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In the opening chapter of this work we endeavoured to explain how the Pythagorean philosophy arose out of the intoxicated delight inspired by a first acquaintance with the manifold properties of number and figure. If we would enter into the spirit of Platonism, we must similarly throw ourselves back into the time when the idea of a universal classification first dawned on men鈥檚 minds. We must remember how it gratified the Greek love of order combined with individuality; what unbounded opportunities for asking and answering questions it supplied; and what promises of practical regeneration it held out. Not without a shade of sadness for so many baffled efforts and so many blighted hopes, yet also with a grateful recollection of all that reason has accomplished, and with something of his own high intellectual enthusiasm, shall we listen to Plato鈥檚 prophetic words鈥攚ords of deeper import than their own author knew鈥斺業f I find any man who is able to see a One and Many in Nature, him I follow and walk in his steps as if he were a god.鈥137

Again, this preference for mythological imagery on the part of the more original and poetical thinker seems to be closely connected with a more vivid interest in the practical duties of life. With Plotinus, the primal beauty or supreme good is something that can be isolated from all other beauty and goodness, something to be perceived and enjoyed in absolute seclusion from one鈥檚 fellow-men. God is, indeed, described as the source and cause of all other good. But neither here nor elsewhere is there a hint that we should strive to resemble him by becoming, in our turn, the cause of good to others. Platonic love, on the contrary, first finds its reality and truth in unremitting efforts for the enlightenment and elevation of others, being related to the transmission of spiritual life just as the love inspired by visible beauty is related to the perpetuation and physical ennoblement of the race..
Yet throughout the philosophy of Plato we meet with a tendency to ambiguous shiftings and reversions of which, here also, due account must be taken. That curious blending of love and hate which forms the subject of a mystical lyric in Mr. Browning鈥檚 Pippa Passes, is not without its counterpart in purely rationalistic discussion. If Plato used the Socratic method to dissolve away much that was untrue, because incomplete, in Socratism, he used it also to absorb much that was deserving of development in Sophisticism. If, in one sense, the latter was a direct reversal of his master鈥檚 teaching, in another it served as a sort of intermediary between that teaching and the unenlightened consciousness of mankind. The shadow should not be confounded with the substance, but it might show by contiguity, by resemblance, and by contrast where the solid reality lay, what were its outlines, and how its characteristic lights might best be viewed..
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Perhaps the processes of logic and mathematics may be adduced as an exception. It may be contended that the genus is prior to the species, the premise to the conclusion,321 the unit to the multiple, the line to the figure, in reason though not in time. And Plotinus avails himself to the fullest extent of mathematical and logical analogies in his transcendental constructions. His One is the starting-point of numeration, the centre of a circle, the identity involved in difference; and under each relation it claims an absolute priority, of which causal power is only the most general expression. We have already seen how a multitude of archetypal Ideas spring from the supreme Nous as from their fountain-head. Their production is explained, on the lines of Plato鈥檚 Sophist, as a process of dialectical derivation. By logically analysing the conception of self-consciousness, we obtain, first of all, Nous itself, or Reason, as the subject, and Existence as the object of thought. Subject and object, considered as the same with one another, give us Identity; considered as distinct, they give us Difference. The passage from one to the other gives Motion; the limitation of thought to itself gives Rest. The plurality of determinations so obtained gives number and quantity, their specific difference gives quality, and from these principles everything else is derived.473 It might seem as if, here at least, we had something which could be called a process of eternal generation鈥攁 causal order independent of time. But, in reality, the assumed sequence exists only in our minds, and there it takes place under the form of time, not less inevitably than do the external re-arrangements of matter and motion. Thus in logic and mathematics, such terms as priority, antecedence, and evolution can only be used to signify the order in which our knowledge is acquired; they do not answer to causal relations existing among things in themselves. And apart from these two orders鈥攖he objective order of dynamical production in space and time, and the subjective order of intelligibility in thought鈥攖here is no kind of succession that we can conceive. Eternal relations, if they exist at all, must322 be relations of co-existence, of resemblance, or of difference, continued through infinite time. Wherever there is antecedence, the consequent can only have existed for a finite time..
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鈥榃hat then,鈥 asks Plotinus, 鈥榠s the One? No easy question to answer for us whose knowledge is based on ideas, and who can hardly tell what ideas are, or what is existence itself. The farther the soul advances in this formless region, where there is nothing for her to grasp, nothing whose impress she can receive, the more does her footing fail her, the more helpless and desolate does she feel. Oftentimes she wearies of such searching and is glad to leave it all and to descend into the world of sense until she finds rest on the solid earth, as the eyes are relieved in turning from small objects to large. For she does not know that to be one herself is to have gained the object of her search, for then she is no other than that which she knows. Nevertheless it is only by this method that we can master the philosophy of the One. Since, then, what we seek is one, and since we are considering the first principle of all things and the Good, he who enters on this quest must not place himself afar from the things that are first by descending to the things that are last, but he must leave the objects of sense, and, freed from all evil, ascend to the first principle of his own nature, that by becoming one, instead of many, he may behold the beginning and the One. Therefore he must become Reason, trusting his soul to Reason for guidance and support, that she may wakefully receive what it sees, and with this he must behold the One, not admitting any element of sense, but gazing on the purest with pure Reason and with that which in Reason is first. Should he who addresses himself to this enterprise imagine that the object of his vision possesses magnitude or form or bulk, then Reason is not his guide, for such perceptions do not belong to its nature but to sense and to the opinion which follows on sense. No; we must only pledge Reason to perform what it can do. Reason sees what precedes, or what contains, or what is derived from itself. Pure are the things in it, purer still those which precede, or rather, that which precedes it. This is neither reason nor anything that is; for whatever is has the form of existence, whereas this has none, not even an ideal form. For the One, whose nature is to generate all things, cannot be any of those things itself. Therefore it is neither substance, nor quality, nor reason, nor soul; neither moving nor at rest, not in place, not in time, but unique of its kind, or rather kindless, being before all kind, before motion and before rest, for these belong to being, and are that to which its multiplicity is due. Why, then, if it does not move, is it not at rest? Because while one or both of these must be attributed to being, the very act of attribution involves a distinction between subject and predicate, which is impossible in the case of what is absolutely simple.鈥463
A distinct parallelism may be traced in the lines of evolution along which we have accompanied our two opposing schools. While the Academicians were coming over to the Stoic theory of cognition, the Stoics themselves were moving in the same general direction, and seeking for an external reality more in consonance with their notions of certainty than the philosophy of their first teachers could supply. For, as originally constituted, Stoicism included a large element of scepticism, which must often have laid its advocates open to the charge of inconsistency from those who accepted the same principle in a more undiluted form. The Heracleitean flux adopted by Zeno as the physical basis of his system, was164 much better suited to a sceptical than to a dogmatic philosophy, as the use to which it was put by Protagoras and Plato sufficiently proved; and this was probably the reason why Bo锚thus and Panaetius partially discarded it in favour of a more stable cosmology. The dialectical studies of the school also tended to suggest more difficulties than they could remove. The comprehensive systematisation of Chrysippus, like that of Plato and Aristotle, had for its object the illustration of each topic from every point of view, and especially from the negative as well as from the positive side. The consequence was that his indefatigable erudition had collected a great number of logical puzzles which he had either neglected or found himself unable to solve. There would, therefore, be a growing inclination to substitute a literary and rhetorical for a logical training: and as we shall presently see, there was an extraneous influence acting in the same direction. Finally, the rigour of Stoic morality had been strained to such a pitch that its professors were driven to admit the complete ideality of virtue. Their sage had never shown himself on earth, at least within the historical period; and the whole world of human interests being, from the rational point of view, either a delusion or a failure, stood in permanent contradiction to their optimistic theory of Nature. The Sceptics were quite aware of this practical approximation to their own views, and sometimes took advantage of it to turn the tables on their opponents with telling effect. Thus, on the occasion of that philosophical embassy with an account of which the present chapter began, when a noble Roman playfully observed to Carneades, 鈥榊ou must think that I am not a Praetor as I am not a sage, and that Rome is neither a city nor a state,鈥 the great Sceptic replied, turning to his colleague Diogenes, 鈥楾hat is what my Stoic friend here would say.鈥262 And Plutarch, in two sharp attacks on the Stoics, written from the Academic point of view, and probably165 compiled from documents of a much earlier period,263 charges them with outraging common sense by their wholesale practical negations, to at least as great an extent as the Sceptics outraged it by their suspense of judgment. How the ethical system of Stoicism was modified so as to meet these criticisms has been related in a former chapter; and we have just seen how Posidonius, by his partial return to the Platonic psychology, with its division between reason and impulse, contributed to a still further change in the same conciliatory sense.
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21 August, 2019 - 13:08
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