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Initiation into Philosophy by Emile Faguet

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by Emile Faguet of the French Academy

Author of "The Cult Of Incompetence,"
"Initiation Into Literature," etc.

Translated from the French by
Sir Homer Gordon, Bart.



This volume, as indicated by the title, is designed to show the way to the
beginner, to satisfy and more especially to excite his initial
curiosity. It affords an adequate idea of the march of facts and of
ideas. The reader is led, somewhat rapidly, from the remote origins to the
most recent efforts of the human mind.

It should be a convenient repertory to which the mind may revert in order
to see broadly the general opinion of an epoch--and what connected it with
those that followed or preceded it. It aims above all at being _a
frame_ in which can conveniently be inscribed, in the course of further
studies, new conceptions more detailed and more thoroughly examined.

It will have fulfilled its design should it incite to research and
meditation, and if it prepares for them correctly.





Philosophical Interpreters of the Universe,
of the Creation and Constitution of the World.


Logicians and Professors of Logic,
and of the Analysis of Ideas, and of Discussion.


Philosophy Entirely Reduced to Morality, and Morality
Considered as the End of all Intellectual Activity.


Plato, like Socrates, is Pre-eminently a Moralist, but
he Reverts to General Consideration of the Universe,
and Deals with Politics and Legislation.


A Man of Encyclopaedic Learning; as Philosopher,
more especially Moralist and Logician.


The Development in Various Schools of the General
Ideas of Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle.


Epicureanism Believes that the Duty of Man is to
seek Happiness, and that Happiness Consists in Wisdom.


The Passions are Diseases which can and must be Extirpated.


Philosophers who Wished to Belong to No School.
Philosophers who Decried All Schools and All Doctrines.


Reversion to Metaphysics. Imaginative Metaphysicians
after the Manner of Plato, but in Excess.


Philosophic Ideas which Christianity Welcomed, Adopted, or Created;
How it must Give a Fresh Aspect to All Philosophy,
even that Foreign to Itself.



Philosophy is only an Interpreter of Dogma. When it is Declared Contrary to
Dogma by the Authority of Religion, it is a Heresy. Orthodox and Heterodox
Interpretations. Some Independent Philosophers.


Influence of Aristotle. His Adoption by the Church.
Religious Philosophy of St. Thomas Aquinas.


Decadence of Scholasticism. Forebodings of the Coming Era.
Great Moralists. The Kabbala. Sorcery.


It Is Fairly Accurate to Consider that from the Point of View
of Philosophy, the Middle Ages Lasted until Descartes.
Free-thinkers More or Less Disguised.
Partisans of Reason Apart from Faith, of Observation, and of Experiment.



Descartes. Cartesianism.


All the Seventeenth Century was under the Influence of Descartes.
Port-Royal, Bossuet, Fenelon, Malebranche, Spinoza, Leibnitz.


Locke: His Ideas on Human Liberty, Morality,
General Politics, and Religious Politics.


Berkeley: A Highly Idealist Philosophy
which Regarded Matter as Non-existent.
David Hume: Sceptical Philosophy.
The Scottish School: Philosophy of Common Sense.


Voltaire a Disciple of Locke.
Rousseau a Free-thinking Christian, but deeply Imbued
with Religious Sentiments.
Diderot a Capricious Materialist.
D'Holbach and Helvetius Avowed Materialists.
Condillac a Philosopher of Sensations.


Kant Reconstructed all Philosophy by Supporting it on Morality.


The Great Reconstructors of the World,
Analogous to the First Philosophers of Antiquity.
Great General Systems, Fichte, Schelling, Hegel, etc.


The Doctrines of Evolution and of Transformism:
Lamarck (French), Darwin, Spencer.


The Eclectic School: Victor Cousin.
The Positivist School: Auguste Comte.
The Kantist School: Renouvier.
Independent and Complex Positivists: Taine, Renan.







Philosophical Interpreters of the Universe, of the Creation
and Constitution of the World.

PHILOSOPHY.--The aim of philosophy is to seek the explanation of all
things: the quest is for the first _causes_ of everything, and also
_how_ all things are, and finally _why_, with what design, with a
view to what, things are. That is why, taking "principle" in all the senses
of the word, it has been called the science of first principles.

Philosophy has always existed. Religions--all religions--are
philosophies. They are indeed the most complete. But, apart from religions,
men have sought the causes and principles of everything and endeavoured to
acquire general ideas. These researches apart from religious dogmas in
pagan antiquity are the only ones with which we are here to be concerned.

THE IONIAN SCHOOL: THALES.--The Ionian School is the most ancient
school of philosophy known. It dates back to the seventh century before
Christ. Thales of Miletus, a natural philosopher and astronomer, as we
should describe him, believed matter--namely, that of which all things and
all beings are made--to be in perpetual transformation, and that these
transformations are produced by powerful beings attached to every portion
of matter. These powerful beings were gods. Everything, therefore, was full
of gods. His philosophy was a mythology. He also thought that the
essential element of matter was water, and that it was water, under the
influence of the gods, which transformed itself into earth, air, and fire,
whilst from water, earth, air, and fire came everything that is in nature.

ANAXIMANDER; HERACLITUS.--Anaximander of Miletus, an astronomer
also, and a geographer, believed that the principle of all things is
_indeterminate_--a kind of chaos wherein nothing has form or shape;
that from chaos come things and beings, and that they return thither in
order to emerge again. One of his particular theories was that fish were
the most ancient of animals, and that all animals had issued from them
through successive transformations. This theory was revived for a while
about fifty years ago.

Heraclitus of Ephesus (very obscure, and with this epithet attached
permanently to his name) saw all things as a perpetual growth--in an
indefinite state of becoming. Nothing is; all things grow and are destined
to eternal growth. Behind them, nevertheless, there is an eternal master
who does not change. It is our duty to resemble him as much as we can; that
is to say, as much as an ape can resemble a man. Calmness is imperative: to
be as motionless as transient beings can. The popular legend runs that
Heraclitus "always wept"; what is known of him only tends to prove that he
was grave, and did not favour emotionalism.

ANAXAGORAS; EMPEDOCLES.--Anaxagoras of Clazomenae, above all else a
natural philosopher, settled at Athens about 470 B.C.; was the master and
friend of Pericles; was on the point of being put to death, as Socrates was
later on, for the crime of indifference towards the religion of the
Athenians, and had to take refuge at Lampsacus, where he died. Like
Anaximander, he believed that everything emerged from something
indeterminate and confused; but he added that what caused the emergence
from that state was the organizing intelligence, the Mind, just as in man,
it is the intelligence which draws thought from cerebral undulations, and
forms a clear idea out of a confused idea. Anaxagoras exerted an almost
incomparable influence over Greek philosophy of the classical times.

Empedocles of Agrigentum, a sort of magician and high-priest, almost a
deity, whose life and death are but little known, appears to have possessed
an encyclopaedic brain. From him is derived the doctrine of the four
elements, for whereas the philosophers who preceded him gave as the sole
source of things--some water, others air, others fire, others the earth, he
regarded them all four equally as the primal elements of everything. He
believed that the world is swayed by two contrary forces--love and hate,
the one desiring eternally to unite, the other eternally to
disintegrate. Amid this struggle goes on a movement of organization,
incessantly retarded by hate, perpetually facilitated by love; and from
this movement have issued--first, vegetation, then the lower animals, then
the higher animals, then men. In Empedocles can be found either evident
traces of the religion of Zoroaster of Persia (the perpetual antagonism of
two great gods, that of good and that of evil), or else a curious
coincidence with this doctrine, which will appear again later among the

PYTHAGORAS.--Pythagoras appears to have been born about B.C. 500 on
the Isle of Elea, to have travelled much, and to have finally settled in
Greater Greece (southern Italy). Pythagoras, like Empedocles, was a sort
of magician or god. His doctrine was a religion, the respect with which he
was surrounded was a cult, the observances he imposed on his family and on
his disciples were rites. What he taught was that the true realities, which
do not change, were numbers. The fundamental and supreme reality is
_one_; the being who is one is God; from this number, which is one,
are derived all the other numbers which are the foundation of beings, their
inward cause, their essence; we are all more or less perfect numbers; each
created thing is a more or less perfect number. The world, governed thus by
combinations of numbers, has always existed and will always exist. It
develops itself, however, according to a numerical series of which we do
not possess the key, but which we can guess. As for human destiny it is
this: we have been animated beings, human or animal; according as we have
lived well or ill we shall be reincarnated either as superior men or as
animals more or less inferior. This is the doctrine of _metempsychosis_,
which had many adherents in ancient days, and also in a more or less
fanciful fashion in modern times.

To Pythagoras have been attributed a certain number of maxims which are
called the _Golden Verses_.

XENOPHANES; PARMENIDES.--Xenophanes of Colophon is also a
"unitarian." He accepts only one God, and of all the ancient philosophers
appears to be the most opposed to mythology, to belief in a multiplicity of
gods resembling men, a doctrine which he despises as being immoral. There
is one God, eternal, immutable, immovable, who has no need to transfer
Himself from one locality to another, who is _without place_, and who
governs all things by His thought alone.

Advancing further, Parmenides told himself that if He alone really exists
who is one and eternal and unchangeable, all else is not only inferior to
Him, but is only a _semblance_, and that mankind, earth, sky, plants,
and animals are only a vast illusion--phantoms, a mirage, which would
disappear, which would no longer exist, and _would never have existed_
if we could perceive the Self-existent.

ZENO; DEMOCRITUS.--Zeno of Elea, who must be mentioned more
especially because he was the master of that Gorgias of whom Socrates was
the adversary, was pre-eminently a subtle dialectician in whom the sophist
already made his appearance, and who embarrassed the Athenians by captious
arguments, at the bottom of which always could be found this fundamental
principle: apart from the Eternal Being all is only semblance; apart from
Him who is all, all is nothing.

Democritus of Abdera, disciple of Leucippus of Abdera (about whom nothing
is known), is the inventor of the theory of atoms. Matter is composed of an
infinite number of tiny indivisible bodies which are called atoms; these
atoms from all eternity, or at least since the commencement of matter, have
been endued with certain movements by which they attach themselves to one
another, and agglomerate or separate, and thence is caused the formation of
all things, and the destruction, which is only the disintegration, of all
things. The soul itself is only an aggregation of specially tenuous and
subtle atoms. It is probable that when a certain number of these atoms quit
the body, sleep ensues; that when nearly all depart, it causes the
appearance of death (lethargy, catalepsy); that when they all depart, death
occurs. We are brought into relation with the external world by the advent
in us of extremely subtle atoms--reflections of things, semblances of
things--which enter and mingle with the constituent atoms of our
souls. There is nothing in our intelligence which has not been brought
there by our senses, and our intelligence is only the combination of the
atoms composing our souls with the atoms that external matter sends, so to
speak, into our souls. The doctrines of Democritus will be found again in
those of Epicurus and Lucretius.



Logicians and Professors of Logic, and of the Analysis of
Ideas, and of Discussion.

DOCTRINES OF THE SOPHISTS.--The Sophists descend from Parmenides and
Zeno of Elea; Gorgias was the disciple of the latter. By dint of thinking
that all is semblance save the Supreme Being, who alone is real, it is very
easy to arrive at belief in all being semblance, including that Being; or
at least what is almost tantamount, that all is semblance, inclusive of any
idea we can possibly conceive of the Supreme Being. To believe nothing, and
to demonstrate that there is no reason to believe in anything, is the
cardinal principle of all the Sophists. Then, it may be suggested, there is
nothing for it but to be silent. No, there is the cultivation of one's
mind (the only thing of the existence of which we are sure), so as to give
it ability, readiness, and strength. With what object? To become a
dexterous thinker, which in itself is a fine thing; to be also a man of
consideration, listened to in one's city, and to arrive at its government.

The Sophists accordingly gave lessons, especially in psychology,
dialectics, and eloquence. They further taught philosophy, but in order to
demonstrate that all philosophy is false; and, as Pascal observed later,
that to ridicule philosophy is truly philosophical. They seem to have been
extremely intellectual, very learned, and most serious despite their
scepticism, and to have rendered Greece the very great service of making a
penetrating analysis--the first recorded--of our faculty of knowledge and
of the limitations, real, possible, or probable, of that faculty.

PROTAGORAS; GORGIAS; PRODICUS.--They were very numerous, the taste
for their art, which might be called philosophical criticism, being
widespread in Attica. It may be believed, as Plato maintains, that some
were of very mediocre capacity, and this is natural; but there were also
some who clearly were eminent authorities. The most illustrious were
Protagoras, Gorgias, and Prodicus of Ceos. Protagoras seems to have been
the most philosophical of them all, Gorgias the best orator and the chief
professor of rhetoric, Prodicus the most eminent moralist and poet.
Protagoras rejected all metaphysics--that is, all investigation of first
causes and of the universe--and reduced all philosophy to the science of
self-control with a view to happiness, and control of others with a view to
their happiness. Like Anaxagoras, he was banished from the city under the
charge of impiety, and his books were publicly burnt.

Gorgias appears to have maintained the same ideas with more moderation and
also with less profundity. He claimed, above all, to be able to make a good
orator. According to Plato, it was he whom Socrates most persistently made
the butt of his sarcasms.

Prodicus, whom Plato himself esteemed, appears to have been principally
preoccupied with the moral problem. He was the author of the famous
apologue which represented Hercules having to choose between two paths, the
one being that of virtue, the other of pleasure. Like Socrates later on, he
too was subject to the terrible accusation of impiety, and underwent
capital punishment. The Sophists furnish the most important epoch in the
history of ancient philosophy; until their advent the philosophic systems
were great poems on the total of all things, known and unknown. The
Sophists opposed these ambitious and precipitate generalizations, in which
imagination had the larger share, and their discovery was to bring
philosophy back to its true starting point by affirming that the first
thing to do, and that before all else, was to know our own mind and its
mechanism. Their error possibly was, while saying that it was the first
thing to do, too often to affirm that it was the only thing to do; still
the fact remains that they were perfectly accurate in their assurance that
it was primary.



Philosophy Entirely Reduced to Morality, and Morality
Considered as the End of all Intellectual Activity.

THE PHILOSOPHY OF SOCRATES.--Of Socrates nothing is known except
that he was born at Athens, that he held many public discussions with all
and sundry in the streets of Athens, and that he died under the Thirty
Tyrants. Of his ideas we know nothing, because he wrote nothing, and
because his disciples were far too intelligent; in consequence of which it
is impossible to know if what they said was thought by him, had really been
his ideas or theirs. What seems certain is that neither Aristophanes nor
the judges at the trial of Socrates were completely deceived in considering
him a Sophist; for he proceeded from them. It is true he proceeded from
them by reaction, because evidently their universal scepticism had
terrified him; but nevertheless he was their direct outcome, for like them
he was extremely mistrustful of the old vast systems of philosophy, and to
those men who pretended to know everything he opposed a phrase which is
probably authentic: "I know that I know nothing;" for, like the Sophists,
he wished to recall philosophy to earth from heaven, namely from
metaphysics to the study of man, and nothing else; for, like the Sophists,
he confined and limited the field with a kind of severe and imperious
modesty which was none the less contemptuous of the audacious; for,
finally, like the Sophists, but in this highly analogous to many
philosophers preceding the Sophists, he had but a very moderate and
mitigated respect for the religion of his fellow-citizens.

According to what we know of Socrates from Xenophon, unquestionably the
least imaginative of his disciples, Socrates, like the Sophists, reduced
philosophy to the study of man; but his great and incomparable originality
lay in the fact that whereas the Sophists wished man to study himself in
order to be happy, Socrates wished him to study himself in order to be
moral, honest, and just, without any regard to happiness. For Socrates,
everything had to tend towards morality, to contribute to it, and to be
subordinated to it as the goal and as the final aim. He applied himself
unceasingly, relates Xenophon, to examine and to determine what is good and
evil, just and unjust, wise and foolish, brave and cowardly, etc. He
incessantly applied himself, relates Aristotle--and therein he was as much
a true professor of rhetoric as of morality--thoroughly to define and
carefully to specify the meaning of words in order not to be put off with
vague terms which are illusions of thought, and in order to discipline his
mind rigorously so as to make it an organ for the ascertainment of truth.

HIS METHOD.--He had dialectical methods, "the art of conferring," as
Montaigne called it, more or less happy, which he had probably borrowed
from the Sophists, that contributed to cause him to be considered one of
them, and exercised a wide vogue long after him. He "delivered men's
minds," as he himself said--that is, he believed, or affected to believe,
that the verities are in a latent state in all minds, and that it needed
only patience, dexterity, and skillful investigation to bring them to
light. Elsewhere, he _interrogated_ in a captious fashion in order to
set the interlocutor in contradiction to himself and to make him confess
that he had said what he had not thought he had said, agreed to what he had
not believed he had agreed to; and he triumphed maliciously over such
confusions. In short, he seems to have been a witty and teasing Franklin,
and to have taught true wisdom by laughing at everyone. Folk never like to
be ridiculed, and no doubt the recollection of these ironies had much to do
with the iniquitous judgment which condemned him, and which he seems to
have challenged up to the last.

HIS INFLUENCE.--His influence was infinite. It is from him that
morality became the end itself, the last and supreme end of all
philosophy--the reason of philosophy; and, as was observed by Nietzsche,
the Circe of philosophers, who enchants them, who dictates to them
beforehand, or who modifies their systems in advance by terrifying them as
to what their systems may contain irreverent towards itself or dangerous in
relation to it. From Socrates to Kant and thence onward, morality has been
the Circe of philosophers, and morality is, as it were, the spiritual
daughter of Socrates. On the other hand, his influence was terrible for the
religion of antiquity because it directed the mind towards the idea that
morality is the sole object worthy of knowledge, and that the ancient
religions were immoral, or of such a dubious morality as to deserve the
desertion and scorn of honest men. Christianity fought paganism with the
arguments of the disciples of Socrates--with Socratic arguments; modern
philosophies and creeds are all impregnated with Socraticism. When it was
observed that the Sophists form the most important epoch in the history of
ancient philosophy, it was because they taught Socrates to seek a
philosophy which was entirely human and preoccupied solely with the
happiness of man. This led a great mind, and in his track other very great
minds, to direct all philosophy, and even all human science, towards the
investigation of goodness, goodness being regarded as the condition of



Plato, like Socrates, is Pre-eminently a Moralist,
but he reverts to General Consideration of the Universe
and Deals with Politics and Legislation.

PLATO A DISCIPLE OF SOCRATES.--Plato, like Xenophon, was a pupil of
Socrates, but Xenophon only wanted to be the clerk of Socrates; and Plato,
as an enthusiastic disciple, was at the same time very faithful and very
unfaithful to Socrates. He was a faithful disciple to Socrates in never
failing to place morality in the foremost rank of all philosophical
considerations; in that he never varied. He was an unfaithful disciple to
Socrates in that, imaginative and an admirable poet, he bore back
philosophy from earth to heaven; he did not forbid himself--quite the
contrary--to pile up great systems about all things and to envelop the
universe in his vast and daring conceptions. He invincibly established
morality, the science of virtue, as the final goal of human knowledge, in
his brilliant and charming _Socratic Dialogues_; he formed great
systems in all the works in which he introduces himself as speaking in his
own name. He was very learned, and acquainted with everything that had been
written by all the philosophers before Socrates, particularly Heraclitus,
Pythagoras, Parmenides, and Anaxagoras. He reconsidered all their teaching,
and he himself brought to consideration a force and a wealth of mind such
as appear to have had no parallel in the world.

THE "IDEAS."--Seeking, in his turn, what are the first causes of all
and what is eternally real behind the simulations of this transient world,
he believed in a single God, as had many before him; but in the bosom of
this God, so to speak, he placed, he seemed to see, _Ideas_--that is
to say, eternal types of all things which in this world are variable,
transient, and perishable. What he effected by such novel, original, and
powerful imagination is clear. He replaced the Olympus of the populace by a
spiritual Olympus; the material mythology by an idealistic mythology;
polytheism by polyideism, if it may be so expressed--the gods by
types. Behind every phenomenon, stream, forest, mountain, the Greeks
perceived a deity, a material being like themselves, more powerful than
themselves. Behind every phenomenon, behind every thought as well, every
feeling, every institution--behind _everything, no matter what it be_,
Plato perceived an idea, immortal, eternal, indestructible, and
incorruptible, which existed in the bosom of the Eternal, and of which all
that comes under our observation is only the vacillating and troubled
reflection, and which supports, animates, and for a time preserves
everything that we can perceive. Hence, all philosophy consists in having
some knowledge of these Ideas. How is it possible to attain such knowledge?
By raising the mind from the particular to the general; by distinguishing
in each thing what is its permanent foundation, what it contains that is
least changing, least variable, least circumstantial. For example, a man is
a very complex being; he has countless feelings, countless diversified
ideas, countless methods of conduct and existence. What is his permanent
foundation? It is his conscience, which does not vary, undergoes no
transformation, always obstinately repeats the same thing; the foundation
of man, the eternal idea of which every man on earth is here the
reflection, is the consciousness of good; man is an incarnation on earth of
that part of God which is the will for good; according as he diverges from
or approaches more nearly to this will, is he less or more man.

THE PLATONIC DIALECTIC AND MORALITY.--This method of raising oneself
to the ideas is what Plato termed dialectic--that is to say, the art of
discernment. Dialectic differentiates between the fundamental and the
superficial, the permanent and the transient, the indestructible and the
destructible. This is the supreme philosophic method which contains all the
others and to which all the others are reduced. Upon this metaphysic and by
the aid of this dialectic, Plato constructed an extremely pure system of
morality which was simply an _Imitation of God_ (as, later on, came
the Imitation of Jesus Christ). The whole duty of man was to be as like
God as he could. In God exist the ideas of truth, goodness, beauty,
greatness, power, etc.; man ought to aim at relatively realizing those
ideas which God absolutely realizes. God is just, or justice lies in the
bosom of God, which is the same thing; man cannot be the just one, but he
can be a just man, and there is the whole matter; for justice comprises
everything, or, to express it differently, is the characteristic common to
all which is valuable. Justice is goodness, justice is beautiful, justice
is true; justice is great, because it reduces all particular cases to one
general principle; justice is powerful, being the force which maintains,
opposed to the force which destroys; justice is eternal and invariable. To
be just in all the meanings of the word is the duty of man and his proper

THE IMMORTALITY OF THE SOUL.--Plato shows marked reserve as to the
immortality of the soul and as to rewards and penalties beyond the
grave. He is neither in opposition nor formally favourable. We feel that he
wishes to believe in it rather than that he is sure about it. He says that
"it is a fine wager to make"; which means that even should we lose, it is
better to believe in this possible gain than to disbelieve. Further, it is
legitimate to conclude--both from certain passages in the _Laws_ and
from the beautiful theory of Plato on the punishment which is an expiation,
and on the expiation which is medicinal to the soul and consequently highly
desirable--that Plato often inclined strongly towards the doctrine of
posthumous penalties and rewards, which presupposes the immortality of the

PLATONIC LOVE.--Platonic love, about which there has been so much
talk and on which, consequently, we must say a word, at least to define it,
is one of the applications of his moral system. As in the case of all other
things, the idea of love is in God. There it exists in absolute purity,
without any mixture of the idea of pleasure, since pleasure is essentially
ephemeral and perishable. Love in God consists simply in the impassioned
contemplation of beauty (physical and moral); we shall resemble God if we
love beauty precisely in this way, without excitement or agitation of the

POLITICS.--One of the originalities in Plato is that he busies
himself with politics--that is, that he makes politics a part of
philosophy, which had barely been thought of before him (I say
_barely_, because Pythagoras was a legislator), but which has ever
since been taken into consideration. Plato is aristocratic, no doubt
because his thought is generally such, independently of circumstances,
also, perhaps, because he attributed the great misfortunes of his country
which he witnessed to the Athenian democracy; then yet again, perhaps,
because that Athenian democracy had been violently hostile and sometimes
cruel to philosophers, and more especially to his own master. According to
Plato, just as man has three souls, or if it be preferred, three centres of
activity, which govern him--intelligence in the head, courage in the heart,
and appetite in the bowels--even so the city is composed of three classes:
wise and learned men at the top, the warriors below, and the artisans and
slaves lower still. The wise men will govern: accordingly the nations will
never be happy save when philosophers are kings, or when kings are
philosophers. The warriors will fight to defend the city, never as
aggressors. They will form a caste--poor, stern to itself, and
redoubtable. They will have no individual possessions; everything will be
in common, houses, furniture, weapons, wives even, and children. The
people, finally, living in strict equality, either by equal partition of
land, or on land cultivated in common, will be strictly maintained in
probity, honesty, austerity, morality, sobriety, and submissiveness. All
arts, except military music and war dances, will be eliminated from the
city. She needs neither poets nor painters not yet musicians, who corrupt
morals by softening them, and by making all feel the secret pang of
voluptuousness. All theories, whether aristocratic or tending more or less
to communism, are derived from the politics of Plato either by being
evolved from them or by harking back to them.

even for his opponents, the greatest name in human philosophy. He is the
supreme authority of the idealistic philosophy--that is, of all philosophy
which believes that ideas govern the world, and that the world is
progressing towards a perfection which is somewhere and which directs and
attracts it. For those even who are not of his school, Plato is the most
prodigious of all the thinkers who have united psychological wisdom,
dialectical strength, the power of abstraction and creative imagination,
which last in him attains to the marvellous.



A Man of Encyclopedic Learning; as Philosopher,
more especially Moralist and Logician.

ARISTOTLE, PUPIL OF PLATO.--Aristotle of Stagira was a pupil of
Plato, and he remembered it, as the best pupils do as a rule, in order to
oppose him. For some years he was tutor to Alexander, son of Philip, the
future Alexander the Great. He taught long at Athens. After the death of
Alexander, being the target in his turn of the eternal accusation of
impiety, he was forced to retire to Chalcis, where he died. Aristotle is,
before all else, a learned man. He desired to embrace the whole of the
knowledge of his time, which was then possible by dint of prodigious
effort, and he succeeded. His works, countless in number, are the record of
his knowledge. They are the _summa_ of all the sciences of his
epoch. Here we have only to occupy ourselves with his more especially
philosophical ideas. To Aristotle, as to Plato, but more precisely, man is
composed of soul and body. The body is composed of organs, a well-made
piece of mechanism; the soul is its final purpose; the body, so to speak,
results in the soul, but, in turn, the soul acts on the body, and is in it
not its end but its means of acting upon things, and the whole forms a full
and continuous harmony. The faculties of the soul are its divers aspects,
and its divers methods of acting; for the soul is one and
indivisible. Reason is the soul considered as being able to conceive what
is most general, and in consequence it forms within us an intermediary
between ourselves and God. God is unique; He is eternal; from all eternity
He has given motion to matter. He is purely spiritual, but all is material
save Him, and He has not, as Plato would have it, _ideas_--immaterial
living personifications--residing in His bosom. Here may be perceived, in a
certain sense, progress, from Plato to Aristotle, towards monotheism; the
Olympus of ideas in Plato was still a polytheism, a spiritual polytheism
certainly, yet none the less a polytheism; there is no longer any
polytheism at all in Aristotle.

HIS THEORIES OF MORALS AND POLITICS.--The moral system of Aristotle
sometimes approaches that of Plato, as when he deems that the supreme
happiness is the supreme good, and that the supreme good is the
contemplation of thought by thought--thought being self-sufficing; which is
approximately the imitation of God which Plato recommended. Sometimes, on
the contrary, it is very practical and almost mediocre, as when he makes it
consist of a mean between the extremes, a just measure, a certain tact, art
rather than science, and practical science rather than conscience, which
will know how to distinguish which are the practices suitable for an honest
and a well-born man. It is only just to add that in detail and when after
all deductions he describes the just man, he invites us to contemplate
virtues which if not sublime are none the less remarkably lofty.

His very confused political philosophy (the volume containing it, according
to all appearance, having been composed, after his death, of passages and
fragments and different portions of his lectures) is specially a review of
the divergent political constitutions which existed throughout the Greek
world. The tendencies, for there are no conclusions, are still very
aristocratic, but less radically aristocratic than those of Plato.

THE AUTHORITY OF ARISTOTLE.--Aristotle, by reason of his
universality, also because he is clearer than his master, and again because
he dogmatises--not always, but very frequently--instead of discussing and
collating, had throughout both antiquity and the Middle Ages an authority
greater than that of Plato, an authority which became (except on matters of
faith) despotic and well-nigh sacrosanct. Since the sixteenth century he
has been relegated to his due rank--one which is still very distinguished,
and he has been regarded as among the geniuses of the widest range, if not
of the greatest power, that have appeared among men; even now he is very
far from having lost his importance. For some he is a transition between
the Greek genius--extremely subtle, but always poetic and always somewhat
oriental--and the Roman genius: more positive, more bald, more practical,
more attached to reality and to pure science.



The Development in Various Schools of the General Ideas
of Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle.

THE SCHOOL OF PLATO; THEOPHRASTUS.--The school of Plato (not
regarding Aristotle as belonging entirely to that school) was continued by
Speusippus, Polemo, Xenocrates, Crates, and Crantor. Owing to a retrograde
movement, widely different from that of Aristotle, it dabbled in the
Pythagorean ideas, with which Plato was acquainted and which he often
appreciated, but not blindly, and to which he never confined himself.

The most brilliant pupil of Aristotle was Theophrastus, naturalist,
botanist, and moralist. His great claim to fame among posterity, which
knows nothing of him but this, is the small volume of _Characters_,
which served as a model for La Bruyere, and before him to the comic poets
of antiquity, and which is full of wit and flavour, and--to make use of a
modern word exactly applicable to this ancient work--"humour."

SCHOOLS OF MEGARA AND OF ELIS.--We may just mention the very
celebrated schools which, owing to lack of texts, are unknown to us--that
of Megara, which was called the Eristic or "wrangling" school, so marked
was its predilection for polemics; and that of Elis, which appears to have
been well versed in the sophistic methods of Zeno of Elea and of Gorgias.

THE CYNIC SCHOOL; ANTISTHENES; DIOGENES.--Much more important is the
Cynic school, because a school, which was nothing less than Stoicism
itself, emanated or appeared to emanate from it. As often happens, the
vague commencements of Stoicism bore a close resemblance to its end. The
Stoics of the last centuries of antiquity were a sort of mendicant friars,
ill-clothed, ill-fed, of neglected appearance, despising all the comforts
of life; the Cynics at the time of Alexander were much the same, professing
that happiness is the possession of all good things, and that the only way
to possess all things is to know how to do without them. It was
Antisthenes who founded this school, or rather this order. He had been the
pupil of Socrates, and there can be no doubt that his sole idea was to
imitate Socrates by exaggeration. Socrates had been poor, had scorned
wealth, had derided pleasure, and poured contempt on science. The cult of
poverty, the contempt for pleasures, for honours, for riches, and the
perfect conviction that any knowledge is perfectly useless to man--that is
all the teaching of Antisthenes. That can lead far, at least in systematic
minds. If all is contemptible except individual virtue, it is reversion to
savage and solitary existence which is preached: there is no more
civilization or society or patriotism. Antisthenes in these ideas was
surpassed by his disciples and successors; they were cosmopolitans and
anarchists. The most illustrious of this school--illustrious especially
through his eccentricity--was Diogenes, who rolled on the ramparts of
Corinth the tub which served him as a house, lighted his lantern in broad
daylight on the pretext of "searching for a man," called himself a citizen
of the world, was accused of being banished from Sinope by his
fellow-countrymen and replied, "It was I who condemned them to remain," and
said to Alexander, who asked him what he could do for him: "Get out of my
sunshine; you are putting me in the shade."

CRATES; MENIPPUS; ARISTIPPUS.--Crates of Thebes is also mentioned,
less insolent and better-mannered, yet also a despiser of the goods of this
world; and Menippus, the maker of satires, whom Lucian, much later, made
the most diverting interlocutor of his amusing dialogues. In an opposite
direction, at the same epoch, Aristippus, a pupil of Socrates, like
Antisthenes, founded the school of pleasure, and maintained that the sole
search worthy of man was that of happiness, and that it was his duty to
make himself happy; that in consequence, it having been sufficiently proved
and being even self-evident, that happiness cannot come to us from without,
but must be sought within ourselves, it is necessary to study to know
ourselves thoroughly (and this was from Socrates) in order to decide what
are the states of the mind which give us a durable, substantial, and, if
possible, a permanent happiness. Now the seeker and the finder of
substantial happiness is wisdom, or rather, there is no other wisdom than
the art of distinguishing between pleasure and choosing, with a very
refined discrimination, those which are genuine. Wisdom further consists in
dominating misfortunes by the mastery of self so as not to be affected by
them, and in dominating also pleasures even whilst enjoying them, so that
they may not obtain dominion over us; "possessing without being possessed"
was one of his mottoes which Horace thus translated: "I strive to subject
things to myself, not myself to things." This eminently practical wisdom,
which is only a highly-developed egoism, is that of Horace and Montaigne,
and was expressed by Voltaire in verses that were sometimes felicitous.

THE SCHOOL OF CYRENE.--Aristippus had for successor in the direction
of his school, first his daughter Arete, then his grandson. The
Aristippists, or Cyrenaics (the school being established in Cyrene),
frankly despised the gods, regarding them as inventions to frighten women
and little children. One of them, Euhemerus, invented the theory, which in
part is false and in part accurate, that the gods are simply heroes, kings,
great men deified after their death by the gratitude or terror of the
populace. As often happens, philosophic theories being essentially plastic
and taking the form of the temperament which receives them, a certain
Cyrenaic (Hegesias) enunciated the doctrine that the supreme happiness of
man was suicide. In fact, if the object of man is happiness, since life
affords far fewer joys than sorrows, the philosophy of happiness is to get
rid of life, and the sole wisdom lies in suicide. It does not appear that
Hegesias gave the only proof of sincere belief in this doctrine which can
be given by anyone professing it.



Epicureanism Believes that the Duty of Man is to Seek
Happiness, and that Happiness Consists in Wisdom.

MORAL PHILOSOPHY.--Continuing to feel the strong impulse which it
had received from Socrates, philosophy was now for a long while to be
almost exclusively moral philosophy. Only it divided very sharply in two
directions. Antisthenes and Aristippus were both pupils of Socrates. From
Antisthenes came the Cynics; from Aristippus the philosophers of
pleasure. The Cynics gave birth to the Stoics, the philosophers of pleasure
to the Epicureans, and these two great schools practically divided all
antiquity between them. We will take the Epicureans first because,
chronologically, they slightly preceded the Stoics.

EPICURUS.--Epicurus, born at Athens a little after the death of
Plato, brought up at Samos by his parents who had been forced to expatriate
themselves owing to reverses of fortune, returned to Athens about 305 B.C.,
and there founded a school. Personally he was a true wise man, sober,
scrupulous, a despiser of pleasure, severe to himself, _in practice_ a
Stoic. As his general view of the universe, he taught approximately the
doctrine of Democritus: the world is composed of a multitude of atoms,
endowed with certain movements, which attach themselves to one another and
combine together, and there is nothing else in the world. Is there not a
first cause, a being who set all these atoms in motion--in short, a God?
Epicurus did not think so. Are there gods, as the vulgar believe? Epicurus
believed so; but he considered that the gods are brilliant, superior, happy
creatures, who do not trouble about this world, do not interfere with it,
and are even less occupied, were it possible, with mankind. Also they did
not create the world, for why should they have created it? From goodness,
said Plato; but there is so much evil in the world that if they created it
from goodness, they were mistaken and must be fools; and if they willingly
permitted evil, they are wicked; and therefore it is charitable towards
them to believe that they did not create it.

EPICUREAN MORALITY.--From the ethical point of view, Epicurus
certainly attaches himself to Aristippus; but with the difference that lies
between pleasure and happiness. Aristippus taught that the aim of life was
intelligent pleasure, Epicurus declared that the aim of life was
happiness. Now, does happiness consist in pleasures, or does it exclude
them? Epicurus was quite convinced that it excluded them. Like Lord
Beaconsfield, he would say, "Life would be almost bearable, were it not for
its pleasures." Happiness for Epicurus lay in "phlegm," as Philinte would
put it; it lay in the calm of the mind that has rendered itself
inaccessible to every emotion of passion, which is never irritated, never
moved, never annoyed, never desires, and never fears. Why, for instance,
should we dread death? So long as we fear it, it is not here; when it
arrives, we shall no longer fear it; then, why is it an evil?--But, during
life itself, how about sufferings?--We greatly increase our sufferings by
complaints and by self-commiseration. If we acted in the reverse way, if
when we were tortured by them we recalled past pleasures and thought of
pleasures to come, they would be infinitely mitigated.--But, of what
pleasures can a man speak who makes happiness consist in the exclusion of
pleasures? The pleasures of the wise man are the satisfaction he feels in
assuring himself of his own happiness. He finds pleasure when he controls a
passion in order to revert to calmness; he feels pleasure when he converses
with his friends about the nature of true happiness; he feels pleasure when
he has diverted a youth from passionate follies or from despair, and
brought him back to peace of mind, etc.--But what about sufferings after
death? They do not exist. There is no hell because there is no immortality
of the soul. The soul is as material as the body, and dies with it.

You will say, perhaps, that this very severe and austere morality more
nearly approaches to Stoicism than to the teaching of Aristippus. This is
so true that when Horace confessed with a smile that he returned to the
morality of pleasure, he did not say, as we should, "I feel that I am
becoming an Epicurean," he said, "I fall back on the precepts of
Aristippus;" and Seneca, a professed Stoic, cites Epicurus almost as often
as Zeno in his lessons. It may not be quite accurate to state, but there
would not be much exaggeration in affirming, that Epicureanism is a smiling
Stoicism and Stoicism a gloomy Epicureanism. In the current use of the word
we have changed the meaning of Epicurean to make it mean "addicted to
pleasure." The warning must be given that there is no more grievous error.

THE VOGUE OF EPICUREANISM.--Epicureanism had an immense vogue in
antiquity. The principal professors of it at Athens were Metrodorus,
Hermarchus, Polystratus, and Apollodorus. Penetrating to Italy Epicureanism
found its most brilliant representative in Lucretius, who of the system
made a poem--the admirable _De Natura Rerum_; there were also
Atticus, Horace, Pliny the younger, and many more. It even became a
political opinion: the Caesarians were Epicureans, the Republicans
Stoics. On the appearance of Christianity Epicureanism came into direct
opposition with it, and so did Stoicism also; but in a far less degree. In
modern times, as will be seen, Epicureanism has enjoyed a revival.



The Passions are Diseases which can and must be Extirpated.

THE LOGIC OF STOICISM.--Stoicism existed as a germ in the Cynic
philosophy (and also in Socrates) as did Epicureanism in Aristippus. Zeno
was the pupil of Crates. In extreme youth he opened a school at Athens in
the Poecile. The Poecile was a portico; portico in Greek is _stoa_,
hence the name of Stoic. Zeno taught for about thirty years; then, on the
approach of age, he died by his own hand. Zeno thought, as did Epicurus and
Socrates, that philosophy should only be the science of life and that the
science of life lay in wisdom. Wisdom consists in thinking justly and
acting rightly; but to think justly only in order to act rightly--which is
quite in the spirit of Socrates, and eliminates all the science of
research, all consideration of the constitution of the world as well as the
total and even the details of matter. Therein is Stoicism more narrow than

In consequence, man needs clear, precise, and severe "logic" (the Stoics
were the first to use this word). Armed with this weapon, and only
employing it for self-knowledge and self-control, man makes himself
wise. The "wise man" of the Stoic is a kind of saint--a superman, as it has
since been called--very analogous to his God. All his efforts are
concentrated on safeguarding, conquering, and suppressing his passions,
which are nothing save "diseases of the soul." In the external world he
disregards all the "things of chance"--everything, that is, that does not
depend on human will--and considers them as non-existent: the ailments of
the body, pangs, sufferings, misfortunes, and humiliations are not evils,
they are things indifferent. On the contrary, crimes and errors are such
evils that they are _equally_ execrable, and the wise man should
reproach himself as severely for the slightest fault as for the greatest
crime--a paradoxical doctrine which has aroused the warmth of even
respectful opponents of Stoicism, notably Cicero.

MAXIMS OF THE STOICS.--Their most frequently repeated maxim is
"abstain and endure"; abstain from all evil, suffer all aggression and
so-called misfortune without rebelling or complaining. Another precept
widely propagated among them and by them, "Live according to nature,"
remarkably resembles an Epicurean maxim. This must be made clear. This
precept as they interpreted it meant: adhere freely and respectfully to the
laws of the universe. The world is a God who lives according to the laws He
Himself made, and of which we are not judges. These laws surround us and
compel us; sometimes they wound us. We must respect and obey them, have a
sort of pious desire that they should operate even against ourselves, and
live in reverent conformity with them. Thus understood, the "life in
conformity with nature" is nothing else than an aspect of the maxim,

PRINCIPAL STOICS.--The principal adepts and masters of Stoicism with
and after Zeno were Cleanthes, Chrysippus, Aristo, and Herillus in Greece;
at Rome, Cato, Brutus, Cicero to a certain degree, Thrasea, Epictetus
(withal a Greek, who wrote in Greek), Seneca, and finally the Emperor
Marcus Aurelius. Stoicism rapidly developed into a religion, having its
rites, obediences, ascetic practices, directors of conscience, examination
of conscience, and its adepts with a traditional dress, long cloak, and
long beard. It exerted considerable influence, comparable (comparable
only) to Christianity, but it penetrated only the upper and middle classes
of society in antiquity without descending, or barely descending, to the
masses. Like Epicureanism, Stoicism had a renaissance in modern times in
opposition to Christianity; this will be dealt with later.



Philosophers who Wished to Belong to No School
Philosophers who Decried All Schools and All Doctrines.

THE TWO TENDENCIES.--As might be expected to happen, and as always
happens, the multiplicity of sects brought about two tendencies, one
consisting in selecting somewhat arbitrarily from each sect what one found
best in it, which is called "eclecticism," the other in thinking that no
school grasped the truth, that the truth is not to be grasped, which is
called "scepticism."

THE ECLECTICS: PLUTARCH.--The Eclectics, who did not form a school,
which would have been difficult in the spirit in which they acted, had only
this in common, that they venerated the great thinkers of ancient Greece,
and that they felt or endeavoured to feel respect and toleration for all
religions. They venerated Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Epicurus, Zeno,
Moses, Jesus, St. Paul, and loved to imagine that they were each a partial
revelation of the great divine thought, and they endeavoured to reconcile
these divergent revelations by proceeding on broad lines and general
considerations. Among them were Moderatus, Nicomachus, Nemesius, etc. The
most illustrious, without being the most profound--though his literary
talent has always kept him prominent--was Plutarch. His chief effort, since
then often renewed, was to reconcile reason and faith (I am writing of the
polytheistic faith). Perceiving in mythology ingenious allegories, he
showed that under the name of allegories covering and containing profound
ideas, all polytheism could be accepted by the reason of a Platonist, an
Aristotelian, or a Stoic. The Eclectics had not much influence, and only
pleased two sorts of minds: those who preferred knowledge rather than
conviction, and found in Eclecticism an agreeable variety of points of
view; and those who liked to believe a little in everything, and possessing
receptive but not steadfast minds were not far from sceptics and who might
be called affirmative sceptics in opposition to the negative sceptics:
sceptics who say, "Heavens, yes," as opposed to sceptics who always say,
"Presumably, no."

THE SCEPTICS: PYRRHO.--The Sceptics proper were chronologically more
ancient. The first famous Sceptic was a contemporary of Aristotle; he
followed Alexander on his great expedition into Asia. This was Pyrrho. He
taught, as it appears, somewhat obscurely at Athens, and for successor had
Timon. These philosophers, like so many others, sought happiness and
affirmed that it lay in abstention from decision, in the mind remaining in
abeyance, in _aphasia_. Pyrrho being accustomed to say that he was
indifferent whether he was alive or dead, on being asked, "Then why do you
live?" answered: "Just because it is indifferent whether one lives or is
dead." As may be imagined, their favourite sport was to draw the various
schools into mutual opposition, to rout some by the rest, to show that all
were strong in what they negatived, but weak in what they affirmed, and so
to dismiss them in different directions.

THE NEW ACADEMY.--Scepticism, albeit attenuated, softened, and less
aggressive, reappeared in a school calling itself the New Academy. It
claimed to adhere to Socrates--not without some show of reason, since
Socrates had declared that the only thing he knew was that he knew
nothing--and the essential tenet of this school was to affirm nothing. Only
the Academicians believed that certain things were probable, more probable
than others, and they are the founders of probabilism, which is nothing
more than conviction accompanied with modesty. They were more or less
moderate, according to personal temperament. Arcesilaus was emphatically
moderate, and limited himself to the development of the critical faculties
of his pupil. Carneades was more negative, and arrived at or reverted to
scepticism and sophistry pure and simple. Cicero, with a certain foundation
of Stoicism, was a pupil, and one of the most moderate, of the New Academy.

AENESIDEMUS; AGRIPPA; EMPIRICUS.--Others built on experience itself,
on the incertitude of our sensations and observations, on everything that
can cheat us and cause us illusion in order to display how _relative_
and how miserably partial is human knowledge. Such was Aenesidemus, whom
it might be thought Pascal had read, so much does the latter give the
reasons of the former when he is not absorbed in faith, and when he assumes
the position of a sceptic precisely in order to prove the necessity of
taking refuge in faith. Such was Agrippa; such, too, was Sextus Empiricus,
so often critical of science, who demonstrates (as to a slight extent M.
Henri Poincare does in our own day) that all sciences, even those which,
like mathematics and geometry, are proudest of their certainty, rest upon
conventions and intellectual "conveniences."



Reversion to Metaphysics.
Imaginative Metaphysicians after the Manner of Plato, but in Excess.

ALEXANDRINISM.--Amid all this, metaphysics--namely, the effort to
comprehend the universe--appears somewhat at a discount. It enjoyed a
renaissance in the third century of our era among some teachers from
Alexandria (hence the name of the Alexandrine school) who came to lecture
at Rome with great success. Alexandrinism is a "Neoplatonism"--that is, a
renewed Platonism and, as considered by its authors, an augmented one.

PLOTINUS.--Plotinus taught this: God and matter exist. God is one,
matter is multiple and divisible. God in Himself is incomprehensible, and
is only to be apprehended in his manifestations. Man rises not to
comprehension of Him but to the perception of Him by a series of degrees
which are, as it were, the progressive purification of faith, and which
lead us to a kind of union with Him resembling that of one being with
another whom he could never see, but of whose presence he could have no
doubt. Matter, that is, the universe, is an emanation from God, as perfume
comes from a flower. All is not God, and only God can be God, but all is
divine and all participates in God, just as each of our thoughts
participates of our soul. Now, if all emanates from God, all also tends to
return to Him, as bodies born of earth, nourished by earth, invigorated by
the forces proceeding from the earth, tend to return to the earth. This is
what makes the harmony of the world. The law of laws is, that every
fragment of the universe derived from God returns to Him and desires to
return to Him. The universe is an emanation from the perfect, and an
effort towards perfection. The universe is a God in exile who has
nostalgia for himself. The universe is a progressive descent from God with
a tendency towards reintegration with Him.

How does this emanation from God becoming matter take place? That is a
mystery; but it may be supposed to take place by successive stages. From
God emanates spirit, impersonal spirit which is not spirit of this or that,
but universal spirit spread through the whole world and animating it. From
spirit emanates the soul, which can unite itself to a body and form an
individual. The soul is less divine than spirit, which in turn is less
divine than God, but yet retains divinity. From the soul emanates the body
to which it unites itself. The body is less divine than the soul, which was
less divine than spirit, which was less divine than God; but it still
possesses divinity for it has a form, a figure, a design marked and
impressed with divine spirit. Finally, matter without form is the most
distant of the emanations from God, and the lowest of the descending stages
of God. God _is_ in Himself; He thinks in pure thought in spirit; He
thinks in mixed and confused thought in the soul; He feels in the body; He
sleeps in unformed matter. The object of unformed matter is to acquire
form, that is a body; and the object of a body is to have a soul; and the
aim of a soul is to be united in spirit, and the aim of spirit is to be
absorbed into God.

Souls not united to bodies contemplate spirit and enjoy absolute
happiness. Other souls not united to bodies, but solicited by a certain
instinct to unite themselves to bodies, are of ambiguous but still very
exalted nature. Souls united to bodies (our own) have descended far, but
can raise themselves and be purified by contemplation of the eternal
intelligence, and by relative union with it. This contemplation has
several degrees, so to speak, of intensity, degrees which Plotinus termed
hypostases. By perception we obtain a glimpse of ideas, by dialectics we
penetrate them; by a final hypostasis, which is ecstasy, we can sometimes
unite ourselves directly to God and live in Him.

THE PUPILS OF PLOTINUS.--Plotinus had as pupils and successors,
amongst others, Porphyry and Iamblichus. Porphyry achieves little except
the exposition of the doctrine of his master, and shows originality only as
a logician. Iamblichus and his school made a most interesting effort to
revive exhausted and expiring paganism and to constitute a philosophic
paganism. The philosophers of the school of Iamblichus are, by the way,
magicians, charlatans, miracle-mongers, men as antipositivist as
possible. Iamblichus himself sought to reconcile polytheism with
Neoplatonism by putting in the centre of all a supreme deity, an essential
deity from whom he made a crowd of secondary, tertiary, and quaternary
deities to emanate, ranging from those purely immaterial to those inherent
in matter. The subtle wanderings of Neoplatonism were continued obscurely
in the school of Athens until it was closed for ever in 529 by the Emperor
Justinian as being hostile to the religion of the Empire, which at that
epoch was Christianity.



Philosophic Ideas which Christianity Welcomed, Adopted, or Created
How it must Give a Fresh Aspect to All Philosophy,
even that Foreign to Itself.

CHRISTIAN PHILOSOPHY AND MORALITY.--Christianity spread through the
Empire by the propaganda of the Apostles, and more especially St. Paul,
from about the year 40. Its success was extremely rapid, especially among
the populace, and little by little it won over the upper classes. As a
general philosophy, primitive Christianity did not absolutely bring more
than the Hebrew dogmas: the unity of God, a providential Deity, that is,
one directly interfering in human affairs; immortality of the soul with
rewards and penalties beyond the grave (a recent theory among the Jews, yet
one anterior to Christianity). As a moral system, Christianity brought
something so novel and so beautiful that it is not very probable that
humanity will ever surpass it, which may be imperfectly and incompletely
summed up thus: love of God; He must not only be feared as He was by the
pagans and the ancient Jews; He must be loved passionately as a son loves
his father, and all things must be done for this love and in consideration
of this love; all men are brethren as sons of God, and they should love one
another as brothers; love your neighbour as yourself, love him who does not
love you; love your enemies; be not greedy for the goods of this world, nor
ambitious, nor proud; for God loves the lowly, the humble, the suffering,
and the miserable, and He will exalt the lowly and put down the mighty from
their seats.

Nothing like this had been said in all antiquity, and it needs
extraordinary ingenuity (of a highly interesting character, by the way), to
find in ancient wisdom even a few traces of this doctrine.

Finally, into politics, so to speak, Christianity brought this novelty:
there are two empires, the empire of God and the empire of man; you do not
owe everything to the earthly empire; you are bound to give it faithfully
only what is needed for it to be strong and to preserve society; apart from
that, and that done, you are the subject of God and have only to answer to
God for your thoughts, your belief, your conscience; and over that portion
of yourself the State has neither right nor authority unless it be usurped
and tyrannical. And therein lay the charter of individual liberty like the
charter of the rights of man.

As appeal to the feelings, Christianity brought the story of a young God,
infinitely good and gentle, who had never cursed, who had been infinitely
loved, who had been persecuted and betrayed, who had forgiven his
executioners, and who died in great sufferings and who was to be imitated
(whence came the thirst for martyrdom). This story in itself is not more
affecting than that of Socrates, but it is that of a young martyr and not
of an old one, and therein lies a marked difference for the imagination and
emotions of the multitude.

THE SUCCESS OF CHRISTIANITY.--The prodigious rapidity of the success
of Christianity is easily explicable. Polytheism had no longer a great hold
on the masses, and no philosophic doctrine had found or had even sought the
path to the crowd; Christianity, essentially democratic, loved the weak and
humble, had a tendency to prefer them to the great ones of this world, and
to regard them as being more the children of God, and was therefore
received by the masses as the only doctrine which could replace the
worm-eaten polytheism. And in Christianity they saw the religion for which
they were waiting, and in the heads of Christianity their own protectors
and defenders.

ITS EVOLUTION.--The evolution of Christianity was very rapid, and
from a great moral doctrine with a minimum of rudimentary metaphysics it
became, perchance mistakenly, a philosophy giving account, or desirous of
giving account of everything; it so to speak incorporated a metaphysic,
borrowed in great part from Greek philosophy, in great part from the Hebrew
traditions. It possessed ideas on the origin of matter, and whilst
maintaining that God was eternal, denied that matter was, and asserted that
God created it out of nothing. It had theories on the essence of God, and
saw Him in three Persons, or hypostases, one aspect of God as power,
another as love, and the other as intelligence. It presented theories on
the incarnation and humanisation of God, God being made man in Jesus Christ
without ceasing to be God. It conceived new relationships of man to God,
man having in himself powers of purgation and perfection, but always
needing divine help for self-perfection (theory of grace). And this he
must believe; if not he would feel insolent pride in his freedom. It had
ideas about the existence of evil, declaring in "justification of God" for
having permitted evil on earth, that the world was a place of trial, and
that evil was only a way of putting man to the test and discovering what
were his merits. It had its notions on the rewards and penalties beyond the
grave, hell for the wicked and heaven for the good, as had been known to
antiquity, but added purgatory, a place for both punishment and
purification by punishment, an entirely Platonic theory, which Plato may
have inspired but did not himself entertain. Finally, it was a complete
philosophy answering, and that in a manner often admirable, all the
questions that mankind put or could ever put.

And, as so often happens, that has proved a weakness and a strength to it:
a weakness because embarrassed with subtle, complicated, insoluble
questions wherein mankind will always be involved, it was forced to engage
in endless discussions wherein the bad or feeble reasons advanced by this
or that votary compromised the whole work; a strength because whoever
brings a rule of life is practically compelled to support it by general
ideas bearing on the relations of things and to give it a place in a
general survey of the world; otherwise he appears impotent, weak,
disqualified to give that very rule of life, incapable of replying to the
interrogations raised by that rule of life; and finally, lacking in

SCHISMS AND HERESIES.--Right or wrong, and it is difficult and
highly hazardous to decide the question, Christianity was a complete
philosophy, which was why it had its schisms and heresies, a certain number
of sincere Christians not resolving the metaphysical questions in the way
of the majority. Heresies were innumerable; only the two shall be cited
which are deeply interesting in the history of philosophy. Manes, an Arab
(and Arabia was then a Persian province), revived the old Zoroastrian
doctrine of two principles of good and evil, and saw in the world two
contending gods, the God of perfection and the god of sin, and laid upon
man the duty of assisting the God of goodness so that His kingdom should
come and cause the destruction of evil in the world. From him proceeded the
Manicheans, who exerted great influence and were condemned by many Councils
until their sect died out, only to reappear or seem to reappear fairly
often in the Middle Ages and in modern times.

Arius denied the Trinity, believing only in one God, not only unique, but
in one Person, and in consequence denied the divinity of Jesus Christ. He
was perpetually involved in controversies and polemics, supported by some
Bishops, opposed by the majority. After his death his doctrine spread
strangely. It was stifled in the East by Theodosius, but was widely
adopted by the "barbarians" of the West (Goths, Vandals, Burgundians,
Lombards). It was revived, more or less exactly, after the Reformation,
among the Socinians.

ROME AND CHRISTIANITY.--The relations of Christianity with the Roman
government were in the highest degree tragic, as is common knowledge. There
were ten sanguinary persecutions, some being atrocious. It has often been
asked what was the cause of this animosity against the Christians on the
part of a government which tolerated all religions and all
philosophies. Persecutions were natural at Athens where a democracy,
obstinately attached to the local deities, treated as enemies of the
country those who did not take these gods into consideration; persecutions
were natural on the part of a Calvin or a Louis XIV who combined in
themselves the two authorities and would not admit that anyone in the State
had the right to think differently from its head; but it has been argued
that they were incomprehensible on the part of a government which admitted
all cults and all doctrines. The explanation perhaps primarily lies in the
fact that Christianity was essentially popular, and that the government saw
in it not only plebeianism, which was disquieting, but an organisation of
plebeianism, which was still more so. The administration of religion had
always been in the hands of the aristocracy; the Roman pontiffs were
patricians, the Emperor was the sovereign pontiff; to yield obedience, even
were it only spiritually, to private men as priests was to be disobedient
to the Roman aristocracy, to the Emperor himself, and was properly speaking
a revolt.

A further explanation, perhaps, is that each new religion that was
introduced at Rome did not oppose and did not contradict polytheism, the
principle of polytheism being precisely that there are many gods; whereas
Christianity denying all those gods and affirming that there is only one,
and that all others must be despised as non-existent, inveighed against,
denied, and ruined or threatened to destroy the very essence of
polytheism. It was not a variation, it was a heresy; it was more than
heretical, it was anarchical; it did not only condemn this or that
religion, but even the very tolerance with which the Roman government
accepted all religions. Hence it is natural enough that it should have been
combated to the utmost by practically all the Emperors, from the most
execrable, such as Nero, to the best, such as Marcus Aurelius.

CHRISTIANITY AND THE PHILOSOPHERS.--The relations of Christianity
with philosophy were confused. The immense majority of philosophers
rejected it, considering their own views superior to it, and moreover,
feeling it to be formidable, made use against it of all that could be found
beautiful, specious, or expedient in ancient philosophy; and the ardour of
Neoplatonism, which we have considered, in part arose from precisely this
instinct of rivalry and of struggle. At that epoch there was a throng of
men like Ernest Havet presenting Hellenism in opposition to Christianity,
and Ernest Havet is only a Neoplatonist of the nineteenth century.

A certain number of philosophers, nevertheless, either on the
Jewish-Christian side or on the Hellenic, tried some reconciliation either
as Jews making advances to Hellenism or as Greeks admitting there was
something acceptable on the part of Sion. Aristobulus, a Jew (prior to
Jesus Christ), seems to have endeavoured to bring Moses into agreement with
Plato; Philo (a Jew contemporary with and surviving Jesus Christ and a
non-Christian), about whom there is more information, throughout his life
pursued the plan of demonstrating all the resemblances he could discover
between Plato and the Old Testament, much in the same way as in our time
some have striven to point out the surprising agreement of the Darwinian
theory with Genesis. He was called the Jewish Plato, and at Alexandria it
was said: "Philo imitates Plato or Plato imitates Philo."

On their side, later on, certain eclectic Greeks already cited, Moderatus,
Nicomachus, Nemesius, extended goodwill so far as to take into account, if
not Jesus, at least Moses, and to admit Israelitish thought into the
history of philosophy and of human wisdom. But, in general it was by the
schools of philosophy and by the ever dwindling section of society priding
itself upon its philosophy that Christianity was most decisively repulsed,
thrust on one side and misunderstood.

CHRISTIAN PHILOSOPHERS.--Without dealing with many others who belong
more especially to the history of the Church rather than to that of
philosophy, the Christians did not lack two very illustrious philosophers
who must receive attention--Origen and St. Augustine.

ORIGEN.--Origen was a native of Alexandria at the close of the
second century, and a pupil of St. Clement of Alexandria. A Christian and a
Platonist, in order to give himself permission and excuse for reconciling
the two doctrines, he alleged that the Apostles had given only so much of
the Christian teaching as the multitude could comprehend, and that the
learned could interpret it in a manner more subtle, more profound, and more
complete. Having observed this precaution, he revealed his system, which
was this: God is a pure spirit. He already has descended one step in
_spirits_ which are emanations from Him. These spirits are capable of
good and evil. When addicted to evil, they clothe themselves with matter
and become souls in bodies;--which is what we are. There are others lower
than ourselves. There are impure spirits which have clothed themselves
with unclean bodies; these are demons. Now, as the fallen brethren of
angels, we are free, less free than they, but still free. Through this
freedom we can in our present existence either raise or lower
ourselves. But this freedom does not suffice us; a little help is
essential. This help comes to us from the spirits which have remained
pure. The help they afford us is opposed by the efforts of the utterly
fallen spirits who are lower in the scale than ourselves. To combat these
fallen spirits, to help the pure spirits who help us, and to help them to
help us, such is our duty in this life, which is a medicine, the medicine
of Plato, namely a punishment; sterile when it is not accepted by us,
salutary when gratefully accepted by us, it then becomes expiation and in
consequence purification. The part of the Redeemer in all this is the same
as that of the spirits, but on a grander and more decisive plane. King of
spirits, Spirit of spirits, by revelation He illumines our confused
intelligence and fortifies our weak will against temptation.

ST. AUGUSTINE.--St. Augustine of Tagaste (in Africa), long a pagan
exercising the profession of professor of rhetoric, became a Christian and
was Bishop of Hippo. It is he who "fixed" the Christian doctrine in the way
most suitable to and most acceptable to Western intelligence. Instead of
confusing it, more or less intentionally, more or less inadvertently, with
philosophy, he exerted all his great talents to make the most precise
distinction from it. Philosophers (he says) have always regarded the world
as an emanation from God. Then all is God. Such is not the way to
reason. There is no emanation, but creation; God created the world and has
remained distinct from it. He lives in it in such a way that we live in
Him; in Him we live and move and have our being; He dwells throughout the
world, but He is not the world; He is everywhere but He is not all. God
created the world. Then, can it be said that before the world was created
God remained doing nothing during an immense space of time? Certainly not,
because time only began at the creation of the world. God is outside
time. The eternal is the absence of time. God, therefore, was not an
instant before He created the world. Or, if it be preferred, there was an
eternity before the birth of the world. But it is the same thing; for
eternity is the non-existence of time.

Some understand God in three Persons as three Gods. This polytheism, this
paganism must be rejected. But how to understand? How? You feel in
yourself several souls? No. And yet there are several faculties of the
soul. The three Persons of God are the three divine faculties. Man has body
and soul. No one ought to have doubts about the soul, for to have doubts
presupposes thought, and to think is to be; above all things we are
thinking beings. But what is the soul? Something immaterial, assuredly,
since it can conceive immaterial things, such as a line, a point, surface,
space. It is as necessary for the soul to be immaterial in order to be able
to grasp the immaterial, as it is necessary for the hand to be material in
order that it can grasp a stone.

Whence comes the soul? From the souls of ancestors by transmission? This is
not probable, for this would be to regard it as material. From God by
emanation? This is inadmissible; it is the same error as believing that the
world emanates from God. Here, too, there is no emanation, but creation.
God creates the souls in destination for bodies themselves born from
heredity. Once the body is destroyed, what becomes of the soul? It cannot
perish; for thought not being dependent upon the senses, there is no reason
for its disappearance on the disappearance of the senses.

Human liberty is an assured fact; we are free to do good or evil. But then
God has not been able to know in advance what I shall do to-day, and in
consequence God, at least in His knowledge, has limitations, is not
omnipotent. St. Augustine replies confusedly (for the question is
undoubtedly insoluble) that we have an illusion of liberty, an illusion
that we are free, which suffices for us to acquire merit if we do right and
demerit if we do wrong, and that this illusion of liberty is a relative
liberty, which leaves the prescience of God, and therefore His omnipotence,
absolute. Man is also extremely weak, debilitated, and incapable of good on
account of original sin, the sin of our first parents, which is transmitted
to us through heredity and paralyses us. But God helps us, and this is what
is termed grace. He helps us gratuitously, as is indicated by the word
"grace"--if He wishes and when He wishes and in the measure that He wishes.
From this arises the doctrine of "predestination," by which it is
preordained whether a man is to be saved or lost.





Philosophy is only an Interpreter of Dogma.

When it is Declared Contrary to Dogma by the Authority of Religion,
it is a Heresy.

Orthodox and Heterodox Interpretations.

Some Independent Philosophers.

DOGMA.--After the invasion of the barbarians, philosophy, like
literature, sought refuge in monasteries and in the schools which prelates
instituted and maintained near them. But the Church does not permit the
free search for truth. The truth has been established by the Fathers of the
Church and fixed by the Councils. Thenceforth the philosophic life, so to
speak, which had never been interrupted, assumed a fresh character. Within
the Church it sheltered--I will not say disguised--itself under the
interpretation of dogma; it became a sort of respectful auxiliary of
theology, and was accordingly called the "handmaid of theology," _ancilla
theologiae_. When emancipated, when departing from dogma, it is a
"heresy," and all the great heresies are nothing else than schools of
philosophy, which is why heresies must come into a history of
philosophy. And at last, but only towards the close of the Middle Ages, lay
thought without disturbing itself about dogma and no longer thinking about
its interpretation, created philosophic doctrines exactly as the
philosophers of antiquity invented them apart from religion, to which they
were either hostile or indifferent.

SCHOLASTICISM: SCOTUS ERIGENA.--The orthodox philosophy of the
Middle Ages was the scholastic. Scholasticism consisted in amassing and in
making known scientific facts and matters of knowledge of which it was
useful for a well-bred man not to be ignorant and for this purpose
encyclopaedias were constructed; on the other hand, it consisted not
precisely in the reconciliation of faith with reason, not precisely and far
less in the submission of faith to the criticism of reason, but in making
faith sensible to reason, as had been the office of the Fathers of the
Church, more especially St. Augustine.

Scotus Erigena, a Scotsman attached to the Palatine Academy of Charles the
Bald, lived in the eleventh century. He was extremely learned. His
philosophy was Platonic, or rather the bent of his mind was Platonic. God
is the absolute Being; He is unnamable, since any name is a delimitation of
the being; He _is_ absolutely and infinitely. As the creator of all
and uncreated, He is the cause _per se_; as the goal to which all
things tend, He is the supreme end. The human soul is of impenetrable
essence like God Himself; accordingly, it is God in us. We have fallen
through the body and, whilst in the flesh, we can, by virtue and more
especially by the virtue of penitence, raise ourselves to the height of the
angels. The world is the continuous creation of God. It must not be said
that God created the world, but that He creates it; for if He ceased from
sustaining it, the world would no longer exist. God is perpetual creation
and perpetual attraction. He draws all beings to Himself, and in the end He
will have them all in Himself. There is predestination to perfection in

These theories, some of which, as has been seen, go beyond dogma and form
at least the beginning of heresy, are all impregnated with Platonism,
especially with Neoplatonism, and lead to the supposition that Scotus
Erigena possessed very wide Greek learning.

ARABIAN SCIENCE.--A great literary and philosophical fact in the
eighth century was the invasion of the Arabs. Mahometans successively
invaded Syria, Persia, Africa, and Spain, forming a crescent, the two
points of which touched the two extremities of Europe. Inquisitive and
sagacious pupils of the Greeks in Africa and Asia, they founded everywhere
brilliant universities which rapidly acquired renown (Bagdad, Bassorah,
Cordova, Granada, Seville, Murcia) and brought to Europe a new quota of
science; for instance, all the works of Aristotle, of which Western Europe
possessed practically nothing. Students greedy for knowledge came to learn
from them in Spain; for instance, Gerbert, who developed into a man of
great learning, who taught at Rheims and became Pope. Individually the
Arabs were often great philosophers, and at least the names must be
mentioned of Avicenna (a Neoplatonist of the tenth century) and Averroes
(an Aristotelian of the twelfth century who betrayed tendencies towards
admitting the eternity of nature, and its evolution through its own
initiative during the course of time). Their doctrines were propagated,
and the ancient books which they made known became widely diffused. From
them dates the sway of Aristotle throughout the middle ages.

ST. ANSELM.--St. Anselm, in the eleventh century, a Savoyard, who
was long Abbot of Bec in Normandy and died Archbishop of Canterbury, is one
of the most illustrious doctors of philosophy in the service of theology
that ever lived. "A new St. Augustine" (as he has been called), he starts
from faith to arrive at faith after it has been rendered sensible to
reason. Like St. Augustine he says: "I believe in order to understand"
(well persuaded that if I never believed I should never understand), and he
adds what had been in the thought of St. Augustine: "I understand in order
to believe." St. Anselm proved the existence of God by the most abstract
arguments. For example, "It is necessary to have a cause, one or multiple;
one is God; multiple, it can be derived from one single cause, and that one
cause is God; it can be a particular cause in each thing caused; but then
it is necessary to suppose a personal force which must itself have a cause
and thus we work back to a common cause, that is to say to a single one."

He proved God again by the proof which has remained famous under the name
of the argument of St. Anselm: To conceive God is to prove that He is; the
conception of God is proof of His existence; for every idea has its object;
above all, an idea which has infinity for object takes for granted the
existence of infinity; for all being finite here below, what would give the
idea of infinity to the human mind? Therefore, if the human brain has the
idea of infinity it is because of the existence of infinity. The argument
is perhaps open to difference of opinion, but as proof of a singular vigour
of mind on the part of its author, it is indisputable.

Highly intellectual also is his explanation of the necessity of
redemption. _Cur Deus Homo?_ (the title of one of his works) asked
St. Anselm. Because sin in relation to an infinite God is an infinite
crime. Man, finite and limited in capacity, could therefore never expiate
it. Then what could God do to avenge His honour and to have satisfaction
rendered to Him? He could only make Himself man without ceasing to be God,
in order that as man He should offer to God a reparation to which as God He
would give the character of infinitude. It was therefore absolutely
necessary that at a given moment man should become God, which could only be
done upon the condition that God made Himself man.

St. Anselm that there arose the celebrated philosophic quarrel between the
"realists, nominalists, and conceptualists." It is here essential to employ
these technical terms or else not to allude to the dispute at all, because
the strife is above all a war of words. The realists (of whom St. Anselm
was one), said: "The ideas (idea of virtue, idea of sin, idea of greatness,
idea of littleness) are realities; they exist, in a spiritual manner of
course, but they really exist; they are: there is a virtue, a sin, a
greatness, a littleness, a reason, etc. (and this was an exact reminiscence
of the ideas of Plato). It is indeed only the idea, the general, the
universal, which is real, and the particular has only the appearance of
reality. Men do not exist, the individual man does not exist; what exists
is 'man' in general, and individual men are only the appearance of--the
coloured reflections of--the universal man." The nominalists (Roscelin the
Canon of Compiegne, for instance) answered: "No; the general ideas, the
universals as you say, are only names, are only words, emissions of the
voice, labels, if you like, which we place on such and such categories of
facts observed by us; there is no greatness; there are a certain number of
great things, and when we think of them we inscribe this word 'greatness'
on the general idea which we conceive. 'Man' does not exist; there are men
and the word humanity is only a word which to us represents a collective

Why did the realists cling so to their universals, held to be realities and
the sole realities? For many reasons. If the individual alone be real,
there are not three Persons in the Godhead, there are three Gods and the
unity of God is not real, it is only a word, and God is not real, He is
only an utterance of the voice. If the individual is not real, the Church
is not real; she does not exist, there only exist Christians who possess
freedom of thought and of faith. Now the Church is real and it is not only
desirable that she should be real, but even that she alone should possess
reality and that the individuals constituting her should exist by her and
not by themselves. (This is precisely the doctrine with regard to society
now current among certain philosophers: society exists independently of its
members; it has laws of its own independently of its members; it is a
reality on its own basis; and its members are by it, not it by them, and
therefore they should obey it; M. Durckheim is a "realist.")

ABELARD of Nantes, pupil of the nominalist, William of Champeaux,
learned man, artist, man of letters, an incomparable orator, tried to
effect a conciliation. He said: "The universal is not a reality, certainly;
but it is something more than a simple word; it is a conception of the
mind, which is something more than an utterance of the voice. As conception
of the mind, in fact, it lives with a life which goes beyond the
individual, because it can be common to several individuals to many
individuals, and because in fact it is common to them. The general idea
that I have and which I have communicated to my hearers, and which returns
to me from my hearers, is more than a word since it is a link between my
hearers and myself, and an atmosphere in which I and my hearers live. Is
the Church only to be a word? God forbid that I should say so. She is a
bond between all Christians; she is a general idea common to them all, so
that in her each individual feels himself several, feels himself many;
although it is true that were she not believed in by anyone she would be
nothing." At bottom he was a nominalist, but more subtle, also more
profound and more precise, having a better grasp of what William of
Champeaux had desired to say. He shared in his condemnation.

Apart from the great dispute, his ideas were singularly broad and
bold. Half knowing, half guessing at ancient philosophy, he held it in high
esteem; he found there, because he delighted in finding there, all the
Christian ideas: the one God, the Trinity, the Incarnation, the imputation
of the merits of the saints, original sin; and he found less of a gulf
between ancient philosophy and Christianity than between the Old and the
New Testament (this is because the only Christianity known to Abelard, not
the primitive but that constituted in the fourth century, was profoundly
impregnated with Hellenism). He believed the Holy Ghost to have revealed
Himself to the wise men of antiquity as well as to the Jews and the
Christians, and that virtuous pagans may have been saved. The moral
philosophy of Abelard is very elevated and pure. Our acts proceed from
God; for it is impossible that they should not; but He permits us the
faculty of disobedience "in order that virtue may exist," to which it
tends; for if the tendency to evil did not exist, there would be no
possibility of effort against evil, and if no efforts, then no virtue; God,
who cannot be virtuous since He cannot be tempted by evil, can be virtuous
in man, which is why He leaves him the tendency to evil for him to triumph
over it and be virtuous so that virtue may exist; even if He were Himself
to lead us into temptation, the tendency would still be the same; He would
only lead us into it to give us the opportunity for struggle and victory,
and therefore in order that virtue might exist; the possibility of sin is
the condition of virtue, and in consequence, even in the admission of this
possibility and above all by its admission, God is virtuous.

The bad deed, furthermore, is not the most considerable from the point of
view of guilt; as merit or demerit the intention is worth as much as the
deed and he is criminal who has had the intention to be so (which is
clearly according to the Gospel).

HUGO DE SAINT-VICTOR; RICHARD.--Abelard possessed perhaps the
broadest and greatest mind of the whole of the Middle Ages. After these
famous names must be mentioned Hugo de Saint-Victor, a somewhat obscure
mystic of German origin; and the not less mystical Richard, who, thoroughly
persuaded that God is not attained by reason but by feeling, taught
exaltation to Him by detachment from self and by six degrees: renunciation,
elevation, impulsion, precipitation, ecstasy, and absorption.



Influence of Aristotle
His Adoption by the Church.
Religious Philosophy of St. Thomas Aquinas.

ARISTOTLE AND THE CHURCH.--From the thirteenth century, Aristotle,
completely known and translated into Latin, was adopted by the Church and
became in some sort its lay vicar. He was regarded, and I think rightly, as
of all the Greek thinkers the least dangerous to her and as the one to whom
could be left all the scientific instruction whilst she reserved to herself
all the religious teaching. Aristotle, in fact, "defended her from Plato,"
in whom were always found some germs of adoration of this world, or some
tendencies in this direction, in whom was also found a certain polytheism
much disguised, or rather much purified, but actual and dangerous;
therefore, from the moment when it became necessary to select, Aristotle
was tolerated and finally invested with office.

ST. THOMAS AQUINAS.--As Aristotelian theologians must be cited
William of Auvergne, Vincent of Beauvais, Albertus Magnus; but the
sovereign name of this period of the history of philosophy is St. Thomas
Aquinas. St. Thomas Aquinas wrote several small works but, surpassing them
all, the _Summa_ (encyclopaedia) which bears his name. In general
philosophy St. Thomas Aquinas is an Aristotelian, bending but not
distorting the ideas of Aristotle to Christian conceptions. Like
Aristotle, he demonstrated God by the existence of motion and the necessity
of a first motive power; he further demonstrated it by the contingent,
relative, and imperfect character of all here below: "There is in things
more or less goodness, more or less truth." But we only affirm the more or
less of a thing by comparing it with something absolute and as it
approaches more or less to this absolute; there is therefore an absolute
being, namely God--and this argument appeared to him better than that of
St. Anselm, which he refuted.

HIS CONCEPTION OF NATURE.--He showed the whole of nature as a great
hierarchy, proceeding from the least perfect and the most shapeless to the
most complete and determinate; from another aspect, as separated into two
great kingdoms, that of necessity (mineral, vegetable, animal), and that of
grace (humanity). He displayed it willed by God, projected by God, created
by God; governed by God according to antecedent and consequent wills, that
is, by general wills (God desires man to be saved) and by particular wills
(God wishes the sinner to be punished), and the union of the general wills
is the creation, and the result of all the particular wills is
Providence. Nature and man with it are the work not only of the power but
of the goodness of God, and it is by love that He created us and we must
render Him love for love, which is involuntarily done by Nature herself in
her obedience to His laws, and which we must do voluntarily by obedience to
His commandments.

THE SOUL.--Our soul is immaterial and more complete than that of
animals, for St. Thomas does not formally deny that animals have souls; the
instinct of animals is the sensitive soul according to Aristotle, which is
capable of four faculties: sensibility, imagination, memory, and
estimation, that is elementary intelligence: "The bird picks up straw, not
because it gratifies her feelings [not by a movement of sensibility], but
because it serves to make her nest. It is therefore necessary that an
animal should perceive those intuitions which do not come within the scope
of the senses. It is by opinion or estimation that it perceives these
intuitions, these distant ends." We, mankind, possess a soul which is
sensibility, imagination, memory, and reason. Reason is the faculty not
only of having ideas, but of establishing connections and chains of
connection between the ideas and of conceiving general ideas. Reason pauses
before reaching God because the idea of God precisely is the only one which
cannot be brought to the mind by the interrelation of ideas, for God
surpasses all ideas; the idea of God is given by faith, which can be
subsequently helped by reason, for the latter can work to make faith
perceptible to reason.

Our soul is full of passions, divisible into two great categories, the
passions of desire and those of anger. The passions of desire are rapid or
violent movements towards some object which seems to us a good; the
passions of anger are movements of revolt against something which opposes
our movement towards a good. The common root of all the passions is love,
for it is obvious that from it are derived the passions of desire; and as
for the passions of wrath they would not exist if we had no love of
anything, in which case our desire not coming into collision would not turn
into revolt against the obstacle. We are free to do good or evil, to master
our evil passions and to follow those of which reason approves. Here
reappears the objection of the knowledge God must have beforehand of our
actions: if God foresees our actions we are not free; if free, we act
contrary to his previsions, then He is not all-powerful. St. Thomas makes
answer thus: "There is not prevision, there is vision, because we are in
time whereas God is in eternity. He sees at one glance and instantaneously
all the past, present, and future. Therefore, He does not foresee but see,
and this vision does not hinder human freedom any more than being seen
acting prevents one from acting. Because God knows our deeds after they are
done, no one can plead that that prevents our full liberty to do them; if
He knew them before it is the same as knowing them after, because for Him
past, present, and future are all the same moment." This appears subtle but
is not, for it only amounts to the statement that in speaking of God time
must not be mentioned, for God is as much outside time as outside space.

THE MORAL SYSTEM OF ST. THOMAS.--The very detailed and
circumstantial moral system of St. Thomas may thus be summarized: there is
in conscience, first, an intellectual act which is the distinction between
good and evil; secondly, an act of will which leads us to the good. This
power for good urges the practice of virtue. There are human virtues, well
known to the ancient philosophers, temperance, courage, wisdom, justice,
which lead to happiness on earth; there are divine virtues, inspired in man
by God, which are faith, hope, and charity, and they lead to eternal
happiness. We practise the virtues, when we are well-disposed, because we
are free; but our liberty and our will do not suffice; it is necessary for
God to help us, and that is "grace."

FAITH AND REASON.--On the question of the relation of reason to
faith, St. Thomas Aquinas recognizes, or rather proclaims, that reason will
never demonstrate faith, that the revealed truths, the Trinity, original
sin, grace, etc., are above reason and infinitely exceed it. How, then, can
one believe? By will, aided by the grace of God. Then henceforth must no
appeal be made to reason? Yes, indeed! Reason serves to refute the errors
of the adversaries of the faith, and by this refutation to confirm itself
in belief. The famous _Credo ut intelligam_--I believe in order to
understand--is therefore true. Comprehension is only possible on condition
of belief; but subsequently comprehension helps to believe, if not more, at
least with a greater precision and in a more abundant light. St. Thomas
Aquinas here is in exactly the position which Pascal seems to have taken
up: Believe and you will understand; understand and you will believe more
exactly. Therefore an act of will: "I wish to believe"--a grace of God
fortifying this will: faith exists--studies and reasoning: faith is the

ST. BONAVENTURA; RAYMOND LULLE.--Beside these men of the highest
brain-power there are found in the thirteenth century mystics, that is,
poets and eccentrics, both by the way most interesting. It was St.
Bonaventura who, being persuaded, almost like an Alexandrine, that one
rises to God by synthetic feeling and not by series of arguments, and that
one journeys towards Him by successive states of the soul each more pure
and more passionate--wrote _The Journey of the Soul to God_, which is,
so to speak, a manual of mysticism. Learned as he was, whilst pursuing his
own purpose, he digressed in agreeable and instructive fashion into the
realms of real knowledge.

Widely different from him, Raymond Lulle or de Lulle, an unbridled
schoolman, in his _Ars magna_ invented a reasoning machine, analogous
to an arithmetical machine, in which ideas were automatically deduced from
one another as the figures inscribe themselves on a counter. As often
happens, the excess of the method was its own criticism, and an enemy of
scholasticism could not have more ingeniously demonstrated that it was a
kind of mechanism. Raymond de Lulle was at once a learned man and a
well-informed and most enquiring naturalist for whom Arabian science held
no secrets. With that he was poet, troubadour, orator, as well as very
eccentric and attractive. He was beloved and persecuted in his lifetime,
and long after his death still found enthusiastic disciples.

BACON.--Contemporaneously lived the man whom it is generally the
custom to regard as the distant precursor of experimental science, Roger
Bacon (who must not be confused with Francis Bacon, another learned man who
lived much nearer to our own time). Roger Bacon, a Franciscan friar,
occupied himself almost exclusively with physical and natural science. He
passed the greater portion of his life in prison by reason of alleged
sorcery and, more especially, perhaps, because he had denounced the evil
lives of his brethren. He had at least a presentiment of almost all modern
inventions: gunpowder, magnifying glass, telescope, air-pump; he was
distinctly an inventor in optics. In philosophy, properly speaking, he
denounced what was hollow and empty in scholasticism, detesting that
preference should be given to "the straw of words rather than to the grain
of fact," and proclaiming that reasoning "is good to conclude but not to
establish." Without discovering the law of progress, as has too often been
alleged, he arrived at the conclusion that antiquity being the youth of the
world, the moderns are the adults, which only meant that it would be at our
school that the ancients would learn were they to return to earth and that
we ought not to believe blindly in the ancients; and this was an
insurrection against the principle of authority and against the idolatry of
Aristotle. He preached the direct study of nature, observation, and
experiment with the subsequent application of deduction, and especially of
mathematical deduction, to experiment and observation. With all that, he
believed in astrology; for those who are in advance of their time none the
less belong to it: but he was a very great man.



Decadence of Scholasticism. Forebodings of the Coming
Era. Great Moralists. The Kabbala. Sorcery.

DECADENCE OF SCHOLASTICISM.--The fourteenth century dated the
decadence of scholasticism, but saw little new. "Realism" was generally
abandoned, and the field was swept by "nominalism," which was the theory
that ideas only have existence in the brains which conceive them. Thus
Durand de Saint-Pourcain remains famous for having said, "To exist is to be
individually," which at that epoch was very audacious. William of Ockham
repeated the phrase with emphasis; there is nothing real except the
individual. That went so far as to cast suspicion on all metaphysics, and
somewhat on theology. In fact, _although a devout believer_, Ockham
rejected theology, implored the Church not to be learned, because her
science proved nothing, and to content herself with faith: "Science belongs
to God, faith to men." But, or rather in addition, if the ministers of God
were no longer imposing because of their ambitious science, it was
necessary for them to regain their sway over souls by other and better
means. It was incumbent on them to be saintly, to revert to the purity, the
simplicity, and the divine childishness of the primitive Church; and here
he was virtually a forerunner of the Reformation.

Ockham was indeed one of the auxiliaries of Philip the Fair in his struggle
with the Holy See, suffered excommunication, and sought refuge with the
Duke of Bavaria, the foe of the Pope.

continued their mutual strife, sometimes physically even, until the middle
of the fifteenth century. But nominalism always gained ground, having
among other celebrated champions, Peter d'Ailly and Buridan; the one
succeeded in becoming Chancellor of the University of Paris, the other in
becoming its Rector. Buridan has remained famous through his death and his
donkey, both alike legendary. According to a ballad by Villon, Buridan
having been too tenderly loved by Joan of Navarre, wife of Philip the Fair,
was by his order "thrown in a sack into the Seine." By comparison of
dates, the fact seems impossible. According to tradition, either in order
to show the freedom of indifference, or that animals are mere machines,
Buridan declared that an ass with two baskets full of corn placed one on
each side of him and at equal distance from him, would never decide from
which he should feed and would die of starvation. Nothing of the kind is to
be found in his works, but he may have said so in a lecture and his pupils
remembering it have handed it down as a proverb.

PETER D'AILLY; GERSON.--Peter d'Ailly, a highly important
ecclesiastic, head of the College of Navarre, chevalier of the University
of Paris, Cardinal, a leader in the discussions at the Councils at Pisa and
Constance, a drastic reformer of the morals and customs of the Church, did
not evince any marked originality as a philosopher, but maintained the
already known doctrines of nominalism with extraordinary dialectical skill.

Among his pupils he numbered Gerson, who was also Chancellor of the
University of Paris, another highly zealous and energetic reformer, a more
avowed enemy of scholasticism and mysticism, of exaggerated austerity and
astrology, eminently modern in the best sense of the word, whose political
and religious enemies are his title of respect. He was the author of many
small books devoted to the popularization of science, religion, and
morality. To him was long attributed the _Imitation of Jesus Christ_,
which on the whole bears no resemblance to his writings, but which he might
very well have written in old age in his retreat in the peaceful silence of
the Celestines of Lyons.

THE KABBALA.--From the beginning of the fifteenth century the
Renaissance was heralded by a revival of Platonism, both in philosophy and
literature. But it was a Platonism strangely understood, a quaint medley of
Pythagoreanism and Alexandrinism, the source of which is not very clear
(the period not having been much studied). Then arose an incredible
infatuation for the Kabbala--a doctrine which was for a long while the
secret of the Jews, brooded over by them so to speak during the darkness of
the Middle Ages, in which are to be found traces of the most sublime
speculations and of the basest superstitions of antiquity. It contained a
kind of pantheistic theology closely analogous to those of Porphyry and
Iamblichus, as well as processes of magic mingled with astrology. The
Kabbalists believe that the sage, who by his astrological knowledge is
brought into relation with the celestial powers, can affect nature, alter
the course of phenomena, and work miracles. The Kabbala forms part of the
history of the marvelous and of occult science rather than of the history
of philosophy. Nevertheless men of real learning were initiated and were
infatuated, among them the marvelous Pico della Mirandola, Reuchlin, not
less remarkable as humanist and Hebraist, who would have run grave risk at
the hands of the Inquisition at Cologne if he had not been saved by Leo
X. Cardan, a mathematician and physician, was one of the learned men of the
day most impregnated with Kabbalism. He believed in a kind of infallibility
of the inner sense, of the intuition, and regarded as futile all sciences
that proceeded by slow rational operations. He believed himself a mage and
magician. From vanity he spoke of himself in the highest terms and from
cynicism in the lowest. Doubt has been cast on his sincerity and also on
his sanity.

MAGIC.--There were also Paracelsus and Agrippa. Paracelsus, like
Cardan, believed in an intense light infinitely superior to bestial
reasoning and calls to mind certain philosophy of intuition of the present
day. He too believed himself a magician and physician, and effected cures
by the application of astrology to therapeutics. Agrippa did the same with

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