Imatges de pàgina

mirers, more properly his idolaters, is considered as a philosopher, a divine and a poet.

The political philosophy of the Greeks is the next object of attention, but we are now stepping from the fallacious ground of fable to that of real history. If we except Triptolemus, (the reputed pupil of Ceres) Draco, Solon, and Lycurgus are names familiar to us, and their institutions well known. The seven wife men of Greece, who attained that title for the pithy sententiousness of their tenets, are also noticed with due respect. Thales alone, the founder of the Ionic school, is reserved for a more particular account. Of Æfop, the supposed Phrygian, our author says little but what is already known, or begins to be doubted. If such a person really existed, he was the copyist only of the author of some eastern apologues.

The philosophy of Greece, considered as a system, com-, menced with Thales of Miletus, of Phænician extraction, who, as usual in that time, travelled into Egypt to obtain the knowledge which Europe was yet ignorant of. That Thales or Pythagoras remained in Egypt is uncertain; that they could not acquire their knowledge from the Egyptians is by no means doubtful. Thales, in particular, taught them to measure the height of the Pyramids by the shadow they cast, and was acquainted with the obliquity of the ecliptic; subjects which the Egyptians scarcely ever heard of, and whose boasted philo. sophy only consisted in measuring the height of the Nile, and whose acquisitions were almost wholly confined to the records of the events which followed the different heights. That we may finish this subject at once, we must observe, that the priests of Egypt, to whom the philosophers of Greece were so much indebted, must either have acquired their knowledge in other countries, or travellers must have gone beyond this celebrated region. The acquisitions of Thales render this subject more clear. It is certain that he travelled to Egypt for knowledge, and that he attained what the Egyptians were ignorant of: he must consequently have proceeded farther, or have had other tutors. From the vicinity of the Red Sea, and the certainty of its being freely navigated, the access to India was easy, and from India or Assyria only could he at that period have obtained the peculiar knowledge of mathematics and astronomy, which he first taught the Grecians.

The foundation of his philosophy has occafioned some discussion; water is the first principle of every thing. What was the wypov of Thales has been doubted : some suppose it to be the Chaos, the principle of all before every thing was created; but, when we advert to the source of his philosophy among the Bramins, we shall no longer look for an allegorical mean


ing, ing, but take in a simple fense, what, perhaps, is equally true in a philosophical one. Let us select, however, our author's account:

· Thales held, that the first principle of natural bodies, or the firt fimple substance from which all things in this world me formed, is water. By this he could not mean to assert that water is the efficient cause of the formation of bodies ; but merely, that this is the element from which they are produced. It is probable, that by the term Water, Thales meant to express the same idea which the cosmogonists expressed by the word Chaos, the notion annexed to which was, as we have fewn, a turbid and muddy mass, from which all things were produced. Concerning the grounds of his opinion we have no satisfactory information. The reasons which have been given, such as that all animals and plants are produced and supported by moisture, and the fun and other celestial fires are nourished by vapours, are mere conjectures, which were perhaps never thought of by Thales.

• It has been a subject of much debate, whether Thales, be. fides the passive principle in nature, which he called Water, admitted an intelligent, efficient cause. They who have maintained the affirmative have refted their opinion upon sundry aphorisms concerning God, which are ascribed by ancient writers to this philosopher, particularly the following: that God is the most arcient being, who has neither beginning nor end; that all things are full of God, and that the world is the beautiful work of God. They also lay great stress upon the testimony of Cicero, who says, that Thales taught, that water is the first principle of all things, and that God is that mind which formed all things out of water. They who are of the contrary opinion orge, that the ancients (and among thefe Cicero himself, though not very consistently), ascribe to Anaxagoras the honour of having first represented God as the intelligent cause of the universe; and add, that the evidence in favour of Thales rests only upon traditional testimony, which may be opposed by other authorities. Perhaps the truth is this; that Thales, though he did not expressly maintain an independent mind as the efficient cause of nature, admitted the ancient doctrine concerning God, as the animating principle or soul of the world. This suppofition perfectly agrees with the language alcribed to him concerning the Deity, particularly that the world is animated, fpeifoxor; and that all things are full of God. And this is not inconsistent with the notion, that water is the arit principle in nature, if by the term principle we understand, not the agency which framed the world, but the first matter from which it was produced. A principle of motion, wherever i: exists, is, according to Thales, mind. Hence he taught that the magnet, and amber, are endued with a soul, which is the cause of their


attracting powers. The soul, in all beings (as Aristotle represents his doctrine) is a moving power, having the cause of motion within itself, and is always in action. It was one of his tenets, that all nature is full of demons, or intelligences proceeding from God. It is easy to conceive, that these opinions might have been derived from the notion, that the deity is the soul of the world, and the source of all motion and intelligence.

• Concerning the material world, Thales taught, that night existed before day; a doctrine which he probably borrowed from the Grecian theogonies, which placed Night, or Chaos, among the first divinities. He held, that the stars are fiery bodies ; that the moon is an opaque body illuminated by the sun, and that the earth is a spherical body placed in the middle of the universe.'

It is a little fingular that his tenets respecting dæmons, and the night preceding the day, should not have suggested to the historian the eastern source of his doctrines. The latter occurs in the Mosaic cosmogony, -and the evening and the morning were the first day.'

Anaximander, a feholar of Thales, and a Milesian also, added little to his master's philosophy, and seems to have corrupted his astronomical knowledge by visionary fancies. Later authors have differed about the meaning of his at supory which Cicero has rendered by infinitas. Brucker seems inclined to admit, that it was almof synonymous with the úypov of Thales, and all the ancient philofophers concluded it to be matier. There is, however, little doubt that he intended by this term to express the Almighty power; nor is Brucker correct in saying that Anaximenes, his fcholar, confidered the atteipov as air, for Diogenes Laertius expressly fays, lib. ii. fect. iii. ОUTOS (Ayağıyevns) üzxov aspa €177E, KALTÒ äreipon. Lactantius was equally in an error, when he supposed that Cleanthes adopted the doctrine of Anaximenes in the following line :

Tum pater omnipotens fæcundis imbribus æther. That Jupiter was synonymous with the air was a common ter net of ancient philosophy, nor is there the least evidence that it was derived from Anaximenes. The air, the heavens, and the God of heaven were, with the Pagans almost in every age, synonymous. Anaxagoras understood the ani supou better, and explained it more judiciously. But we cannot stay to trace all the variations of the different philosophers of the same school.

Socrates was at first a follower of the Ionic philosophers; but, leaving the empty disquisitions respecting the origin of things, he endeavoured to improve the minds of men, to inculcate the social duties, and, in every respect, to make mankind happier and better. The whole of the account before us

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is, however, a studied panegyric, which carries its own refutat'on, and which even the usual caprice of the Athenians can fca cely render credible. It would require a volume to consider this subject fully, and we shall only remark that, with the utmost veneration for the character and the precepts of Socrates, we do not think his life was irreproachable, nor his last scene enţrely conife!t. Of the opinions of Socrates we .can only notice his idea of subordinate agents, which no one ought rashly and hastily to defpise ; for, while we see the Almighty act in this world by second causes, who can say of what nature these causes are. It is one of those subjects, which we have had occalion to observe, mocks the investigation of the human reason, and leads us, when pursued, to confusion or absurdity.

After mentior inç Xenophon, Æschines, Simon, and Cebes, folowers of Socrates, who did not distinguish themselves by founding fects, Brucker proceeds to trace the different schools which arose from the doctrines of Socrates. The fects of leffer fame were the Cyrenaic, the Megaric, and the Æliac: those of greater celebrity were, the Academic and the Cynic; branching respectively into the Peripatetic and the Stoic. The principal philosopher, and the chief support of the fect eítablished at Cyrene, was Aristippus, a zealous disciple of Socrates, a man of polished manners, an accommodating disposition, and an easy familiarity: some of his tenets, as less known, we fall transcribe :

• Perceptions alone are certain ; of the external objects which produce them, we know nothing. No one can be assured, that the perception excited in his mind by any external object is similar to that which is excited by the same object in the mind of another person. Human nature is subject to two contrary affections, pain and pleasure, the one a harth, the other a gentle emotion. The emotions of pleasuie, though they may differ in degree, or in the object which excites them, are the same in all animals, and universally create desire. Those of pain are, in like manner, effentially the same, and universally create averfion. Happiness confists not in tranquillity or indolence, but in a pleasing agitation of the mind, or active enjoyment. Pleasure is the ultimate object of human pursuit ; it is only in subserviency to this, that fame, friendship, and even virtue, are to be desired. All crimes are venial, because never committed but through the immediate im. pulse of passion. Nothing is just or unjust by nature, but by custom and law. The business of philosophy is to regulate the senses, in that manner which will render the in most productive of pleasure. Since pleasure is to be derived, not from the past or the future, but the present, a wise man will take care to enjoy the present hour, and will be indifferent to life or death.'

the dift, nor followe Megara, the well bely Sophits ide!

His succesors were few, and of inconsiderable credit, for the distance of Cyrene from Athens neither rendered a sect famous, nor followers numerous. The Megaric sect, whole chief was Euclid of Megara, and one of whole ornaments was the famous Diodorus, who by the well known fyllogism denied the existence of motion, were merely Sophiits : yet, in some points, Stilpo of Mcgara deserved a better title. The philosophers of the school of Elis, and afterwards of Eretria, were more legitimate followers of Socrates in opinions, though scarcely, if we can truit the appellations of Menedemus, who was often called cur and madman, in manner. There, however, we must leave to attend to the more importants sects; the first of which is the Academic.

The Academic sect was founded by Plato, and supported by his credit. On this part of the history we shall be concise, for we cannot estimate fully the character of the founder of the Academic sect, nor trace with propriety the influence of his opinions, till we have paid more attention to Pythagoras. We ought not to blame Dr. Enfield for following the arrangement of his professed prototype Brucker, nor the German hila torian, for pursuing the steps of his predecesors. If we were, however, to examine the subject fully, as we may perhaps be tempted to do, we could show, that to pursue the narrative in accounts of different schools, is rather to detail the history of philosophers than to relate that of the science. The error is particularly confpicuous in the part of the history now before us. The philosophy of Plato was a mixture, ofien an improper and heterogeneous one, of the doctrines of Pythagoras and Socrates; so that, as we have said, it is difficult to estimate this author's merit properly, till we have considered the very intricate subject of the Pythagorean system. It is enough, in the present instance, to remark that the life of Plato is related with precision and propriety, and the character of the philofopher vindicated from some of the aspersions thrown on it. There is undoubtedly in Plato an air of mysticism and refines ment which perplexes or disgusts; but, in his moral dialogues, where he is chiefly a Socratic, his wisdom flows in language so clear and elegant, his doctrines are so strictly and unexceps tionably moral, that, if estimated by these qualities alone, we almost admit what the idolatry of his followers has often in gita ed on, that he was inspired. His works are, however, unequal : he sometimes struggles to convey a meaning, and the whole evaporates in words. He refine; on his f ;? in substance is lost; and clouds his opinion by a pomp of Line guage, a cloud which almost feems designedly raised to ob.

c c che poverty of the idea. That Plato had drawn from uncii.'

· cred

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