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minds. As but few can study philosophy in the works of the philosophers themselves, most men must receive its doctrines at second hand, in the narrations and expositions of history. Hence is at once manifest the importance of the noble theme to which we now propose to introduce our readers.
The History, by Schwegler, though of reputation in Germany, as we are informed, is, in our opinion, a trivial performance. It is only because it is the last history of philosophy which we have read, that it becomes the occasion of this article. We shall borrow nothing from it, either of fact, criticism, or arrangement, in the historical review of philosophy which we are about to present. In truth, it is because so many epitomes of the history of philosophy are from time to time put before the public, which, like Schwegler's, are vehicles to a great degree of the writer's peculiar opinions, or of the school to which he belongs, rather than a true historical narration of the consecutive series of doctrines which have, at different epochs, been promulgated in the progress of human speculation, that we are induced to offer a critical outline of the history of philosophy, unbiassed by any arbitrary theoretical preconceptions as to the course of the development of doctrine. It is true, that the historian of philosophy must point out the outward relations and the inner connections between the doctrines of different philosophers, in order to make the history intelligible. But then, this should be only a subordinate and ancillary criticism, merely to illumine the path of narration, and not to interpolate any assumptions of the historian's own. Schwegler, from the beginning to the end of his history, has assumed that the great end of philosophy is to identify subject and object, and accordingly has corrupted the whole stream of his narration with this Hegelian conceit.
The history of philosophy (overlooking the Eastern periods anterior to those of Greece), presents three great periods : 1. Antiquity; 2. The Middle Ages ; 3. Modern Times.
Ancient philosophy comprehends three epochs. The first, from Thales to Socrates, about one hundred and thirty years, gave rise to four principal sects—the Ionic, founded by Thales; the Italic, founded by Pythagoras; the Eleatic, founded by Xenophanes; and the Atomic, founded by Leucippus and Democritus. The second epoch was from Socrates to the promulgation of Christianity, about five centuries. The third epoch extends from the preaching of Christianity to the age of Charleinagne, or rather into the sixth century; for philosophy, like all other cultivation, was extinguished in the barbarism which immediately preceded the reign of that great monarch.
From Thales to Socrates, but one problem was discussed—the origin of existence; the essence of things; the formation of the universe. Each of the four sects of philosophers, during this epoch,
was distinguished for the boldness of its hypothesis in attempting to account for the origin of the universe. The different sects varied from each other only in the principles of their solution of the one problem. The magnificence of the world without withdrew philosophers from contemplating the world within. Philosophy was, therefore, physical, not psychological--of nature, not of the mind. The contemplation of nature had filled the poets Hesiod and IIomer with mythical dreams. Every part of the physical world had been personified by them. In their age, the Greek mind had no other notion of causation than the agency of actual personages. All the operations of nature were supposed to be carried on by the immediate agency of actual persons. The four sects of philosophers which we have mentioned, dispelled the myths of the poets from the contemplation of nature, and substituted for persons, powers or forces inherent in matter, as the causes or formative principles of nature. And Anaxagoras even suggested one Mind as the framer of all things. These four sects of philosophers made the first step in philosophy beyond the mytho-poetic conceptions of the poets. In the poets, the emotional element of the mind was paramount, expending itself in a personifying sympathy, peopling the earth with all those personages which figure in Greek mythology. In the philosophers, the intellectual element was paramount, looking at the operations of nature as mechanical and dynamic. Still, the thoughts of the highest minds were directed to the contemplation of the panorama of the external world.
To the sects of philosophers which we have considered, succeeded the Sophists. This class of thinkers belongs to a peculiar stage in human progress—to a period of criticism or transition. The previous sects of philosophers had failed to find any platform of truth on which the reason of man could rest satisfied. Their labours had ended, and no fruits had been garnered into the treasury of knowledge. They, too, had no successors in their labour to solve the problem of the universe. The different views of nature, taken by the several sects, had all proved unsatisfactory, and yet seemed to have left no other possible view. This, the Sophists saw. The Sophists were, in truth, the offspring of the thinking of these sects of naturalists. Their parentage is shown in the fact, that, in general, they were materialists. The common doctrine of the Sophists was, that doubt attaches to every opinion, and that it is impossible to find certainty in anything. They were thorough skeptics. However much these actors in the great drama of thought may differ in special doctrines, on the one thing of skepticism they were agreed; and in their skepticism, we find the place on which they stand in the great order in which the leaders of thought, at different epochs, are marshaled in the sequences of history. We must not, as has been so often done, regard this era
as one only of decadence; for, while we repudiate the opinion of Mr. Grote, that the Sophists were as honest teachers as Socrates, and their doctrines only a little less enlightened, we readily admit that they planted in the field of thought many fruitful germs. They called out investigations in the theory of knowledge, in logic, and in language. The methodical treatment of many branches of knowledge was begun by them. They were the first to make style a special object of study amongst the Greeks. Greek rhetoric sprung out of their teachings. They, in a word, prepared instruments, and also cleared the way, to some extent, for the new progress which was to succeed.
Now begins the second epoch of ancient philosophy. Socrates is the leader in this period of the struggles of the mind of man with the difficulties of knowing theoretically-of construing to one's consciousness what he feels and sees within and without himself. The Sophists had withdrawn attention from nature, and the solutions of those problems which had engaged the first four sects of Greek philosophers, and had fixed attention on language in itself, and in its contents. They, in fact, began a revolution in the thinking of the nation. Socrates was trained in their discipline. He profited especially by the lectures of Prodicus and Anaxagoras. In fact, his method was that of the Sophists; and when he turned his assaults upon them, his victories were not due more to the greater truth which armed his doctrines, than to his greater skill in their own art of dialectics; but yet, we must carefully distinguish the Socratic from the Sophistical spirit of philosophising. That of the Sophists was proud and boastful, as their very name, COQISTOI, wisemen, indicates: that of Socrates was humble, as the name he adopted, P1200oços lover of wisdom, to distinguish himself and school from the Sophists, shows. And while the spirit of the Sophists was boastful, it was skeptical; but while that of Socrates was diffident, it was hopeful of certainty and truth. The fruitful germ which Socrates introduced into philosophy, was the problem of human consciousness. The mind was, in his philosophy, its own point of departure, and its principal object. With him began the new era in philosophy, where the inscription on the Delphic temple, “ Know Thyself," became the watchword of philosophy. In consciousness Socrates found that basis of truth which the Sophists had failed to discover. They dwelt upon language and its contents; and as these contents were merely the factitious unities of popular and uncritical observations, much contradiction, as well as vagueness, would be found in the doctrines of all prevailing thought. Socrates, therefore, based his method upon consciousness, and, by what he called intellectual midwifery, unfolded truth from the minds of those whom he conversed with. This was the positive application of his method ; and so far it was his own. But then, it must be borne in mind that Socrates merely taught
men how to philosophise, and did not teach them philosophy, for he declared that he had none to teach. Through the negative application of his method he refuted the Sophists, by showing contradiction between their doctrines. This, however, was but the common dialectical method of the Sophists themselves, of asking questions adroitly chosen for their logical relations to the doctrines in dispute, and making the answers obtained, the premises from which conclusions are deduced at variance with the doctrines of your antagonist, and yet consonant with his admissions in the answers to your questions. Socrates achieved his triumphs in the thinking of his age, by adding a new force to the method of the Sophists, which made it positive as well as negative, and that in the profoundest applications as well as in ordinary problems which lie more on the surface of knowledge.
Socrates had many followers, who, though they diverged much from each other in doctrines, all gave much attention to human consciousness, nd continued the Socratic movement. Amongst these were the two greatest thinkers of antiquity, Plato and Aristotle.
Plato, like every other philosopher, saw that the great end of philosophy is to explain the phenomenal world, and especially the sensible universe. For it is this universe that, from his earliest infancy, presses without ceasing upon the attention of man. Nowhere else is this object of philosophy more distinctly displayed than in the writings of Plato. He wrote no systematic treatise of philosophy; but his philosophical doctrines are woven through his various dialogues, not so much for themselves as for a basis to his moral, political, and physical theories; in the Phædo, to prove the immortality of the soul; in the Republic, to sustain his ethical and political principles ; in the Timæus, to explain and verify his physical theories. Plato's philosophy is but the life, the central principle, of his practical doctrines. Man, living and acting amidst mysteries, and himself the greatest mystery of all, was the great object of the philosophy of Plato. To explain man, and all that concerns him, either in the past, the present, and the future, was what Plato strove to do by his philosophy. He did not turn away from the realities of nature, and spend his life in unreal dreams, as those who talk so much about his mysticism, opine. It was the actual, passing before our senses and experienced in our consciousness, that he attempted to explain, and to found upon a basis of verity.
With this view of the scope and purpose of Plato's philosophy, let us inquire into the method by which he endeavoured to accomplish his ends.
Socrates, the master of Plato, was duly impressed with the weakness of the human mind, and felt how narrow are the limits of human knowledge. In fact, he circumscribed human know
ledge within much narrower bounds than most of the great teachers of our race. Physical inquiries he entirely repudiated as beyond the comprehension of man. He was, in truth, rather a moralist and dialectician, than a philosopher in the sense of one addicted to the higher walks of speculation. And the vice of his method was the one, common to the Greek philosophers, of taking for granted that the motives contained in common language are sufficiently accurate and expressive of realities for a basis of philosophy. This is sufficiently exemplified in the discussion reproduced by Plato in the Phædo. It is taken for granted, that the doctrine of the immortality of the soul is to be deduced from the common notions then entertained upon the topics out of which the argument was to be constructed. There is no attempt to evolve new principles out of the facts of consciousness; no effort to trace lines of original speculation through secrets of psychological manifestations; but all the proofs are deduced from the inaccurate notions embodied in the language of the times. The doctrine, that all acquired knowledge is but a reminiscence of what was learned in a prior state of existence, approaches nearer to an attempt at the evolution of a new principle by reflective analysis from psychological phenomena, than anything else in the dialogue ; but this was doubtless a sophism of Plato's own, put into the mouth of Socrates, and is, after all, a shallow pretence resting upon mere assumption. The whole inquiry consists of assumptions and ratiocinations. There is no sifting of premises, no searching for principles amidst psychological facts manifested in self-consciousness; but the whole fabric rests upon the notions embodied in the language of the people. There is no designed attempt at any more accurate basis for the deduction of conclusions.
The doctrine of Plato, as to the circle of human knowledge and the powers of the mind, differed widely from that of Socrates. Plato thought that no speculation is beyond the reach of the human mind. His was an ambitious philosophy. But we will show, that, like the speculations of the other Greek philosophers, his philosophy was founded upon popular notions and remnants of doctrine handed down, in loose traditions, from older speculators, who built upon the same superficial basis.
The fundamental doctrine of Plato's philosophy is, that there are real entities subsisting in the universe, corresponding to the general terms used in language; and that these general entities, called ideas, are the only proper objects of science : and that the method of philosophising is to close the senses, and dwell in intellectual contemplation on these ideas, and to note their relations and combine them into propositions, and deduce conclusions from these propositions: and that the conclusions will correspond with the empirical truths of physics and the practical truths of morals, because the logical relations of these ideas correspond with the