsdirectlyinheritedfromancient philosophy by modernthought. Henceforward,
whateverlight the
studyofthe formercan throwon the vicissitudesof the latter,
is due eitherto theirpartialparallelisnm
or to an influencebecomingeveryday fainterand more difficultto trace amid the
multitudeof factorsinvolved. The progressof analyticalcriticismwas continuallydeflectedor arrestedby the still powerful
resistanceof scholasticism,
just as the sceptical tendenciesof
the New Academy had been before,thoughhappilywith less
pernmanent
success; and as, in antiquity,this had happened
withinno less thanwithoutthecriticalschool,so also did Locke
clingto thetheologyofDescartes;Berkeleylapse intoPlatonism;
Hume play fastand loose with his own principles,while Reid
was rallyingthe Aristotelianpsychology
to a desperatestand
against the new movement; and Kant leaves it doubtfulto
whichside he belonged,so evenlywere the two opposingtendenciesbalancedin his mind,so dexterously
did he adapt the
new criticismto the framework
of scholasticlogic and metaphysics.
Meanwhilethe strength
ofthe analyticalmethodwas doubled
by its extensionto the phenomenaof growthand change; for,
as appliedto these,it becamethe famoustheoryofDevelopment
or Evolution. No idea belongsso completelyto modernphilosophy; foreventhe ancientthinkerswho threwtheircosmology
into a historicalformhad neverattemptedto explainthe present

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to ModernThouzght.
252 TheRelationof CreekPhilosophy
theyexplainedthepastby thepresent,
by thepast. If anythinig,
of the
assuming-a roughanalogyto existbetweenthe formation
universeas a wholeand the aenesisof thosenaturalor artificial
bodies whichwerecontinuallygrowingor being builtup before
theireyes. Their cosmologywas, in fact,nothingbut the old
strippedof its personalor consciouselement; and,
mythology
byanyexternalevidence;unsupported
likeit,was a hypothesis
withthe admissionthatthiseliminaa criticismnot inconsistent
tion of the supernaturalelementfromspeculationwas, even in
the absence of any solid addition to human knowledge,an
methodis
of inestimablevalue. The evolutionary
achievemenit
but it is a great deal
also an eliminationof the supernatural,
inore. By tracingthe historyof compoundstructuresto their
to whichtheir
firstorigin,and notingthe successiveincrements
gradual growthis due,it reveals,as no statical analysis ever
of the
could,the actual orderof synthesis,and the nmeaning
by whosejoint actiontheirmovementsare
separateconstituents
theirdissolutionsuppliesus with
determined;while,conversely,
in which the influenceof
a numberofready-madeexperiments
each particularfactorin the sum total may be detectedby
watchingthe changes that came on its removal. In a word,
the methodof evolutionis the atomisticmethod,extendedfrom
matterto motion,and viewed underthe formof successioninstead ofunderthe formof coexistence.
the theoryof Development,like
As a universalphilosophy,
everyothermodernidea, has onlybeen permittedto manifest
formsof the old scholasitselfin combinationwith different
ticism. The whole speculativemovementof our centuryis
madeup of such hybridsystems;and threein particularstilldiofmanythinking
menwho have notbeen able
vide the suffrages
ideas. These
entirelyto shake offthe influenceof reactionary
are the systemsofHegel,of Comte,and ofMr. HerbertSpencer.
fromGreekthought
inherited
In each the logic and metaphysics
are variouslycompouDdedwiththe new science. And each,for
fromione to
thatveryreason,servesto facilitatethe transition
the other; a part analogous to that played among the Greeks
of Plato and Aristotle,or,
themselvesby the vast constructions
by the Stoic and Alexandrian
in an age of less productivity,
eclecties.
The influenceof Aristotlehas, indeed,continuedto make
itselffeltnot onlythroughthe teachingof his-nodernimitators,
or through
but moredirectlyas a living traditionin literature,
the renewedstudyof his writingsat firsthand. Even in the
recentperiod,
pure sciences it surviveduntil a comparatively
ard, so faras the Frenchintellectgoes, is not yet entirelyextinct. FromAbelardon, Paris was the headquartersof that

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The Belationof GreekPhilosophytoModernThought. 253


sobererscholasticism
which took its cue fromthe Peripatetic
logic; and the resultingdirectionof thought,deeply impressed
as it becameon the Frenchcharacterand the Frenchlanguage,
was interruptedratherthan permanently
altered by the Carand with the fall of Cartesiailismgradually
tesianrevolution,
recoveredits old predominance. The Aristotelian
philosopllyis
remarkableabove all othersfor clear definitions,
fulldescriptions, comprehensiveclassifications,
lucid reasoning,encyclopaedicscience,and disinterested
love of knowledge;alongwitl
a certainincapacityforethicalspeculation,'strongconservative
leanings,and a generaltendencytowardsthe rigid demarcation
ratherthanthe fruitful
commingling
ofideas. And it will probably be admittedthat these are also traits characteristic
of Frenchthinking,
as opposed to Englishor Germailthinking.
For instance,widelydifferent
as is the Micanique Ce'leste
from
the astronomy
of Aristotle'streatiseOn theHeavens,both agree
in beingattemptsto provethe eternalstabilityof the celestial
system.2 The destructivedelugesby which Aristotlesupposes
civilisationDo be periodicallyinterrupted,
reappearon a larger
scale in the theoryof catastrophesstill held by French geologists. AnotherAristoteliandogma,the fixityof organicspecies,
thoughvigorouslyassailed by eminentFrench naturalists,
has,
on the whole,triumphedover the opposite doctrineof transformismin France,and now impedes the acceptance of Mr.
Darwin'steachingeven in circleswhere theologicalprepossessions are extinct. The accepted classificationsin botanyand
zoologyare the workofFrenchmenfollowingin the footstepsof
Aristotle,whosegeniusformethodicalarrangement
was signally
in at least one ofthese departments,
exemplified
the divisionof
animalsintovertebrate
aild invertebrate
beingoriginallydue to
him. Bichat'sdistinction
betweenthe animaland thevegetable
functionsrecalls Aristotle'sdistinctionbetween the sensitive
and nutritivesouls; while his methodof studyingthe tissues
in the treatiseon the Parts of
beforethe organsis prefigured
Anim.als. For a long timethe rulingof Aristotle'sPoeticswas
undisputedin French criticism;and if anythingcould disentitleMontesquieu'sEsprit des Lois to the proud motto,Prolen
sine matrecreata
m, it would be its close relationshipto the
Politicsofthe same universalmaster. Finally,if it be granted
thatthe enthusiasmforknowledgeirrespective
ofits utilitarian
applicationsexiststo a greaterdegreeamongtheeducatedclasses
1 WhatAristotlehas writtenon the subjectis not ethicsbutnatural
history.
2 "CNe remarque-t-on
comment
chaquerecherche
analytiquede Laplace
a faitressortir
dansnotreglobeet dalis l'universdes conditionsd'ordreet
de duree? "-Arago, cEuvres
III. 496.

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254 lhe Relationof GreekPhilosophyto ModernThought.


of France thanin any othermodernsociety,we may plausibly
to thefostering
influence
attributethishonourablecharacteristic
of one who has proclaimedmore eloquentlythan any other
philosopherthat theoreticalactivity is the highest good of
humanlife,the idea of all nature,and the sole beatitudeof God.
It remainsto add a fewwordson the positionwhich ancient
occupytowardstheology.
and modernphilosophyrespectively
Here theirrelationis one of contrastratherthanof resemblance.
The Greekthinkersstartat an immensedistancefromreligious
belief,and theirfirstallusions to it are markedby a scornful
denial of its validity. Gradually,with the transitionfrom
betweenthe two
physicalto ethical inquiries,an approximation
is broughtabout,thoughnot withoutoccasionalreturnsto their
formerattitudeof hostility. Finally,in presenceofa common
withone
dangertheybecomieinterwovenand almost identified
another; while the new religion against which they make
commoncause itselfpresentsthe samespectacleof metaphysical
withthe spontaneous
and moralideas enteringintocombination
And be it observed that
products of popular nmythology.
the wholeof this process action and reactionwere
throughout
equal and contrary. The declineand corruptionof philosophy
of religion.
was the pricepaid forthe elevationand purification
While the one was constantly
sinkingthe otherwas constantly
rising,untiltheyconvergedon tlle plane of dogmatictheology.
of the case an opposite course has
By the verycircumstances
of miodern
been imposedon the development
philosophy. Starting froman intimateunion with religion,it slowly disengages
alliance; and, althoughhere also
itselffromthe compromising
the normalcourseofideas has been interruptedby frequentreactions,the generalmovementofEuropeanthoughthas been no
fromthepopular
less decidedlytowardsa completeemancipation
beliefsthanthe movementof Greek thoughthad been towards
theirconciliationand support.
BENN
ALREDW.

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