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presently lost in it; and being so presumptuous as to believe that they are clear-sighted enough to overcome all manner of obscurity, their blindness increases so much the more, as they fancy that they move forward in a darkness into which human nature cannot penetrate. However, I am of opinion that scepticism is of no little use to a Christian soul, when it loses by such means all those magisterial opinions which St Paul so much detests.
When a man is able to apprehend all the ways of suspending his judgment, which have been laid open by Sextus Empiricus, he may then perceive that that logic is the greatest effort of subtilty that the mind of man is capable of; but he will see at the very same time, that such a subtilty will afford him no satisfaction: it confounds itself, for if it were solid, it would prove
that it is certain that we must doubt. Therefore there would be some certainty, there would be a certain rule of truth. That system would be destroyed by it; but you need not fear that things would come to that ; the reasons for doubting are doubtful them-selves; one must therefore doubt whether he ought to doubt. What chaos! what torment for the mind! It seems, therefore, that this unhappy state is the fitest of all to convince us that our reason is the way to wander, since, when it displays itself with the greatest subtilty, it throws us into such an abyss. What naturally follows is to renounce that guide, and beseech the Cause of all things to give us a better. It is a great step towards the Christian religion, which requires of us that we should expect from God the knowledge of what we are to believe and do, and that we should captivate our understanding to the obedience of faith. If a man be once convinced that he can expect no satisfaction from his philosophical enquiries, he will find himself better disposed to pray to God, to ask him the persuasion of the truths which he ought to believe, than if he should flatter himself
with a good success in reasoning and disputing. It is, therefore, a happy disposition to faith to know the defects of reason. Hence it is that Pascal and some others have said, that to convert libertines, they must be made sensible of the weakness of reason, and taught to mistrust it.
However, there are some learned men who maintain that there can be nothing more opposite to religion than Pyrrhonism.* “ It is the total extinction not only of faith, but also of reason, and there is nothing more impossible than to reclaim those who run themselves into such an excess. The most ignorant men may be instructed, the most conceited may be convinced, and the most incredulous may be persuaded. But it is impossible, I will not say to convince a sceptic, but to reason close with him, for it is not possible to urge him with any argument but what is a sophism, and even the grossest of all sophisms, I mean a begging the question. In effect, there is no argument that can be conclusive, but by supposing that whatever is evident is true, that is to say, by supposing what is in question. For Pyrrhonism, properly speaking, consists only in not admitting that fundamental maxim of the Dogmatists."
Observe that La Mothe le Vayer excludes the Pyrrhonists from the favour he bestowed upon several ancient philosophers: what he says thereon contains some facts which belong to this article. of the salvation of Pyrrho, and of all his disciples, who entertained the same opinions concerning the Deity as he. Not that they professed themselves to be Atheists, as some have believed. One may see in Sextus Empiricus that they admitted the existence of the gods, as the other philosophers did ; that they paid the common worship to them, and denied not their providence. But besides that, they never
“ I despair
La Placette, Traité de la Conscience, pag. 377.
acknowledged a first cause, whereby they would have despised the idolatry of their time; it is certain that they believed nothing concerning the Divine nature, but with a suspension of mind, and confessed nothing of what we have said but in a doubting way, and only to accommodate themselves to the laws and customs of their age, and of the country where they lived. And, consequently, seeing they have not had the least light of that implicit faith, on which we have grounded the hopes of the salvation of some heathens, who enjoyed it together with an extraordinary grace of God, I cannot see how any sceptic or Pyrrhonist of that kind, could avoid going to hell."*
Art. PYRRHONISM. PYTHAGORAS. PYTHAGORAS is the first of the ancient
who took the name of philosopher. Before him, those who excelled in the knowledge of nature, and made themselves conspicuous by an exemplary life, were called sages, copoi. That title appearing to him too assuming, he took another, which showed that he ascribed not to himself the possession of wisdom, but only the desire of possessing it. He therefore called himself philosopher; that is to say, a lover of wisdom. The professors of the science of nature and of morals, have retained that name ever since. Cicero tells us the native country of that new title, what gave occasion to it, and its signification. “A quibus ducti deinceps omnes, qui in rerum contemplatione studia ponebant, sapientes et habebantur, et nominabantur: idque eorum nomen usque ad Pythagoræ manavit ætatem : quem, ut scribit auditor Platonis Ponticus Heraclides, vir doctus in primis, Phliuntem ferunt venisse, eumque cum Leonte, Principe Phliasiorum, doctè et copiosè disseruisse quædam : cujus ingenium, et eloquentiam cùm admiratus esset Leon, quæsivisse ex eo qua maximè arte confideret : at illum artem quidem se scire nullam, sed esse philosophum : admiratum Leontem novitatem nominis, quæsisse, quinam essent Philosophi, et quid inter eos, et reliquos interesset Pythagoram autem respondisse, similem sibi videri vitam hominum, et mercatum eum, qui haberetur maximo ludorum appuratu totius Græciæ celebritate: nam ut illic alii corporibus exercitatis gloriam, et nobilitatem corona peterent: alii emendi aut vendendi quæstu, et lucro ducerentur : esset autem quoddam genus eorum, idque vel maximè ingenuum, qui nec plausum, nec lucrum quærerent, sed visendi causa venirent, studioseque perspicerent, quid agiretur, et quo modo : item nos qnasi in mercatus quandam celebritatem ex urbe aliqua, sic in hanc vitam ex alia vita, et natura profectos; alios gloriæ servire, alios pecuniæ: raros esse quosdam, qui, cæteris omnibus pro nihilo habitis, rerum naturam studiosè intuerentur: hos se appellare sapientiæ studiosos, id est philosophos : et ut illic liberalissimum esset, spectare, nihil sibi acquirentem, sic in vita longè omnibus studiis contemplationem rerum, cognitionemque præstare. Nec verò Pythagoras nominis solum inventor, sed rerum etiam ipsarum amplificator fuit.*-From whom all afterwards, who studied nature, were accounted and called wise men; and that name continued till the time of Pythagoras, who, according to Ponticus Heraclides, the disciple of Plato, and a very learned man, is said to come to Phlius, and to have disputed on some points with Leon, the prince of that place, in a learned and copious manner. Leon admired his parts and eloquence, and asked what art he chiefly excelled in; to which Pythagoras made answer, • that he knew no art, but was a philosopher:' Leon, wondering at the novelty of the name, enquired,
* It must be confessed that, considering the tendencies of Bayle, he concludes this long passage with a very consolatory quotation. ED.
who philosophers were, and what difference there was between them and others ?' Pythagoras replied, 'that the life of man seemed to him to resemble that fair, which was kept by all Greece with the celebration of games. For as there, some sought for glory by the exercise of the body, and nobility by obtaining a crown; and others aimed at profit and gain in buying and selling; but a third sort, who were people of the best fashion, neither wanted applause nor gain, but came only to see and consider what was doing, and in what manner: so likewise we are come from another life and nature into this life, as from some city to the celebration of a fair ; and some hunt after glory, and others money; and some few, despising every thing else, diligently study nature; these are called lovers of wisdom, that is philosophers : and as in the other case, it is more noble to look on an to acquire any thing, so in life, the knowledge and contemplation of nature is preferable to all other studies.' Pythagoras not only invented the name, but improved the science itself."
Pythagoras flourished in the time of Tarquin, and not in that of Numa. The mistake of those who say that he came over into Italy in the time of Numa, is glorious to him; for the only reason which has made them fancy so, is that they could not believe that Numa should have been so able a man, and so great a philosopher, had he not been a disciple of Pythagoras, He made himself very illustrious by his learning and virtue, and proved a very useful man in reforming and instructing the world. His eloquence must needs have been very powerful, seeing his exhortations moved the inhabitants of a great city, plunged in debauchery, to avoid luxury and good cheer, and to live according to the rules of virtue: nay, he prevailed upon the ladies to part with their fine clothes and all their ornaments, and to make a sacrifice of them to the chief deity of the place.