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they endeavoured to evade by running into a worse error, in assuming chance to be the first creative power. Atoms, they said, were bodies with some weight, and a natural motion downward, and these had made the world; but, being reminded that, according to their own rule, they would all have fallen in the same perpendicular direction, they endued them with a side motion, with hooked shape, so that chance, shaking them together, they clung to one another, and became a world! Thus, as it has been well observed, they did not hesitate to allow to a fortuitous concurrence of particles the formation of a sphere, while they are compelled to admit that the same fortune never issued in the “ shape of a house or a shoe;" so utterly absurd are the assumptions of “the fool " who turns round upon the face of fair creation, and declares that there is no God."
According, also, to Epicurus, the soul was a very rare body of round and smooth atoms, moving easily throughout the whole corporeal frame: it admits of decomposition, and is guarded from injury by the body, which, being dissolved, the elements of the soul again separate, and become individuals in the infinity of atoms. He establishes three criteria of truth, namely, sense, anticipation, and emotion ; the first, taking cognisance of material things ; the second, seizing on events beforehand, from a reference to memory; the last, passion or emotion, is divided into pleasure and pain, but by none of these could anything positive be ascertained, either of the Divinity, or of other natures, between whom and ourselves there exists no analogy. This last opinion was, probably, induced by reluctance to speak more fully upon a subject, which, by its discussion, had involved other philosophers in persecution by the people.
From this cause is it that his theology is necessarily obscure, wherein, at one moment, God is recognized as an immortal being, existing in perfect happiness, to whom we must attribute nothing unworthy of his Divine attributes, but (which Seneca finds fault with) reverence him as
a parent for his goodness, without consideration of selfish gain; at another, all access and communication with the Deity are supposed to be impossible, from the frailty of our nature, and God himself is passed over in the work of creation, and his existence either denied or rendered nugatory by the belief, that he does not trouble himself with
human affairs. From this course, probably, it was that superstition—the terror of irreligious fancy-prompted him to believe that, in sleep, divine images of the finest corporeal substance are perceptible to the soul, and that man is continually exposed to the approach of particles, which, by chance, may assume the form of corporeal bodies.
That portion of his system-called the “ Canonic,” which treats of sensation, and the conception of general ideas-contradicts the whole doctrine of his physics ; and no sooner does Epicurus perceive how the theory of higher natures, interfering with the human, is calculated to introduce fear, than he hastens, by an opposite course, to restore equanimity. The method in which he opposed the theory of transmigration of souls from one body to another, is remarkable. He asks, what expedient could be found out, if the number of the dying should chance to be greater than that of those who are coming into the world : “For the souls turned out of their old babitations would scuffle and crowd which should first get possession of their new lodging; and they further demand how they shall pass away their time whilst new quarters are made ready for them.
Or, on the contrary, if more animals should be born than die, the body, they say, would be but in an ill condition whilst waiting for a soul to be infused into it, and it would fall out that some bodies would die before they had been alive.” Such are the refutations by which one philosopher, himself the teacher of the soul's annihilation, opposed another, who distinguished soul from matter-both alike failing to reach the simple exposition of the truth which Divine l'evelation teaches, that, after death, the dust shall “return to the earth as it was; and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it,” Eccl. xii. 7.
Amongst the disciples of Epicurus were many females, wives of his friends; some of whom were celebrated for such virtue and learning as totally to refute the reflections cast by the Stoics upon their character. Such were Themista, Leontium, and Philænis, the first of whom became proverbial for her learning, while the second wrote some elegant treatises against Theophrastus. We have already alluded to the rancour of the Stoics, which led thení to abuse every connexion with Epicurus and his doctrine ; but we would here endeavour to correct a mistake prevalent even in our day, that the philosophical female
characters of ancient times were necessarily of an immoral class. The very nature of their pursuits corrects such an error, even if we omit the peculiar constitution of Grecian society, which rendered women either aliens from mental improvement altogether, or obliged thein, if they would possess it, to resort to the schools of philosophy.
Aspasia was no less remarkable as a model of female virtue in a debased age, than she was from the superiority of her intellect; had it been otherwise, she never would have been the wife of the greatest Athenian statesman, or have been referred to by him equally upon topics of thoughtful morals or practical polity. The
persons who have reported accusations of licentiousness against Epicurus and his pupils, have refuted themselves by their notice of his frugal diet, the devotion of the Epicureans to pure philosophy, and the infirmities which, in advanced age, confined the philosopher to his bed. The evil of the system—though afterwards exhibited by an immorality, totally opposed to the notion of sense which the philosopher attributed to pleasure, as the chief good-was practically inherent in its subversion of the immortality of the soul, and in the theory of a