Table of Contents
A Sketch of the Major Greek Philosophers
The Academic Questions, Treatise De Finibus and Tusculan Disputations Of M. T. Cicero
With A Sketch of the Greek Philosophers Mentioned by Cicero.
Literally Translated by C. D. Yonge, B.A.
London: George Bell and Sons, York Street, Covent Garden, Printed by William Clowes and Sons, Stamford Street and Charing Cross, 1875
Epicureanfriends.com note: In the sketch of Epicurus several sections which are disputed by DeWitt and others are struck through, to indicate that these statements should not be accepted uncritically.
In the works translated in the present volume, Cicero makes such constant references to the doctrines and systems of the ancient Greek Philosophers, that it seems desirable to give a brief account of the most remarkable of those mentioned by him; not entering at length into the history of their lives, but indicating the principal theories which they maintained, and the main points in which they agreed with, or differed from, each other.
The earliest of them was Thales, who was born at Miletus, about 640 b.c. He was a man of great political sagacity and influence; but we have to consider him here as the earliest philosopher who appears to have been convinced of the necessity of scientific proof of whatever was put forward to be believed, and as the originator of mathematics and geometry. He was also a great astronomer; for we read in Herodotus (i. 74) that he predicted the eclipse of the sun which happened in the reign of Alyattes, king of Lydia, b.c. 609. He asserted that water is the origin of all things; that everything is produced out of it, and everything is resolved into it. He also asserted that it is the soul which originates all motion, so much so, that he attributes a soul to the magnet. Aristotle also represents him as saying that everything is full of Gods. He does not appear to have left any written treatises behind him: we are uncertain when or where he died, but he is said to have lived to a great age—to 78, or, according to some writers, to 90 years of age.
Anaximander, a countryman of Thales, was also born at Miletus, about 30 years later; he is said to have been a pupil of the former, and deserves especial mention as the oldest philosophical writer among the Greeks. He did not devote himself to the mathematical studies of Thales, but rather to speculations concerning the generation and origin of the world; as to which his opinions are involved in some obscurity. He appears, however, to have considered that all things were formed of a sort of matter, which he called τὸ ἄπειρον, or The Infinite; which was something everlasting and divine, though not invested with any spiritual or intelligent nature. His own works have not come down to us; but, according to Aristotle, he considered this “Infinite” as consisting of a mixture of simple, unchangeable elements, from which all things were produced by the concurrence of homogeneous particles already existing in it,—a process which he attributed to the constant conflict between heat and cold, and to affinities of the particles: in this he was opposed to the doctrine of Thales, Anaximenes, and Diogenes of Apollonia, who agreed in deriving all things from a single, not changeable, principle.
Anaximander further held that the earth was of a cylindrical form, suspended in the middle of the universe, and surrounded by water, air, and fire, like the coats of an onion; but that the interior stratum of fire was broken up and collected into masses, from which originated the sun, moon, and stars; which he thought were carried round by the three spheres in which they were respectively fixed. He believed that the moon had a light of her own, not a borrowed light; that she was nineteen times as large as the earth, and the sun twenty-eight. He thought that all animals, including man, were originally produced in water, and proceeded gradually to become land animals. According to Diogenes Laertius, he was the inventor of the gnomon, and of geographical maps; at all events, he was the first person who introduced the use of the gnomon into Greece. He died about 547 b.c.
Anaximenes was also a Milesian, and a contemporary of Thales and Anaximander. We do not exactly know when he was born, or when he died; but he must have lived to a very great age, for he was in high repute as early as b.c. 544, and he was the tutor of Anaxagoras, b.c. 480. His theory was, that air was the first cause of all things, and that the other elements of the universe were resolvable into it. From this infinite air, he imagined that all finite things were formed by compression and rarefaction, produced by motion, which had existed from all eternity; so that the earth was generated out of condensed air, and the sun and other heavenly bodies from the earth. He thought also that heat and cold were produced by different degrees of density of this primal element, air; that the clouds were formed by the condensing of the air; and that it was the air which supported the earth, and kept it in its place. Even the human soul he believed to be, like the body, formed of air. He believed in the eternity of matter, and denied the existence of anything immaterial.
Anaxagoras, who, as has been already stated, was a pupil of Anaximenes, was born at Clazomenæ, in Ionia, about b.c. 499. He removed to Athens at the time of the Persian war, where he became intimate with Pericles, who defended him, though unsuccessfully, when he was prosecuted for impiety: he was fined five talents, and banished from the city; on which he retired to Lampsacus, where he died at the age of 72. He differed from his predecessors of the Ionic School, and sought for a higher cause of all things than matter: this cause he considered to be νοῦς, intelligence, or mind. Not that he thought this νοῦς to be the creator of the world, but only that principle which arranged it, and gave it motion; for his idea was, that matter had existed from all eternity, but that, before the νοῦς arranged it, it was all in a state of chaotic confusion, and full of an infinite number of homogeneous and heterogeneous parts; then the νοῦς separated the homogeneous parts from the heterogeneous, and in this manner the world was produced. This separation, however, he taught, was made in such a manner that everything contains in itself parts of other things, or heterogeneous elements; and is what it is only on account of certain homogeneous parts which constitute its predominant and real character.
Pythagoras was earlier than Anaxagoras, though this latter has been mentioned before him to avoid breaking the continuity of the Ionic School. His father's name was Mnesarchus, and he was born at Samos about 570 b.c., though some accounts make him earlier. He is said by some writers to have been a pupil of Thales, by others of Anaximander, or of Pherecydes of Scyros. He was a man of great learning, as a geometrician, mathematician, astronomer, and musician; a great traveller, having visited Egypt and Babylon, and, according to some accounts, penetrated as far as India.
Many of his peculiar tenets are believed to have been derived from the Tyrrhenian Pelasgians, with whom he is said to have been connected. His contemporaries at Crotona in South Italy, where he lived, looked upon him as a man peculiarly connected with the gods; and some of them even identified him with the Hyperborean Apollo. He himself is said to have laid claim to the gifts of divination and prophecy. The religious element was clearly predominant in his character. Grote says of him, “In his prominent vocation, analogous to that of Epimenides, Orpheus, or Melampus, he appears as the revealer of a mode of life calculated to raise his disciples above the level of mankind, and to recommend them to the favour of the gods.” (Hist. of Greece, iv. p. 529.)
On his arrival at Crotona, he formed a school, consisting at first of three hundred of the richest of the citizens, who bound themselves by a sort of vow to himself and to each other, for the purpose of cultivating the ascetic observances which he enjoined, and of studying his religious and philosophical theories. All that took place in this school was kept a profound secret; and there were gradations among the pupils themselves, who were not all admitted, or at all events not at first, to a full acquaintance with their master's doctrines. They were also required to submit to a period of probation. The statement of his forbidding his pupils the use of animal food is denied by many of the best authorities, and that of his insisting on their maintaining an unbroken silence for five years, rests on no sufficient authority, and is incredible. It is beyond our purpose at present to enter into the question of how far the views of Pythagoras in founding his school or club of three hundred, tended towards uniting in this body the idea of “at once a philosophical school, a religious brotherhood, and a political association,” all which characters the Bishop of St. David's (Hist. of Greece, vol. ii. p. 148) thinks were inseparably united in his mind; while Mr. Grote's view of his object (Hist. of Greece, vol. iv. p. 544) is very different. In a political riot at Crotona, a temple, in which many of his disciples were assembled, was burnt, and they perished, and some say that Pythagoras himself was among them; though according to other accounts he fled to Tarentum, and afterwards to Metapontum, where he starved himself to death. His tomb (see Cic. de Fin. v. 2) was shown at Metapontum down to Cicero's time. Soon after his death his school was suppressed, and did not revive, though the Pythagoreans continued to exist as a sect, the members of which kept up the religious and scientific pursuits of their founder.
Pythagoras is said to have been the first who assumed the title of φιλόσοφος; but there is great uncertainty as to the most material of his philosophical and religious opinions. It is believed that he wrote nothing himself, and that the earliest Pythagorean treatises were the work of Philolaus, a contemporary of Socrates. It appears, however, that he undertook to solve by reference to one single primary principle the problem of the origin and constitution of the universe. His predilection for mathematics led him to trace the origin of all things to number; for “in numbers he thought that they perceived many analogies of things that exist and are produced, more than in fire, earth, or water: as, for instance, they thought that a certain condition of numbers was justice; another, soul and intellect, … And moreover, seeing the conditions and ratios of what pertains to harmony to consist in numbers, since other things seemed in their entire nature to be formed in the likeness of numbers, and in all nature numbers are the first, they supposed the elements of numbers to be the elements of all things.” (Arist. Met. i. 5.)
Music and harmony too, played almost as important a part in the Pythagorean system as mathematics, or numbers. His idea appears to be, that order or harmony of relation is the regulating principle of the whole universe. He drew out a list of ten pairs of antagonistic elements, and in the octave and its different harmonic relations, he believed that he found the ground of the connexion between them. In his system of the universe fire was the important element, occupying both the centre and the remotest point of it; and being the vivifying principle of the whole. Round the central fire the heavenly bodies he believed to move in a regular circle; furthest off were the fixed stars; and then, in order, the planets, the moon, the sun, the earth, and what he called ἀντίχθων, a sort of other half of the earth, which was a distinct body from it, but moving parallel to it.
The most distant region he called Olympus; the space between the fixed stars and the moon he called κόσμος; the space between the moon and the earth οὐρανός. He, or at least his disciples, taught that the earth revolved on its axis, (though Philolaus taught that its revolutions were not round its axis but round the central fire). The universe itself they considered as a large sphere, and the intervals between the heavenly bodies they thought were determined according to the laws and relations of musical harmony. And from this theory arose the doctrine of the Music of the Spheres; as the heavenly bodies in their motion occasioned a sort of sound depending on their distances and velocities; and as these were determined by the laws of harmonic intervals, the sounds, or notes, formed a regular musical scale.
The light and heat of the central fire he believed that we received through the sun, which he considered a kind of lens: and perfection, he conceived to exist in direct ratio to the distance from the central fire.
The universe, itself, they looked upon as having subsisted from all eternity, controlled by an eternal supreme Deity; who established both limits and infinity; and whom they often speak of as the absolute μονὰς, or unity. He pervaded (though he was distinct from) and presided over the universe. Sometimes, too, he is called the absolute Good,—while the origin of evil is attributed not to him, but to matter which prevented him from conducting everything to the best end.
With respect to man, the doctrine of Pythagoras was that known by the name of the Metempsychosis,—that the soul after death rested a certain time till it was purified, and had acquired a forgetfulness of what had previously happened to it; and then reanimated some other body. The ethics of the Pythagoreans consisted more in ascetic practice and maxims for the restraint of the passions, than in any scientific theories. Wisdom they considered as superior to virtue, as being connected with the contemplation of the upper and purer regions, while virtue was conversant only with the sublunary part of the world. Happiness, they thought, consisted in the science of the perfection of the soul; or in the perfect science of numbers; and the main object of all the endeavours of man was to be, to resemble the Deity as far as possible.
Alcmæon of Crotona was a pupil of Pythagoras; but that is all that is known of his history. He was a great natural philosopher; and is said to have been the first who introduced the practice of dissection. He is said, also, to have been the first who wrote on natural philosophy. Aristotle, however, distinguishes between the principles of Alcmæon and Pythagoras, though without explaining in what the difference consisted. He asserted the immortality of the soul, and said that it partook of the divine nature, because, like the heavenly bodies themselves, it contained in itself the principle of motion.
Xenophanes, the founder of the Eleatic school, was a native of Colophon; and flourished probably about the time of Pisistratus. Being banished from his own country, he fled to the Ionian colonies in Sicily, and at last settled in Elea, or Velia. His writings were chiefly poetical. He was universally regarded by the ancients as the originator of the doctrine of the oneness of the universe: he also maintained, it is said, the unity of the Deity; and also his immortality and eternity; denounced the transference of him into human form; and reproached Homer and Hesiod for attributing to him human weaknesses. He represented him as endowed with unwearied activity, and as the animating power of the universe.
Heraclitus was an Ephesian, and is said to have been a pupil of Xenophanes, though this statement is much doubted; others call him a pupil of Hippasus the Pythagorean. He wrote a treatise on Nature; declaring that the principle of all things was fire, from which he saw the world was evolved by a natural operation; he further said that this fire was the human life and soul, and therefore a rational intelligence guiding the whole universe. In this primary fire he considered that there was a perpetual longing to manifest itself in different forms: in its perfectly pure state it is in heaven; but in order to gratify this longing it descends, gradually losing the rapidity of its motion till it settles in the earth. The earth, however, is not immovable, but only the slowest of all moving bodies; while the soul of man, though dwelling in the lowest of all regions, namely, in the earth, he considered a migrated portion of fire in its pure state; which, in spite of its descent, had lost none of its original purity. The summum bonum he considered to be a contented acquiescence in the decrees of the Deity. None of his writings are extant; and he does not appear to have had many followers.
Diogenes of Apollonia
Diogenes of Apollonia, (who must not be confounded with his Stoic or Cynic namesake,) was a pupil of Anaximenes, and wrote a treatise on Nature, of which Diogenes Laertius gives the following account: “He maintained that air was the primary element of all things; that there was an infinite number of worlds and an infinite vacuum; that air condensed and rarefied produced the different members of the universe; that nothing was generated from nothing, or resolved into nothing; that the earth was round, supported in the centre, having received its shape from the whirling round it of warm vapours, and its concrete nature and hardness from cold.” He also imputed to air an intellectual energy, though he did not recognise any difference between mind and matter.
Parmenides was a native of Elea or Velia, and flourished about 460 b.c., soon after which time he came to Athens, and became acquainted with Socrates, who was then very young. Theophrastus and Aristotle speak doubtfully of his having been a pupil of Xenophanes. Some authors, however, reckon him as one of the Pythagorean school; Plato and Aristotle speak of him as the greatest of the Eleatics; and it is said that his fellow-countrymen bound their magistrates every year to abide by the laws which he had laid down. He, like Xenophanes, explained his philosophical tenets in a didactic poem, in which he speaks of two primary forms, one the fine uniform etherial fire of flame (φλόγος πῦρ), the other the cold body of night, out of the intermingling of which everything in the world is formed by the Deity who reigns in the midst. His cosmogony was carried into minute detail, of which we possess only a few obscure fragments; he somewhat resembled the Pythagoreans in believing in a spherical system of the world, surrounded by a circle of pure light; in the centre of which was the earth; and between the earth and the light was the circle of the Milky Way, of the morning and evening star, of the sun, the planets, and the moon. And the differences in perfection of organization, he attributed to the different proportions in which the primary principles were intermingled. The ultimate principle of the world was, in his view, necessity, in which Empedocles appears to have followed him; he seems to have been the only philosopher who recognised with distinctness and precision that the Existent, τὸ ὄν, as such, is unconnected with all separation or juxtaposition, as well as with all succession, all relation to space or time, all coming into existence, and all change. It is, however, a mistake to suppose that he recognised it as a Deity.
Democritus was born at Abdera, b.c. 460. His father Hegesistratus had been so rich as to be able to entertain Xerxes, when on his march against Greece. He spent his inheritance in travelling into distant countries, visiting the greater part of Asia, and, according to some authors, extending his travels as far as India and Æthiopia. Egypt he certainly was acquainted with. He lived to beyond the age of 100 years, and is said to have died b.c. 357.
He was a man of vast and varied learning, and a most voluminous author, though none of his works have come down to us;—in them he carried out the theory of atoms which he had derived from Leucippus; insisting on the reality of a vacuum and of motion, which he held was the eternal and necessary consequence of the original variety of atoms in this vacuum. These atoms, according to this theory, being in constant motion and impenetrable, offer resistance to one another, and so create a whirling motion which gives birth to worlds. Moreover, from this arise combinations of distinct atoms which become real things and beings. The first cause of all existence he called chance (τύχη), in opposition to the νοῦς of Anaxagoras. But Democritus went further; for he directed his investigations especially to the discovery of causes.
Besides the infinite number of atoms, he likewise supposed the existence of an infinite number of worlds, each being kept together by a sort of shell or skin. He derived the four elements from the form, quality, and proportionate magnitude of the atoms predominating in each; and in deriving individual things from atoms, he mainly considered the qualities of warm and cold; the soul he considered as derived from fire atoms; and he did not consider mind as anything peculiar, or as a power distinct from the soul or sensuous perception; but he considered knowledge derived from reason to be a sensuous perception.
In his ethical philosophy, he considered (as we may see from the de Finibus) the acquisition of peace of mind as the end and ultimate object of all our actions, and as the last and best fruit of philosophical inquiry. Temperance and moderation in prosperity and adversity were, in his eyes, the principal means of acquiring this peace of mind. And he called those men alone pious and beloved by the Gods who hate whatever is wrong.
Empedocles was a Sicilian, who flourished about the time when Thrasydæus, the son of Theron, was expelled from Agrigentum, to the tyranny of which he had succeeded; in which revolution he took an active part: it is even said that the sovereignty of his native city was offered to and declined by him.
He was a man of great genius and extensive learning; it is not known whose pupil he was, nor are any of his disciples mentioned except Gorgias. He was well versed in the tenets of the Eleatic and Pythagorean schools; but he did not adopt the fundamental principles of either; though he agreed with Pythagoras in his belief in the metempsychosis, in the influence of numbers, and in one or two other points; and with the Eleatics in disbelieving that anything could be generated out of nothing. Aristotle speaks of him as very much resembling in his opinions Democritus and Anaxagoras. He was the first who established the number of four elements, which had been previously pointed out one by one, partly as fundamental substances, and partly as transitive changes of things coming into existence. He first suggested the idea of two opposite directions of the moving power, an attractive and a repelling one: and he believed that originally these two coexisted in a state of repose and inactivity. He also assumed a periodical change of the formation of the world; or perhaps, like the philosophers of the pure Ionic school, a perpetual continuance of pure fundamental substances; to which the parts of the world that are tired of change return, and prepare the formation of the sphere for the next period of the world. Like the Eleatics, he strove to purify the notion of the Deity, saying that he, “being a holy infinite spirit, not encumbered with limbs, passes through the world with rapid thoughts.” At the same time he speaks of the eternal power of Necessity as an ancient decree of the Gods, though it is not quite clear what he understood by this term.
Diagoras was a native of Melos, and a pupil of Democritus, and flourished about b.c. 435. He is remarkable as having been regarded by all antiquity as an Atheist. In his youth he had some reputation as a lyric poet; so that he is sometimes classed with Pindar, Simonides, and Bacchylides. Aristophanes, in the Clouds, alludes to him where he calls Socrates “the Melian;” not that he was so, but he means to hint that Socrates was an atheist as well as the Melian Diagoras. He lived at Athens for many years till b.c. 411, when he fled from a prosecution instituted against him for impiety, according to Diodorus, but probably for some offence of a political nature; perhaps connected with the mutilation of the Hermæ.
That he was an atheist, however, appears to have been quite untrue. Like Socrates, he took new and peculiar views respecting the Gods and their worship; and seems to have ridiculed the honours paid to their statues, and the common notions which were entertained of their actions and conduct. (See De Nat. Deor. iii. 37.) He is said also to have attacked objects held in the greatest veneration at Athens, such as the Eleusinian Mysteries, and to have dissuaded people from being initiated into them. He appears also, in his theories on the divine nature, to have substituted in some degree the active powers of nature for the activity of the Gods. In his own conduct he was a man of strict morality and virtue. He died at Corinth before the end of the century.
Protagoras was a native of Abdera; the exact time of his birth is unknown, but he was a little older than Socrates. He was the first person who gave himself the title of σοφιστὴς, and taught for pay. He came to Athens early in life, and gave to the settlers who left it for Thurium, b.c. 445, a code of laws, or perhaps adapted the old laws of Charondas to their use. He was a friend of Pericles. After some time he was impeached for impiety in saying, That respecting the Gods he did not know whether they existed or not; and banished from Athens (see De Nat. Deor. i. 23). He was a very prolific author: his most peculiar doctrines excited Plato to write the Theætetus to oppose them.
His fundamental principle was, that everything is motion, and that that is the efficient cause of everything; that nothing exists, but that everything is continually coming into existence. He divided motion (besides numerous subordinate divisions) into active and passive; though he did not consider either of these characteristics as permanent. From the concurrence of two such motions he taught that sensations and perceptions arose, according to the rapidity of the motion. Therefore he said that there is or exists for each individual, only that of which he has a sensation or perception; and that as sensation, like its objects, is engaged in a perpetual change of motion, opposite assertions might exist according to the difference of the perception respecting such object. Moral worth he attributed to taking pleasure in the beautiful; and virtue he referred to a certain sense of shame implanted in man by nature; and to a certain conscious feeling of justice, which secures the bonds of connexion in private and political life.
Socrates, the son of Sophroniscus, a statuary, and Phænarete, a midwife, was born b.c. 468. He lived all his life at Athens, serving indeed as a soldier at Potidæa, Amphipolis, and in the battle of Delium; but with these exceptions he never left the city; where he lived as a teacher of philosophy; not, however, founding a school or giving lectures, but frequenting the market-place and all other places of public resort, talking with every one who chose to address him, and putting questions to every one of every rank and profession, so that Grote calls him “a public talker for instruction.” He believed himself to have a special religious mission from the Gods to bring his countrymen to knowledge and virtue. He was at last impeached before the legal tribunals, on the ground of “corrupting the youth of the city, and not worshipping the Gods whom the city worshipped;” and disdaining to defend himself, or rather making a justificatory defence of such a character as to exasperate the judges, he was condemned to death, and executed by having hemlock administered to him, b.c. 399.
From his disciples Plato and Xenophon we have a very full account of his habits and doctrines; though it has been much disputed which of the two is to be considered as giving the most accurate description of his opinions. As a young man he had been to a certain extent a pupil of Archelaus (the disciple of Anaxagoras), and derived his fondness for the dialectic style of argument from Zeno the Eleatic, the favourite Pupil of Parmenides. He differed, however, from all preceding philosophers in discarding and excluding wholly from his studies all the abstruse sciences, and limiting his philosophy to those practical points which could have influence on human conduct. “He himself was always conversing about the affairs of men,” is the description given of him by Xenophon. Astronomy he pronounced to be one of the divine mysteries which it was impossible to understand and madness to investigate; all that man wanted was to know enough of the heavenly bodies to serve as an index to the change of seasons and as guides for voyages, etc.; and that knowledge might, he said, easily be obtained from pilots and watchmen. Geometry he reduced to its literal meaning of land-measuring, useful to enable one to act with judgment in the purchase or sale of land; but he looked with great contempt on the study of complicated diagrams and mathematical problems. As to general natural philosophy, he wholly discarded it; asking whether those who professed to apply themselves to that study knew human affairs so well as to have time to spare for divine; was it that they thought that they could influence the winds, rain, and seasons, or did they desire nothing but the gratification of an idle curiosity? Men should recollect how much the wisest of them who have attempted to prosecute these investigations differ from one another, and how totally opposite and contradictory their opinions are.
Socrates, then, looked at all knowledge from the point of view of human practice. He first, as Cicero says, (Tusc. Dis. v. 4,) “called philosophy down from heaven and established it in the cities, introduced it even into private houses, and compelled it to investigate life, and manners, and what was good and evil among men.” He was the first man who turned his thoughts and discussions distinctly to the subject of Ethics. Deeply imbued with sincere religious feeling, and believing himself to be under the peculiar guidance of the Gods, who at all times admonished him by a divine warning voice when he was in danger of doing anything unwise, inexpedient, or improper, he believed that the Gods constantly manifested their love of and care for all men in the most essential manner, in replying through oracles, and sending them information by sacrificial signs or prodigies, in cases of great difficulty; and he had no doubt that if a man were diligent in learning all that the Gods permitted to be learnt, and if besides he was assiduous in paying pious court to them and in soliciting special information by way of prophecy, they would be gracious to him and signify their purposes to him.
Such then being the capacity of man for wisdom and virtue, his object was to impart that wisdom to them; and the first step necessary, he considered to be eradicating one great fault which was a barrier to all improvement. This fault he described as “the conceit of knowledge without the reality.” His friend and admirer Chærephon had consulted the oracle at Delphi as to whether any man was wiser than Socrates; to which the priestess replied that no other man was wiser. Socrates affirms that he was greatly disturbed at hearing this declaration from so infallible an authority; till after conversing with politicians, and orators, and poets, and men of all classes, he discovered not only that they were destitute of wisdom, but that they believed themselves to be possessed of it; so that he was wiser than they, though wholly ignorant, inasmuch as he was conscious of his own ignorance. He therefore considered his most important duty to be to convince men of their ignorance, and to excite them to remedy it, as the indispensable preliminary to virtue; for virtue he defined as doing a thing well, after having learnt it and practised it by the rational and proper means; and whoever performed his duties best, whether he was a ruler of a state or a husbandman, was the best and most useful man and the most beloved by the Gods.
And if his objects were new, his method was no less so. He was the parent of dialectics and logic. Aristotle says, “To Socrates we may unquestionably assign two novelties—inductive discourses, and the definitions of general terms.” Without any predecessor to copy, Socrates fell as it were instinctively into that which Aristotle describes as the double tract of the dialectic process, breaking up the one into the many, and recombining the many into the one; though the latter or synthetical process he did not often perform himself, but strove to stimulate his hearer's mind so as to enable him to do it for himself.
The fault of the Socratic theory is well remarked by Grote to be, that while he resolved all virtue into knowledge or wisdom, and all vice into ignorance or folly, he omitted to notice what is not less essential to virtue, the proper condition of the passions, desires, &c., and limited his views too exclusively to the intellect; still while laying down a theory which is too narrow, he escaped the erroneous consequences of it by a partial inconsistency. For no one ever insisted more emphatically on the necessity of control over the passions and appetites, of enforcing good habits, and on the value of that state of the sentiments and emotions which such a course tended to form. He constantly pointed out that the chief pleasures were such as inevitably arise from the performance of one's duty, and that as to happiness, a very moderate degree of good fortune is sufficient as to external things, provided the internal man be properly disciplined.
Grote remarks further, (and this remark is particularly worth remembering in the reading of Cicero's philosophical works,) that “Arcesilaus and the New Academy thought that they were following the example of Socrates, (and Cicero appears to have thought so too,) when they reasoned against everything, and laid it down as a system, that against every affirmative position an equal force of negative argument could be brought as a counterpoise: now this view of Socrates is, in my judgment, not only partial, but incorrect. He entertained no such doubts of the powers of the mind to attain certainty. About physics he thought man could know nothing; but respecting the topics which concern man and society, this was the field which the Gods had expressly assigned, not merely to human practice, but to human study and knowledge; and he thought that every man, not only might know these things, but ought to know them; that he could not possibly act well unless he did know them; and that it was his imperative duty to learn them as he would learn a profession, otherwise he was nothing better than a slave, unfit to be trusted as a free and accountable being. He was possessed by the truly Baconian idea, that the power of steady moral action depended upon, and was limited by, the rational comprehension of moral ends and means.”
The system, then, of Socrates was animated by the truest spirit of positive science, and formed an indispensable precursor to its attainment. And we may form some estimate of his worth and genius if we recollect, that while the systems and speculations of other ancient philosophers serve only as curiosities to make us wonder, or as beacons to warn us into what absurdities the ablest men may fall, the principles and the system of Socrates and his followers, and of that school alone, exercise to this day an important influence on all human argument and speculation.
Aristippus (whom we will consider before Plato, that Aristotle may follow Plato more immediately) came when a young man to Athens, for the express purpose of becoming acquainted with Socrates, with whom he remained almost till his death. He was, however, very different from his master, being a person of most luxurious and sensual habits. He was also the first of Socrates' disciples who took money for teaching. He was the founder of the Cyrenaic school of philosophy, which followed Socrates in limiting all philosophical inquiries to ethics; though under this name they comprehended a more varied range of subjects than Socrates did, inasmuch as one of the parts into which they divided philosophy, referred to the feelings; another to causes, which is rather a branch of physics; and a third to proofs, which is clearly connected with logic.
He pronounced pleasure to be the chief good, and pain the chief evil; but he denied that either of these was a mere negative inactive state, considering them, on the contrary, both to be motions of the soul,—pain a violent, and pleasure a moderate one.
As to actions, he asserted that they were all morally indifferent, that men should only look to their results, and that law and custom are the only authorities which make an action either good or bad. Whatever conduces to pleasure, he thought virtue; in which he agreed with Socrates that the mind has the principal share.
Plato, the greatest of all the disciples of Socrates, was the son of Ariston and Perictione, and was born probably in the year b.c. 428, and descended, on the side of his father, from Codrus, and on his mother's side related to Solon. At the age of twenty, he became a constant attendant of Socrates, and lived at Athens till his death. After this event, in consequence of the unpopularity of the very name of his master, he retired to Megara, and subsequently to Sicily. He is said also to have been at some part of his life, after the death of Socrates, a great traveller. About twelve years after the death of Socrates he returned to Athens, and began to teach in the Academy, partly by dialogue, and partly, probably, by connected lectures. He taught gratuitously; and besides Speusippus, Xenocrates, Aristotle, Heraclides Ponticus, and others, who were devoted solely to philosophical studies, he is said to have occasionally numbered Chabrias, Iphicrates, Timotheus, Phocion, Isocrates, and (by some) Demosthenes among his hearers. He died at a great age, b.c. 347.
His works have come down to us in a more complete form than those of any other ancient author who was equally voluminous; and from them we get a clear idea of the principal doctrines which he inculcated on his followers.
Like Socrates, he was penetrated with the idea, that knowledge and wisdom were the things most necessary to man, and the greatest goods assigned to him by God. Wisdom he looked on as the great purifier of the soul; and as any approach to wisdom presupposes an original communion with Being, properly so called, this communion also presupposes the divine nature, and consequent immortality of the soul, his doctrine respecting which was of a much purer and loftier character than the usual theology of the ancients. Believing that the world also had a soul, he considered the human soul as similar to it in nature, and free from all liability to death, in spite of its being bound up with the appetites, in consequence of its connexion with the body, and as preserving power and consciousness after its separation from the body. What he believed, however, to be its condition after death is far less certain, as his ideas on this subject are expressed in a mythical form.
The chief point, however, to which Plato directed his attention, was ethics, which, especially in his system, are closely connected with politics. He devotes the Protagoras, and several shorter dialogues, to refute the sensual and selfish theories of some of his predecessors, in order to adopt a more scientific treatment of the subject; and in these dialogues he urges that neither happiness nor virtue are attainable by the indulgence of our desires, but that men must bring these into proper restraint, if they are desirous of either. He supposes an inward harmony, the preservation of which is pleasure, while its disturbance is pain; and as pleasure is always dependent on the activity from which it springs, the more this activity is elevated the purer the pleasure becomes.
Virtue he considered the fitness of the soul for the operations that are proper to it; and it manifests itself by means of its inward harmony, beauty, and health. Different phases of virtue are distinguishable so far as the soul is not pure spirit, but just as the spirit should rule both the other elements of the soul, so also should wisdom, as the inner development of the spirit, rule the other virtues.
Politics he considered an inseparable part of ethics, and the state as the copy of a well-regulated individual life: from the three different activities of the soul he deduced the three main elements of the state, likening the working class to the appetitive element of the soul, both of which equally require to be kept under control; the military order, which answered, in his idea, to the emotive element, ought to develop itself in thorough dependence on the reason; and from that the governing order, answering to the rational faculty, must proceed. The right of passing from a subordinate to a dominant position must depend on the individual capacity and ability for raising itself. But from the difficulties of realizing his theories, he renounces this absolute separation of ranks in his book on Laws, limits the power of the governors, attempts to reconcile freedom with unity and reason, and to mingle monarchy with democracy.
With respect to his theology, he appears to have agreed entirely with Socrates.
Aristotle was born at Stageira, b.c. 384. His father, Nicomachus, was physician to Amyntas II., king of Macedon. At the age of seventeen he went to Athens, in hopes to become a pupil of Plato; but Plato was in Sicily, and did not return for three years, which time Aristotle applied to severe study, and to cultivating the friendship of Heraclides Ponticus. When Plato returned, he soon distinguished him above all his other pupils. He remained at Athens twenty years, maintaining, however, his connexion with Macedonia; but on the death of Plato, b.c. 347, which happened while Aristotle was absent in Macedonia on an embassy, he quitted Athens, thinking, perhaps, that travelling was necessary to complete his education. After a short period, he accepted an invitation from Philip to superintend the education of Alexander. He remained in Macedonia till b.c. 335, when he returned to Athens, where he found Xenocrates had succeeded Speusippus as the head of the Academy. Here the Lyceum was appropriated to him, in the shady walks (περίπατοι) of which he delivered his lectures to a number of eminent scholars who flocked around him. From these walks the name of Peripatetic was given to the School which he subsequently established. Like several others of the Greek philosophers, he had a select body of pupils, to whom he delivered his esoteric doctrines; and a larger, more promiscuous, and less accomplished company, to whom he delivered his exoteric lectures on less abstruse subjects. When he had resided thirteen years at Athens, he found himself threatened with a prosecution for impiety, and fled to Chalcis, in Eubœa, and died soon after, b.c. 322.
His learning was immense, and his most voluminous writings embraced almost every subject conceivable; but only a very small portion of them has come down to us. Cicero, however, alludes to him only as a moral philosopher, and occasionally as a natural historian; so that it may be sufficient here for us to confine our view of him to his teaching on the Practical Sciences; his Ethics, too, being one of his works which has come down to us entire.
God he considered to be the highest and purest energy of eternal intellect,—an absolute principle,—the highest reason, the object of whose thought is himself; expanding and declaring, in a more profound manner, the νοῦς of Anaxagoras. With respect to man, the object of all action, he taught, was happiness: and this happiness he defines to be an energy of the soul (or of life) according to virtue, existing by and for itself. Virtue, again, he subdivided into moral and intellectual, according to the distinction between the reasoning faculty and that quality in the soul which obeys reason. Again, moral virtue is the proper medium between excess and deficiency, and can only be acquired by practice; intellectual virtue can be taught; and by the constant practice of moral virtue a man becomes virtuous, but he can only practise it by a resolute determination to do so. Virtue, therefore, is defined further as a habit accompanied by, or arising out of, deliberate choice, and based upon free and conscious action. From these principles, Aristotle is led to take a wider view of virtue than other philosophers: he includes friendship under this head, as one of the very greatest virtues, and a principal means for a steady continuance in all virtue; and as the unrestricted exercise of each species of activity directed towards the good, produces a feeling of pleasure, he considers pleasure as a very powerful means of virtue.
Connected with Aristotle's system of ethics was his system of politics, the former being only a part, as it were, of the latter; the former aiming at the happiness of individuals, the latter at that of communities; so that the latter is the perfection and completion of the former. For Aristotle looked upon man as a “political animal”—as a being, that is, created by nature for the state, and for living in the state; which, as a totality consisting of organically connected members, is by nature prior to the individual or the family. The state he looked upon as a whole consisting of mutually dependent and connected members, with reference as well to imaginary as to actually existing constitutions. The constitution is the arrangement of the powers in the state—the soul of the state, as it were,—according to which the sovereignty is determined. The laws are the determining principles, according to which the dominant body governs and restrains those who would, and punishes those who do, transgress them. He defines three kinds of constitutions, each of them having a corresponding perversion:—a republic, arising from the principle of equality; this at times degenerates into democracy; monarchy, and aristocracy, which arise from principles of inequality, founded on the preponderance of external or internal strength and wealth, and which are apt to degenerate into tyranny and oligarchy. The education of youth he considers as a principal concern of the state, in order that, all the individual citizens being trained to a virtuous life, virtue may become predominant in all the spheres of political life; and, accordingly, by means of politics the object is realized of which ethics are the groundwork, namely, human happiness, depending on a life in accordance with virtue.
Heraclides Ponticus, as he is usually called, was, as his name denotes, a native of Pontus. He migrated to Athens, where he became a disciple of Plato, who, while absent in Sicily, entrusted him with the care of his school.
Speusippus was the nephew of Plato, and succeeded him as President of the Academy; but he continued so but a short time, and, within eight years of the death of Plato, he died at Athens, b.c. 339. He refused to recognise the Good as the ultimate principle; but, going back to the older theologians, maintained that the origin of the universe was to be set down indeed as a cause of the Good and Perfect, but was not the Good and Perfect itself; for that was the result of generated existence or development, just as plants are of the seeds. When, with the Pythagoreans, he reckoned the One in the series of good things, he probably thought of it only in opposition to the Manifold, and wished to point out that it is from the One that the Good is to be derived. He appears, however, (see De Nat. Deor. i. 13,) to have attributed vital activity to the primordial unity, as inseparably belonging to it.
Theophrastus was a native of Eresus, from whence he migrated to Athens, where he became a follower of Plato, and afterwards of Aristotle, by whom, when he quitted Athens for Chalcis, he was designated as his successor in the presidency of the Lyceum; while in this position, he is said to have had two thousand disciples, and among them the comic poet Menander. When, b.c. 305, the philosophers were banished from Athens, he also left the city, but returned the next year on the repeal of the law. He lived to a great age, though the date of his birth is not certainly known.
He was a very voluminous writer on many subjects, but directed his chief attention to continuing the researches into natural history which had been begun by Aristotle. As, however, only a few fragments of his works have come down to us, and these in a very corrupt state, we know but little what peculiar views he entertained; though we learn from Cicero (De Inv. i. 42-50) that he departed a good deal from the doctrines of Aristotle in his principles of ethics, and also in his metaphysical and theological speculations; and Cicero (De Nat. Deor. i. 13) complains that he did not express himself with precision or with consistency about the Deity; and in other places (Acad. i. 10, Tusc. Quæst. v. 9), that he appeared unable to comprehend a happiness resting merely on virtue; so that he had attributed to virtue a rank very inferior to its deserts.
Xenocrates was a native of Chalcedon, born probably b.c. 396. He was a follower of Plato, and accompanied him to Sicily. After his death, he betook himself, with Aristotle, to the court of Hermias, tyrant of Ptarneus, but soon returned to Athens, and became president of the Academy when Speusippus, through ill health, was forced to abandon that post. He died b.c. 314.
He was not a man of great genius, but of unwearied industry and the purest virtue and integrity. None of his works have come down to us; but, from the notices of other writers, we are acquainted with some of his peculiar doctrines. He stood at the head of those who, regarding the universe as imperishable and existing from eternity, looked upon the chronic succession in the theory of Plato as a form in which to denote the relations of conceptual succession. He asserted that the soul was a self-moving member,—called Unity and Duality deities, considering the former as the first male existence, ruling in heaven, father and Jupiter; the latter as the female, as the mother of the Gods, and the soul of the universe, which reigns over the mutable world under heaven. He approximated to the Pythagoreans in considering Number as the principle of consciousness, and consequently of knowledge; supplying, however, what was deficient in the Pythagorean theory by the definition of Plato, that it is only in as far as number reconciles the opposition between the same and the different, and can raise itself to independent motion, that it is soul.
In his ethics he endeavoured to render the Platonic theory more complete, and to give it a more direct applicability to human life; admitting, besides the good and the bad, of something which is neither good nor bad, and some of these intermediate things, such as health, beauty, fame, good fortune, he would not admit to be absolutely worthless and indifferent. He maintained, however, in the most decided manner, that virtue is the only thing valuable in itself, and that the value of everything else is conditional, (see Cic. de Fin. iv. 18, de Leg. i. 21, Acad. i. 6, Tusc. Quæst. v. 10-18,) that happiness ought to coincide with the consciousness of virtue. He did not allow that mere intellectual scientific wisdom was the only true wisdom to be sought after as such by men: and in one point he came nearer the precepts of Christianity than any of the ancients, when he asserted the indispensableness of the morality of the thoughts to virtue, and declared it to be the same thing, whether a person cast longing eyes on the possessions of his neighbour, or attempted to possess himself of them by force.
Antisthenes was older than Plato; though the exact time of his birth is uncertain: but he fought at the battle of Tanagra, b.c. 420, though then very young. He became a disciple of Gorgias, and afterwards of Socrates, at whose death he set up a school in the Cynosarges, a gymnasium for the use of Athenians born of foreign mothers, near the temple of Hercules, from which place of assembly his followers were called Cynics. He lived to a great age, though the year of his death is not known, but he certainly was alive after the battle of Leuctra, b.c. 371.
In his philosophical system, which was almost confined to ethics, he appears to have aimed at novelty rather than truth or common sense. He taught that in all that the wise man does he conforms to perfect virtue, and that pleasure is so far from being necessary to man, that it is a positive evil. He is reported also to have gone the length of pronouncing pain and infamy blessings rather than evils, though when he spoke of pleasure as worthless, he probably meant that pleasure which arises from the gratification of sensual or artificial desires; for he praised that which arises from the intellect, and from friendship. The summum bonum he placed in a life according to virtue.
In a treatise in which he discussed the nature of the Gods he contended for the unity of the Deity, and asserted that man is unable to know him by any sensible representation, since he is unlike any being on earth; and demonstrated the sufficiency of virtue for happiness, by the doctrine that outward events are regulated by God so as to benefit the wise and good.
Diogenes, a native of Sinope in Pontus, who was born b.c. 412, was one of his few disciples; he came at an early age to Athens, and became notorious for the most frantic excesses of moroseness and self-denial. On a voyage to Ægina he was taken by pirates and sold as a slave to Xeniades, a Corinthian, over whom he acquired great influence, and was made tutor to his children. His system consisted merely in teaching men to dispense with even the simplest necessaries of civilized life: and he is said to have taught that all minds are air, exactly alike, and composed of similar particles; but that in beasts and in idiots they are hindered from properly developing themselves by various humors and incapacities of their bodies. He died b.c. 323, the same year that Epicurus came to Athens.
Zeno was born at Citium, a city of Cyprus; but having been shipwrecked near Cyprus, he settled in that city, where he devoted himself to severe study for a great length of time, cultivating, it is said, the acquaintance of the philosophers of the Megaric school, Diodorus and Philo, and of the Academics, Xenocrates and Polemo. After he had completed his studies, he opened a school himself in the porch, adorned with the paintings of Polygnotus (Στοὰ ποικίλη), from which his followers were called Stoics. The times of his birth and of his death are not known with any exactness; but he is said to have reached a great age.
In speaking of the Stoic doctrines, it is not very clear how much of them proceeded from Zeno himself, and how much from Chrysippus and other eminent men of the school in subsequent years. In natural philosophy he considered that there was a primary matter which was never increased or diminished, and which was the foundation of everything which existed: and which was brought into existence by the operative power,—that is, by the Deity. He saw this operative power in fire and in æther as the basis of all vital activity, (see Cic. Acad. i. 11, ii. 41; de Nat. Deor. ii. 9, iii. 14,) and he taught that the universe comes into being when the primary substance passing from fire through the intermediate stage of air becomes liquefied, and then the thick portion becomes earth, the thinner portion air, which is again rarefied till it becomes fire. This fire he conceived to be identical with the Deity, (Cic. de Nat. Deor. ii. 22,) and to be endowed with consciousness and foresight. At other times he defined the Deity as that law of nature which ever accomplishes what is right, and prevents the opposite, and identified it with unconditional necessity. The soul of man he considered as being of the nature of fire, or of a warm breath, (Cic. Tusc. Quæst. i. 9; de Nat. Deor. iii. 4,) and therefore as mortal.
In ethics he agreed with the Cynics in recognising the constitutional nature of moral obligations, though he differed from them with respect to things indifferent, and opposed their morose contempt for custom, though he did not allow that the gratification of mere external wants, or that external good fortune, had any intrinsic value. He comprised everything which could make life happy in virtue alone (Cic. Acad. i. 10), and called it the only good which deserved to be striven after and praised for its own sake (Cic. de Fin. iii. 6, 8), and taught that the attainment of it must inevitably produce happiness. But as virtue could, according to his system, only subsist in conjunction with the perfect dominion of reason, and vice only in the renunciation of the authority of reason, he inferred that one good action could not be more virtuous than another, and that a person who had one virtue had all, and that he who was destitute of one was destitute of all.
Cleanthes was born at Assos in the Troas, about 300 b.c.; he came to Athens at an early age, and became the pupil of Zeno, whom at his death he succeeded in his school. He differed from his master in regarding the soul as immortal, and approximated to the Cynics in denying that pleasure was agreeable to nature, or in any respect good. He died of voluntary starvation at the age of eighty.
Chrysippus was born b.c. 280, at Soli in Cilicia. He came at an early age to Athens, and became a pupil of Cleanthes; and among the later Stoics he was more regarded than either Zeno or Cleanthes. He died b.c. 207.
His doctrines do not appear to have differed from those of Zeno; only that, from feeling the dangerous influence of the Epicurean principles, he endeavoured to popularize the Stoic ethics.
Epicurus was an Athenian of the Attic demos Gargettus, whence he is sometimes simply called the Gargettian. He was, however, born at Samos, b.c. 342, and did not come to Athens till the age of eighteen, when he found Xenocrates at the head of the Academy, and by some authors is said to have become his pupil, though he himself would not admit it (Cic. de Nat. Deor. i. 26). At the outbreak of the Samian war he crossed over to Colophon, where he collected a school. It is said that the first thing that excited him to the study of philosophy was the perusal of the works of Democritus while he resided at Colophon. From thence he went to Mitylene and Lampsacus, and b.c. 306 he returned to Athens, and finally established himself as a teacher of philosophy. His own life was that of a man of simple, pure, and temperate habits. He died of the stone, b.c. 270, and left Hermarchus of Mitylene as his successor in the management of his school.
None of his works have come down to us. With regard to his philosophical system, in spite of his boast of being self-taught and having borrowed from no one, he clearly derived the chief part of his natural philosophy from Democritus, and of his moral philosophy from Aristippus and the Cyrenaics. He considered human happiness the end of all philosophy, and agreed with the Cyrenaics that pleasure constituted the greatest happiness; still this theory in his hands acquired a far loftier character;
for pleasure, in his idea, was not a mere momentary and transitory sensation, but something lasting and imperishable, consisting in pure mental enjoyments, and in the freedom from pain and any other influence which could disturb man's peace of mind. And the summum bonum, according to him, consisted in this peace of mind; which was based upon correct wisdom (φρόνησις).
In his natural philosophy he embraced the atomic theories of Democritus and Diagoras, carrying them even further than they themselves had done, to such a degree that he drew upon himself the reproach of Atheism. He regarded the Gods themselves as consisting of atoms, and
our notions of them as based upon the images (εἴδωλα) which are reflected from them, and so pass into our minds. And he believed that they exercised no influence whatever on the world, or on the actions or fortunes of man.
Theodorus was a native of Cyrene, who flourished about b.c. 320. He was of the Cyrenaic sect, and the founder of that branch of it which was called after him, the Theodorean; though we scarcely know in what his doctrines differed from those of Aristippus, unless they were, if possible, of a still more lax character. He taught, for instance, that there was nothing really wrong or disgraceful in theft, adultery, or sacrilege; but that they were branded by public opinion to restrain fools. He is also reproved with utter atheism; and Cicero classes him with Diagoras, as a man who utterly denied the existence of any Gods at all.
Pyrrho was a contemporary of Alexander the Great, whose expedition into Asia he joined. He appears, as far as his philosophy went, to have been an universal sceptic. He impeached, however, none of the chief principles of morality, but, regarding Socrates as his model, directed all his endeavours towards the production in his pupils of a firm well-regulated moral character.
Crantor was a native of Soli in Cilicia; we do not know when he was born or when he died, but he came to Athens before b.c. 315. He was the first of Plato's followers who wrote commentaries on the works of his master. He died of dropsy, and left Arcesilaus his heir.
Arcesilaus, or Arcesilas, flourished about b.c. 280; he was born at Pitane, but came to Athens and became the pupil of Theophrastus and of Crantor, and afterwards of some of the more sceptical philosophers. On the death of Crantor he succeeded to the chair of the Academy, in the doctrines of which he made so many innovations that he is called the founder of the New Academy. What his peculiar views were is, however, a matter of great uncertainty. Some give him the credit of having restored the doctrines of Plato in an uncorrupted form; while, according to Cicero, on the other hand, (Acad. i. 12,) he summed up all his opinions in the statement that he knew nothing, not even his own ignorance. He, and the New Academy, do not, however, seem to have doubted the existence of truth in itself, but only the capacity of man for arriving at the knowledge of it.
Carneades was born at Cyrene about b.c. 213. He went early to Athens, and at first attended the lectures of the Stoics; but subsequently attached himself to the Academy, and succeeded to the chair on the death of Hegesinus. In the year b.c. 155, he came to Rome on an embassy, but so offended Cato by speaking one day in praise of justice as a virtue, and the next day, in answer to all his previous arguments, that he made a motion in the senate, that he should be ordered to depart from Rome. He died b.c. 129.
Philo of Larissa, who is often mentioned by Cicero, was his own master, having removed to Rome after the conquest of Athens by Mithridates, where he settled as a teacher of philosophy and rhetoric. He would not admit that there was any difference between the Old and New Academy, in which he differed from his pupil Antiochus. The exact time of his birth or death is not known; but he was not living when Cicero composed his Academics. (ii. 6.)
Antiochus of Ascalon has been called by some writers the founder of the Fifth Academy; he also was a teacher of Cicero during the time he studied at Athens; he had also a school at Alexandria, and another in Syria, where he died. He studied under Philo, but was so far from agreeing with him that he wrote a treatise on purpose to refute what he considered as the scepticism of the Academics. And undoubtedly the later philosophers of that school had exaggerated the teaching of Plato, that the senses were not in all cases trustworthy organs of perception, so as to infer from it a denial of the certainty of any knowledge whatever. Antiochus professed that his object was to revive the real doctrines of Plato in opposition to the modern scepticism of Carneades and Philo. He appears to have considered himself as an eclectic philosopher, combining the best parts of the doctrines of the Academic, Peripatetic, and Stoic schools.
Diodorus of Tyre flourished about b.c. 110. He lived at Athens, where he succeeded Critolaus as the head of the Peripatetic school. Cicero, however, denies that he was a genuine Peripatetic, and says that his doctrine that the summum bonum consisted in a combination of virtue with the absence of pain was an attempt to reconcile the theory of the Stoics with that of the Epicureans.
Panætius was a native of Rhodes; his exact age is not known, but he was a contemporary of Scipio Æmilianus, who died b.c. 129. He went to Athens at an early age, where he is said to have been a pupil of Diogenes of Babylon and Antipater of Tarsus, and also of Polemo Periegetes. He became associated with P. Scipio Æmilianus, who valued him highly. The latter part of his life he spent at Athens, where he had succeeded Antipater as head of the Stoic school. He was the author of a treatise on “What is Becoming,” which Cicero professes to have imitated, though carried rather further, in his De Officiis. He softened down the harsher features of the Stoic doctrines, approximating them in some degree to the opinions of Xenocrates, Plato, and Aristotle, and made them attractive by the elegance of his style; indeed, he modified the principles of the school so much, that some writers called him a Platonist. In natural philosophy he abandoned the Stoic doctrine of the conflagration of the world; endeavoured to simplify the division of the faculties of the soul; and doubted the reality of the science of divination. In ethics he followed the method of Aristotle; and, in direct opposition to the earlier Stoics, vindicated the claim of certain pleasurable sensations to be regarded as in accordance with nature.
Polemo was a pupil of Xenocrates, and succeeded him as the head of his school. There is a story that he had been a very dissolute young man, and that one day, at the head of a band of revellers, he burst into the school of Xenocrates, when his attention was so arrested by the discourse of the philosopher, which happened to be on the subject of temperance, that he tore off his festive garland, remained till the end of the lecture, and devoted himself to philosophy all the rest of his life. He does not appear to have varied at all from the doctrines of his master. He died b.c. 273.
Archytas was a native of Tarentum: his age is not quite certain, but he is believed to have been a contemporary of Plato, and he is even said to have saved his life by his interest with the tyrant Dionysius. He was a great general and statesman, as well as a philosopher. In philosophy he was a Pythagorean; and, like most of that school, a great mathematician; and applied his favourite science not only to music, but also to metaphysics. Aristotle is believed to have borrowed from him his System of Categories.
The limits of this volume forbid more than the preceding very brief sketch of the chiefs of the ancient philosophy. For a more detailed account the reader is referred to the Biographical Dictionary edited by Dr. Smith, from which valuable work much of this sketch has been derived. The account of Socrates has been principally derived from Mr. Grote's admirable history of Greece: in which attention has so successfully been devoted to the history of philosophy and the sophists, that a correct idea of the subject can hardly be acquired without a careful study of that work.
It was intended to subjoin a comparison of the systems of the different sects, but it would take more space than can be spared; and it is moreover unnecessary, as, the distinctive tenets of each having been explained, the reader is supplied with sufficient materials to institute such a comparison for himself. He will not wonder that men without the guidance of revelation should at times have lost their way in speculations beyond the reach of human faculties, but will the more admire that genius and virtue which manifested itself in such men as Socrates, Plato, and Cicero, for the perpetual enlightenment of the human race.