图书图片
PDF
ePub

aim of man, whether as philosopher or as citizen.” The few remains of Zeno the Eleatic, his paradoxes against the reality of motion, are mere identical propositions spun out into a sort of whimsical conundrums, as in the celebrated paradox entitled Achilles and the Tortoise, the whole plausibility of which rests on the trick of assuming a minimum of time while no minimum is allowed to space, joined with that of exacting from intelligiôilia, vočuevo, the conditions peculiar to objects of the senses qovvöusyo, or wig Govéuevo..”. The passages still extant from the works of Gorgias, on the other hand, want nothing but the formf of a premiss to undermine by a legitimate deductio ad absurdum all the philosophic systems that had been hitherto advanced, with

* Place a tortoise 20 paces before Achilles, and suppose the fleetness of Achilles to that of the tortoise to be as 20 to 1. Whilst Achilles moves 20 paces, the tortoise moves 1; whilst he moves the 21st pace, she gains the 20th part of the 22d pace; whilst he gains this 20th part of the 22d pace, she gains the 20th part of the next 20th part of the same 22d pace; and so on in infinitum. See Aristotle's solution, or attempt at it, in the Physics VI. c. 9, which consists chiefly in applying an infinite divisibility of the moments of time to the assumed infinite divisibility of the parts of matter. Tojto 68 &ott pejóog' of yap oëykett at 6 Apóvog &R Töv viv Švtov &0\alpétov Öotep obô &WWo uéyetog obóév.—Ib.,

“I had remarked to him” (Mr. Coleridge), says Mr. De Quincey, “that the sophism, as it is usually called, but the difficulty, as it should be called, of Achilles and the Tortoise, which had puzzled all the sages of Greece, was, in fact, merely another form of the perplexity which besets decimal fractions; that, for example, if you throw 3 into a decimal form, it will never terminate, but be 666666, &c., ad infinitum, ‘Yes,’ Coleridge replied; ‘the apparent absurdity in the Grecian problem arises thus, because it assumes the infinite divisibility of space, but drops out of view the corresponding infinity of time. There was a flash of lightning, which illuminated a darkness that had existed for twenty-three centuries.”—Tait's Mag. Sept. 1834, p. 514. - - -

I apprehend, however, that this part of the solution, such as it is, is substantially what Aristotle means in his remark on the Zenonian paradox; but the latter part, namely, the detection of the sophism of applying to an idea conditions only properly applicable to sensuous phaenomena, belongs to Mr. Coleridge himself—Ed. [The solution is given by Leibnitz; also in a Letter to Mr. Foucher. Opp. ed. Erdmann, I. p. 115. S. C.]

+ Namely, if either the world itself as an animated whole, according to the Italian school; or if atoms, according to Democritus; or any one primal element, as water or fire, according to Thales or Empedocles; or if a mous, as explained by Anaxagoras; be assumed as the absolutely first : then, &c.

the exception of the Heraclitic, and of that too as it was generally understood and interpreted. Yet Zeno's name was, and ever will be holden in reverence by philosophers; for his object was as grand as his motives were honorable, that of assigning limits to the claims of the senses, and subordinating them to the pure reason ; while Gorgias will ever be cited as an instance of prostituted genius from the immoral nature of his object and the baseness of his motives. These, and not his sophisms, constituted him a sophist, a sophist whose eloquence and logical skill rendered him only the more pernicious. Soon after the repulse of the Persian invaders, and as a heavy counterbalance to the glories of Marathon and Plataea, we may date the commencement of that corruption first in private and next in public life, which displayed itself more or less in all the free states and communities of Greece, but most of all in Athens. The causes are obvious, and such as in popular republics have always followed, and are themselves the effects of that passion for military glory and political preponderance, which may well be called the bastard and the parricide of liberty. In reference to the servid but light and sensitive Athenians, we may enumerate, as the most operative, the giddiness of sudden aggrandizement ; the more intimate connection and frequent intercourse with the Asiatic states; the intrigues with the court of Persia ; the intoxication of the citizens at large, sustained and increased by the continued allusions to their recent exploits, in the flatteries of the theatre, and the funeral panegyrics ; the rage for amusement and public shows; and lastly the destruction of the Athenian constitution by the ascendency of its democratic element. During the operation of these causes at an early period of the process, and no unimportant part of it, the Sophists made their first appearance. Some of these applied the lessons of their art in their own persons, and traded for gain and gainful influence in the character of demagogues and public orators; but the greater number offered themselves as instructors, in the arts of persuasion and temporary impression, to as many as could come up to the high prices, at which they rated their services. Néov Twovgtov Offoa goshugtusso–(these are Plato's words)—hireling hunters of the young and rich,--they offered to the vanity of youth and the ambition of wealth a substitute for that authority, * Sophistes, s. 17.—Ed.

which by the institutions of Solon had been attached to high birth and property, or rather to the moral discipline, the habits, attainments, and directing motives, on which the great legislator had calculated (not indeed as necessary or constant accompaniments, but yet) as the regular and ordinary results of comparative opulence and renowned ancestry.

The loss of this stable and salutary influence was to be supplied by the arts of popularity. But in order to the success of this scheme, it was necessary that the people themselves should be degraded into a populace. The cupidity for dissipation and sensual pleasure in all ranks had kept pace with the increasing inequality in the means of gratifying it. The restless spirit of republican ambition, engendered by their success in a just war, and by the romantic character of that success, had already formed a close alliance with luxury , with luxury, too, in its early and most vigorous state, when it acts as an appetite to enkindle, and before it has exhausted and dulled the vital emergies by the habit of enjoyment. But this corruption was now to be introduced into the citadel of the moral being, and to be openly defended by the very arms and instruments, which had been given for the purpose of preventing or chastising its approach. The understanding was to be corrupted by the perversion of the reason, and the feelings through the medium of the understanding. For this purpose all fixed principles, whether grounded on reason, religion, law, or antiquity, were to be undermined, and them, as now, chiefly by the sophistry of submitting all positions alike, however heterogeneous, to the criterion of the mere understanding —the sophists meantime disguising or concealing the fact, that the rules which alone they applied were abstracted from the objects of the senses, and applicable exclusively to things of quantity and relation. At all events, the minds of men were to be sensualized ; and even if the arguments themselves failed, yet the principles so attacked were to be brought into doubt by the mere frequency of hearing all things doubted, and the most sacred of all now openly denied, and now insulted by sneer and ridicule. For by the constitution of our nature, as far as it is human nature, so awful is truth, that as long as we have faith in its attainability and hopes of its attainment, there exists no bribe strong enough to tempt us wholly and permanently from our allegiance.

Religion, in its widest sense, signifies the act and habits of reverencing the invisible, as the highest both in ourselves and in mature. To this the senses and their immediate objects are to be made subservient, the one as its organs, the other as its expoments; and as such, therefore, having on their own account no true value, because no inherent worth. They are, in short, a language; and taken independently of their representative function, from words they become mere empty sounds, and differ from noise only by exciting expectations which they can not gratify— fit ingredients of the idolatrous charm, the potent abracadabra, of a sophisticated race, who had sacrificed the religion of faith to the superstition of the senses, a race of animals, in whom the presence of reason is manifested solely by the absence of instinct. The same principle, which in its application to the whole of our being becomes religion, considered speculatively is the basis of metaphysical science, that, namely, which requires an evidence beyond that of sensible concretes, which latter the ancients generalized in the word, physica, and therefore, prefixing the preposition ust 3, beyond or transcending, named the superior science, metaphysics. The invisible was assumed as the supporter of the apparent, 16v pot wouévov–as their substance, a term which, in any other interpretation, expresses only the striving of the imaginative power under conditions that involve the necessity of its frustration. If the invisible be denied, or (which is equivalent) considered invisible from the defect of the senses and not in its own nature, the sciences even of observation and experiment lose their essential copula. The component parts can never be reduced into an harmonious whole, but must owe their systematic arrangement to the accidents of an ever-shifting perspective. Much more then must this apply to the moral world disjoined from religion. Instead of morality, we can at best have only a scheme of prudence, and this too a prudence fallible and shortsighted ; for were it of such a kind as to be bona side coincident with morals in reference to the agent as well as to the outward action, its first act would be that of abjuring its own usurped primacy. By celestial observations alone can even terrestrial charts be constructed scientifically. .

The first attempt, therefore, of the sophists was to separate ethics from the faith in the invisible, and to stab morality through the side of religion ; an attempt to which the idolatrous polytheism of Greece furnished too many facilities. To the zeal with which he counteracted this plan by endeavors to purify and ennoble that popular belief, which, from obedience to the laws, he did not deem himself permitted to subvert, Socrates owed his martyr-cup of hemlock. Still while any one principle bf morality remained, religion in some form or other must remain inclusively. Therefore, as they commenced by assailing the former through the latter, so did they continue their warfare by reversing the operation. The principle was confounded with the particular acts, in which under the guidance of the understanding or judgment it was to manifest itself. Thus the rule of expediency, which properly belonged to one and the lower part of morality, was made to be the whole. And so far there was at least a consistency in this ; for in two ways only could it subsist. It must either be the mere servant of religion, or its usurper and substitute. Viewed as principles, they were so utterly heterogeneous, that by no grooving could the two be fitted into each other ; by no intermediate could they be preserved in lasting adhesion. The one or the other was sure to decompose the cement. We can not have a stronger historical authority for the truth of this statement than the words of Polybius, in which he attributes the ruin of the Greek states to the frequency of perjury, which they had learned from the sophists to laugh at as a trifle that broke no bones, nay, as in some cases, an expedient and justifiable exertion of the powers given us by mature over our own words, without which no man could have a secret that might not be extorted from him by the will of others. In the same spirit the sage and observant historian attributes the growth and strength of the Roman republic to the general reverence of the invisible powers, and the consequent horror in which the breaking of an oath was holden. This he states as the causa causarum, as the ultimate and inclusive cause, of Roman grandeur. x Under such convictions, therefore, as the Sophists labored with such fatal success to produce, it needed nothing but the excitement of the passions under circumstances of public discord to turn the arguments of expedience and self-love against the whole scheme of morality founded on them, and to procure a favorable hearing for the doctrines, which Plato attributes to the sophist

« 上一页继续 »