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But all this time the popular belief in omens had continued unaffected, and had apparently even increased. The peculiar Greek feeling known as Deisidaimonia is first satirised by Theophrastus, who defines it as cowardice with regard to the gods, and gives several amusing instances of the anxiety occasioned by its presence鈥攁ll connected with the interpretation of omens鈥攕uch as Aristophanes could hardly have failed to notice had they been usual in his time. Nor were such fancies confined to the ignorant classes. Although the Stoics cannot be accused of Deisidaimonia, they gave their powerful sanction to the belief in divination, as has been already mentioned in our account of their philosophy. It223 would seem that whatever authority the great oracular centres had lost was simply handed over to lower and more popular forms of the same superstition.

Even M. Vacherot, with all his anxiety to discover an Oriental origin for Neo-Platonism, cannot help seeing that this attack on the Gnostics was inspired by an indignant reaction of Greek philosophy against the inroads of Oriental superstition, and that the same character belongs more or less to the whole system of its author. But, so far as we are aware, Kirchner is the only critic who has fully worked out this idea, and exhibited the philosophy of Plotinus in its true character as a part of the great classical revival, which after producing the literature of the second century reached its consummation in a return to the idealism of Plato and Aristotle.522.
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The dishonour was for the townsmen who, in an outbreak of insane fanaticism, drove the blameless truthseeker from his adopted home. Anaxagoras was the intimate companion of Pericles, and Pericles had made many enemies by his domestic as well as by his foreign policy. A coalition of harassed interests and offended prejudices was formed against him. A cry arose that religion and the constitution were in danger. The Athenians had too much good sense to dismiss their great democratic Minister, but they permitted the illustrious statesman鈥檚 political opponents to strike at him through his friends.29 Aspasia was saved only by the tears of her lover. Pheidias, the grandest, most spiritual-minded artist of all time, was arrested on a charge of impiety, and died in a prison of the city whose temples were adorned with the imperishable monuments of his religious inspiration. A decree against 鈥榓stronomers and atheists鈥 was so evidently aimed at Anaxagoras that the philosopher retired to Lampsacus, where he died at the age of seventy-two, universally admired and revered. Altars dedicated to Reason and Truth were erected in his honour, and for centuries his memory continued to be celebrated by an annual feast.30 His whole existence had been devoted to science. When asked what made life worth living, he answered, 鈥楾he contemplation of the heavens and of the universal cosmic order.鈥 The reply was like a title-page to his works. We can see that specialisation was38 beginning, that the positive sciences were separating themselves from general theories about Nature, and could be cultivated independently of them. A single individual might, indeed, combine philosophy of the most comprehensive kind with a detailed enquiry into some particular order of phenomena, but he could do this without bringing the two studies into any immediate connexion with each other. Such seems to have been the case with Anaxagoras. He was a professional astronomer and also the author of a modified atomic hypothesis. This, from its greater complexity, seems more likely to have been suggested by the purely quantitative conception of Leucippus than to have preceded it in the order of evolution. Democritus, and probably his teacher also, drew a very sharp distinction between what were afterwards called the primary and secondary qualities of matter. Extension and resistance alone had a real existence in Nature, while the attributes corresponding to our special sensations, such as temperature, taste, and colour, were only subjectively, or, as he expressed it, conventionally true. Anaxagoras affirmed no less strongly than his younger contemporaries that the sum of being can neither be increased nor diminished, that all things arise and perish by combination and division, and that bodies are formed out of indestructible elements; like the Atomists, again, he regarded these elementary substances as infinite in number and inconceivably minute; only he considered them as qualitatively distinct, and as resembling on an infinitesimal scale the highest compounds that they build up. Not only were gold, iron, and the other metals formed of homogeneous particles, but such substances as flesh, bone, and blood were, according to him, equally simple, equally decomposable, into molecules of like nature with themselves. Thus, as Aristotle well observes, he reversed the method of Empedocles, and taught that earth, air, fire, and water were really the most complex of all bodies, since they supplied39 nourishment to the living tissues, and therefore must contain within themselves the multitudinous variety of units by whose aggregation individualised organic substance is made up.31 Furthermore, our philosopher held that originally this intermixture had been still more thoroughgoing, all possible qualities being simultaneously present in the smallest particles of matter. The resulting state of chaotic confusion lasted until Nous, or Reason, came and segregated the heterogeneous elements by a process of continuous differentiation leading up to the present arrangement of things. Both Plato and Aristotle have commended Anaxagoras for introducing into speculation the conception of Reason as a cosmic world-ordering power; both have censured him for making so little use of his own great thought, for attributing almost everything to secondary, material, mechanical causes; for not everywhere applying the teleological method; in fact, for not anticipating the Bridgewater Treatises and proving that the world is constructed on a plan of perfect wisdom and goodness. Less fortunate than the Athenians, we cannot purchase the work of Anaxagoras on Nature at an orchestral book-stall for the moderate price of a drachma; but we know enough about its contents to correct the somewhat petulant and superficial criticism of a school perhaps less in sympathy than we are with its author鈥檚 method of research. Evidently the Clazomenian philosopher did not mean by Reason an ethical force, a power which makes for human happiness or virtue, nor yet a reflecting intelligence, a designer adapting means to ends. To all appearances the Nous was not a spirit in the sense which we attach, or which Aristotle attached to the term. It was, according to Anaxagoras, the subtlest and purest of all things, totally unmixed with other substances, and therefore able to control and bring them into order. This is not how men speak of an immaterial inextended consciousness. The truth is that no40 amount of physical science could create, although it might lead towards a spiritualistic philosophy. Spiritualism first arose from the sophistic negation of an external world, from the exclusive study of man, from the Socratic search after general definitions. Yet, if Nous originally meant intelligence, how could it lose this primary signification and become identified with a mere mode of matter? The answer is, that Anaxagoras, whose whole life was spent in tracing out the order of Nature, would instinctively think of his own intelligence as a discriminating, identifying faculty; would, consequently, conceive its objective counterpart under the form of a differentiating and integrating power. All preceding thinkers had represented their supreme being under material conditions, either as one element singly or as a sum total where elemental differences were merged. Anaxagoras differed from them chiefly by the very sharp distinction drawn between his informing principle and the rest of Nature. The absolute intermixture of qualities which he presupposes bears a very strong resemblance both to the Sphairos of Empedocles and to the fiery consummation of Heracleitus, it may even have been suggested by them. Only, what with them was the highest form of existence becomes with him the lowest; thought is asserting itself more and more, and interpreting the law of evolution in accordance with its own imperious demands.?
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Meanwhile the old principle of universal doubt could no longer be maintained in presence of the certainties already won by modern science. Man, in the time of Newton, had, as Pope tersely puts it, 鈥榯oo much knowledge for the sceptic side.鈥 The problem was not how to establish the reality, but how to ascertain the origin and possible extent of that knowledge. The first to perceive this, the first to evolve criticism out of scepticism, and therefore the real founder of modern philosophy, was Locke. Nevertheless, even with him, the advantage of studying the more recent in close connexion with the earlier developments of thought does not cease; it only enters on a new phase. If he cannot, like his predecessors, be directly affiliated to one or more of the Greek schools, his position can be illustrated by a parallel derived from the history of those schools. What Arcesilaus and Carneades had been to Socrates and his successors, that Locke was, in a large measure, to Bacon and the Cartesians. He went back to the initial doubt which with them had been overborne by the dogmatic reaction, and insisted on making it a reality. The spirit of the Apologia is absent from Plato鈥檚 later dialogues, only to reappear with even more than its original power in the teaching of the New Academy. And, in like manner, Descartes鈥 introspective method, with its demand for clear ideas, becomes, in the Essay concerning Human Understanding, an irresistible solvent for 420the psychologyy and physics of its first propounder. The doctrine of innate ideas, the doctrine that extension is the essence of matter, the doctrine that thought is the essence of mind, the more general doctrine, held also by Bacon, that things have a discoverable essence whence all their properties may be deduced by a process analogous to mathematical reasoning,鈥攁ll collapsed when brought to the test of definite and concrete experience.!
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鈥楾herefore the whole extends continuously,.
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It has been said that the Greeks only worshipped beauty; that they cultivated morality from the aesthetic side; that58 virtue was with them a question, not of duty, but of taste. Some very strong texts might be quoted in support of this judgment. For example, we find Isocrates saying, in his encomium on Helen, that 鈥楤eauty is the first of all things in majesty, and honour, and divineness. It is easy to see its power: there are many things which have no share of courage, or wisdom, or justice, which yet will be found honoured above things which have each of these, but nothing which is devoid of beauty is prized; all things are scorned which have not been given their part of that attribute; the admiration for virtue itself comes to this, that of all manifestations of life virtue is the most beautiful.鈥44 And Aristotle distinguishes the highest courage as willingness to die for the καλ?ν. So also Plato describes philosophy as a love 鈥榯hat leads one from fair forms to fair practices, and from fair practices to fair notions, until from fair notions he arrives at the notion of absolute beauty, and at last knows what the essence of beauty is. And this is that life beyond all others which man should live in the contemplation of beauty absolute.鈥45 Now, first of all, we must observe that, while loveliness has been worshipped by many others, none have conceived it under a form so worthy of worship as the Greeks. Beauty with them was neither little, nor fragile, nor voluptuous; the soul鈥檚 energies were not relaxed but exalted by its contemplation; there was in it an element of austere and commanding dignity. The Argive H锚r锚, though revealed to us only through a softened Italian copy, has more divinity in her countenance than any Madonna of them all; and the Melian Aphrodit锚 is distinguished by majesty of form not less than by purity and sweetness of expression. This beauty was the unreserved information of matter by mind, the visible rendering of absolute power, wisdom, and goodness. Therefore, what a Greek wor59shipped was the perpetual and ever-present energising of mind; but he forgot that beauty can only exist as a combination of spirit with sense; and, after detaching the higher element, he continued to call it by names and clothe it in attributes proper to its earthly manifestations alone. Yet such an extension of the aesthetic sentiment involved no weakening of the moral fibre. A service comprehending all idealisms in one demanded the self-effacement of a laborious preparation and the self-restraint of a gradual achievement. They who pitched the goal of their aspiration so high, knew that the paths leading up to it were rough, and steep, and long; they felt that perfect workmanship and perfect taste, being supremely precious, must be supremely difficult as well; χαλεπ? τ? καλ? they said, the beautiful is hard鈥攈ard to judge, hard to win, and hard to keep. He who has passed through that stern discipline need tremble at no other task; nor has duty anything to fear from a companionship whose ultimate requirements are coincident with her own, and the abandonment of which for a joyless asceticism can only lead to the reappearance as an invading army of forces that should have been cherished as indispensable allies..

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Cynicism, if we understand it rightly, was only the mutilated form of an older philosophy having for its object to set morality free from convention, and to found it anew on a scientific knowledge of natural law. The need of such a system was not felt so long as Plato and Aristotle were unfolding their wonderful schemes for a reorganisation of action and belief. With the temporary collapse of those schemes it came once more to the front. The result was a new school which so thoroughly satisfied the demands of the age, that for five centuries the noblest spirits of Greece and Rome, with few exceptions, adhered to its doctrines; that in dying it bequeathed some of their most vital elements to the metaphysics and the theology by which it was succeeded; that with their decay it reappeared as an important factor in modern thought; and that its name has become imperishably associated in our own language with the proud endurance of suffering, the self-sufficingness of conscious rectitude, and the renunciation of all sympathy, except what may be derived from contemplation of the immortal dead, whose heroism is7 recorded in history, or of the eternal cosmic forces performing their glorious offices with unimpassioned energy and imperturbable repose.
That Aenesid锚mus held this view is stated as a fact by Sextus, whose testimony is here corroborated by Tertullian, or rather by Tertullian鈥檚 informant, Soranus. We find, however, that Zeller, who formerly accepted the statement in question as true, has latterly seen reason to reject it.188 Aenesid锚mus cannot, he thinks, have been guilty of so great an inconsistency as to base his Scepticism on the dogmatic physics of Heracleitus. And he explains the agreement of the ancient authorities by supposing that the original work of Aenesid锚mus contained a critical account of the Heracleitean theory, that this was misinterpreted into an expression of his adhesion to it by Soranus, and that the blunder was adopted at second-hand by both Sextus and Tertullian.299
Here we imagine an impatient reader exclaiming, 鈥楬ow can Mr. Herbert Spencer, who knows, if possible, even less of Greek philosophy than of his own Unknowable, have derived that principle from the Greeks?鈥 Well, we have already traced the genealogy by which the two systems of agnosticism are connected. And some additional light will be thrown on the question if we consider that the form of Neo-Platonism was largely determined by the manner in which Plotinus brought the spiritualistic conceptualism of Plato and Aristotle into contact with the dynamic materialism of the Stoics; and that the form of Mr. Spencer鈥檚 philosophy has been similarly determined by bringing the idealism of modern German thought into contact with the mechanical evolutionism of modern science. Thus, under the influence of old associations, has pantheism been metamorphosed into a crude agnosticism, which faithfully reproduces the likeness of its original ancestors, the Plotinian Matter and the Plotinian One.
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21 August, 2019 - 13:08
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