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So far we have been occupied in disputing the views of others; it is now time that our own view should be stated. We maintain, then, that Socrates first brought out the idea, not of knowledge, but of mind in its full significance; that he first studied the whole circle of human interests as affected by mind; that, in creating dialectics, he gave this study its proper method, and simultaneously gave his method the only subject-matter on which it could be profitably exercised; finally, that by these immortal achievements philosophy was constituted, and received a threefold verificationfirst, from the life of its founder; secondly, from the success with which his spirit was communicated to a band of followers; thirdly, from the whole subsequent history of thought. Before substantiating these assertions point by point, it will be expedient to glance at the external influences which may be supposed to have moulded the great intellect and the great character now under consideration.
To Socrates himself the strongest reason for believing in the identity of conviction and practice was, perhaps, that he had made it a living reality. With him to know the right137 and to do it were the same. In this sense we have already said that his life was the first verification of his philosophy. And just as the results of his ethical teaching can only be ideally separated from their application to his conduct, so also these results themselves cannot be kept apart from the method by which they were reached; nor is the process by which he reached them for himself distinguishable from the process by which he communicated them to his friends. In touching on this point, we touch on that which is greatest and most distinctively original in the Socratic system, or rather in the Socratic impulse to systematisation of every kind. What it was will be made clearer by reverting to the central conception of mind. With Protagoras mind meant an ever-changing stream of feeling; with Gorgias it was a principle of hopeless isolation, the interchange of thoughts between one consciousness and another, by means of signs, being an illusion. Socrates, on the contrary, attributed to it a steadfast control over passion, and a unifying function in society through its essentially synthetic activity, its need of co-operation and responsive assurance. He saw that the reason which overcomes animal desire tends to draw men together just as sensuality tends to drive them into hostile collision. If he recommended temperance on account of the increased egoistic pleasure which it secures, he recommended it also as making the individual a more efficient instrument for serving the community. If he inculcated obedience to the established laws, it was no doubt partly on grounds of enlightened self-interest, but also because union and harmony among citizens were thereby secured. And if he insisted on the necessity of forming definite conceptions, it was with the same twofold reference to personal and public advantage. Along with the diffusive, social character of mind he recognised its essential spontaneity. In a commonwealth where all citizens were free and equal, there must also be freedom and equality of reason. Having worked out a theory of life for himself, he138 desired that all other men should, so far as possible, pass through the same bracing discipline. Here we have the secret of his famous erotetic method. He did not, like the Sophists, give continuous lectures, nor profess, like some of them, to answer every question that might be put to him. On the contrary, he put a series of questions to all who came in his way, generally in the form of an alternative, one side of which seemed self-evidently true and the other self-evidently false, arranged so as to lead the respondent, step by step, to the conclusion which it was desired that he should accept. Socrates did not invent this method. It had long been practised in the Athenian law-courts as a means for extracting from the opposite party admissions which could not be otherwise obtained, whence it had passed into the tragic drama, and into the discussion of philosophical problems. Nowhere else was the analytical power of Greek thought so brilliantly displayed; for before a contested proposition could be subjected to this mode of treatment, it had to be carefully discriminated from confusing adjuncts, considered under all the various meanings which it might possibly be made to bear, subdivided, if it was complex, into two or more distinct assertions, and linked by a minute chain of demonstration to the admission by which its validity was established or overthrown.
Amongst the emigrs themselves there were disputes. Those who had emigrated at first looked down upon the later ones, considering that they had done so, not out of principle, but to save their own lives. They, on the other hand, maintained that if there had been no emigration at all things would never have got to such a pitch. M. de Montagu openly wished he had stayed and been with the royal family during the attack on the Tuileries.
The explanation of this anomaly is, we believe, to be found in the fact that Catholicism did, to a great extent, actually spring from a continuation of those widely different tendencies which Epicurus confounded in a common assault. It had an intellectual basis in the Platonic and Stoic philosophies, and a popular basis in the revival of those manifold superstitions which, underlying the brilliant civilisations of Greece and Rome, were always ready to break out with renewed violence when their restraining pressure was removed. The revival of which we speak was powerfully aided from without. The same movement that was carrying Hellenic culture into Asia was bringing Oriental delusions by a sort of back current into the Western world. Nor was this all. The relaxation of all political bonds, together with the indifference of the educated classes, besides allowing a rank undergrowth of popular beliefs to spring up unchecked, surrendered the regulation of those beliefs into the hands of a78 profession which it had hitherto been the policy of every ancient republic to keep under rigid restraintthe accredited or informal ministers of religion.154 Now, the chief characteristic of a priestly order has always and everywhere been insatiable avarice. When forbidden to acquire wealth in their individual capacity, they grasp at it all the more eagerly in their corporate capacity. And, as the Epicureans probably perceived, there is no engine which they can use so effectually for the gratification of this passion as the belief in a future life. What they have to tell about this is often described by themselves and their supporters as a message of joy to the weary and afflicted. But under their treatment it is very far from being a consolatory belief. Dark shades and lurid lights predominate considerably in their pictures of the world beyond the grave; and here, as we shall presently show, they are aided by an irresistible instinct of human nature. On this subject, also, they can speak with unlimited confidence; for, while their other statements about the supernatural are liable to be contradicted by experience, the abode of souls is a bourne from which no traveller returns to disprove the accuracy of their statements.