The Ancient Library

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On this page: Philosophy (continued)



vdied about 206). Their doctrines contained little that was new, seeking rather to give a practical application to the dogmas which they took ready-made from previous sys­tems. With them philosophy is the science of the principles on which the moral life ought to be founded. The only allowable endeavour is towards the attainment of knowledge of things human and divine, in order to regulate life thereby. The method to lead men to true knowledge is provided by logic; physics embraces the doctrines as to the nature and organization of the universe; while ethics draws from them its conclusions for practical life. All know­ledge originates in the real impressions of things on the senses, which the soul, being at birth a tdbuld r&sa, receives in the form of presentations. These presentations, when confirmed by repeated experience, are syllogistically developed by the understand­ing into concepts. The test of their truth is the convincing or persuasive force with which they impress themselves upon the soul. In physics the foundation of the Stoic doctrine was the dogma that all true being is corporeal. Within the corporeal they recognised two principles, matter and force, i.e. the material, and the deity permeating and informing it. Ultimately, however, the two are identical. There is nothing in the world with any independent existence : all is bound together by an unalterable chain of causation. The concord of human action with the law of nature, of the human will with the divine will, or life according to nature, is Virtue, the chief good and highest end in life. It is essentially one, the particular or cardinal virtues of Plato being only different aspects of it; it is completely sufficient for happiness, and incapable of ] any differences of degree. All good actions are absolutely equal in merit, and so are all bad actions. All that lies between virtue and vice is neither good nor bad; at most, it is distinguished as preferable, undesirable, or absolutely indifferent. Virtue is fully possessed only by the wise man, who is no way inferior in worth to Zeus ; he is lord over his own life, and may end it by his own free choice. In general, the pro­minent characteristic of Stoic philosophy is moral heroism, often verging on asceticism. , The same goal which was aimed at in j Stoicism was also approached, from a dia­metrically opposite position, in the system founded about the same time by epicurus, of the deme Gargettus in Attica (342-268), who brought it to completion himself.

Epicureanism, like Stoicism, is connected with previous systems. Like Stoicism, it is also practical in its ends, proposing to find in reason and knowledge the secret of a happy life, and admitting abstruse learning only where it serves the ends of practical wisdom. Hence logic (called by Epicurus canonlcon, or the doctrine of canons of truth) is made entirely subservient to physics, physics to ethics. The standards of knowledge and canons of truth in theo­retical matters are the impressions of the senses, which are true and indisputable, together with the presentations formed from such impressions, and opinions ex­tending beyond those impressions, in so far as they are supported or not contradicted by the evidence of the senses. In practical questions the feelings of pleasure and pain are the tests. Epicurus' physics, in which he follows in essentials the materialistic system of Demficritus, are intended to refer all phenomena to a natural cause, in order that a knowledge of nature may set men free from the bondage of disquieting supersti­tions. In ethics he followed within certain limits the Cyrenaic doctrine, conceiving the highest good to be happiness, and happiness to be found in pleasure, to which the natural impulses of every being are directed. But the aim is not with him, as it is with the Cyrenaics. the pleasure of the moment, but the enduring condition of pleasure, which, in its essence, is freedom from the greatest of evils, pain. Pleasures and pains are, however, distinguished not merely in degree, but in kind. The renunciation of a pleasure or endurance of a pain is often a means to a greater pleasure; and since pleasures of sense are subordinate to the pleasures of the soul, the undisturbed peace of the soul is a higher good than the freedom of the body from pain. Virtue is desirable not for itself, but for the sake of pleasure of soul, which it secures by freeing men from trouble and fear and moderating their passions and appetites. The cardinal virtue is wisdom, which is shown by true insight in calculating the consequences of our actions as regards pleasure or pain,

The practical tendency of Stoicism and Epicureanism, seen in the search for happi­ness, is also apparent in the Scepticism founded by pyhrho of Elis (about 365-275). Pyrrho disputes the possibility of attaining truth by sensuous apprehension, reason, ot the two combined, and thence infers the necessity of total suspension of judgment on things. Thus can we attain release from

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