Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

66

latter, Diogenes stamped upon the rich carpets with the exclamation, “Thus I trample on the pride of Plato!" “But with greater pride, O Diogenes!” was the excellent retort. There is a wide difference between the essentially Christian love which leads us to restore" a fallen brother "in the spirit of meekness,” according to that wisdom imparted by Divine grace which prompts us to remember ourselves “lest we also be tempted," and the insolent egotism of the Cynic who, with the pharisaical sentiment, “Stand by, for I am holier than thou," searched through the streets at mid-day with a lamp, in order, as he said, “ to find a man."

In fact, the whole scheme of this philosophy, if such it can be called, forbade any good result; since, under the pretence of correcting the passions of the body, it degraded human nature below the level of the brute; and perhaps the profligacy of its later professors is attributable in no slight degree to the evil habits engendered by continued outrage of public decorum hypocritically perpetrated under the colour of reforming luxury. Pretended abstinence from all pleasure the Cynic found a much easier task than rational moderation ; and their love of display bore but slight resemblance to

the retiring modesty of virtue. They originated rather a peculiar habit of life, than a fresh method of elucidating truth : definition they utterly disregarded, and, in ethics, proceeding upon the assumption that man was independent and self-sufficient, evolved their doctrine into utter shamelessness. After the death of Diogenes, the school fell into disrepute, or passed over, in the person of Crates, the master of Zeno, into the modified system of the Stoics.

We have already intimated, that it was one peculiar feature in the instruction of Socrates to present to each mind a wholesome stimulus to inquiry, leaving ample room for the individual to follow his own inclination, and adopt such views as harmonized with it. The Megaric student, under Euclid of Megara, was likely to partake of more general conformity with the principles of Socrates, if we may judge from the fact, that Euclid himself was so delighted with the society of the great Athenian, that he risked his life to obtain it. At a time when political enmity ran high between the two states, and a Megarean was forbidden to enter Athens, under penalty of death, Euclid frequently came at night, disguised as a female, to listen to the sublime disquisitions of the “wise old

a

man;" and although it has been supposed that Socrates was ill-affected towards his pupil, in consequence of a cavilling disposition in Euclid, yet this seems contradicted by the fact that, after the death of Socrates, his scholars took refuge with Euclid, and were cordially received. They subsequently became broken up, from the reason already stated-each desired to follow his own peculiar bias of thoughtful inquiry.

As a system, the Megarean doctrine combined some elements of Eleatic with others of Socratic view ; since, in conformity with the latter, Euclid held an unity of Deity ; but, with the former, he still adhered to notions pre-derived from the study of the tenets of Parmenides. In logic, however, he opposed the inductive system of Socrates, by denying the propriety of using analogy, and confining himself to the original proposition. In argument he did not endeavour to refute the premises, but directly attacked the conclusion. On this plan were founded the rules for detecting fallacy, which have obtained for the Megareans the title of the Dialectics, and which, under Eubulides of Miletus, were applied for the establishment of truth, as the Sophists perverted them to the promotion of error.

The only beneficial effect of these sophisms was to awaken attention to the phenomena which are involved in the action of the senses, though the endeavour at greater accuracy often obscured where it was meant to enlighten. For instance, by a curious contradiction, these philosophers held good to subsist, yet declared the acquisition of it to be unreal and deceptive. A very decided character, however, was given to the tenets of this school by Stilpo of Megara, one of its latest members, in bringing forward the opinion of the Cynics as to the Supreme Good, which he taught to be apathy, and that the wise man being able to arrive at this state, pain did not exist at all in his case: again, he attacked the ideas of Plato, no less because they did not designate particular objects, than because they acknowledged the existence of an inherent and eternal principle within the mind.

With Zeno of Cittium, the scholar of Stilpo, the logical method and moral austerity of the Megareans passed over to the Stoics; the only effect of their latter studies being to check a too ready credence to the common representations of things, which they proved to be inadequate and incomplete. If, in their zeal for the eterna! existence of one law, they rejected the evidence of sense altogether, they erred, like many others, in throwing away the good with the bad. The Elian and Eretrian systems were but offshoots of the Megarean theory; the former founded by Phædon of Elis, a disciple of Socrates; and the latter by Menedemus of Eretria. Phædon is said to have been bought by Socrates from some pirates, and set at liberty; while Menedemus was originally a tentmaker, afterwards a soldier, and at length was won over, by the lectures of Plato, to devote himself to philosophy: he is reported to have died through melancholy, at the invasion of his country by Antigonus, the Macedonian general, B.C. 301.

The doctrines of both coincide with those of the Megarean, in holding the individuality of “the Good," the denial of the plurality of virtue, and of any real difference existing between the Good and the True. The Eretrian sprang, indeed, from the Elian school, and the only distinctive characteristic of Menedemus seems to have been his total rejection of all negative propositions, and his admission, as valid in argument, of the affirmative and simple alone.

« VorigeDoorgaan »