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It may be said that all this only proves Socrates to have been, in his own estimation, a good and happy, but not necessarily a wise man. With him, however, the last of these conditions was inseparable from the other two. He was prepared to demonstrate, step by step, that his conduct was regulated by fixed and ascertainable principles, and was of the kind best adapted to secure happiness both for himself and for others. That there were deficiencies in his ethical theory may readily be admitted. The idea of universal beneficence seems never to have dawned on his horizon; and chastity was to him what sobriety is to us, mainly a self-regarding virtue. We do not find that he ever recommended conjugal fidelity to husbands; he regarded prostitution very much as it is still, unhappily, regarded by men of the world among ourselves; and in opposing the darker vices of his countrymen, it was the excess rather than the perversion of appetite which he condemned. These, however, are points which do not interfere with our general contention that Socrates adopted the ethical standard of his time, that he adopted it on rational124 grounds, that having adopted he acted up to it, and that in so reasoning and acting he satisfied his own ideal of absolute wisdom.

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Two philosophers only can be named who, in modern times, have rivalled or approached the moral dignity of Socrates. Like him, Spinoza realised his own ideal of a good and happy life. Like him, Giordano Bruno, without a hope of future recompense, chose death rather than a life unfaithful to the highest truth, and death, too, under its most terrible form, not the painless extinction by hemlock inflicted in a heathen city, but the agonising dissolution intended by Catholic love to serve as a foretaste of everlasting fire. Yet with neither can the parallel be extended further; for Spinoza, wisely perhaps, refused to face the storms which a public profession and propagation of his doctrine would have raised; and the wayward career of Giordano Bruno was not in keeping with its heroic end. The complex and distracting conditions in which their lot was cast did not permit them to attain that statuesque completeness which marked the classic age of Greek life and thought. Those times developed a wilder energy, a more stubborn endurance, a sweeter purity than any that the ancient world had known. But until the scattered elements are recombined in a still loftier harmony, our sleepless thirst for perfection can be satisfied at one spring alone. Pericles must remain the ideal of statesmanship, Pheidias of artistic production, and Socrates of philosophic power..

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The last mentioned principle gives one more illustration of the distinction between Aristotle鈥檚 system and that of the evolutionist, properly so called. The continuity recognised329 by the former only obtains among a number of coexisting types; it is a purely logical or ideal arrangement, facilitating the acquisition and retention of knowledge, but adding nothing to its real content. The continuity of the latter implies a causal connexion between successive types evolved from each other by the action of mechanical forces. Moreover, our modern theory, while accounting for whatever is true in Aristotle鈥檚 conception, serves, at the same time, to correct its exaggeration. The totality of existing species only imperfectly fill up the interval between the highest human life and the inorganic matter from which we assume it to be derived, because they are collaterally, and not lineally, related. Probably no one of them corresponds to any less developed stage of another, although some have preserved, with more constancy than others, the features of a common parent. In diverging from a single stock (if we accept the monogenetic hypothesis,) they have become separated by considerable spaces, which the innumerable multitude of extinct species alone could fill up.
In their theory of cognition the Stoics chiefly followed Aristotle; only with them the doctrine of empiricism is enunciated so distinctly as to be placed beyond the reach of misinterpretation. The mind is at first a tabula rasa, and all our ideas are derived exclusively from the senses.37 But while knowledge as a whole rests on sense, the validity of each particular sense-perception must be determined by an appeal to reason, in other words, to the totality of our acquired experience.38 So also the first principles of reasoning are not to be postulated, with Aristotle, as immediately and unconditionally certain; they are to be assumed as hypothetically true and gradually tested by the consequences deducible from them.39 Both principles well illustrate the synthetic method of the Stoics鈥攖heir habit of bringing into close16 connexion whatever Aristotle had studiously held apart. And we must maintain, in opposition to the German critics, that their method marks a real advance on his. It ought at any rate to find more favour with the experiential school of modern science, with those who hold that the highest mathematical and physical laws are proved, not by the impossibility of conceiving their contradictories, but by their close agreement with all the facts accessible to our observation.
The monotheism of the Jehovist religion would seem to have marked it out as the natural faith of a universal empire. Yet, strange to say, it was not by this element of Judaism that proselytes were most attracted. Our authorities are unanimous in speaking of the sabbath-observance as the most distinguishing trait of the Jews themselves, and the point in which they were most scrupulously imitated by their adherents; while the duty of contributing to the maintenance of the temple apparently stood next in popular estimation. But if this be true, it follows that the liberation of the spiritualistic element in Judaism from its ceremonial husk was a less essential condition to the success of Christianity than some have supposed. What the world objected to in Judaism was not its concrete, historical, practical side, but its exclusiveness, and the hatred for other nations which it was supposed to breed. What the new converts wished was to take the place of the Jews, to supersede them in the divine favour, not to improve on their law. It was useless to tell them that they were under no obligation to observe the sabbath, when the institu219tion of a day of rest was precisely what most fascinated them in the history of God鈥檚 relations with his chosen people. And it was equally useless to tell them that the hour had come when the Father should not be worshipped any more at Jerusalem but everywhere in spirit and in truth, when Jerusalem had become irrevocably associated in their minds with the establishment of a divine kingdom on this earth. Thus, while the religion of the Middle Ages reached its intensest expression in armed pilgrimages to Palestine, the religion of modern Puritanism has embodied itself by preference in the observance of what it still delights to call the sabbath.
21 August, 2019 - 13:08
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21 August, 2019 - 13:08
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