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Ever since the age of Parmenides and Heracleitus, Greek thought had been haunted by a pervading dualism which each system had in turn attempted to reconcile, with no better result than its reproduction under altered names. And speculation had latterly become still further perplexed by the question whether the antithetical couples supposed to divide all Nature between them could or could not be reduced to so many aspects of a single opposition. In the last chapter but one we showed that there were four such competing pairs鈥擝eing and Not-Being, the One and the Many, the Same and the Other, Rest and Motion. Plato employed his very subtlest dialectic in tracing out their connexions, readjusting their relationships, and diminishing the total number of terms which they involved. In what was probably his last great speculative effort, the Timaeus, he seems to have selected Sameness and Difference as the couple best adapted to bear the heaviest strain of thought. There is some reason for believing that in his spoken lectures he followed the Pythagorean system more closely, giving the preference to the One and the Many; or he may have employed the two expressions indifferently. The former would sooner commend itself to a dialectician, the latter to a mathematician. Aristotle was both, but he was before all things a naturalist. As such, the antithesis of Being and Not-Being, to which Plato attached little or no value, suited him best. Accordingly, he proceeds to work it out with a clearness before unknown in Greek philosophy. The first and surest of all principles, he declares, is, that a thing cannot both be and not be, in the same sense of the words, and furthermore that it must either be or not be. Subsequent340 logicians prefixed to these axioms another, declaring that whatever is is. The three together are known as the laws of Identity, Contradiction, and Excluded Middle. By all, except Hegelians, they are recognised as the highest laws of thought; and even Hegel was indebted to them, through Fichte, for the ground-plan of his entire system.235

It must not be supposed that the influx of Asiatic religions into Europe was attended by any loss of faith in the old gods of Greece and Italy, or by any neglect of their worship. The researches of Friedl?nder have proved the absolute erroneousness of such an idea, widely entertained as it has been. Innumerable monuments are in existence testifying to the continued authority of the Olympian divinities, and particularly of Jupiter, over the whole extent of the Roman empire. Ample endowments were still devoted to the maintenance of their service; their temples still smoked with sacrifices; their litanies were still repeated as a duty which it would have been scandalous to neglect; in all hours of public and private danger their help was still implored, and acknowledged by the dedication of votive offerings when the danger was overcome; it was still believed, as in the days of Homer, that they occasionally manifested themselves on earth, signalising their presence by works of superhuman power.339 Nor was there anything anomalous in this peaceable co-existence of the old with the new faiths. So far back as we can trace the records both of Greek and Roman polytheism, they are remarkable for their receptive and assimilative capacity. Apollo and Artemis were imported into Greece from Lycia, Heracles and Aphrodite from Phoenicia, Dionysus and Ares probably from220 Thrace. Roman religion under its oldest form included both a Latin or Sabine and an Etruscan element; at a subsequent period it became Hellenised without losing anything of its grave and decorous character. In Greece, the elastic system of divine relationships was stretched a little further so as to make room for the new comers. The same system, when introduced into Roman mythology, served to connect and enliven what previously had been so many rigid and isolated abstractions. With both, the supreme religious conception continued to be what it had been with their Aryan ancestors, that of a heavenly Father Jove; and the fashionable deities of the empire were received into the pantheon of Homer and Hesiod as recovered or adopted children of the same Olympian sire. The danger to Hellenistic polytheism was not from another form of the same type, but from a faith which should refuse to amalgamate with it on any terms; and in the environment created by Roman imperialism with its unifying and cosmopolitan character, such a faith, if it existed anywhere, could not fail in the long-run to supersede and extinguish its more tolerant rivals. But the immediate effect produced by giving free play to men鈥檚 religious instincts was not the concentration of their belief on a single object, or on new to the exclusion of old objects, but an extraordinary abundance and complexity of supernaturalism under all its forms. This general tendency, again, admits of being decomposed into two distinct currents, according as it was determined by the introduction of alien superstitions from without, or by the development of native and popular superstition from within. But, in each case, the retrogressive movement resulted from the same political revolution. At once critical and conservative, the city-aristocracies prevented the perennial germs of religious life from multiplying to any serious extent within the limits of their jurisdiction, no less vigilantly than they prohibited the importation of its completed products from abroad. We have now to study the221 behaviour of these germs when the restraint to which they had formerly been subjected was lightened or withdrawn..
The implications of such an ethical standard are, on the whole, conservative; it is assumed that social institutions are, taking them altogether, nearly the best possible at any moment; and that our truest wisdom is to make the most of them, instead of sighing for some other sphere where our grand aspirations or volcanic passions might find a readier outlet for their feverish activity. And if the teaching of the first Stoics did not take the direction here indicated, it was because they, with the communistic theories inherited from their Cynic predecessors, began by condemning all existing social distinctions as irrational. They wished to abolish local religion, property, the family, and the State, as a substitute for which the whole human race was to be united under a single government, without private possessions or slaves, and with a complete community of women and children.79 It must, however, have gradually dawned on them that such a radical subversion of the present system was hardly compatible with their belief in the providential origin of all things; and that, besides this, the virtues which they made it so much their object to recommend, would be, for the most part, superfluous in a communistic society. At the same time, the old notion of S?phrosyn锚 as a virtue which consisted in minding one鈥檚 own business, or, stated more generally, in discerning and doing whatever work one is best fitted for, would continue to influence ethical teaching, with the effect of giving more and more individuality to the definition of duty. And the36 Stoic idea of a perfect sage, including as it did the possession of every accomplishment and an exclusive fitness for discharging every honourable function, would seem much less chimerical if interpreted to mean that a noble character, while everywhere intrinsically the same, might be realised under as many divergent forms as there are opportunities for continuous usefulness in life.80.
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Again, Plato is false to his own rule when he selects his philosophic governors out of the military caste. If the same individual can be a warrior in his youth and an administrator255 in his riper years, one man can do two things well, though not at the same time. If the same person can be born with the qualifications both of a soldier and of a politician, and can be fitted by education for each calling in succession, surely a much greater number can combine the functions of a manual labourer with those of an elector. What prevented Plato from perceiving this obvious parallel was the tradition of the paterfamilias who had always been a warrior in his youth; and a commendable anxiety to keep the army closely connected with the civil power. The analogies of domestic life have also a great deal to do with his proposed community of women and children. Instead of undervaluing the family affections, he immensely overvalued them; as is shown by his supposition that the bonds of consanguinity would prevent dissensions from arising among his warriors. He should have known that many a home is the scene of constant wrangling, and that quarrels between kinsfolk are the bitterest of any. Then, looking on the State as a great school, Plato imagined that the obedience, docility, and credulity of young scholars could be kept up through a lifetime; that full-grown citizens would swallow the absurdest inventions; and that middle-aged officers could be sent into retirement for several years to study dialectic. To suppose that statesmen must necessarily be formed by the discipline in question is another scholastic trait. The professional teacher attributes far more practical importance to his abstruser lessons than they really possess. He is not content to wait for the indirect influence which they may exert at some remote period and in combination with forces of perhaps a widely different character. He looks for immediate and telling results. He imagines that the highest truth must have a mysterious power of transforming all things into its own likeness, or at least of making its learners more capable than other men of doing the world鈥檚 work. Here also Plato, instead of being too logical, was not logical256 enough. By following out the laws of economy, as applied to mental labour, he might have arrived at the separation of the spiritual and temporal powers, and thus anticipated the best established social doctrine of our time.!
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And so, with the dissolution of our bodily organism, the music of consciousness would pass away for ever. Perhaps no form of psychology taught in the Greek schools has approached nearer to modern thought than this. It was professed at Thebes by two Pythagoreans, Cebes and Simmias, in the time of Plato. He rightly regarded them as formidable opponents, for they were ready to grant whatever he claimed for the soul in the way of immateriality and superiority to the body, while denying the possibility of its separate existence. We may so far anticipate the course of our exposition as to mention that the direct argument by which he met them was a reference to the moving power of mind, and to the constraint exercised by reason over passionate impulse; characteristics which the analogy with a musical harmony failed to explain. But his chief reliance was on an order of considerations, the historical genesis of which we shall now proceed to trace..
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21 August, 2019 - 13:08
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