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germs of knowledge. He contented himself with being a spiritual midwife, and his chief delight lay in teaching his hearers how to discover the true definitions for themselves. A better teacher never lived. He practised his art, which he loved to compare with that of his mother," in the public places, on the walks, and in the work-shops; wherever he found an intelligent face before him. He was in the habit of plying those whom chance made his pupils with questions.
questions that were often trifling in their nature. He began by chiming in with their views. Then, by means of the most skilful questioning, he gradually forced them to confess that they knew little or nothing, and, finally, brought them to see the truth. The dialogues of Plato give us an insight into the famous dialectical method, which enabled Socrates to confound the learned pretensions of his interlocutors, and which has been called the Socratic irony.
Though Socrates sought to enlighten men, to teach them how to think correctly and to know the truth, his object was not to make them learned, but to make them happy and useful citizens. Ever since the days of Socrates, philosophy has regarded it as her prerogative to take the place of religion, morality, and positive faith, in the absence of a universally recognized official religion. This accounts for the peculiar character of the Socratic and post-Socratic schools, which are as much religious brotherhoods as learned schools. For Socrates, who is, to a certain extent, a national thinker, a full-fledged Athenian, and for whom actual life has greater charms than abstract theory, wisdom or knowledge is not the goal ; it is the means, the indispensable means, of right living, as essential to the private individual as to the citizen and statesman. The intimate relation which exists between knowledge and
i Plato, Theceletus, 149 A, 151. Mem. IV., 7, 1.
? Mem., I., 1, 11; Aristotle, Met., I., 6; XIII., 4; De part. anim., 1., 1, 642; Cicero, Tuscul., V., 4.
will constitutes the fundamental principle and, in a measure, the very soul of his philosophy. The essential thought is that the more a man thinks and knows, the better will he act; that our moral value is directly proportional to our lights. From this principle the other characteristic propositions of his philosophy necessarily follow, namely: that virtue is teachable; that it is one, which means that we cannot be virtuous in one thing without being so in all things, or vicious in one without being so in all; finally, that no one is voluntarily bad ; that evil is the fruit of ignorance.
The ethical system of Socrates is a mean between the idealism of Pythagoras and the realism that is inseparable from the sensationalistic and materialistic trend of the Ionian schools. It aims at the ideal, but it loves to express this ideal in sensible forms, to reflect moral beauty in physical beauty. Socrates is far from being an ascetic: he strives to subdue nature, to make it the instrument of intelligence, to rule over it as an absolute master; but he never dreams of suppressing it. He is a Grecian and an Athenian above everything else, and so sensitive to external charms and physical beauty that he feels himself obliged to wage constant war with the allurements of matter.
He agrees with his predecessors on religious matters in that he repudiates mythology and its fables, without, however, being a free-thinker in the modern sense. His spirit
, ualistic faith is not even devoid of superstition. He believes in the supernatural, in superior beings who watch over nations and inspire individuals (daluóvia). Bu he strongly emphasizes the universality of Providence, and thereby attacks the particularism of the Athenians, thus paving the way for the notion of the universal brotherhood of man, taught by Stoicism and Christianity.3 · Mem., III. 9; IV., 6; Arist., Eth. Nic., III., 1; VI., 13.
Plato, Symposium, 176, 214, 220. • Mem., I., 4, 18; IV., 13, 13.
In short, the founder of Attic philosophy is very much inferior, as a theorist, to his modern antitype, Emanuel Kant. Owing to his heroic death, his importance, though great, was overrated at the expense of that of his predecessors, who were philosophers of the highest order. But he is, nevertheless, one of those reformers whose sojourn on earth has been productive of lasting and fruitful results. His great work consists in having given to conscience the honored place which it deserves, in having reinstated the absolute, immutable, and universal. At a time when men publicly declared that good and evil are relative, and that the rule for judging an act is not the
changing" law of conscience, but its success, he had the courage to proclaim the authority of a conscience that merely varies in appearance, and the superiority of the moral law over individual caprice. Now, to maintain the absoluteness of morality meant the reform of philosophy as well as that of morals. For, in spite of what independent moralists may say, human thought cannot, without contradiction, affirm the absolute in practice and yet deny it in theory
Of the many disciples of the new school, some, like Aristippus and Antisthenes, develop the ethical teachings of Socrates in opposition to the metaphysical speculations of the old schools; others, like Euclides and Plato, unite the Socratic conception of the highest good and the Eleatic notion of the absolute, the end of the moralists and the first cause of the metaphysicians, and thereby re-establish the union between the philosophy of morals and the philosophy of nature, which had been dissolved by scepticism.
§ 15. Aristippus and Hedonism. Antisthenes and Cynicism.
Euclides and the School of Megara 1. ARISTIPPUS of Cyrenel was a sensualistic Sophist before joining the Socratics, and adhered to the theoretical teachings of that school. With Protagoras, he maintains that all our knowledge is subjective, and that we cannot know what things are in themselves. He sharply distinguishes between the object of knowledge and Kant's thing-in-itself, that is, the external and absolutely unknown cause of our sensations (tò ¢UTTOINTIKÒV TOû zádovs). His ethics, too, is more in accord with the principles of Protagoras than those of Socrates. Pleasure (ýdovń) is, according to him, the ultimate aim of life. Hence the name hedonism is applied to his doctrine, which must not, however, be interpreted as a coarse sensualism. He is a follower of Socrates and his moral principles on this important point, and demands, above all, moderation in indulgence, rational self-command in presence of the allurements of sense, and intelligent control of the vulgar instincts of our nature. We must, he said, remain masters of ourselves under all circumstances, so that we may say: éxw oủk éxopal, or, as the Latin poet translates the maxim of Aristippus:
Mihi res non me rebus subjungere conor.?
Mental pleasures, friendship, paternal and filial love, art and literature, take precedence, in the scale of enjoyments, over fleeting sensuous feelings; and the wise man should particularly seek, not the pleasures of the moment, but
1 Diog. L., II. ; Sext. Emp., Adv. math., VII., 191–192 ; [Ritter and Preller, pp. 207 ff.; Mullach, II., 397 ik ; Wendt, De philosophia Cyrenaica, Göttingen, 1841. – Tr.); II. v. Stein, De philosophia Cyrenaica, Göttingen, 1855; [Watson, Hedonistic Theories from Aristippus to Spencer, New York, 1895].
Sext. Emp., Adv. math., VII., 191. * Horace, Epistles, I., 1, 17.
lasting joys, a permanent state of moral content (xapá, ευδαιμονία) eúdaipovía). Moreover, Aristippus and his adherents agree with the Sophists that all action has for its motive the desire to be happy, and for its end the pleasure which the act procures. They likewise agree with Protagoras in religion. The hedonists were outspoken freethinkers, and helped to demolish the remnants of the polytheistic faith among the educated classes. In a work entitled The Gods,
. Theodorus of Cyrene, called the Atheist, openly espoused atheism; another hedonist, Euhemerus, held, in a sensational treatise (iepà ávaypačń), that the gods were heroes, kings, and distinguished men who had been deified after their death. This theory proved very acceptable to a great number of Romans, and even Christians, who rejoiced at having paganism furnish them with such powerful weapons against itself.
However narrow this view may seem, it has the merit of being one of the first attempts at a science which it has been left to our age to study and develop: I mean the philosophy of religion.
Hedonism passes through a process of evolution which may, at first sight, seem surprising, but which is no more than natural; it changes into pessimism in the philosophy of Hegesias, called meloldávatos (“ persuader to die ”). This evolution was the logical outcome of the hedonistic principle. The aim of life is, according to the Cyrenaic school, pleasure; the sensation of the moment (vdovn év Kivoel), according to some, permanent pleasure or happiness (xapá, evdaluovía), according to others. Now experience proves that life affords more pain than pleasure, and
1 About 310 B. C.; a contemporary and protégé of Demetrius of Phalerus and of Ptolemy I. (Fragments of the Cyrenaics in Mullach, II., pp. 397 ff.; Ritter and Preller, 207 ff. – Tr.]
2 About 310 B. C.