to the “one God and Father of all, through the righteousness of the ever blessed Redeemer”may enable us to estimate this philosophy at its true value, and, contrasted with the glimmering twilight of human reason, to appreciate the vastness of gospel privileges for which we are. responsible.

Theophrastus and Eudemus succeeded the great Stagirite in the school of the Peripatetics, yet—though the one was the favourite of Aristotle, and the other strictly observed the tenets of his great preceptor-the latter's opinions were only partially elucidated, and in a few years ceased to operate, except so far as tended to the rise of Scepticism. Theophrastus, proceeding upon his master's principle of the influence of external circumstances upon human happiness, brought these so prominently forward, as to assert that man's life depended less upon wisdom than upon fortune ; while his successors, Aristoxenus and Dicæarchus, destroyed the small remnant that remained of credence in the immortality of the soul, by the monstrous dogma that both itself and reason were nothing but certain conditions of the body.

In the one hundred and twenty-third Olympiad, the school was presided over by Strato of Lampsacus, who, restricting his investigations chiefly to physics, obtained the name of the Naturalist, and supported the theory that nature was the true God, at the same time that he made the absurdity more striking, by denying to his divinity even the animal endowments of sense and sensation ! After him, there is nothing worthy of comment in the rhetorical effusions of the last Peripatetics-Lycon, Ariston, and Critolaus; in fact, the school fell into disrepute, and assumed a different form ; the Ethical investigation which had formed its chief ornament was practically abandoned, or expanded itself into the opposite corruptions of the Stoics and Epicureans.



THE degradation of the Athenian character, after the death of Antipater, was so complete, that we can trace little of the elevating influence of Socratic doctrine opposing, though not able thoroughly to overcome, the evil principle of Sophism ; and as the inferior schools of the Cyrenaics, Cynics, and Megareans, with the followers of Democritus, still continued to depreciate pure thought by principles of atheism, it is not wonderful that, at so favourable a period for such an attempt, a fresh attack should be brought about by the followers of Pyrrho, upon that elevated structure of mind which Plato and Aristotle had raised.

The insecurity of property, the operation of a belief that, where all was uncertain, the present only was to be enjoyed, the unsatisfactory attempts of his predecessors to solve the great questions propounded to them ; were the causes which induced Pyrrho of Elis to reprobate philosophy altogether, and to assume, for a maxim, that there is no criterion of truth whatever, seeing that both sense and reason draw their deductions from principles themselves, of questionable accuracy. Thus, a scheme of universal negation was instituted, which asserted nothing, but denied the verity of all; and however some of the ancients may consider that the sceptics derived their dogmas from Homer, the seven sages, Archilocus, and Euripides one thing is clear, that their argument was of a purely negative complexion, drawn from the admission that appearances differ according to individual impressions and organs of sense.

We must observe, however, that we commonly form our judgment of the doctrines of Pyrrho through the medium of Sixtus Empiricus, who has transmitted them to posterity, and the principle of whose school appears to have been to destroy previous systems, and to establish an armoury of doubt, whence every modern infidel has availed himself of a weapon. Its iminoral effect, as might be expected, was equalled only by the absurdity of some of its positions, and many examples have been handed


down of the ludicrous dilemmas, to which a man was reduced, who could not affirm upon his own principles, even, that he asserted nothing. Practically, it terminated in total apathy and indifference to all human interests ; for, of course, the impossibility of entertaining a positive opinion, rendered it questionable whether there was any difference between health and sickness-life and death.

In fact, if choice could be permitted in this annihilation of the very principles of preference, death was avowed by the Sceptics to be desirable, since it presented the most complete state of calm indifference, which, in their opinion, constituted happiness. Pyrrho, himself, is said to have exemplified his theory by a continued carelessness and self-exposure to danger; though from the impossibility consistently to follow out a rule, against which our innate impulses rebel, it may be doubted whether he invariably, as represented, did thus hazard his personal safety. He reached an advanced age, and left behind him the proverbial name of “Doubter," affixed to a theory, which needs no greater refutation than the discrepancy of its own elements, no more striking exposure of its degrading effects than is in

« VorigeDoorgaan »